Arts Derbyshire


Construction work on new theatre and museum in Chesterfield begins

The multi-million-pound refurbishment of Chesterfield’s theatre and museum – which will create a state-of-the-art cultural venue in the heart of the town centre – has officially started on site.

The refurbishment of Stephenson Memorial Hall home to both the Pomegranate Theatre and Chesterfield Museum includes the creation of a single entrance to both facilities, an expanded theatre, a reconfigured museum, community spaces and a new café bar. The project is led by Chesterfield Borough Council.

Leading Midlands construction firm G F Tomlinson took control of the site in November and will now work to deliver the enhanced building along with improvements to Corporation Street.

Initially announced in 2021 following a funding commitment from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, the project has been in development ever since. The Museum and Theatre closed in 2022 to allow preparatory works to begin including the removal of asbestos, ground investigations and a strip out.

Councillor Kate Sarvent, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for town centres and visitor economy, said: “Since closing in 2022 we’ve been very busy behind the scenes both preparing the building for renovation and finalising the plans with our partners including our fantastic architecture team to ensure our ambitions can be realised. I’m delighted that G F Tomlinson have now begun work on site to deliver this project for our residents, we look forward to working closely with them over the next few years and keeping everyone updated on progress within the building.

“This is a landmark building in our town and a place where generations of Chesterfield residents have created lasting memories. This project seeks to protect this building for the future but also enhance the visitor experience which will encourage more people to attend shows and visit our museum.

“The council is facing significant financial pressures now and in future years, but by securing external investment to transform the building and make improvements to energy efficiency, we are ensuring that our facilities provide the best possible value for money and contribute to our climate change targets.

“This ambitious project will benefit both our community and our economy – we are committed to investing in the future of our borough, to ensure it can thrive for years to come and has first class facilities for both residents and visitors to enjoy.”

Chris Flint, managing director at G F Tomlinson, said: “We’re delighted to be commencing the delivery of the multi-million-pound refurbishment of Stephenson Memorial Hall to revitalise this high-profile building into a cultural venue and tourism hot spot in Chesterfield.

“Works will include enhancements to the Corporation Street site, transforming the building into a landmark state-of-the-art facility in the main town centre. Once complete, we look forward to the opportunities that this will bring to the local area, in terms of its arts and entertainment offering – with its expanded theatre, reconfigured museum, improved community spaces and café bar.”

The refurbishment of the Grade II listed Stephenson Memorial Hall aims to celebrate the history of the building but with a modern twist. The new Corporation Street link gallery extension will create a gateway impact improving the sense of arrival to Chesterfield. At night these elevations will illuminate the street scene, ensuring the building looks vibrant at all times of day.

By reopening the historic doorway under the tower, we will create a grand one-building entrance befitting the new combined cultural venue and encourage visitors to explore both aspects of the building.

From this entrance visitors will be able to enter the welcome foyer with access to a museum exhibition space featuring the historic builder’s wheel, a retail space, the auditorium and a relocated café bar.

Upstairs four new Museum spaces will allow for the story of Chesterfield and the people that made the town what it is to be told. A climate-controlled room will allow more of the Museum’s collection to be displayed and interactive activities will help new audiences engage with the Museum.

Plans aim to enhance, expand and modernise the theatre without compromising the atmosphere and historic features. The auditorium will be refurbished with new seating, increased capacity, improved sight lines and new environmental controls. New theatre systems including lighting and stage rigging creates a contemporary theatre experience whilst the new seating layout retains the intimate feel of the auditorium.

The designs for the building have been developed by leading architectural firm Bauman Lyons.

Guy Smith, director of Bauman Lyons, said: “We are delighted to have been collaborating on this project with the wider design and client team over the last few years. It is a privilege to be entrusted with the challenge of refurbishing and transforming such a significant part of the history of the town so that it can continue to play a role for the community for years to come.”

The updated building will also improve accessibility with the addition of new lifts, new seating options in the theatre and a new changing places toilet.

In Autumn 2021 Chesterfield Borough Council received almost £20 million from the Government’s Levelling Up fund. A portion will be used to deliver the council’s Revitalising the Heart of Chesterfield Project which aims to improve connections across the town centre and create attractive public spaces to support a range of events and markets.

Around £11 million of the Levelling Up Fund grant funding will be used to fund the £17 million renovation and remodelling of Stephenson Memorial Hall.

The project received a further funding boost with £695,000 from Arts Council England’s Capital Investment Programme which will be used to install a ventilation system in the auditorium and create a new Changing Places toilet.

The project is expected to be completed before the end of 2025.

Information about the project and updates as work progresses are available on the council’s website:

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