We’ve carried out conservation work on areas of our former Costume Workshop on Waterside to protect some of Stratford’s heritage for future generations, as part of the restoration and redevelopment.

We are building a costume workshop fit for the 21st century with the space, light and facilities to help our skilled craftspeople continue to create stunning costumes.

Our new workshops will keep many of the historical features which have made them part of Stratford’s past. We have retained the Grade II Listed main building, but removed the second building which was built some years later, and had less architectural and historical significance.

Conservation work includes:

  • Restoring the Grade II Listed building to house part of the new workshop
  • Preserving the original 1887 Scene Dock entrance – cleaning and restoring brickwork and stonework on the front of the building at the Waterside entrance
  • Revealing and protecting an old painted sign previously hidden by brickwork
  • Putting in traditional north-facing skylights to the newer parts of the building

The conservation work to restore and redevelop the Costume Workshop’s Grade II listed buildings is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Sir Ian McKellen outside the 1887 Scene Dock entrance to the Costume Workshop building, as he closed our Stitch In Time fundraising campaign this summer.

The Scene Dock entrance

This is the tall double doors, pictured above, opposite the theatre. The entrance had to be tall enough to bring large pieces of scenery in and out of the workshop, to and from the theatre across the road. Once through the doors there was a ramp up which brought the scenery to above the flood plain, so if the river burst its banks the scenery wouldn’t be damaged.

The W-A-R lettering on the wall of the former Costume Workshop building, previously hidden from view. You can also see 'to Let' underneath the window.

Uncovering the past

We don’t know when the building was built, but it may have been pre-1800. The building has the appearance of a stable, and it has rounded corners which were common to stable blocks, to make sure the animals’ bodies didn’t catch on the edges.

But why keep animals in the middle of town? One theory involves the Stratford and Moreton Tramway, a 16-mile horse drawn route for transporting coal. The tramway stopped at the canal basin in Stratford, where the Bancroft Gardens are now, so the stables, located at the end of the tramway, could have been to house the horses that pulled the wagons.

Part of the scene dock building was also used as a convalescent home for soldiers during the First World War. The photograph (below) shows the inside in 1917, the room filled with recovering soldiers.

When the later building came down the letters ‘W A R’ were revealed painted on the outside of the building. Was it 'Warwick' or something to do with the war? Closer inspection reveals the letters 'To Let' underneath the window. This suggests it originally said ‘Warehouse to Let’ which gives further clues to the building’s history.

First World War soldiers recuperating in what was known as the YMCA Hut, Waterside. This later was used as a rehearsal room, then for scenery painting before becoming the RSC Armoury.