Henley’s Heritage – Kenton Theatre

The Kenton Theatre was built in 1804 by William Parker on land donated by Mr Kenton. It first opened in 1805 with The School of Reform or How to Rule a Husband by Thomas Morton and the theatre is now the fourth oldest still operating theatre in the country.

When it first opened it became increasingly patronised by an over-enthusiastic audiences with bottles thrown by the drunks in the balcony seats on to those no less inebriated sitting below and quickly lost its theatrical purpose and by 1813 was no longer in use as a theatre.

Until 1930 the building had many uses including a non-conformist chapel, a school, a church hall and a scenery store. In 1930 the it became solely a theatre, now called The Playhouse, featuring professional repertory companies until 1950.

In 1951 the proscenium arch was rebuilt and painted by local artist John Piper, who had taken on the lease of the theatre with Dr AEM Hartley.  On 16 October 1951, the theatre re-opened as the Kenton Theatre with a production of The Glass Magazine.

In 1963 the theatre closed for four years until 1967 under professional management and was soon taken over by the Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (HAODS) on 10 November 1969.

In 2010 the Trustees successfully negotiated the purchase of The Kenton Theatre freehold, funded through the generosity of the community.