W. G. R. Sprague

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Aldwych Theatre

William George Robert Sprague (1863 – 4 December 1933)[1] was a theatre architect.


He was born in Australia in 1863 the son of actress Dolores Drummond who returned with acclaim to London in 1874.

Sprague was an articled clerk for Frank Matcham for four years, then in 1880 was an articled clerk for Walter Emden for three years. He was in a partnership with Bertie Crewe until 1895. He went on to design a large number of theatres and music halls, almost all of them in London. At the height of his career he showed a productivity worthy of mentor Frank Matcham, producing six theatres in Westminster in less than four years. Unlike Matcham and Emden, Sprague studied architectural forms and conventions and used his knowledge in his designs, saying of himself that he "liked the Italian Renaissance" as a style for his frontages, but would take liberties when needed "to get the best effects" In 1902, the theatre newspaper The Era described him as "Britain’s youngest theatrical designer, with more London houses to his credit than any other man in the same profession."[2]

In 1898, William Morton, owner and manager of the Greenwich Theatre, commissioned Sprague to produced plans for a 3,000-seat theatre to replace his existing theatre on a new site on London Street, but this was never followed through.[3]

Sprague died in Maidenhead in 1933.


Theatre Location Build Date Original Seating Capacity Status Notes
Theatre Royal Lincoln, Lincolnshire 1889 with Bertie Crewe
Olympic London 1890 Demolished with Bertie Crewe
Theatre Royal Aldershot 16 February 1891 700 Demolished 1959 With Bertie Crewe
Lyceum Newport 1896 1,250 Demolished The Lyceum Theatre on Bridge Street, Newport was built in 1896 at a cost of £20,000 on the site of the former Victoria Hall, later the Victoria Theatre, which had opened 20 years earlier in 1876 but been destroyed by fire. It was determined from the outset that the new theatre should hold a place amongst the best in the kingdom, and Mr W. G. R. Sprague was commissioned. He recommended that the handsome Grecian style exterior of the old Victoria Theatre might be preserved. He therefore designed the newer, bigger Lyceum Theatre to be created within the walls of the old Victoria Theatre. This was a unique undertaking and sets it apart from Sprague's other theatres. The Lyceum Theatre was demolished in 1967 to make way for the building of a new Cinema by ABC which cost £250,000
Lyceum Sheffield 1897 1,068 Listed building Traditional proscenium arch theatre, this 1,068-seat listed building is Sprague's only surviving design outside London. Following closure in 1968, the Lyceum endured spells as a bingo hall and a rock venue before undergoing a £12 million renovation and reopening as a Number One Touring Venue in 1991 [4]
The Coronet Theatre Notting Hill, London 1898 1,143 Listed building Grade II Listed status
Wyndham's Theatre London 1899 Grade II* Listed status in 1960
The Rotherhithe Hippodrome London 1899 2,087 demolished Originally the "Terriss Theatre" [5]
Empire Holloway, London 1899 1210 closed 1938 demolished 1953 Built for Oswald Stoll, became part of Moss chain; renamed Empire Theatre of Varieties, became part of Biocolour cinema chain 1923, Gaumont 1926.[6]
KOKO Camden Town, London 26 December 1900 2,434 Grade II Listed status in 1991
King's Theatre Hammersmith, London 1902 3,000+ Demolished 1963 "King's Studio" for BBC 1955–56
Noël Coward Theatre West End, London 1903 Originally the "New Theatre", then the "Albery" from January 1973 to May 2006
Aldwych Theatre London December 1905 1,092 1,176 seats. Currently operated by the Nederlander Organization Built for Seymour Hicks and Charles Frohmann, as one of a pair of a similar, though not identical theatres to each side of the not yet built Waldorf Hilton, London - the other being the "Waldorf Theatre", 1909 renamed "Strand Theatre". Opened Dec 1905 with Seymour Hicks's musical comedy Bluebell in Fairyland[7]
Novello Theatre London 22 May 1905 Built as one of a pair with the Aldwych Theatre on either side of The Waldorf Hilton, London. Opened as the Waldorf Theatre on 22 May 1905, renamed the Strand Theatre in 1909. It was again renamed as the Whitney Theatre in 1911 before again becoming the Strand Theatre in 1913. In 2005 was renamed by its owners Delfont Mackintosh Theatres the Novello Theatre in honour of Ivor Novello.
Gielgud Theatre London 1906 Opened in 1907 as the Hicks Theatre, paired with the Queens Theatre, then became the Globe, before becoming the Gielgud Theatre to allow the reconstruction of William Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the Southbank to be named the Globe Theatre [8]
Sondheim Theatre London 1907 One of a pair, the other part being what is now called the Gielgud Theatre. The front of the theatre was blown off during World War II, restored and opened again in 1959. The building had been given a new façade and front, which was designed by Brian Westwood and Sir Hugh Casson
Ambassadors Theatre London 1913 Grade II listed 1973. First home of Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap"
St Martin's Theatre London 1916 Present home of Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap"
Streatham Hill Theatre London 1929 Built in 1929, it was the last theatre designed by Sprague, but possibly his largest and one of the best-equipped in London, outside of the West End. Became a bingo hall in 1962. Grade 2 listed. Bingo closed in 2017.


  1. ^ The Sprague Project. Accessed 2 July 2014
  2. ^ LMA Learning Zone > Theatrelands > Architects > W.G.R. Sprague 1863-1933
  3. ^ 'Mr. W. Morton's Benefit', The Era, 22 January 1898 p. 17
  4. ^ "Sheffield Theatres - Inside the Theatres". Archived from the original on 5 July 2006. Retrieved 1 July 2006.
  5. ^ Arthur Lloyd Rotherhithe
  6. ^ "Holloway Empire Theatre". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  7. ^ Carthalia - London: Aldwych Theatre
  8. ^ Plate 37 - THEATRES | British History Online

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