Norfolk Tourist Information / Arts & Entertainment / Venues

Sewell Barn Company
Originally the barn of Clare House owned by Philip Sewell, a local benefactor, from 1864 to 1906.

Anna Sewell, author of the children’s story "Black Beauty", was Philip’s sister and lived in the White House, Spixworth Road. Philip owned a mare called Black Bess which used to draw his carriage along Spixworth Road and it might be supposed that Bess was the original inspiration for Black Beauty, and the barn a prototype for Black Beauty’s stable. The book was published by Jarrold’s in 1877.

Philip Sewell died in 1906 and left his house and estate to the city of Norwich. Clare House became an Open Air School for city children suffering from respiratory complaints and the barn became their washroom, restroom and handicraft centre.

Since then the old hay barn has seen many uses. During the 1st World War it was used as a theatre when Catton residents put on a concert for troops billeted in the area. It eventually became a bicycle shed for girls of the Blyth School which was constructed in 1929 in the grounds of Clare House. Clare House was demolished in 1970 and out of the rubble rose the foundations of part of the new Blyth Jex school.

When local government was reorganised in 1974 the Norwich schools became the property of the "new" Norfolk. During a visit to their newly acquired school it was suggested by Norfolk County Councillors that the barn might make an admirable small theatre. It required much imagination to envisage the dirty, leaky building stacked with broken furniture and accumulated rubbish as a theatre, but the then Headmistress, Mrs. Valerie Glauert, embraced the idea with enthusiasm and set about the task of persuading others that this was a project worthy of support.

History of the Company

The Sewell Barn Company is the "in-house" drama company of the Society. Its "house style" was established in a series of workshops aimed at bringing together a number of enthusiastic young people and some of the most experienced amateur actors, directors and theatre technicians in the city.

It soon developed a reputation for its energetic and physical approach to theatre with an extremely truthful acting style developed in the very intimate setting of the Sewell Barn.

This was, in part, the result of the close collaboration between its experienced first Artistic Director Henry Burke and his associate John Dane, drama teacher at neighbouring Blyth Jex school and one of Norwich’s outstanding actors.

Since then the Company has established a considerable reputation for its presentation of a varied, challenging and ambitious programme of plays.

Disabled Facilities

At each performance there are one or two spaces available for wheelchair users, and foyer and toilet facilities are fully accessible. Please inform the Ticket Office at the time of booking if you will be attending the theatre in a wheelchair or if you have any other special needs.

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Printed 20.05.2019 at 11:05 from URL