Situated in historic York’s city centre, the Grand Opera House boasts a beautiful Matcham style auditorium on three levels.
Built in 1868, Grand Opera House York originally combined York’s Corn Exchange plus a warehouse. In 1902, William Peacock converted the building into the Grand Opera House,which opened on January 20th 1902 with Little Red Riding Hood, starring Florrie Ford. In 1903 the name was changed to The Grand Opera House and Empire, in order to allow smoking, which was banned in serious theatre but allowed in music hall type theatres.
The theatre remained in the hands of William Peacock’s family until 1945. The programmes were varied; pantomime, music hall, variety, serious theatre, amateur opera, plays, reviews and silent films. Many famous people appeared here including Florrie Ford, Charlie and Sydney Chaplin, Gracie Fields, Lillie Langtry, George Robey, Cecily Courtneidge and Jimmy Jewel.
From 1945 - 1956 FJ Butterworth owned the theatre - Vera Lynn, Laurel and Hardy and Morecombe and Wise appeared during this period. In 1958, Shepherd of the Shambles bought the theatre, renaming it S S Empire. The building was converted into a venue for roller-skating, dancing, bingo and wrestling, which it remained until 1985.
In 1987 the theatre was bought and restored by India Pru Co. Ltd. The decor mirrored that of the original, with even the carpet a rewoven copy of the original. A new stage was built and a new foyer excavated beneath. The entrance on Clifford Street was made into a Box Office and Cumberland Street became the main entrance.