Groundlings is a unique Georgian Theatre built in 1784. A magical place with secret doors and hidden rooms, it is said to be haunted by ten friendly ghosts. It was frequented by Queen Victoria, and Charles Dickens was nearly born here.
The building went on to serve the rich and the poor with downstairs floor serving as the classroom for impoverished children and the upstairs being used by the high society for meetings, concerts and theatre. The school applied a very disciplinarian attitude to education.
It was not until 1837 that the boys-only school was opened to girls and a junior school was formed in 1873. The school had to be closed in 1939 due to the outbreak of WW2 and it is said that a Nazi sympathiser used the roof to shine a torch to direct bombers seeking to hit Portsmouth Dockyard. The school finally closed in 1962. It was in 2010 when Richard Stride bought a burned-out shell of a theatre thanks to a stray firework.
He decided to appeal to locals to roll their sleeves up. They desperately needed help; so builders, local volunteers, in fact, everyone came to lend a hand. With Groundlings Theatre finally fully restored, the team of actors, locals and volunteers run a varied programme of events for young and old from pantos to comedy, from new plays to Shakespeare. Today, Groundlings Theatre is buzzing with life and a truly unique, intimate experience.
Official website groundlings.co.uk
- 42 Kent Street
- PO1 3BS