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The History of The Grand Theatre: A timeline

125 years at the very heart of Swansea, thrilling countless generations of theatregoers along the way from Shakespeare to Pantomime.

1897: Mouillot and Morell, two entrepreneur actor/managers, seized an opportunity to build a Theatre in Swansea. They purchased the former Drill Hall in Singleton Street, demolished it and employed William Hope – an experienced Theatre architect to design The Grand – it is the only surviving example of his work. The estimated capacity was 2,500.


1897: Swansea Grand Theatre was opened by the opera star Adelina Patti. She arrived at Swansea train station and boarded an open top horse and cart, the streets were lined with all her fans. It was a truly grand event. Despite early success the Grand Theatre has had a chequered history.


1930: Swansea Grand Theatre was a full time repertory theatre.

January 1933: The theatre closed for six months because of the flu epidemic. The audiences seem to miss the regularity of attending and after this break, there was a noticeable decline.

1933: The theatre became a “Cine Variety Theatre”

1934: The theatre closed. It lay empty for a while with just occasional use.


1947: Bought by Captain W.E.Willis

1950s: The struggles continued. The problem – apart from television, was the public investment and civic support that was happening for theatre in Cardiff. The privately owned Grand was falling behind in terms of attractions and the physical state of the building. It was showing its age.

1957: Actor/director - John Chilvers presented a successful repertory season at the Grand. And eventually became the manager and stayed for over 25 years.

1970: Vivian Ellicott the Front of House Manager wrote:- “We have just reported on our first year’s business. The actual loss to the ratepayers has been £5,900 – chicken-feed! Thanks to John Chilvers, the figures are healthy”.

1978: At the end of a 10 year lease, the local council bought the Grand – making it Swansea’s civic theatre.


1982-1986: £5million worth of renovation and building was carried out. The impressive new look Grand re-opened on 17th December 1986 with the pantomime Aladdin.

1999: A new arts wing was added housing a new box office, studio theatre (capacity 150), exhibition area, rehearsal rooms and café.


2020: The Grand Theatre stage became a testing centre for Covid19 during the pandemic until Aug 2021 with the public entering through the scene dock doors where sets along with their builders and technicians would normally have entered.

2020/21: The Multicultural Hub was built and became home to (RCC) Race Council Cymru, Chinese in Wales and The African Community Centre.

2022: The Theatre has a new manager Mr Grant McFarlane. Grant will undertake the leadership of the new manager for Swansea Grand Theatre and The Brangwyn Hall, in conjunction with Cultural Services’ management team.

2022: Grand Ambition become the theatre’s resident production company. Swansea Grand Theatre is steeped in history and the future looks bright. Heres to the next 125 years!



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