Elegance by design
The name W.G.R. Sprague will probably mean little to most people. But, for anyone who has ever splendered over the beauty and elegance of some of London’s most popular theatres, Sprague was responsible for having designed an estimated 40 music halls and theatres in London and around the country at the turn of the last century.
Born in Australia in 1863, William George Robert Sprague moved to London in 1874 with his mother, the acclaimed actress Dolores Drummond. Following apprenticeships with architects Frank Matcham and then Walter Emden, Sprague went into partnership with Bertie Crewe before eventually starting his own architectural practice. Sadly, only a few of his buildings survived the extensive regeneration projects that took place after the second world war of which eight of them are in London.
Sprague was known to have been an admirer of the architectural styles of the Italian Renaissance which are reflected in the external facias of many of his buildings. His predilection for symmetry can be observed in the design of his remaining London theatres which were all built as architectural pairs. The opulance and grandeur of their internal space bears more than a passing resemblance to the kind of baroque style prevalent throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.
William Sprague died in 1933, but his legacy lives on through the careful restoration and modern improvements to the comfort and safety of theatregoers by the current owner and theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh. He currently owns five out of the eight surviving theatres designed by Sprague and hopes to shortly add a sixth to his grand collection for which he has big plans if he manages to secure ownership.
We can be thankful the bulldozers did, at least, spare some of the buildings, ensuring future generations can continue to admire their charm and rich, architectural heritage which owes much to the vision of William George Robert Sprague.