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THE LEICESTER DRAMA SOCIETY
Founded in 1922 after a meeting in the Turkey Café, the Leicester Drama Society staged its first productions at The Royal Opera House (Silver Street) and then the Association Hall (now The Y Theatre). The Society moved to the former Dover Street Baptist Chapel in 1929, opening the theatre in 1930.
The Leicester Drama Society purchased the building for £14,000 in 1932, renaming the building The Little Theatre.
The building which was to be transformed into the Little Theatre had been erected in the nineteenth century. Like other nonconformist chapels of the period it had had a high, flat ceiling and a gallery round three sides. But in 1919 it was purchased by the Independent Order of Rechabites, who removed the galleries and inserted a raked floor at gallery level. This newly created first floor was to become the auditorium of the new theatre, entered by two staircases which had served the old gallery.
At the 1841 Census Dover Street was home to Framework Knitters, Bricklayers, Carpenters, Wheelwrights, Painters, Bakers, Labourers and a Blacksmith. Ten years later there are some 75 dwellings in the street and a further 24 in Dover Square, Glover’s Yard, Thorpe’s Yard and Herbert’s Yard. The range of occupations of the inhabitants has widened a little to include a Solicitors’ Clerk, Police Officer and Schoolmistress. There are two licensed premises, at No.34 and at No.54. No.34 is directly opposite the Chapel; later it was (and still is) called The Dover Castle.
During World War II an incendiary bomb fell on the theatre roof but was bravely extinguished with a stirrup pump by the theatre manager, Moyra Haywood.
A serious fire in 1955 led to a major rebuild, resulting in the excellent facilities the theatre enjoys today.
Richard Attenborough, Joe Orton, Judi Dench, Lesley Garrett, Lee Mack and Michael McIntyre have all appeared on stage.
In 2011 the theatre celebrated its 1,000th production with the Thornton Wilder play Our Town.
The Theatre connection with Richard Attenborough goes back to his childhood when his mother Mary Attenborough was our President for several years, see a slide show we prepared from our archives Richard Attenborough slides
For more inofrmation on the early years of the Society see John Graham’s book