Richard Leacroft Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises primary research material, copies of texts, drawings and watercolours which Mr. Richard Leacroft collected, copied or created during his career as architect, stage designer, lecturer and author of acclaimed books on the history and development of theatre buildings which he wrote, or co-wrote with his wife Mrs. Helen Leacroft.

The collection includes:

  • Architectural drawings
  • Architecural surveys for a number of theatres
  • Isometric 'cut-away' drawings
  • Drawings for illustrations
  • Photographs and literature relating to theatres
  • Periodicals
  • Newspaper cuttings
  • Correspondence
  • Set designs
  • Set models
  • Books proof and gallery of illustrations

Administrative / Biographical History

Richard Leacroft V.B, F.R.S.A, A.R.I.B.A, M.S.I.A., Architectural Association Hons. Dipl was an architect, stage designer, author and illustrator. He was born in London on 16 July 1914 and died in Countersthorpe, UK in 1986.

In the1930s he started working as an architect in Leicester, England. In 1936 he studied stage decor under Michel St Denis and George Devine at the London Theatre Studio. He joined Sheffield Repertory Company as stage designer, and later moved to Regency Players at Theatre Royal, Leicester, where he met and married Helen Beal.

In the Second World War, Richard was first posted to Iraq with the Royal Engineers, then to Baghdad in the Army Education Corps. During this period he was encouraged to sketch and develop his painting skills by Frank Archer. He designed stage productions in Baghdad and prepared pamphlets on art, architecture and theatre in Cairo.

Back in Leicester in 1946, Richard resumed stage designing duties at Theatre Royal in Leicester. He also began teaching part-time at the School of Architecture in Leicester (now part of De Montfort University). In 1949, he was appointed full-time lecturer at the School of Architecture. In the same year he published his first major book Civic Theatre Design and his first Puffin book Building a House. Throughout the 1950s to late 1970s Mr and Mrs Leacroft co-wrote a series of children books. They were first published by Puffin then later re-published in hardback by Brockhampton and Young Scott Books.

In 1954, Mr Leacroft won the R.I.B.A. Athens Bursary to study actor-audience relationship in ancient Greek theatres. A few years later, in 1960, he was awarded the Rose Shipman Studentship to study actor-audience relationship in American theatres. Mr. Leacroft published his most known book The Development of the English Playhouse in 1973. Richard was awarded an Honorable Mention in 1973 by the American Theatre Library Association and the George Freedley Award for an outstanding contribution to the literature of the theatre. Over the years this book has become recognised as the most authoritative and informative book in its field particularly noted for its unique isometric ''cut-away'' drawings. These illustrations afford a highly accurate three-dimensional impression of both the inside and the outside of the theatre at the same time. His following two books were co-written with his wife Helen Leacroft in the 1980s. They are Theatre and Playhouse and The Theatre in Leicestershire.

Mr. Leacroft died in 1986 and Mrs Leacroft in 2003.


The original working order of the archive has been maintained where appropriate, including the filing system and arrangement by Mrs. Helen Leacroft

  • THM/17/1 - Primary Research Material
  • THM/17/2 - Correspondence
  • THM/17/3 - Documents related to Mr. and Mrs. Leacroft publications
  • THM/17/4 - Published and unpublished illustrations
  • THM/17/5 - Set designs, costume designs and watercolours
  • THM/17/6 - Exhibition panels and boards
  • THM/17/7 - Provenance of the Collection
  • THM/17/8 - Slides Negatives
  • THM/17/9 - Objects
  • THM/17/10 - General Reference Resource Collection
  • THM/17/11 - Architectural history publications

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Some material in this collection including outsize drawings, illustrations, posters and architecture surveys are stored in outsize boxes or folders. These are identified at file level.

Archivist's Note

Some of the material in this archive includes architectural drawings described by Mrs. Helen Leacroft. Find a glossary of technical terms below.

  • Isometric drawings are a type of perspective drawing which 'convey three dimentional view of a structure concurrently showing various measured axes' (Lowell, p.46).
  • Isometric reconstructions are isometric reconstructions or 'cut-away' are the representation of buildings in the fashion of isometric drawings.
  • Working drawings are drawings, sketches or diagrams of any object made by projection upon a flat surface, usually a horizontal place. The term is used to refer to drawings or diagrams showing the relative position of the parts of a project, [or] any one floor of a building, projected upon a horizontal plane or the elements of landscape design.' (Lowell, p.47-48)
  • Conjectural Scale reproductionsis the term used by Mrs. Helen Leacroft to describe a type of isometric drawing.
  • Flexible Theatre 'is a generic term for a theatre in which the playing space and audience seating can be configured as desired for each production. Often, the theatre can be configured into the arena, thrust, and end stage forms described above. Environmental, promenade, black box, and studio theatre are other terms for this type of space, suggesting particular features or qualities.' (Theatre Projects Consultants, 2012).

Bibliographic references

Lowell, Waverly & Ryan Nelb, Tawney Architectural Records: managing design and construction records. Society of American Archivists, 2006.

Theatre Project Consulted Types and Forms of Theatres, at Accessed on 8th August 2012.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Custodial History

The materials in this collections have been donated in two different batches.

The majority of this collection was donated on 3 November 1996. This included original drawings and illustrations, text and primary research materials. They were mainly sources for Richard Leacroft's published books on theatre, architecture and buildings. It also included material documenting his work in scenic design. An addition and final donation was made on 24 March 2001. This included large photographs, watercolours and a collection of hardback copies of Mr. and Mrs. Leacroft publications. Prior to this donation, these additional materials were displayed in the Theatre Museum as part of the exhibition 'The Leacroft Legacy', which opened on 1February 2000.

Prior to the transfer to the museum Mrs. Helen Leacroft arranged and listed all material. The lists created by Mrs. Leacroft can be found in the collection, see THM/17/7 for further details. All efforts were made to keep the original arrangement which reflects Mr. Richard Leacroft sourcing material and his drawing process for his 'cut-away' illustrations.

In 1998 a major preservation project undertaken in partnership with the V&A conservation department and Camberwell College re-housed the large drawings into large purpose-made paper folders.

In 2015 material relating to Mr and Mrs Leacroft's books on historical architecture were transferred from V&A Museum of Childhood to the V&A Museum Department of Theatre and Performance to be reunited with the rest of the Richard Leacroft Collection.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to the Richard Leacroft Collection may be found in theatre building files and production files. See also special collections including the Frank Matcham Collection and James Winston Collection. The latter has been digitised and it is acessible via The V&A's website on Search the Collections.

Please ask for details.

Location of Originals

A large number of materials in this collection are reproductions of original articles, texts, architectural surveys and plans. Originals may be found in the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance, British Library, R.I.B.A. archive, local councils and related theatres where original plans and surveys were stored when Mr. Richard Leacroft consulted these for his research.


Bibliography by Helen and Richard Leacroft

Leacroft, R., Building a House, Puffin Picture Book, 1954. Republished by Lutterworth Press, 1972

Leacroft, R., Churches and Cathedrals, Puffin Picture Book, 1957. Republished by Lutterworth Press, 1972

Leacroft, R., Early Architecture in Britain, Methuen Outline, 1960

Leacroft, R., Historic Houses of Great Britain, Puffin Picture Book, 1962

Leacroft, H. and R., The Building of Ancient Egypt, Puffin Picture Book, 1954. Republished by Brockhampton Press and Young Scott Brockhampton Press(now Addison-Wesley). 1963

Leacroft, H. and R., The Building of Ancient Greece, Brockhampton Press and Young Scott Brockhampton Press.(now Addison-Wesley). 1966

Leacroft, H. and R., The Buildings of Ancient Rome, Brockhampton Press and Young Scott Brockhampton Press.(now Addison-Wesley). 1969

Leacroft, H. and R., The Buildings of Ancient Man, Brockhampton Press and Young Scott Brockhampton Press.(now Addison-Wesley). 1973

Leacroft, H. and R., The Buildings of Ancient Mesopotamia, Brockhampton Press and Young Scott Brockhampton Press.(now Addison-Wesley). 1974

Leacroft, H. and R., The Buildings of Byzantium, Brockhampton Press and Young Scott Brockhampton Press.(now Addison-Wesley). 1977

Leacroft, H. and R., The Buildings of Early Islam, Brockhampton Press and Young Scott Brockhampton Press.(now Addison-Wesley). 1976

Leacroft, R., The Development of the English Playhouse, Methuen London and New York, 1973

Leacroft, H. and R., Theatre and Playhouse, Methuen London and New York, 1984

Leacroft, R., Theatre in Leicestershire, Methuen London and New York, 1986