Heritage Lottery Fund grant for Normansfield Theatre

The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) has received £85,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its exciting project: ‘Normansfield – Protecting a Theatrical Past’.  

The HLF’s grant means that vital building works can begin to protect the rare, Victorian Grade II* listed theatre and its remarkable collection of original, hand painted scenery.  The scenery, which has no equal anywhere else in Britain, is extraordinarily complete with more than 80 flats, 18 borders, 5 painted cloths and many individual pieces.

The funding will also allow the creation of a fully catalogued, digital archive of the Victorian scenery to create a ‘virtual theatre’ which will be available at the centre and on-line.  The ‘virtual theatre’ will enable a schools and further education programme to explore this important collection.   It will also be accessible to members of the public to learn more about the fascinating life of this beautiful theatre.

The theatre was built in 1879 by Dr John Langdon Down as part of Normansfield which was started as a home for people with learning disabilities in 1868.  Normansfield (now the Langdon Down Centre) is widely regarded as the ‘spiritual home’ of Down’s Syndrome.  This is a rare and beautiful example of a late Victorian, private theatre which is considered to be of great architectural and historic importance. The stage still contains the original working flaps and is one of only two working theatres with this in place today. The scenery was expertly cleaned and conserved in 2002/2003 and this HLF funding will ensure that the conditions in which the scenery is stored are not at risk of flooding and damp.

Carol Boys, the Chief Executive of the DSA (owners of the Normansfield Theatre) says:

“We are delighted to have received the support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This award will ensure that our Victorian scenery is further protected and will be accessed by the public digitally and through our educational programme”.

Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London says:

“Thanks to National Lottery players, this unique collection of theatrical scenery can be saved from deterioration. The new digital archive will allow even more people to discover and cherish the history of Victorian Normansfield and its theatre.”