High on the pediment outside the theatre stood the tall gilded figure of Victory - a thinly disguised compliment to Queen Victoria who had celebrated 60 years on the British throne a few months before plans to build the theatre were drawn up. Sadly, it was taken down during the First World War and we only have old photographs to show us what a dominating feature of the skyline she was. The building was designed to emphasise the Victorian concept of class.Whichever ticket price you paid, you were sure never to mix with those who had paid a different price - be it higher or lower! There were separate entrances, lounges, staircases and even toilets. It sounds ridiculous today but theatre going was a serious business.
The wealthier patrons entered a luxurious world of mosaic floors, stained glass windows, gold leafed plasterwork and hand painted tiles.
The building was lit by electricity, an early instance of this in a building of such a size, over one thousand lights being used to light the stage. The power was produced by a gas engine which drove a generator, these being situated in the basement of the building. All areas of the theatre had a backup source of gas lights.
The stalls seated 212, the rear stalls, or pit, 1000. On the first floor was the Dress Circle with 142 seats and the balcony with 300 seats, whilst above this, on the second floor and reached from the rear of the building was the Gallery, which seated a further thousand!
Over the stalls was an enormous plaster dome which hid the air conditioning and supported a magnificent chandelier whilst the proscenium arch proclaimed the text, “Let the evening's entertainment bear the morning's reflection.”
After its closure the building suffered from continuous vandalism and neglect. When the Theatre Royal Chatham Trust purchased it, the auditorium had been virtually roofless, many hand painted tiles had been stolen and the boxes had been ripped from the auditorium walls. To many people the task of restoration was hopeless but much was achieved to consolidate the building in preparation for major work