The Barn Theatre at Smallhythe Place

The Barn Theatre at Smallhythe Place, the home of actress Ellen Terry from 1899 to 1928 at Tenterden, Kent

The Barn Theatre is a charming 17th century barn with thatched roofing that was transformed into a theatre in 1929 by Ellen Terry's daughter, Edy Craig. Today it is still used for a diverse programme of talks and shows that take place throughout the year.

Bitesize History of the Barn

There's been a huge amount of change for the Barn over the years, thought to be built in the latter stages of the 17th Century but with some evidence saying that the lower part of the building may have been built in the 15th Century or possibly even earlier. In the mid-19th Century several changes were made in order to increase the crop storage capacity, structurally very little has changed from these modifications apart from the roof which was recently re-thatched in 2009.

During Ellen Terry's time at Smallhythe Place the barn was exactly that, a barn. It wasn't until her death in 1928 that any real changes were made. Ellen's daughter Edith Craig always wanted to turn the barn into a theatre but Ellen refused as she wished Smallhythe to remain a retreat from the stage. However in 1929 after Ellen's passing, money was raised in the form of trust funds such as; The Ellen Terry Memorial Fund and Memorial Matinees, and the barn became the Barn Theatre as we know it today.

There's much more to find out about the Barn when you come to visit, so be sure to take a look for yourself and try and spot some of the changes that have happened throughout the centuries.

Theatre in the Barn

As the only working theatre in the National Trust we make sure that each year we create a theatre programme which helps keep the theatrical history of the Barn running for years to come. We have a wide range of shows throughout our open months, ranging from musicals, one man shows, to witty Shakespearean classics, so there’s a lot for everyone to enjoy.  

Our theatre season usually runs from May to September with lots going on throughout these months. Be sure to keep an eye on the what's on section of the website to see what we have coming up.