Cutlery manufacturer William Webster had the Lantern built next-door to his mansion in suburban Nether Edge in 1893. It was a private theatre then, where Webster would entertain his pals with music hall repertoires. What a life it was for those wealthy Victorian industrialists. Thankfully today it's in more democratic hands.
With its deep red velvet interior and its fancy little dome sitting on the rooftop, we’ve never come across a theatre that's quite so terrifically charming. The Grade II listed Lantern is the oldest theatre in Sheffield and also, at just 84 seats, the smallest. What’s on stage is only part of the attraction; a visit to the intimate Lantern is often as much for the atmosphere of the place as it is for the performances within it (though you're unlikely to be let down on either count).
Abandoned in the 1920s, the Lantern – originally called the Chalet Theatre – stood empty for years. In the 1940s, local actor Dilys Guite came across the building in a sorry state: its mock Tudor gable all shabby, its doors boarded up, its grounds strewn with rubbish. Together with her friends she restored the sad-looking theatre and organised a few productions each year, before being gifted it by way of thanks for her hard work and vision in 1957. Today, it's owned by her namesake in-house community theatre group the Dilys Guite Players.
Whatever you pick from the programme – am-dram, a touring production, music or stand-up – you can be assured that you're in for a theatre trip like no other. And think of Dilys when you take to your seat: thanks to her, this place that was once the reserve of the rich, who let it fall to near ruin, is now open for the whole city to enjoy.
- Words by
- Kathryn Hall
- Images by
- John Gelder