The Gallery Studio Theatre
It is probably every Theatre Company’s dream to have their own performance, rehearsal and meeting space and certainly it is a dream that we at Gallery have cherished for some time now.
So it is with great excitement that we are pleased to announce that our dream has been realised! We agreed terms with Ipswich Borough Council and have taken over what was The New Wolsey Studio, and is now The Gallery Studio Theatre.
We took possession of the building in May 2021 and we hope that you will be as thrilled as we are to embark upon the next exciting phase in the development of Gallery Players.
A short history of the building
The Salem Chapel was constructed in 1812 at a time when Ipswich was an important centre of religious dissension. It is an example of a class of building of which there were many but it is the only one to have survived into the 21st century in more or less its original state. It is of sufficient historical and architectural interest therefore to warrant its grade 2 listing.
The Chapel was opened on 11th June 1812. It was built at the sole expense of Mr Joseph Chamberlain for £1200 and he conveyed it to trustees for the use of Particular Baptists. At 45′ x 35′, the Salem Chapel was intended to accommodate four hundred people.
The minister in the early 1820s was the Rev John Hartnall (d. 11th May 1825, aged 40); a subscription for his four children raised £500, an indication of the high esteem in which he was held. Hartnall had two sermons published on the deaths of George III and Queen Caroline (A Eulogy on the Grave; apparently printed in the chapel) in 1820 and 1821, respectively.
From around 1829 the chapel was shut until the Rev Thomas Middleditch took up the ministry. He formed a church ‘on the true union principle, the members being Baptists and Independents indiscriminately’.
Middleditch resigned to take up a position in Calne, in 1845/6, and was succeeded by the Rev John Gay, but the Baptists withdrew and the church became ‘practically Pædobaptist’ (infant, as opposed to adult, baptism) and formally Congregationalist. The chapel was enlarged during the pastorates of both men.
The chapel was still in use in 1876 when Mr J Manning was the pastor.
On cessation of its use as a place of worship the building was used as a furniture warehouse until it was given to the town in 1928 by Alderman William Francis Paul. It was then used as a store and carpenters’ workshop.
The former Salem Chapel is of considerable architectural significance as an example of a late Georgian, Nonconformist chapel.
After its use as a Chapel ended it was a little neglected and eventually became a store for Ipswich Museum which it backs on to. Then in the early 1990’s the towns Wolsey Theatre (and its Artistic Director Dick Tuckey) were given permission to convert it to a studio theatre of around 100 seats to complement its larger ‘main house’ just down the road on Civic Drive. It was opened in 1992 by Ipswich ‘native’ Sir Trevor Nunn and over the next 27 years, had an important role in the Wolsey’s, and its reincarnation the New Wolsey’s output. In 2019 the New Wolsey handed back the lease to Ipswich Borough Council and this is where we became involved! After short negotiations IBC agreed terms with us to take over the lease and we were due to get the keys at the end of March 2020. Unfortunately global events intervened and it was another 14 months until we finally moved in on the 14th May 2021. The Mystery of Edwin Drood was our first show in September 2021.
We are so excited to be keeping the Studio as a live theatre venue and look forward to welcoming you there soon!
(Gallery Studio Theatre may be available to hire, our own use allowing. So if you’d like to enquire about hiring a space for daytime/evening use for classes, corporate events or performance etc please contact us via email@example.com)