Conservation at Smallhythe Place

Roses climbing the house at Smallhythe Place

A lot has happened in the last five years regarding the maintenance of the house and theatre at Smallhythe Place. The most noticeable changes have been the refurbishment of the stage, a new and improved tea room, and an updated humidity monitoring system.

Work in the house

The fragile structure and unusual exterior of Smallhythe Place means constant upkeep throughout the year. Whilst it is important to ensure the building is structurally sound, it is also very important to us to preserve the aesthetic of Ellen Terry’s home. Most recently, the ceiling in Ellen’s bedroom was re-plastered, and new brace bars were fitted throughout the house.

Furthermore, we have installed museum-grade lighting in the display cabinets and there is a new humidity monitoring system in place to protect the artefacts, as well as the many costumes on display in the house and costume store.

Work in the theatre

In 2014 major work was undertaken to rebuild the stage in The Barn Theatre. To achieve an authentic likeness to how it had been in its infancy, we endeavoured to recycle as much of the original wooden boards as we could to build the new stage. We also carried out renovation of the dressing room and green room, which later allowed for backstage tours. This was all done throughout the winter whilst we were closed, and was ready for our next visitor season in 2015.

Since then, we have received funding to restring the original chairs for the theatre, and to replace the stage curtains in The Barn Theatre. We opted for a rich green fabric that was colour-matched to a painting of the theatre that Clare Atwood painted in 1939, and the curtains were installed in February 2016.

New stage curtains for The Barn Theatre
New stage curtains at Smallhythe Place
New stage curtains for The Barn Theatre

Furthermore, our theatre tea room has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years. A proper kitchen was installed, allowing for a full menu of soups, sandwiches, cakes and drinks to now be served. The tea room now has oak panels for the sides of the tea room, so our visitors can enjoy their refreshments without being subject to the temperamental English elements.

The tea room is situated next to The Barn Theatre, and offers the day-time menu to theatre-goers in the evenings for both indoor and outdoor productions.