Front Steps & Canopy Refurb                               Phase VII                               Our Generous Benefactors
Restoration of the Auditorium & Stage
In 2013 major development works were completed, the main works involved were the refurbishment and improvements to the stage.
We have been aware for sometime that this is the area - at the heart of the Athenaeum - which has been neglected for far too long.
We have already completed part of the first stage of these works with the purchase of new radio microphones and sound mixer desk for use in shows. In Summer 2014 we refurbished damaged seats and had them all cleaned for the first time since 1983.

In August 2015 we completed the final phase of upgrading the main stage rigging with a new electric winch system As a sign of the times it will no longer be necessary for backstage staff to "Know the Ropes" at the Athenaeum as over the Trustees have commissioned Enlightened Lighting from Bristol to replace their entire hemp rope system used to raise and lower scenery for shows. The old hemp rope system used to suspend the large backdrops and scenery was in need of upgrading, and ultimately replaced with new state of the art equipment.The previous year many of the heavy steel scaffold poles that supported the lighting lamps were replaced with a new fixed, lightweight aluminium structure. This has reduced the load on the wooden roof trusses over the stage. Now the final part of the project has been implemented with the remaining eight, seven metre long steel scenery bars being replaced with aluminium versions. The main bulk of the project has been a new winching system to allow us to ‘fly’ the scenery in and out during a performance. In the past this involved a strong pair of crew in the ‘gods’ above the proscenium arch manually taking the strain on the hemp rope and lowering scenery in unison. Now we have eight state of the art - near silent - electric winches which can be operated with the flick of a switch from ground level in the wings. Also as part of the works we are replacing the tracking for the main stage curtains, ending the decades old tradition of winding a large crank handle in the wings.” In some respects it does seem like the end of an era, but for posterity the Trustees were keen to preserve as much of the original hemp rope, pulleys and cleats as possible. “It has served us well for at least 50 years, possibly longer, and it is quite rare for these flying systems - which were common in Georgian times - to still be in-situ. The very first versions of this type of stage machinery were used by the Greeks in the 5th Century and later by the Romans. We have carefully disconnected the hemp rope and bar, but left all the rigging and pulleys in place as a reminder of how things used to be done. This latest part of the project has cost £20,000 and would not have been possible without the financial support of Wiltshire Council Area Board, The Ernest & Marjorie Fudge Trust, Warminster Town Council, and the Athenaeum Friends.
Edwardian rigging

New Red Winch Motors

In need of redecoration

Last decorated 1993

Old fashioned pulleys

Crew On Site