Corn Exchange is our main house and cinema, situated in the historic market place in the centre of Newbury.
The programme at the Corn Exchange has developed considerably in recent years. We present a mixed programme of theatre, dance, comedy, music, film, family work and outdoor performances to audiences from across the South East. Every year we produce our own pantomime in-house which plays to capacity audiences and we also support a range of artists and companies across all art-forms through commissioning and development opportunities, mentoring and production support in all our spaces. Our emphasis is on presenting great shows and films that audiences really want to come and see. Always high quality, we’re really proud that our attendance figures are growing year on year.
The Corn Exchange can house many different performances and events. If you are interested in hiring the venue for private events, corporate events, local company events, conferencing, youth groups and rehearsal spaces, please contact our Sales and Audience Experience Manager, Katie Beauchamp. All programming enquiries should need to be directed to our Programming Department. For contact details please visit our Staff page.
Situated in a prestigious Grade II listed building in the historic market place, Corn Exchange Newbury opened for trade in 1861 but was soon being used as a community venue. In the 20th century as corn trading declined, the venue was used for public meetings, dances, discos, amateur dramatics and even as a roller skating rink. The growing of grain in the countryside around Newbury has been an important source of prosperity to the area for many centuries, possibly back to prehistoric times. This Prosperity accrued not only to individual landowners but, at least since the medieval period, to the town itself. The Charter granted to Newbury in 1581 by Queen Elizabeth I allowed the Mayor, Alderman and Burgesses to charge a toll on all corn sold in its markets. This charter is generally believed to confirm concessions granted by earlier monarchs. No doubt corn was sold in the Market Place, either in the open or in the shelter of the Guildhall, which stood there from 1611 to 1828.
Later in the 19th century, in common with many other local towns, it was decided that premises appropriate to importance of the trade were required and the Reading architect J.S. Dodd was appointed to design the present Corn Exchange building. Work began in 1861. The Building was opened for business on 4th June 1862. Merchants and farmers selling or buying corn were ranged throughout the large open hall. No illustration of the Corn Exchange in action survives but one of the special desks used by the merchants is in the collections of the Newbury District Museum. Corn dealing in the Corn Exchange very gradually declined until only one token desk used to be brought out on Market day. It had become something of a social event for the local farmers and dealers. Corn dealing continued right to the end but was added to by dealings in oil, insurance and farm machinery. This finally ceased in 1983. Not only had the buildings been used to buy and sell corn, three weeks after the Corn Exchange was opened it was used to hold a very important wool market at which 2,300 tods of wool were deposited. A tod is an old wool measure equivalent to approximately 28lbs. This wool market was held annually in the Corn Exchange.
The building was even occasionally used by the auctioneers Davis & Few, holding sales of livestock. The importance which the Corn Exchange played in the agricultural economy of the town is evident. However, apart from its basic commercial activity the building provided a splendid space for concerts, choirs, celebrations, bazaars and other activities requiring a large covered space. It was only used by the farmers and dealers on Thursday, Market Day.
The Corn Exchange was often utilised by the townspeople for the celebration of Royal Occasions. Even when it was less than a year old on 10 March 1863, a promenade concert was held in the Corn Exchange which brought to an end a day of celebrations of Queen Victoria. Throughout its life the Corn Exchange has been a major public building in Newbury. Its original prime purpose concerned with the economy of the agricultural industry of the area has now been totally superseded by its secondary function as a venue for major public events in the town. Its architectural merits are as much appreciated now as when it was erected, as is its importance to the townscape of the historic core of Newbury. This is reflected in it being listed as a building of architectural or Historic interest (grade 2) by the Department of the Environment and inclusion within the Newbury Conservation area.
Closed for four years, the Corn Exchange reopened in September 1993 after a £3.5 million refurbishment programme as a professional 400-seat theatre. On 1 June 2000 the operation of the Corn Exchange passed from West Berkshire Council to Corn Exchange (Newbury) Trust, an independent charity. In 2001 Corn Exchange took up the management of New Greenham Arts. Today the Corn Exchange receives more than 100,000 visitors a year from across West Berkshire, South Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and beyond.