William Birch and Sons Ltd have been awarded the contract for the re-development of York Theatre Royal which will see a major transformation of the front of house areas and auditorium in 2015.
York Conservation Trust, who own the building and lease it to York Citizens Theatre Trust to run York Theatre Royal, received a number of bids and chose William Birch and Sons Ltd because of their track record of working with complex heritage buildings. Founded in 1874, William Birch & Sons Ltd is one of the region's longest established family owned construction companies. Five generations of the Birch family have developed the company to its present day strength, employing almost 100 local people. The business started life in York, building and restoring many of the city's high profile properties that we all know today, including the York Minster Library, Fairfax House, Kings Manor and the York Explore Library. William Birch and Sons Ltd is already part of York Theatre Royal’s rich history, with family member Walter G. Birch (son of the Founder, William Birch), one of the two original subscribers to the York Citizens Theatre Trust in 1936, signing the Memorandum of Association and therefore outlining the intentions of the trust and its main activities.Chris Birch, Chairman of William Birch & Sons Ltd said We are delighted to be involved in this high profile project that will make such a huge difference to the theatre scene in the city. Our long association with the Theatre Royal dating back to the early 1900’s stems from Walter G. Birch, my Great Uncle, who had a passion for the Theatre. Since that time we have restored and refurbished many listed and historic buildings in the region with their own bespoke complexities and challenges, this experience has equipped us with the heritage skills and experience to work on such important buildings. York Conservation Trust took ownership of the building on St Leonards Place in January 2015 pledging to spend over £300,000 on urgent repair work to the roof. The capital re-development project will cost £4.1 million and will create a bigger front of house and café area, raked stalls to improve views, greater leg-room and more comfortable seating throughout the auditorium, a lift to the Dress Circle improving accessibility for all theatre-goers, improved toilet facilities and a state-of–the art modular stage enabling bigger-scale productions to take place in York. This is a major step in the process and we are pleased to be working with William Birch and Sons Ltd to ensure York Theatre Royal becomes fit for a 21st century audience, whilst preserving its important heritage. Said Philip Thake, Chief Executive of York Conservation Trust. I am pleased a local contractor has been appointed, especially one with such experience and existing links to the theatre. Everyone at York Theatre Royal is looking forward to the project starting and to welcoming people back at the end of the year" Said Liz Wilson, Chief Executive of York Theatre Royal. Staff from William Birch and Sons Ltd have already begun work at the theatre with archaeologists, but building work will begin when York Theatre Royal closes its doors on 17 March and begins its residency at the National Railway Museum. York Theatre Royal staff will continue to work in offices in the De Grey House and De Grey Ballroom, also leased from York Conservation Trust.