We've moved out of our Costume Workshop buildings but has everyone left, or are there still some ghostly goings-on?

We've been making costumes in the buildings on Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon since the 1940s, but our Costume teams have now moved to a temporary workshop while work to restore and redevelop the Heritage Grade II listed building takes place. 

The workshop is a haven of wooden stairs, creaking floorboards and dark corners, with a long history, and rumours of a ghost. 

The tall wooden doors on Waterside are a reminder of its days as a scene dock for the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre – it needed to be tall so large pieces of scenery could be wheeled in and out, to and from the theatre across the road.

The beamed stockroom was once a stables, and the building at the back of the workshop has had lots of different uses. The sprung floor suggests it was once a dance floor. It became a lecture theatre with a gallery and during the First World War it was used as a recuperation centre for army officers. It later housed the Paint Shop, where all the scenery for the theatre was painted. A floor was put in during the 1990s and the room became the Armoury downstairs and Men’s Costume above.

An empty room with an open trapdoor that reveals a set of steep wooden stairs
A trapdoor in the print room floor opens to reveal the fire escape and steep wooden stairs, leading to the ground floor.
Photo by Sam Allard © RSC Browse and license our images

The ghost is supposed to be seen at the bottom of the fire escape ladder, which leads from the print room to the ground floor of the building.

Helen, Head of Costume Painting and Dyeing said: “Most people don’t like to be here on their own late at night, when the buildings are empty. There are lots of dark corridors and corners.”

Alan, Head of Costume Props, Footwear and Armoury, who has worked in the department for nearly 30 years said: “I did once hear footsteps, and went upstairs and there was no one there.”

Brick wall painted white with black graffiti saying 'Helen was here' and other similar messages
A wall in the Costume Workshop where the teams have left their names.
Photo by Sam Allard © RSC Browse and license our images

The restoration and redevelopment of the Costume Workshop will create the best facilities for costume-making, in a working environment fit for the 21st century. We will care for our heritage Grade II listed buildings, create new training and apprenticeship opportunities to secure the future of costume-making in Stratford-upon-Avon, and for the first time, visitors will be able to experience our world-class costume workshop for themselves on tours and online. 

There is still £1.3 million left to raise towards the £8.7 million project, which will help us continue to create stunning costumes for you and audiences around the world to enjoy. We need your involvement and ask you to choose an area to support from underwear to armour, from jewellery to shoes. Find out more and make a donation at our Stitch In Time website.

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