The Lyceum Theatre
Built in 1897 following a traditional proscenium arch design, the Lyceum is the only surviving theatre outside of London designed by the famous theatre architect W G R Sprague, and the last example of an Edwardian auditorium in Sheffield. It was built on the site of the former City Theatre with a grand auditorium built on three levels; stalls, circle and balcony. The statue on top of the Lyceum Theatre is Mercury, son of Zeus and Maia.
On the opening night, the audience sang the National Anthem together before settling down to Carmen by the Carl Rosa Opera Company. As the third act closed and the curtain fell, they clamoured for John Hart, the theatre’s Managing Director, to take the stage. He told the audience that people had mocked the idea of a first-class theatre in Sheffield, but the magnificent turn-out proved that it would be a great success; a statement that was greeted by generous applause. He then read out a telegram from Sir Henry Irving, the finest actor of the day, who sent them “truest and heartiest good wishes for the success and prosperity of the new Lyceum Theatre”. He then claimed that the magnificent architecture ranked with the best in the country as there was a superb, clear view of the stage from every part of the house. This celebration of the building provided Mr Hart with the opportunity to introduce W G R Sprague, who gave a nervous bow before leaving the stage to cries of “Speech!” He declined to comment on the occasion but the applause forced him back in front of the curtain once more to bow his thanks.
All the major stars of the day appeared on the Lyceum stage. It was at the Lyceum Theatre in 1905 that Sir Henry Irving opened his Farewell Tour and it was his last full week on stage, as the following week, after a performance at the Theatre Royal in Bradford, Sir Henry died.
The Lyceum and Theatre Royal were run under joint management by John Hart until the Theatre Royal was destroyed in 1935.
The Lyceum was one of Sheffield’s major theatres until 1968 when, like so many others at the time, it was converted into a bingo hall.
The theatre closed in 1969 and, despite being granted Grade II listed status in 1972, planning permission was sought for its demolition in 1975. The building was saved in part due to campaigning by the Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society.
Over the years the building changed ownership many times, being used variously as a bingo hall and a rock concert venue, and by the 1980s the interior was in a state of disrepair. Sheffield City Council bought the building in 1985 and it was reclassified to Grade II* listed status. Between 1988 and 1990 the Lyceum was completely restored at a cost of £12 million; the stage was rebuilt, the main entrance was moved, dressing rooms were improved and the auditorium was completely restored so that the Lyceum was finally back in business again after two decades of neglect.
The theatre reopened in 1990 and now presents a variety of theatre, including touring West End productions, opera and contemporary dance, as well as locally produced shows.