Harrogate's Glittering Royal Hall To Reopen After £10.7m Restoration

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 23 April 2008
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a vintage poster advertising the hall

The Royal Hall has been returned to its status as glittering palace. © Harrogate Borough Council

More than 100 years after it was first opened, Harrogate's grand Royal Hall will be reopened to the public this weekend as a splendid venue for concerts.

Completed in 1903, the 'Kursaal' was created by great theatre designer Frank Matcham and his architect Robert Beale as a great ballroom and music pavilion. Its original name was taken from the continental tradition of a 'Cure Hall', where visitors could take spa waters.

Renamed the Royal Hall after World War I because of the wave of anti-German sentiment, it was a major venue for the rich and famous to come and relax and enjoy music hall, burlesque and glittering balls, and take part in daytime tea dances.

a painting of the theatre interior

Sickert's painting of the Edwardian hall. © Harrogate Borough Council

The versatile building developed structural problems, however, and was closed on safety grounds in 2002. The £10.7 million restoration project means the elegant structure will return to playing a central role in Harrogate, offering a glorious, historical centre for cultural events.

Harrogate's Mercer Art Gallery is currently showing an exhibition celebrating the hall's heritage, with paintings, photographs, posters and other ephemera from the last century.

architectural drawings of the hall

Plans annotated by Matcham. © Harrogate Borough Council

Many original architects drawings for the hall are on show, as well as annotated drawings by Frank Matcham.

Glamorous rail posters of the 1920s and 30s show the hall in all its original glory, while theatre posters from the early 1900s detail its attractions. Sarah Bernhardt, performing seals and sea lions and even cine footage of the Russian Revolution all graced its stage then. Later, in the 1960s, performances turned to variety shows, wrestling and Cliff Richard.

framed black and white publicity portrait of a 1930s star

Many stars graced the stage, including the famous ballerina Alicia Markova. © Harrogate Borough Council

Signed photographs of stars that have been through its stage doors are on show, as well as a famous painting of the ostentatious interior by Walter Sickert.

The restoration was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (£6m), Harrogate Borough Council (£2m) and funds raised by the Royal Hall Restoration Trust (£2.7m).

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