The Company started life in 1928 when the head of Oswestry Girls High School, Miss L. Mickleburgh, called a public meeting at the school for all those interested in the theatre. From the outbreak of The First World War in 1914 all theatrical enterprises in the area were suspended. ‘The War To End All Wars’ had a tremendous social effect with the loss of a whole generation of men. One of the Great War Poets, Wilfred Owen, was from Oswestry. It took a full ten years from the Armistice in 1918 until the town was ready to open the stage doors again.
At the 1928 Girls High School meeting a committee was formed, calling itself: ‘The Oswestry & District Arts Club.’ It began with play readings in a room in Berman House, and later moved to a house in Willow Street, where it stayed for two or three years. The ‘Arts Club’ presented plays in the Victoria Rooms. One of the first was “The Passing Of The Third Floor Back” by Jerome K. Jerome, produced by Miss Mickleburgh. Putting on plays at the Victoria Rooms did not become easier over the years, as the company had to build a stage and erect the scenery on the day of the performance. Nor could they rehearse in the Victoria Rooms beforehand without paying for the hire, an impossible financial burden.
However, in the 1930s, they were able to move closer to the Victoria Rooms when they occupied The Foundry, in Victoria Street. In 1935 Mr. G.W. Attfield (A Founder Member, and producer for many years) produced G.B. Shaw’s ” Pygmalion”.
In, or about 1937, first floor premises became available in Oswald Road, opposite the Railway Coal Wharfs. They were in a very bad condition, but the members cleaned, repaired, redecorated, built a stage and hung curtains, and the Mayor, Alderman Scriven, performed the opening ceremony. Their first play was “She Stoops to Conquer”.
In 1941 the ‘Arts Club’ members who were not otherwise engaged, took the comedy “George And Margaret” to Welshpool Cinema, to play to the troops.
A year later in 1942, the Little Theatre was requisitioned as a Sergeants’ Mess, and it was 1946-47 before the ‘Arts Club’ got it back, in such a condition that it needed cleaning and redecorating before they could open with another Attfield production, “When We Are Married”.
The ‘Arts Club’ was destined to lose its premises again, but it says much for its tenacity and determination that, in 1972, with the support of Oswestry Town Council, it was able to establish itself in the Guildhall, Oswestry, with full use of a redundant courtroom in a joint arrangement with a bridge club and table tennis group. That meant that no permanent seating could be installed but within a few years the theatrical group became the driving force and the other sections found alternative homes allowing the ‘Arts Club’ to finally call its home a theatre!
Oswestry, like most towns in the 1970s, was losing its cinemas due to the boom in colour television and one enterprising young member of the ‘Arts Club’ – a certain Tim Baker – spotted that the old cinema seats were being thrown out. So, after a few hasty ‘phone calls, a band of people with a borrowed pick up truck acquired 120 seats for absolutely nothing! Over the summer break the Guildhall courtroom was transformed into a proper, permanent little theatre with 99 theatre seats.
It was then that the ‘Arts Club’ at last decided to come out of the closet and tell everyone what it really was and, adopting the name of it’s early driving force ‘Mr.’ Attfield, or ‘Atty’, transformed into ‘The Attfield Theatre Club’, naming it’s new home: ‘The Attfield Theatre’.
The Club blossomed. A regular season was initiated, running from September to the following May, when at least four plays were produced. They were good plays, too. Not just stock farces but good, meaty dramas, thrillers, comedies, quality plays!
Then, in 1995 disaster struck. The Town Council, having lost most of the tenants from the Guildhall, decided that the time was ripe to renovate the building and make it their new headquarters. ‘Nothing too much to worry about’ the club was told, ‘A year out, at most, while renovations are completed’.
Then the dry rot was discovered.
Three long years later ‘The Attfield Theatre Club’ returned to its little theatre after spending a lot of its hard earned money renting rooms to rehearse and halls to perform, a familiar story to the older members. The decision was taken to secure our tenure and our friendly solicitor suggested we should formalise our constitution and form a limited company.
And so, as the new millenium dawned,‘The Attfield Theatre Club’ became: