About Us

History & Heritage

A Rich Legacy of Theatre

The Jersey Opera House has a storied past that reflects the rich cultural heritage of Jersey. Here’s a streamlined journey through our history:

1865: The Beginning

Henry Cornwall established Cornwall’s Royal Amphitheatre and Circus on Gloucester Street, St Helier, managed by actor William Wybert Rousby.

In 1868, Rousby bought the theatre, renaming it Theatre Royal, attracting professional companies from London and Paris.

1898: Renovation and Tragedy

Sidney Cooper acquired and renovated the theatre, introducing an incline to the stalls. However, it was destroyed by fire in 1899.

1900: Jersey Opera House Emerges

Rebuilt by civil engineer Adolphus Curry, the new Jersey Opera House opened on July 9, 1900, with the premiere of Sydney Grundy’s “The Degenerates,” starring Jersey’s Lillie Langtry.

Early 20th Century: Evolution and Resilience

Despite the rise of cinema, the theatre continued to offer a mix of live performances and films.

In 1921, another fire led to significant reconstruction, enhancing its suitability for films.

World War II: A Temporary Revival

During the German Occupation, live performances increased, making the Opera House a cultural hub once more.

Post-War Decline and Revival

The theatre transitioned mostly to a cinema post-WWII, with occasional live shows.

In 1958, Tommy Swanson bought the venue, restoring it to a theatre, leading to a flourishing period of performances.

1989-1995: Major Overhaul

Dick Ray purchased and managed significant improvements.

The States of Jersey took over in 1995, initiating a major restoration completed by 2000, reopening exactly 100 years after its original debut.

2020-Present: Navigating Modern Challenges

The theatre closed during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

In 2023, a £12.7 million refurbishment project funded by the Government of Jersey commenced, with reopening slated for 2025.

Throughout 2024, we are bringing theatre to diverse spaces across the island with our exciting offsite programme, ensuring that the spirit of the Jersey Opera House continues to thrive even during refurbishment.

Looking Forward

The Jersey Opera House remains a beacon of cultural enrichment, continuously striving to provide the finest artistic entertainment to the people of Jersey.

As we undergo this latest refurbishment, join us as we celebrate this milestone with a revitalised yet historically rich theatre, featuring enhanced structural integrity and new décor.

We will still have work to do to update our technical infrastructure to ensure an exceptional theatre experience, but we are excited to welcome you back in 2025, which marks our 125th anniversary.