The provision of evening entertainment was a frequent event for the residents and staff of Normansfield. Dances were acknowledged to be healthy activities for residents of hospitals and asylums.
The entertainment hall was also used for the Sunday service with Dr John Langdon Down. The lectern which he used still exists today.
The building of the theatre commenced in 1877. It was designed by the architect Rowland Plumbe. Opened in 1879 in the presence of the Earl of Devon. It is a Grade II* listed theatre, with fully restored Victorian scenery. The stage itself is only one of two theatres with the original Victorian side flaps still in working order.
Both John and Mary Langdon Down had a great love of the theatre. The theatre was a very ambitious project at Normansfield and to this day has some very remarkable features.
“Mary also pursued her love of the theatre in her dynamic role as actress and manager of the Genesta Club from Surbiton and she was actively involved in the shows and entertainment that took place in Normansfield”.
The theatre was designed for the use of both staff and patients and open to the public by request.
Christmas time was special for entertainment and services. Services on Sundays were regular with patients and staff providing the choir. During interviews of staff they were asked about their acting and singing skills, so important for the needs and entertainment of the residents.
The interest in music and entertainment must have been an added benefit for the residents and members of staff.
Mr William Rann
An attendant born 1849 Clerkenwell, London, mentioned on the cast list 1885.
Extracts from an obituary in the West Surrey Times dated 9th Feb. 1940
Death of an Amateur Astronomer and Musician
Mr Rann aged 91 born in Clerkenwell and living in Horsham. Buried in Hills Cemetery, died mainly due to the bad weather. He could play almost any musical instrument. Worked for over 50 years at Normansfield. Retired before the great war but returned to the hospital for a further 10 years just to help out … he utilised his musical talents to the full. Composing and taking part in entertainment in the Hospital theatre. His wife who died seven years earlier in a motor accident also dedicated her time, especially during the war to helping the sick. Mr Rann excelled at the piano, flute and piano accordion but due to failing hearing dedicated the rest of his life to reading scientific books.