History

A BRIEF PICTURE OF THE KING’S THEATRE NEWMARKET

The King’s Theatre in Fitzroy Street, Newmarket was built around 1875 and was originally St. Mary’s Church Girls and Infants School (Church of England), whilst boys attended a similar building at the top of Fitzroy Street but the school closed in 1939.  From then until 1945 it was used as a British Restaurant, where servicemen could get a reasonable lunch for about 6d (i.e. 2 to 3 pence in present day terms).  After the war it was then called the Fitzroy Rooms (also being known as the Fitzroy Street Rooms) and had been used as a meeting place for groups such as the Queen’s Club for the over-60’s who held whist drives here.  It was bought by Captain Herbert Ryder King CBE in 1949.  Captain King became quite influential in Newmarket and was Chairman of the West Suffolk County Council when he was awarded the C.B.E. on 1st January 1946.  He also became a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Suffolk on 25th February 1958.

NOMADS were an itinerant company of players who lacked permanent premises.  Since the second world war they had used the bomb damaged ballroom of the White Hart but had to leave when the lease expired, their Chairman was Captain King.  He bought the Fitzroy Rooms and with the NOMADS of the day set about turning it into the theatre you see today.  By the end of 1954 Captain King’s purchase was complete and the building was handed over to NOMADS at a rent of four front row seats for each of their shows until his death, it was then named the Kings Rooms.  They then opened with their first performance in March 1955 when they performed a lurid production of ‘The Murder in the Red Barn’ a melodrama described on the programme as being “unsuitable for children, adults, thoroughbred horses, urban councillors and gentlemen of the press.”  Work on the new premises was voluntary and most of the equipment and materials obtained was donated.  Everything was sought by honest sweat and toil, it was a labour of love for many – some still with us, but others sadly are long gone, but not forgotten.  You may see pictures or plaques honouring them in various places around the theatre, not to mention all our trophies which are given out to the members for the annual awards.  No-one knows how much Captain King paid for the theatre but when he died in 1971 aged 82 he bequeathed the theatre to the NOMADS when it was re-named ‘The Kings Theatre’ and it remains their property in trust.

The theater seats an audience of a 123 and the interior was restored with recovered seats, replaced carpets, ceiling/walls painted and lighting enhanced in the 1980s. Pictures below show how it looked as a school, after it became a theatre in the 1950s and the outside.  This was achieved by the efforts of the members of NOMADS (Newmarket Operatic, Musical and Dramatic Society) who own the theatre along with grants from Forest Heath District Council and East Cambridgeshire District Council.  Other improvements were made possible with a grant of £60,000 from the National Lottery in 1994.  Over the years Members have used ingenuity and innovation to support and maintain the building from rescuing and recycling the chairs from the playhouse on the pier in Clacton which are now in the auditorium, to the 1988 fundraising campaign to buy a brick which funded the purchase of the furniture for the Coffee Lounge and refurbishment of the bar.  Over the years many improvements have been made including the installation of a mezzanine floor above the stage in the wings for the orchestra so the pit could be covered over and the stage extended.

The theatre is now run by the NOMADS Board of Directors (usually 7 to 9 members) and the society became a limited company and a registered charity in 2006.

Old Photo of Kings Theatre Old Photo of Kings Theatre Stage circa 1950s Old Photo of Kings Theatre Outside Old Photo of Kings Theatre Hall