The Matcham Society

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.

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.

The Matcham Society

Dedicated to the appreciation and enjoyment of great theatres everywhere, The Frank Matcham Society was set up following the centenary of the Wakefield Theatre Royal in 1994. The Society is a membership organisation, open to anyone with an interest in theatre and architecture. They aim to:

  • visit and develop links with all the surviving Matcham theatres
  • encourage and carry out research into Frank Matcham’s life and work
  • visit theatres by other architects in the UK and abroad
  • publish a regular Newsletter with news and information
  • publish an annual Journal with in-depth articles

For more information visit: or follow them on Twitter: @frankmatchamsoc or Facebook: @frankmatchamsociety

There is also a local Buxton branch of the Frank Matcham Society who meet six times a year to meet to discuss trips, fundraising for Buxton Opera House, theatre tours and performances. For more information call Maureen and Dickon on: 01782 785719.