Scope and Content

The records consist of copy minutes of the management committee and Board of Directors, correspondence and financial records; and production diaries, photographs, programmes, press cuttings and posters which record every production produced either at the Leatherhead Theatre or the Thorndike Theatre from 1951 to spring 1997.

In order to facilitate the use of the performance records, which are generally arranged in annual bundles, two indexes to the productions have been created. The indexes, one chronological, the other alphabetical, are to productions in the Leatherhead and Thorndike Theatres; and by the Casson Company, the Young Stagers, the Young People's Theatre Section and various independent companies.

The minutes of the Board of Directors of Thorndike Theatre (Leatherhead) Ltd were received from two sources, neither of which held a complete set: the Thorndike Theatre (6368/-) and from the personal papers of Hazel Vincent Wallace (6356/-).

The following is a detailed summary of the main series of records:

The Under Thirty Theatre Club was founded just after the Second World War by Hazel Vincent Wallace. It functioned as a small society which met once weekly to present new plays in West End theatres. At the same time, she founded the Buckstone Club for actors in Haymarket. In 1950, the Under Thirty Theatre Club began to look for permanent premises and in 1951 moved to the Leatherhead Theatre where it became known as the Leatherhead Theatre Club.


6368/2/ Financial records 1951-1961

6368/2/ Correspondence with the Arts Council and theatre returns 1953-1964

6368/2/ Correspondence, press releases and related papers concerning art exhibitions 1965-1969

The Leatherhead New Theatre Trust was established in 1966 in order to raise money for the construction of the Thorndike Theatre. The Trust was terminated in 1974 and its funds handed over to the Thorndike Theatre (Leatherhead) Ltd.

6368/3/ Trust deed and related papers 1966-1974

6368/3/ Copy minutes and related papers 1967-1975

6368/3/ Appeals Committee: signed minutes 1966-1969

6368/3/ Leatherhead New Theatre Trust: annual statements of account 1967-1975

6368/3/ Leatherhead New Theatre Trust: construction of the Thorndike Theatre 1962-1969

6368/3/ Administration of the Leatherhead New Theatre Trust 1970-1975

The General Theatre Committee of the Thorndike Theatre was composed of representatives from the administrative districts surrounding Leatherhead; the Young Stagers Group; the Leatherhead Society and leisure centre; the Residents' Associations of Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham; and the staff of the Thorndike Theatre. Prior to 1977, the General Theatre Committee was responsible for the management of the theatre bar and restaurant and sales of snacks in the foyer. In addition, the committee was responsible for the daily administration of the theatre, organisation of open days and exhibitions and small-scale maintenance of the fabric of the buildings. In 1977, Thorndike Green Room Limited was established as the proprietary company of the Thorndike Green Room Club. The Board of Directors of the limited company took over the management of the bar and catering facilities. Membership of the Green Room Club entitled theatregoers to use the bar and catering facilities in the theatre and to bring with them up to ten invited guests. For copy minutes of the General Theatre Committee, 1978-1980, see 6356/2/2; for copy minutes of the Board of the Thorndike Green Room Club, 1972-1980, see 6356/2/1-2.

For further administrative records deposited in 2002, see -/15/-.

6368/5/ Copy minutes and papers of Board of Directors 1971-1994

6368/5/ Council of Regional Theatre Working Party on Subsidy and Survival: administrative papers 1974-1976

6368/5/ Administrative officer of Thorndike Theatre: correspondence files 1973-1995

6368/5/ Artistic Director's correspondence files: letters from actors and actresses c.1967-1985

6368/5/ Art exhibitions at the Thorndike Theatre: correspondence, press releases and related papers 1970-1994

6368/5/ Thorndike Theatre: papers relating to social events 1992-1994

6368/6/ PRODUCTION DIARIES 1951-1997
The production diaries, known by the staff as 'the bible', give the name of the production; opening date; royalties payable and to whom; number of scripts required and where acquired (e.g. from publisher, playwright or play library); cast; stage crew; director; and in the later diaries, names of set, costume and lighting designers and production team when produced by a visiting company. Where a number is entered next to an actor's name, this appears to denote which copy of a numbered set of scripts an actor received. The diaries list all plays produced by the Leatherhead Theatre Club and the Thorndike Theatre. They do not include plays or performances produced by the visiting musicians or artistes, the Young Stagers or the Young People's Theatre Section. Neither do they include all plays produced by the Casson Company.

6368/7/ PHOTOGRAPHS 1951-1997
For further photographs deposited in 2002, see -/16/-. Please use indexes to identify correct date of performance records required (see appendices 1 & 2)

6368/7/ Leatherhead Theatre Club: production photographs 1951-1969
The photographs are arranged chronologically by production. The majority of the sets of photographs are accompanied by an offprint of the programme which gives the dates of all performances and a cast list. The photographs were originally in lever arch folders but have been removed for better storage.

6368/7/ Thorndike Theatre: Royal Gala Opening 1969

6368/7/ Thorndike Theatre: production photographs 1969-1997
These are arranged chronologically by production, one bundle per year until 1990. From c.1991 onwards, the photographs cease to be arranged in this way and instead are arranged alphabetically by production irrespective of year. This series of photographs includes productions by the Casson Company. Photographs of productions by the Young Stagers, the Young People's Theatre Section and of concerts or other events are arranged separately.

6368/7/ Leatherhead Theatre Club and Thorndike Theatre: undated and unidentified production photographs nd [c.1951]-[1997]
It appears that these photographs are either reproductions or originals which have been extracted from the main series of production photographs for the purposes of publicity or display.

6368/7/ Young Stagers Group: production photographs 1969-1995
The photographs are arranged chronologically by production and do not represent a complete set.

6368/7/ Young People's Theatre Section: production photographs 1982-1994
The Young People's Theatre Section (YPTS) was a professional Theatre in Education (TIE) group, established with the aim of bringing theatre to children. The group performed plays in local schools and arranged open days, festivals and events in the Thorndike Theatre during the school holidays. The photographs are arranged chronologically by production.

6368/7/ Leatherhead Theatre Club and Thorndike Theatre: Christmas greetings cards 1952-1970
Postcards sent annually which depict scenes from plays produced during the year.

6368/7/ Leatherhead Theatre Club and Thorndike Theatre: miscellaneous photographs c.1951-[1997]

6368/7/ Theatre in Leatherhead anniversary celebrations: photographs and souvenir brochures 1969-1976

6368/7/ Leatherhead Theatre: photographs of the building nd [c.1951-1969]

6368/7/ Thorndike Theatre: photographs of the building and its construction c.1967-[1997]

The programmes are arranged chronologically according to year of production. There is one bundle of programmes per year. The bundles are assumed to be complete unless otherwise indicated. Please use indexes to identify correct date of performance records required (see appendices 1 & 2) For further programmes deposited in 2002, see -/17/-.

6368/8/ Leatherhead Theatre Club programmes 1951-1968

6368/8/ Thorndike Theatre programmes 1969-1997

6368/8/ Young Stagers: programmes 1970-1980

6368/8/ Casson Room: programmes 1971-1996

6368/8/ Music recitals and concerts: programmes 1970-1984

6368/8/ Young People's Theatre Section: programmes 1992-1993

6368/8/ Exhibition catalogues 1970-1977

For further posters and advertising material deposited in 2002, see -/18/-. Please use indexes to identify correct date of performance records required (see appendices 1 & 2)

6368/9/ Leatherhead Theatre Club: posters 1958-1969
The posters give the title of the play, names of cast members, dates, and title and dates of the next production. Illustrations are restricted chiefly to the posters advertising the Christmas pantomime.

6368/9/ Leatherhead Theatre Club: hanging cards 1958-1969
Hanging cards were A3-size cards giving details of productions forthcoming in the next month; being of a more convenient size than the posters they were usually distributed to be hung in shop windows.

6368/9/ Thorndike Theatre: posters 1972-1997
The posters give the title of the play, names of cast members, dates, and title and dates of the next production. Illustrations are restricted chiefly to the posters advertising the Christmas pantomime until the mid 1980s.

6368/9/ Thorndike Theatre: handbills and newsletters 1970-1981
For Thorndike Theatre handbills and newsletters 1969-1995, see 6356/6/5-6.

6368/9/ Young Persons Theatre Section: newsletters 1974-1981
For copies of the Young People's Theatre section newsletter, 1972-1994, see 6356/6/7

6368/10/ PRESS CUTTINGS 1951-1996
The press cuttings chiefly relate to productions or events at either the Leatherhead Theatre (until 1969) or the Thorndike Theatre (from 1969). The cuttings include previews and reviews of productions; interviews with the actors, directors or with Hazel Vincent Wallace and her staff; editorials concerning funding of the arts; and details of fund raising events or development plans for the building of the new theatre in 1969. Please use indexes to identify correct date of performance records required (see appendices 1 & 2) For further cuttings deposited in 2002, see -/19/-.

6368/10/ Leatherhead Theatre Club: press cuttings books 1951-1969

6368/10/ Thorndike Theatre: press cuttings books c.1960-1996

6368/10/ Royal Gala Opening of the Thorndike Theatre: newspaper articles 1969

6368/11/ PRESS RELEASES 1976-1990
The press releases concern all events at the Thorndike Theatre including productions in the main theatre and the Casson Room; tours of studio productions to local schools; exhibitions; and issues such as theatre funding and arts subsidies. For press releases and associated publicity material relating to both the Leatherhead Theatre Club and the Thorndike Theatre, 1965-1994, see 6356/6/1-4.


6368/12/ Set and costume design 1974-1993

6368/12/ Scripts nd [1950s]-1997
Many of the scripts below were written by Joan Macalpine. Joan began her career with Stephen Joseph's Studio Theatre Company, running a summer season in Scarborough and touring towns without theatres in the winter (see -/12/26 below). She became Director of the Casson Room (the studio theatre) at the Thorndike Theatre in 1969. She also directed a number of plays for the main auditorium of the theatre and was heavily involved with the schools programme.

6368/12/ Surrey at War project 1987


The provenance of these items is uncertain. According to staff at the theatre, the collections were donated to the Thorndike Theatre by members of the public. The scrapbooks contain no reference to theatre in Leatherhead nor are the majority of the programmes of local productions. Rather the collections represent the interest of several individuals in London theatre and American, British and French film prior to the Second World War.


6368/15/ Development Manager of Thorndike Theatre 1989

6368/16/ ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHS ND [1969]-ND [1980s]

6368/16/ Dame Sybil Thorndike nd [1969]

6368/16/ Thorndike Theatre: production photographs 1974

6368/16/ Miscellaneous photographs nd [1980s]

6368/17/ ADDITIONAL PROGRAMMES 1970-1994

6368/17/ Leatherhead Operatic Society: programmes 1970-1994


6368/18/ Thorndike Theatre: posters [1982]

6368/18/ Thorndike Theatre: leaflets 1970-[1990s]

6368/18/ Thorndike Theatre: Christmas cards nd [1980s-1990s]


6368/19/ Play Review files 1978-1997

Administrative / Biographical History

Hazel Vincent Wallace

Following her ancestors into the theatre, Hazel Vincent Wallace was accepted to study drama at Dartington Hall in the late 1930s. The outbreak of war made this impossible however, and she turned instead to personnel management, studying at Birmingham University and working in Manchester before moving back to London where, whilst keeping her day job, she joined the Unity Theatre. This theatre group, founded in London in the 1930s, was part of a movement for 'people's theatre', with a mainly amateur cast, and with links to the Left Book Club Theatre Guild and the Communist Party of Great Britain.

After touring Italy after the war with Combined Services Entertainment, Miss Vincent Wallace returned to London where she co-founded the Under Thirty Theatre Group in 1947. The Group performed new plays on Sunday evenings in West End Theatres with unknown actors such as Clare Bloom.

Around the same time, Miss Vincent Wallace co-founded the Buckstone Club, in a venue behind the Theatre Royal in Haymarket. A private members club for theatre workers, it was frequented by such figures as Patricia Lawrence, Kenneth Tynan, Harold Pinter, Peter O'Toole and Ronnie Corbett. It was named after John Baldwin Buckstone, actor manager of the Theatre Royal, 1853-1856, whose ghost is still reputed to haunt the theatre.

Leatherhead Theatre Club, 1951-1969

Miss Vincent Wallace first came to Leatherhead in order to find a permanent base for the Under Thirty Theatre Group. In 1951, the club, now renamed the Leatherhead Theatre Club (LTC), took up residence in the former Ace Cinema on Church Street, already known as the Leatherhead Theatre Club. At the same time, Miss Vincent Wallace created the Green Room Club, a small social club which ran a restaurant and bar where audience members could meet and socialise with the company. The Green Room Club was a permanent fixture in both the Leatherhead and Thorndike Theatres.

During the fifties and sixties, the LTC operated as a repertory theatre, performing one or two plays a fortnight whilst simultaneously rehearsing the next. For three years, there were two companies playing alternate weeks at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, Kent. Actors who played with the LTC during this period include Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Briers, Nyree Dawn Porter, Alec McCowan, Carmen Silvera and Sir Donald Wolfit. In 1962, playing to full houses, plays ran for two weeks and soon after, for three weeks.

The productions were very varied and included Whitehall farces and country house mysteries alongside works by Osborne, Priestley, Ibsen, Beckett, Galsworthy and Shakespeare. Several plays which premiered at the Leatherhead Theatre went on to enjoy runs in the West End or were broadcast and televised.

Thorndike Theatre Leatherhead, 1969-1997

The Leatherhead Theatre proved too small and under-equipped to accommodate the rise in audience numbers and increasing diversity of activities carried out by the LTC in the sixties. The Leatherhead Property Trust offered the Board of Directors of the LTC a space on the site of the demolished Crescent Cinema in the High Street, provided that the Board raise its own money for the theatre. Fund-raising for the new theatre began in 1967 with a grant of £90,000 from the Leatherhead Property Trust and from the Arts Council and Leatherhead Urban District Council. The bulk of the capital needed came from local supporters and theatre friends in response to a dynamic appeal and within the deadline of two years.

Dame Sybil Thorndike agreed to lend her name to the project and took a keen interest in all aspects of the theatre's design and construction. The aim was that the theatre should provide a focus for the arts in Leatherhead and environs and should include exhibition space, film viewing facilities, a restaurant and bar and a studio theatre. The last was named the Casson Room in honour of Dame Sybil's husband, Sir Lewis Casson. The Thorndike Theatre opened in September 1969 with a Royal Gala performance of The Lion in Winter attended by HRH Princess Margaret, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Dame Sybil. The cast included Hannah Gordon who subsequently returned several times to the Thorndike to act and became a member of the Board of Directors.

From 1969, the main stage of the Thorndike was used to stage longer running single productions, while the Casson Company put on small-scale productions in the studio theatre or toured to local schools. The Thorndike Young Stagers founded in the sixties under the creative direction of Joan Macalpine, staged many new musicals based on local historical themes. The Young People's Theatre Section began work in the seventies, taking productions into schools and running summer workshops and festivals. Subsequently, Theatre Exchange involved 32,000 young people in one year.

In the late eighties, the theatre still staged its own productions but, under the artistic direction of Bill Kenwright, it also included West End try-outs and touring shows. In the nineties, several productions by Peter Hall included Hamlet with Stephen Dillane, and 'An Absolute Turkey' designed by Gerald Scarfe and starring Felicity Kendall and Griff Rhys Jones. These and many others transferred to the West End. The new partnership with the Commercial Theatre seemed to be successful.

However, during the late eighties and early nineties, the theatre encountered a series of financial difficulties. Despite receiving a great deal of financial support from Bill Kenwright Ltd and being re-launched in 1990, the Thorndike Theatre was unable to maintain a sufficient income to cover its rising costs. In April 1997, having lost its grant subsidies from South East Arts and the County Council, the Thorndike Theatre was forced to go into liquidation and close.

In the years following the closure, several failed attempts were made by different theatre and arts production companies, to revive the theatre. In 2001, The Pioneer People, a Christian organisation, leased the theatre both to be a church and a working theatre and arts centre. For a description of this period, see the press cuttings book, 1997-2002 (6368/10/31) and the introduction to the papers of the Thorndike Theatre Revival Committee, 1997-2001 (7212).

Access Information

There are no access restrictions, except for 6368/5/5-8 & 13, which are closed for 30 years.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Peter Lea, administrative officer of the Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead, in March 1997.

Further material was subsequently deposited by the new leaseholders, The Pioneer People, in April 2002 and this material has been fitted into the existing series where possible. The remaining material is included in 6368/15/- to 6368/19/- at the end of this list. The last press cuttings book (-/10/31) was deposited by Miss E Green, a volunteer at the Thorndike Theatre, via Hazel Vincent Wallace, theatre founder, in September 2003.

The additional images of 'Crookie', a fundraising Airedale (6368/16/-), were presented by Mrs Green in January 2012.

Further programmes, scripts and audio tapes were deposited by the executor of Joan Macalpine, Director of the Casson Room (the studio theatre) from 1969 to 1980, in December 2014. These have been fitted into the existing series.

Other Finding Aids

An item level description of the archive is available on the Surrey History Centre online catalogue

Related Material

For further copy minutes and administrative records of the Leatherhead Theatre Club; and the Thorndike Theatre and Board of Directors, 1951-1996, see 6356.

For the papers of the Thorndike Theatre Revival Committee, 1997-2001, see 7212.

For fliers and programmes for productions and leaflets publicizing workshops put on by the Thorndike Young Stagers, Thorndike Young People's Theatre, and Theatre Exchange Ltd (formerly Thorndike Exchange), April 1993-[March 1998]; posters publicizing Theatre Exchange Ltd's appeal for funding and first birthday, July 1997-April 1998; and correspondence between Beth Wood, Artistic Director of Theatre Exchange Ltd, and Miss Vincent Wallace regarding Theatre Exchange's work and funding issues, Aug 1993-May 1997, see 7836.

For Thorndike Revival Group and Thorndike Theatre Goers and Green Room Club records, 1992-1999, see 8824.

For further papers of Hazel Vincent Wallace, OBE (1919-2019), founder of Leatherhead Theatre and the Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead, 1951-2017, see 9977.