The History of Groundlings Theatre

Groundlings Theatre is one of the UK’s most dynamic and impressive Georgian Theatre’s. Built in 1784, Groundlings is steeped in history and was formally known as The Old Benny, the first free school in the city. The downstairs was the classroom and the upstairs was used by the Beneficial Society for meetings, theatre and concerts. In 1939 the school was closed due to the Second World War, a Nazi sympathiser used the roof to direct bombers using a torch as they wanted to bomb the Portsmouth Dockyard. The school then became a youth training centre in 1962, before becoming the Groundlings Theatre in 2010. 

In 1812, Elizabeth Dickens went into labour with Charles Dickens whilst attending a dance in the building. Henry Ayres, who became Premier of South Australia and who Ayres Rock is named after, was a pupil at the school. Groundlings still has a lot of the original features such as original floorboards and fire places.

It is located near Gunwharf Quays and The Historic Dockyard. The grade Two Star Theatre has a versatile stage, which can be placed in the round or used for studio space. There is also a proscenium arch and the theatre has the flexibility of staging Dinner Theatre.

With a vast wardrobe with over 11,000 costumes, props and set departments, costume hire is a must!

Within this unique theatre, we have a resident casting director and agent, we can also offer a casting suite if required.

The theatre is often used for filming by various production companies. The BBC film commemorating the centenary of The Titanic: Titanic Southampton Remembers, was recently featured. Actors from the drama school were also used.

Events including plays, productions and Murder Mystery evenings run throughout the year as well as ghost hunts. The theatre is also available for wedding and corporate event hire.