Regal glory of 18th-century theatre is restored for the 21st

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The restoration of a Georgian theatre that removed a 1960s extension and returned it to its 18th-century glory was honoured yesterday with a conservation award.

The restoration of a Georgian theatre that removed a 1960s extension and returned it to its 18th-century glory was honoured yesterday with a conservation award.

The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire, was recognised at the annual awards of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in a ceremony in London.

The Theatre Royal was built in 1788 by an actor-manager, Samuel Butler, as part of a circuit of theatres in the North that included Harrogate, Beverley, Kendal and Whitby. In its early years it attracted the greats, including Edmund Kean, who started his career with Butler's company.

But in the mid-19th century the orchestra pit was boarded over and for more than 100 years it functioned as little more than a concert room.

The theatre reopened in 1963, but to today's eyes the facilities added were out of keeping with the structure. Five years of fundraising has led to a £1.5m restoration programme that restored its Georgian grandeur.

Simon Pott, chairman of the judges, said: "This is a truly stunning building. What we can see today captures all the character of the 18th century whilst embracing the needs of the 21st century, thus ensuring its future survival."

Laura Hannaway, a theatre spokeswoman, said: "We're not just a working regional theatre, we're a living museum, and we're delighted to be acknowledged."

The awards, which are designed to encourage and recognise outstanding achievement in the built environment, attracted more than 160 entries from around the world.

The building of the year award went to Douglas House, a young people's hospice in Oxford that provides residential care for patients with life-limiting illnesses. Built at a cost of £3m, in consultation with potential users, it includes space for electric wheelchair races.

The regeneration award went jointly to Birmingham's Bullring and the ForthQuarter waterfront area in Edinburgh. Lanlivery CP School in Cornwall won the sustainability award and the Bolton Lads and Girls Clubs took the community benefit award.

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