The land on which the Tower Theatre sits was gifted to the Society of Methodists in 1817 with the building as we now know it built as a chapel and school by the Primitive Methodists in 1875. It was badly damaged during the Second World War and was in a derelict state before being bought and renovated by the Jewish congregation Beth Hamedrash Ohel Yisroel in 1953. The building was consecrated as the Northwold Road Synagogue on the 18th December 1955 but closed in 1989 and in 1992, Sunstone Health and Leisure Club refitted the building as a women-only gym, creating a swimming pool in the basement – now our second largest rehearsal room – and building a mezzanine floor for running machines.
The gym closed in 2014 and the building remained unused until the Tower’s purchase in 2018. The building with its new design by Suzie Bridges Architects fulfilled nearly all our needs – performance space (2 if possible), rehearsal space, props and wardrobe storage, an office and a social area. The only department which sadly couldn’t be fully incorporated was set-building, which still takes place in our under-the arches storage area in Leytonstone. There followed several months of building work removing the mezzanine floor, installing toilets, fitting seats and air-conditioning in the theatre plus, of course, designing and building a bar. The company also ran a successful crowdfunding campaign raising nearly £150,000, allowing people to contribute to various specific things, from lights for the dressing rooms or speakers for the sound equipment to buying a seat in the theatre, a space at the bar or even just a brick.
Bit by bit over those summer months the company moved into the new building: clearing the office, props and wardrobe stores out of the Bridewell Theatre; putting up shelving in the new storage areas; creating a new logo and branding; and making the main rehearsal room ready for rehearsals before the grand opening of the theatre and its first full production in September 2018, Henry V.