THE MADDERMARKET BUILDING
History of the Building
The Maddermarket opened its doors to the public for the first time as a theatre in September 1921, the exterior of the oldest part of the building remaining the same today as it was then.
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It was originally a Roman Catholic Chapel, which became a hostel and finally a warehouse. It was discovered, derelict and abandoned and was purchased by Walter Nugent Bligh Monck, the founder of The Norwich Players.
Monck recognised the wonderful acoustic quality of the building, caused by the domed vaulted ceiling. This was his main consideration for his band of amateur actors.
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The building stands on the site of the medieval market where the scarlet dye called madder was sold during the times of woollen trading. The area had therefore been called the Maddermarket in the thirteenth century.
The outbreak of World War II in 1939 brought the threat of closure to all theatres but fortunately the government ban was revoked and the Maddermarket continued to produce a full season of plays in spite of many of the more experienced actors being called up or involved in other war related work. Norwich was bombed in the spring of 1942 but fortunately the theatre suffered no structural damage; however, clear up operations in the city necessitated one cancellation – the only one during the war years.
Nugent Monck died in 1958, six years after retiring and leaving the theatre in trust to a committee of elected Players, who would take financial responsibility for the building and its theatrical activities.
‘The Maddermarket Theatre Trust Ltd’ was created and still exists today. Read more . . .
The building itself has undergone several changes to accommodate larger audiences and give greater flexibility in staging productions. A project to extend the auditorium was launched in 1948 along with refitting the warehouse, scene dock and front-of-house. This was completed in 1953.
In 1964 an ambitious plan was developed, to extend the theatre building to provide it with the existing foyer and bar area, along with new cloakrooms, a much larger wardrobe and a rehearsal room.
In 1990, the proscenium arch stage was extended to give an extra seven and a half feet of acting area out into the auditorium. By realigning the gangways, almost no audience capacity was lost and sightlines were greatly improved.
Since that time, there have been no major refurbishments, except in the dressing rooms and bar area but new possibilities are frequently considered, to accommodate changing needs and trends.