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About the Citadel

History

The Citadel building has a fascinating history, and is today rated by the Theatres Trust of Great Britain an extremely rare survivor of the early British music hall.

The first 'Theatre Royal' was a simple barn like construction built near the site of the current Running Horses pub and restaurant. It closed in the early 1850s and a number of short lived music halls were built however it soon became apparent that a more permanent solution was required.

The building which is home to the Citadel today was originally constructed in 1861. It was comissioned by a local solicitor, Mr Thomas Haddock and was designed by architechts E Beattie & Sons. In 1861 the building stood opposite a school and surrounded by rows of victorian terrace houses.

The building was named 'Theatre Royal'. Internally, it was much different than we see it today. It had capacity to seat just over 1,000 people. There were the stalls, circle and gallery or 'gods' as it was known at the time, along with four private boxes. The auditorium was described as 'Having well sized, comfortable seats with the most deep red colour, matching the curtains and the decoration'. The stage was said to be 'large and suitable for the most grand productions'. There was also an orchestra pit. The first performance to take place at the Theatre Royal was The Gypsy King, which opened on 26th April 1862. 

The building passed through a number of different lessees, some lasting one season and others several years. The first death was recorded when the theatre lessee was a Mrs Goddard. An actor named Stoddart lost his footing in the dark after completing a gravedigger scene. He fell into the orchestra pit, breaking several ribs and he died later. The theatre was managed for a number of years by a man known as Old Charles. He was said to be an eccentric character, who grumbled around the building smoking a pipe and wearing overalls. He often berated the audiences for rowdiness and would have orange skins thrown at him! In 1884 a new manager named Wallace Revill took over the theatre. Revill was an established theatre director with other theatres in across Northern England. He embarked on a refurbishment of the building including new decorations, seating and woodwork. He also added further ornate plasterwork to the existing decoration. Revill was keen on new theatre technologies and installed a spring board and even a thunder box above the stage. Revil's first pantomime The Babes In The Wood opened on Boxing Day 1884 and starred Vesta Tilley. Perhaps because of Revills efforts, the audiences litterally outgrew the Milk Street venue, so land was made available on Corporation Street for the construction of a bigger and much grander theatre. After a final gala performance, the old Theatre Royal closed on the 24th November 1888 and Revill and his company transferred to the new building, taking the name with them. The theatre was designed in a magnificent baroque style by famous architecht Frank Matcham, and although theatre was sadly gutted a 1960s re build, there is still a Theatre Royal on the site to this day.

The building was purchased by the St Helens branch of the Salvation Army in 1889. The army chose the location not for its suitability but infact to stop it re opening as a music hall! The building remained pretty much intact until 1904, when the army invested heavily in a near total internal rebuild. It resulted in the loss of the second balcony and the boxes, a complete internal re decoration and the closing up of the original stage. The fly tower was removed and the void left by this had floors inserted to make meeting rooms and a soup kitchen. The building was in use by the Salvation Army until the early 1980s when they moved to the new Sailsbury House premises.

As a result of on Arts provision in the Borough, commissioned in 1984 by Merseyside Arts and St Helens Council, the building was bought and refurbished by The Rainford Trust. The Rainford Trust is a charity set up by members of the Pilkington family to provide focus for the disparate arts activities emerging in the Borough and a response to the needs of young people.

The Citadel was opened in April 1988 by Richard Luce MP, Minister for the Arts who subsequently singled it out as an example of good practice in the Arts sector. It quickly developed a good reputation and was voted top music venue in the 1991 Liverpool Post and Echo Arts Awards. The Citadel became a Company Limited by Guarantee with an independent board in 1992.

By the end of 1995 the Citadel had become an annual revenue client of North West Arts Board and acquired Charitable Status. After careful appraisal of its market it began developing its own Artistic Programme in consultation with its funders, moving towards a mix of bought in products covering a variety of art forms, education and outreach work projects and community Arts.

In March 2000 the Citadel reopened after an extensive refurbishment with an eclectic music programme and followed this with the launch of 'Hands On' the Citadel's vibrant community arts programme in 2001. The Citadel celebrated its fifteenth birthday in 2003 with Johnny Vegas becoming patron and the Citadel was voted one of The Independent's top ten jazz and blues venues in 2004.

Despite the withdrawal of Arts Council funding in 2008, representing a third of the Citadel's income we continue to go from strength to strength, striving to give alternative artists a voice and an audience

In 2009 the Citadel celebrated its 21st birthday. We are sure you will agree we have achieved an awful lot. This anniversary provides an ideal time to highlight our reputation for being the place to come and see something extraordinary, engaging and emergent, with past performers including Candy Staton, The Verve, Kiki Dee, Midge Ure, Geno Washington, The Stone Roses, Oasis, Family Mahone, Peter Kay, Dave Spikey, John Bishop, Alan Carr, Paul O Grady, Happy Mondays, The Bluetones, Nine Below Zero, Fairport Convention, Toploader, Funeral For A Friend, The Dylan Project, Ralph McTell, Charlie Musselwhite, Wishbone Ash, Jah Wobble, Hazel O'Connor, Piosoned Electrik Head, The Tansads, Dr Feelgood, Simon Day, Rich Hall, Sean Hughes, Space, Cast, The Seahorses, Jo Brand and Jenny Éclair to name just a few.

For full details of the Citadel's programme please visit our 'What's On' pages. For further information on the Citadel building's history, including early history during its time as the Theatre Royal, please contact Simon Patterson - Operations & Events Officer on 01744 762301 or email operations@citadel.org.uk.