The William Sugg team was proud to be involved in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane refurbishment, which aimed to conserve its heritage and ensure it is passed down to future generations.  The project involved close attention to detail, historical design and handcrafting techniques alongside modern technologies such as 3D scanning and resin moulding.

Historic lighting for the theatre

With roots dating back to 1663 and a rich history steeped in the Georgian era, the New Theatre Royal Drury Lane (a Grade I listed landmark) has been a staple of the West End’s cultural and architectural scene. Under the ownership of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the theatre required a major renovation including a total overhaul of the internal and external lighting. 

The Theatre Royal Drury Lane refurbishment set out to preserve its heritage for generations to come, further solidifying it as one of the most loved cultural and architectural landmarks of London’s West End.

Preserving historic features

Preserving the historical grandeur of The New Theatre Royal Drury Lane was no small feat. To that end, any restoration or modernisation work must be carried out very carefully and sensitively, with the close involvement of architectural heritage specialists and Historic England. Tasked with handcrafting high-quality heritage lighting, the William Sugg team, alongside architect and lighting designer BDP, faced several challenges, including:

 

  • Revamping the interior fittings in the rotunda area with intricate attention to detail
  • Upgrading the exterior lighting to match the building’s heritage
  • Installing Victorian-style torchieres in the rotunda, balustrades, and ground floor while staying true to the original design
  • Creating complex and bespoke fluted glass shades to match the fittings at Heaton Hall
  • Minimising disruption.

 

William Sugg rose to the challenge, delivering stunning results that shine a light on the theatre’s rich history and timeless beauty whilst minimising disruption during the refurbishment process.

The solution/product

William Sugg’s team of heritage lighting specialists took a meticulous approach to the New Theatre Royal Drury Lane refurbishment. To ensure the authenticity of the fittings, the team worked closely with historians to determine the best course of action. This led to Heaton Hall, a Grade 1 listed 18th century country house in Manchester, where 3D scans were taken in situ to capture every detail of the original fittings. Using these scans, the team then created precise engineering drawings and patterns for casting.

The result was a stunning replication of the original torches, brought to life through traditional casting processes and resin patterns created with 3D scanning technology. With a focus on bespoke design, heritage lighting techniques, handcrafting and 3D modelling, the team delivered the following solutions via the factory in Horsham:

 

  • Expert handling of gas flambeaux technicalities for the rotunda torchieres
  • Safe and efficient gas lighting engineering and installation 
  • Refurbishment of the exterior lights at the St Katherines Street and Drury Lane entrances
  • Respect for the historical significance of the building through collaboration with historians and 3D scans of fittings at Heaton Hall
  • Specialist manufacture of complex and bespoke fluted glass shades for the triple lamp light source design
  • Exact replicas, cast from resin patterns using traditional processes and techniques.

 

A total lighting upgrade both internally and externally included upgrades from metal halide to LED mantles and the installation of six new 3.2m high gas flambeaus on the external champagne terrace and adjacent balconies.

New lighting for an old theatre

William Sugg & Company’s heritage lighting specialists, alongside several other experts in their field, brought the New Theatre Royal Drury Lane back to life.  The theatre’s rich heritage and timeless beauty has been upgraded with authentic lighting, using the latest in lighting technology.

The two-year, multi million pound project has installed new eatery areas as well as a variety of exciting new facilities – as well as entirely remodelled auditorium.

“The task of restoring the Theatre Royal was threefold. How to reinstate Wyatt’s glorious “front of house” rooms, how to fix the 1922 auditorium and, third, how to make this extraordinary building a versatile, vibrant heart of the artistic soul of Covent Garden. I believe that the Lane is now one of London’s most warm and beautiful auditoriums, and the most versatile historic theatrical space anywhere in the world.

“The restoration of the Theatre Royal, uniting my two great passions of theatre and architecture, has been a colossal task rendered very difficult by the Covid pandemic. It simply would have ground to a halt without the dedication of our extraordinary craftsmen and the team overseeing the project in, at times, almost impossible circumstances. Madeleine and I hope that the Theatre Royal will become a vital part of the Covent Garden community. We want to welcome you all through it’s doors all day and every day for everything from cocktails to coffees and lots, lots more.” 

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Owner

William Sugg & Company is proud to have played a role in the refurbishment of the historic Theatre Royal Drury Lane. If you are looking for similar services, including heritage lighting refurbishment and replicas, please get in touch to learn how we can help bring your vision to life.

Read more about this project in article by the Institute of Lighting Professionals and contact one of our experts today.