The Stag Theatre

Overview

Our first visit to the Stag Theatre was July 2019. This was the first event of its kind to be held there.

On its site previously was the luxurious Royal Crown Hotel, built in the Victorian era. An old established hotel with gardens, tennis courts etc,it was the social hub of the town where banquets would be hosted, the place to go for ballroom dancing and auctions. Recession hit and come the 1930s it was failing and was therefore demolished. The Majestic Cinema replaced the hotel in 1935/36. It had a small stage, a restaurant and café and was designed with 1360 seats. After being acquired by Odeon in 1943, The Odeon was and now remains the only cinema in Sevenoaks. Bill Haley and the Comets visited in 1957. In 1972, some rearrangement was done and it was renamed The Focus in 1975. It was then taken over by the Sevenoaks District Council and it became the ACE Cinemas before being leased to the Sevenoaks Theatre Action Group, a local pressure group which gave the venue its name of today: The Stag.

Reputation

Our research with the staff of the Stage revealed people have described their clothes being pulled or tugged when walking around the theatre. Groans have been heard, shadows seen, doors closing on their own and steps as if someone is walking across the stage.
Poltergeist activity has also been reported in parts of the building. In the main area of the theatre, a seat has been known to come down on its own and a piccolo has been heard from one of the seats

History

Stag Theatre and Sevenoaks History Timeline

800ad – Sevenoaks’ name supposedly derives from the name “Seouenaca”, the name of a Saxon Chapel which had seven oak tree’s close by to its location in what is now known as the vines area.
1200’s – Not a great deal is known about Sevenoaks’ history, one of its earliest mentions is a market charter dated to the 13th century.
1432 – William Sevenoake founds a school in the town, he is a merchant and later becomes Lord Mayor of London.
1456 – Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, buys Knole Estate and builds a Mansion House there which dominates the small town.
1554 – Following the unsuccessful Kentish rebellion by Thomas Wyatt two of its prominent members (local Sir William Isley and a farmer named either Mould or Martell) were executed in Sevenoaks at a place once called Gallows Common, today its the junction of Bradbourne and Camden Roads. The men were held in the old Sevenoaks Jail-house, today’s Post Office and very close to the Stag Theatre.
1560 – The aforementioned school is given letters patent by the Queen and thus became the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School.
1640’s – The English Civil War split the country into various factions and Kent was no different. In 1643 there was a small scale campaign in the area when Parliamentarian troops (backed by men from London) gathered to take on their Royalist enemies. Both sides skirmished at Tonbridge and Yewdley with the Kings men coming off worse.
1709 – First road in Kent to be turnpiked (toll-road) is from Sevenoaks to Tunbridge.
1851 – First mention of the Royal Crown Hotel (on which the Theatre stands today). Benjamin Pawley is the Hotelier.
1858 – William Pawley takes over from Benjamin.
1881 – Marlon Morphew is the new Hotel Proprietor.
1913 – George Marshall is the latest, and last know operator of the Royal Crown Hotel.

1922 – Hotel is described as “Old established hotel; 12 acres of picturesque gardens; tennis courts; livery yard; motors & motor garage”
1927 – Southern Railways K Class train derails and crashes into a bridge killing 13 people.
1936 – Royal Crown Hotel is demolished, Majestic Cinema built in its place, this included a Cafe and Restaurant as well as seating for 1360 people. Opens on August 22 1936 with the musical farce ‘When Knights Were Bold’ which the Daily Express described as “a rare triumph of unimaginativeness”.
1943 – Came into the ownership of the Odeon Cinema group.
1972 – Closed for a major refurbishment and turned from a single screen to a triple screen cinema. Plans for an attached discotheque were shelved however.
1975 – Reopens as the Focus and later taken over by Sevenoaks District Council who renamed it the ACE Cinema.
1980’s – Local thespian Margaret Durdant-Hollamby, created the Sevenoaks Theatre Action Group whose acronym has given The Stag its modern name. She had campaigned for a theatre in Sevenoaks for almost 17 years.
1982 – The Group received a call from Rank Organisation (who owned the Cinema) informing them they could use the location for STAG.
1983 – December 18 1983 and the Stag Theatre opens after an 18 month renovation, local building firm Deacons build the stage for free (whilst working on a nearby Waitrose carpark). The large auditorium was converted to house the new stage while the two smaller lower level cinemas were kept in operation.
1992 – Sadly this new enterprise failed and the District Council had to step in to pay off debts accrued, they spent £3.2m on another refurbishment programme.
2008 – Sadly this too was a failed venture and so the Town Council took steps to convert the venue into a Community Arts Centre,
2009 – Venue re-opens with the local Sevenoaks Entertainers opening with their annual Pantomime, a tradition of 25 years.
2010 – The first 3d screening takes place.
2013 – The Stag Theatre shows its first National Theatre productions in its cinema

Video

Each of our teams were equipped with an infrared video camera as they investigated various areas with in The Stag theatre. here is a short video showing the highlights of their footage and any points of interest.

Images

This image was captured in the cafe area and although not clear may show a person sitting in a chair by the window

This thermal image seems to show a human shaped figure in the background this is not present in any of the other thermal shots of the area

This thermal image seems to show what had been described as a small girl sitting between the stage curtains….

Summary

It was an interesting night, we have plenty to re-examine when we return in March 2020

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