Some forty years ago, James Wellman, an actor at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and his partner, David Swift, chef, decided that they wanted to run their own theatre.
They bought Bretforton Grange in the Vale of Evesham, a medieval grange with a long gallery and a vaulted stone undercroft. Two years of planning and work resulted in the opening performance by Dame Peggy Ashcroft and James Walker in October 1979.
They proceeded to present theatre to audiences of about 100 in the long gallery, renamed the Theatre Room, with James choosing the artists and David creating superb dinners for the patrons afterwards in the undercroft. There were many distinguished performances by people like Rita Hunter, Paul Scofield and Emlyn Williams.
In the early nineties, they bought the group of barns behind the house. These included a magnificent medieval barn. This was converted into a 180 seat theatre and the adjoining barns became the foyer and restaurant.
James and David ran it all themselves from their kitchen table, helped by friends and invaluable volunteers who manned the front of house, dealt with the car parking etc as well as stage managing the performances.
On their deaths, the charitable trust that they founded took over operation of the Theatrebarn and continued the work they started.
- James Wellman and David Swift open the Theatreroom in the long gallery of Bretforton Grange
- Derelict medieval barns behind the Grange are acquired
- Work begins to convert the barns
- Theatrebarn performances … pause
- The Charitable Trust takes over
- Theatrebarn performances start again