SMALL, BUT PERFECTLY FORMED
We own our beautiful little theatre. Situated in the heart of Beckenham in southeast London, this unusual Victorian building houses one of the smallest proscenium-arch auditoria in the country – with just 47 seats – and the unique charm of the venue delights all who enter.
HOW TO FIND US
Beckenham Theatre Centre
46 Bromley Road
The theatre has its own small car park and parking spaces can also be found in the side streets surrounding the theatre and nearby St George’s car park. Please note that the main roads around the theatre are not suitable for parking.
Unfortunately, there is no easy wheelchair access to the auditorium, but special arrangements can easily be made, so please ask the Box Office for more information.
We sell most of our tickets over the phone – the Box Office can be reached at 07500 908331. We also offer a number of tickets for each show on Eventbrite.
Anyone can book for performances at Beckenham Theatre, but only members can take part onstage or backstage. Please support our work by joining, for just £25 per year.
Note to members: If you bring guests with you to performances or social events, please remember to sign in the names and addresses of your guests when you arrive. Trustees reserve the right to refuse admission to anyone.
Beckenham Theatre Centre Ltd is a registered charity, staffed entirely by volunteers, which has been committed to serving, involving and delighting the local community for almost 70 years. Registered number 236434 (England & Wales). We have a board of up to 16 Trustees, elected by quorum of members at an annual general meeting. The current chairman is Emma Berryman.
Beckenham Children’s Theatre, as we were initially known, was founded in 1948 post-war Beckenham by Hanna Schweizer the Borough Children’s Librarian at Beckenham Library along with Barbara Longhurst, who had been the Borough Librarian during the war. Originally conceived as a children’s play reading group, it was not long before the children aspired to perform the plays as well.
Sidney Minchin was soon to join Hanna and two children’s groups were formed. One run by Sidney on Tuesday evenings at Churchfields School in Beckenham, the other run by Hanna on Wednesday evenings at Hawes Down School in West Wickham. The groups covered all aspects of theatre, including acting, stage management, lighting, play reading and costumes. Sidney was supported by his wife, Kath Minchin, who continued to be the main driving force behind the theatre after his premature death.
By 16 November 1948, after just six weeks rehearsal, the first ever Beckenham Children’s Theatre production was ready to open…
There followed a fairly nomadic existence, performing at various halls around the Beckenham area. Then in 1954/55 things changed. The Prentice Players was formed to accommodate the now older members in the 16-25 bracket. Subscription fees were 10/6 for those not working, 15/- for the employed and £1 1s for the over 21s. And a new home was found! A deal was struck with the owners of the Harvey Hall, Fairfield Road that the hall could be converted into a theatre and used by the group two evenings a week and for eight productions a year.
The first of these productions was Through The Looking Glass, written and composed by members. Sadly Sid Minchin died during the run. At his request none of the company knew he was ill. Sadly the period at the Harvey Hall was all too brief, and in June 1958 the final production, Six Characters In Search Of An Author, saw the end of an era. The stage was dismantled and the search was on once more. But this time there was an added challenge. Raising the estimated £5,000 that it would take to actually buy a new home.
By the Summer of 1959, 46 Bromley Road had been found and considered a perfect venue. On 21st August 1959 Beckenham Theatre Centre Limited was incorporated with a view to buying the property. Fundraising had been ongoing for some time assisted by a variety of celebrities, most notably Sir Richard Attenborough.
A Few Facts
The purchase price of 46 Bromley Road was £3,500
The cost of conversion estimated at £500
£1,200 was raised through fetes and donations
£1,800 was taken as a mortgage on the property (paid off in 1968)
A £1,000 overdraft was guaranteed by Carry On film producer Sidney Box
The first few years of the Sixties saw 46 Bromley Road become a hive of activity as this 1883 family home was transformed into Britain’s smallest complete theatre. Most of the work was undertaken by members, some of whom, thankfullly, had started careers as architects and engineers – the rest relied on sheer enthusiasm.
One hundred tip-up seats were bought for 9d each at an auction of the Davis Theatre, Croydon effects. There were some planning battles along the way, but on Saturday 24th September 1960 Beckenham Theatre Centre was officially opened by comedian Dick Emery. Since then the theatre has gone from strength to strength thanks to the dedication and relentless enthusiasm of its members.