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Frank Matcham Biography

Frank Matcham

Frank Matcham

Frank Matcham was born in Newton Abbott on 22 November 1854, the son of a brewery manager. He was brought up in Torquay where he went to Babbacombe School. In 1868, he became apprenticed to George Sondon Bridgeman, a local surveyor and architect, in the mid 1870s moving to London to join the architectural practice of Jethro T Robinson who was consulting theatre architect to the Lord Chamberlain.

In 1877, Matcham married Robinson's daughter, Maria, and the following year when Robinson died suddenly, the 24-year old Matcham found himself taking over the practice, and completing Robinson's unfinished design for the Elephant and Castle Theatre. Following this, Matcham went from success to success and, over the next 30 years he became unrivalled as the most prolific theatre architect of all time. In the years between 1879 and 1912, Matcham designed and built some 120 theatres and entertainment venues, including The Hackney Empire; The London Coliseum; the Gaiety Theatre, Douglas; The King's Theatre, Southsea and the Blackpool Tower Circus and Ballroom. Buxton Opera House was completed in 1903.

Matcham died in 1920 of blood poisoning brought on by excessive trimming of his finger nails. However, his legacy lives on. Despite never qualifying as an architect and, as a consequence, being snubbed by many in his profession, Matcham is acknowledged today as the supreme exponent of his craft. He has a unique style, with no two theatres being the same, he was master of sight-line and acoustic design, and worked quickly and economically. Sadly, only around 20 of his theatres survive in the UK, with a further dozen having been drastically altered into bingo halls, night clubs and cinemas. Buxton Opera House is testament to his work and vision.

Buxton Opera House has a small Matcham Gallery featuring copies of Matcham's original plans, photographs of the Opera House restoration and early show bills from the period. You can visit the Matcham Gallery during any performance, or as part of one of our regular theatre tours.

Find out more:

If you would like to have a look around the theatre and find out more about the history of this beautiful Edwardian building, we'd be delighted to welcome you to one of our coffee mornings or tours.

Both events are organised by the Fundraising Friends of Buxton Opera House and run on most Saturdays between 10am and 12 noon. The tours of the theatre cost £2.50 per person and leave at 11am. 

We can also arrange private tours of the theatre for groups of 10 or more people at £5 per head. 

All money raised from these events is put towards purchasing equipment for the theatre.

Please book in advance please call: 01298 72050 or email:

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