The Century Theatre, Coalville

Between 2017 and 2020 TEP’s Heritage team provided archaeological and heritage services including historic building recording in support of development at Snibston Country Park, Coalville, Leicestershire.

The former Snibston Colliery is a Scheduled Monument and considered one of the nation’s best surviving examples of a mining complex, dating from the British coal industry’s period of peak production. Among the structures recorded by the team at the site is the Century Theatre, a rare 1950s mobile theatre which has been located at the country park since 1996 and remains in use as an entertainment venue.

The creation of mobile theatres became popular following the end of the second world war when many theatres had been damaged or possessed inadequate facilities. In addition to providing a performance space, the theatre included mobile living quarters, offices and stores and served as a self-contained community with actors helping with day-to-day activities such as cooking, as well as promotion and administration and erecting and dismantling the theatre.

The design of the theatre at Snibston Colliery was based on a Second World War mobile army command post and it was built in Hinckley between 1948 and 1952. Its construction was funded by notable people such as Laurence Olivier, John Mills, Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie. It had its opening performance in Hinckley on 29th September 1952 and toured for two decades.

The auditorium includes 15 rows of 15 seats and the whole structure can be folded into four 10-meter trailers due to the removable walls and folding floors. The process of dismantling and erection was a full days work. The theatre was towed by slow moving tractors, accompanied by a convoy of vehicles and caravans, however changes to traffic regulations in 1974 effectively prevented the theatre from being able to travel, resulting in its conversion to a static theatre.

The theatre’s doors remain open to this day and the site plays host to a wide variety of shows and activities, including music, comedy, art, dance and film.