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Grand Theatre, Leeds. This listed building was designed by George Corson, much assisted by J. R. Watson (who was responsible for the interior), and built 1877-78. It has a brick and stone exterior, and is situated in New Briggate, Leeds. It was part of a significant development for Leeds: the town's principal street, Briggate, had been extended further north into "New Briggate" only in 1868 (see Fraser 111). Described by Peter Leach and Nikolaus Pevsner as an eclectic "hybrid of Romanesque and Gothic" with "round arches to the main entrance with rose window above and gable tourelles" (427), it is summed up by Derek Linstrum as "Romantic" (73), and opened with great fanfare in November 1878 as a home to what its current brochure calls "a programme of more 'respectable' performances than those found in the traditional Music Halls and singing rooms." It seated 2,600 (Weathermell and Minnis 26) and, according to the brochure, had taken 13 months to build, cost the princely sum of £62,000, and opened with a performance of Much Ado about Nothing.

The Grand as part of a complex.

The theatre was planned as part of a whole block, with a supper room above the theatre, an adjacent row of six shops, and an assembly room at the right-hand corner now used by "Opera North" (for rehearsal rooms, according to the listing text). The shop adjoining the theatre has its original ground floor frontage, but the remaining shops have plate glass windows now, with a sunburst motif above the centre (partly obscured here by hanging baskets and the lampost). The old assembly rooms have, as the listing text explains, an "entrance with flat arch in a rendered facade with face and fan design, moulded outer arch, swags and central plaque; 3 round-arched windows above; pyramidal roof." This last detail, not visible here, unfortunately), gives a very pleasing balance to the whole, although the functions of the premises at either end are so clearly distinguished.

Left to right: (a) "Carton Pierre" (hardened paper pulp) panel. (b) One side of the auditorium. (c) Tiling along the walls.

The red, green and gilt wall decorations in the interior feature elegantly draped figures, almost Art Nouveau in style, and decorative scrollwork, with gilded bosses and framing. In the auditorium are three horseshoe-shaped tiers of balconies, with four fan-shaped pendentives above them. Apparently revealed during 2006-08 refurbishment, tiling was by the firm of Whetstone and Coalville (Leach and Pevsner 428). This splendidly plush and ornate interior, for which Watson was "certainly" responsible (Weathermell and Minnis 26), is the real glory of the Grand.

The particularly magnificent "saucer-domed richly encrusted ceiling" (Leach and Pevsner 428).


Fraser, Derek. A History of Modern Leeds. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980.

"Grand Theatre including Former Assembly Rooms 32-44, Leeds." British Listed Buildings. Web. 1 March 2012.

Leach, Peter, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the North. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Linstrum, Derek. Historic Architecture of Leeds. Leeds: Leeds Civic Trust, 1969.

Wrathmell, Susan, with John Minnis. Leeds. Pevsner Architectural Guides. New Haven and Yale: Yale University Press, 2005.

Last modified 28 May 2016