Mapperley Hospital on Porchester Road was founded in 1876. Set in 125 acres of land, it had its own farm, bakery and butchery. Although much of the hospital has been demolished, some of the old buildings remain, including the old Chapel. This Grade II listed building contains not only a chapel on the first floor but a theatre on the ground floor. The building was designed by George Hine and built in 1880 to replace the old recreation hall which had also been used as a dining-room.
The theatre carried out the functions of most community halls. It held shows, concerts, dances and events for the staff. During the following 100 years, the theatre changed the format of its events but the overall function was to provide entertainment for the hospital patients. Segregation in asylum planning was a priority and the hall was the only place in the hospital where the two sexes were not segregated. The segregation rule was dropped in 1967.
Until about 1920 concerts were organised by local groups and churches such as nearby St Judes. These groups staged musical shows and choir concerts, all for the entertainment of the patients. In 1921, Dr Powell took over as medical superintendent within three years later the hospital had electricity installed, including the wiring of the theatre. A radio system was installed in 1926 so that shows could be relayed to the wards for the patients who could not attend the show in person.
Films, although silent, were added to the program of events in 1927 with the purchase of a projector and these were very well attended. By 1932 developments in film had moved on and silent films had given way to the talkies.
The Majestic Cinema on nearby Woodborough Road was built in 1929 and shared a common boundary with the hospital and a special gate was cut into the hospital’s boundary wall. This gate meant that the patients could move directly from the hospital to the cinema. Arrangements were made for special showings of films with the patients “looking forward with keen interest” to the outing. There was a special matinee on Tuesdays so that the patients were segregated from the cinema going public. The practice, although much more expensive than all other forms of entertainment provided by the hospital, continued throughout the 1930s. It would seem that Mapperley hospital made good use of its unique position right next to the cinema. The hospital appears to be the only one of its kind to offer its patients this opportunity. These outings were very well attended and appear to be the main form of entertainment provided at this time, although concerts and other events still continued in the theatre.