Criterion Theatre History
The Criterion Theatre, Grafton began its life as a dance hall built by Harry Jordan in 1888 on its current site in Oliver Street Grafton. Harry was a carpenter who also had a love of music, public performances and taught violin and piano.
He had the Criterion Hall built for the holding of parties and balls as well as for the conducting of his own dance classes. The space available was 50 X 31 feet and was made of sprung tallow wood which still exists in the entrance.
It could accommodate 120 people and still does today. Seating was made of wool flock cushions covered with cretonne spaced around the walls.
Provision was made for the orchestra on a dais over the street entrance accessible by stairs which can still be seen today from the inside of the roof of the Theatre.
There was a 6 foot verandah running the entire length of the western wall, toilets at the back and the entire building was made of weather board with an iron roof. Unfortunately we have been unable to locate a photograph of the building in those times.
Over the years many balls and concerts were held at the Criterion Hall , along with dance and music classes. It was popular with weddings and guests would arrive from all around the district and stay at the Eversley Guest House across the road. The former owners residence still exists today. Have a look across the road and guess which house it is.
Harry died at his residence at the Criterion in 1913, at only 50 years of age.
The Hall continued on for many years and became a wholesale warehouse in the 1940s when the brick façade was placed on the front made from second hand bricks left over from the South Grafton Council Chambers.
The rest of the building was rendered and the interior was hand painted out with iconic posters displaying products that were sold by Davis and Penny Wholesalers, Grafton.
Some time, in the 1970s the building became the property of the Big River Festival of Arts and the age of the Criterion Theatre was born. An entire wall of the Theatre is devoted to the shows of that era and another wall is devoted to the more recent performances. The Theatre is run by a committee of volunteers as a not for profit incorporated association and still pays its own way.
Why not join us and make history.