In 1882 Station Road Doncaster had to be reconstructed and widened for the visit of Queen Victoria. Following this reconstruction, the Doncaster Corporation offered surplus land for sale and a local Architect, named Frederick William Masters, purchased two of the sites for £1, 315 and on which he constructed a Circus Hall.  The base walls of this building were some 6ft thick, to take the weight of the Elephants.

The founder of the Salvation Army, General Booth then acquired the building and it was used as a Barracks for the Army and the General himself spoke there many times.

In the late 1880s Doncaster had a theatre standing in the Market Place, but it was only small and used only 3 or 4 times a year.  The Lessee for this theatre was a business man by the name of Mr J W Chapman and he eventually took over the old Circus Hall and renamed it “The People’s Picture Palace “ and on the 30th November 1896 moving pictures were shown there for the first time in Doncaster.

In 1898 Mr Chapman decided to have plans drawn up for a new Theatre on this site and he hired Mr John Priestley Briggs  (1869 – 1944) who had worked with the famous Frank Matcham  who was responsible for most of the Architecture of many of our famous theatres throughout the Country.

J P Briggs was also employed by Matcham on the construction of the Theatre Royal and Opera House Wakefield.

Many other Architects attempted to emulate Matcham, but the results were extremely variable. J P Briggs may have learnt his trade with Matcham but his Grand Opera House in York is in excellent example of fibrous plaster fixed to structure rather than designed as a complete composition. Therein lies the difference, Matcham had the unerring ability to decorate his construction, not just construct his decoration.

In 1898 The Circus Hall was duly demolished, apart from the frontage, but the 3 doorways are still remaining today and a local firm of builders namely Arnold & Sons built the Grand Theatre and Opera House. It was one of the first theatres in the Country to have electric lights, the electricity being taken from the old Doncaster Corporation Tram Sheds. Nobody quite knows how this worked but may be this was a concession to Mr Chapman for being a member of the Council??

Mr Chapman started to run short of money to complete the building and for sometime it had exposed brick work and no ornamentation. He then decided to bring in local business associates Mr Hodgson, Mr Hepworth and Mr Milnthorpe, Mr Joseph Grimes, and Mrs Martha Chapman. Eventually the stucco and ornamentation were completed.

On the 27th March 1899 there was a spectacular opening night, the show being La Poupee which came directly to Doncaster from the Prince of Wales Theatre in London.

The Stage is some 75ft wide, 32ft deep and an ornate proscenium arch opening  of 27ft high.  There is a large fly tower which houses a unique Counterweight System.

The dressing rooms require considerable updating and there is only one toilet back stage. (Imagine one toilet for eighty people –“we managed”).

The original seating capacity was 1,600, reduced to 1,300 during the alterations in the 1930s.