In February 1927, a grand evening concert was given in the Town Hall, Bilston, by the St. Leonard's Ladies Choir, the St. Leonard's Quartet Party and the St. Leonard's Amateur Operatic Society.

This venture proved to be the forerunner of many more, and The Bilston & St. Leonard’s Amateur Operatic Society was founded. In December of that year the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, The Pirates of Penzance and Trial by Jury, were performed in the Theatre Royal, Bilston by this newly established company.

The first President of the Society was the Rev. W J Havelock Davidson who was the vicar of St. Leonard’s Church. During the next six years Gilbert and Sullivan operas were performed annually at the Bilston Theatre Royal, which had a seating capacity of approximately 630.

1934 saw a new President Mr. Herbert Beach, a founder member of the Society and first Mayor of Bilston. The name of the society changed to The Bilston Operatic & Dramatic Company.

In 1935 the second Mayor of Bilston, Alderman T. R. Wood became President. He sadly died in office in 1938, a great loss to the Company. Alderman H. Beach then became President and the name of the Company was again changed to its present title; The Bilston Operatic Company.

September 1939 brought the ‘outbreak of hostilities’. We were at war with Germany and the Company’s future seemed uncertain. However, unlike many societies we never closed and with the exception of the year 1941, when several charity concerts were performed, productions were regularly staged during the war years.

The Student Prince, 1948
The Student Prince, 1948

In 1952 the Silver Jubilee production was Gipsy Love and saw the presentation of 25 Years Long Service Awards to founder members still in the Company.

The closure of the Bilston Theatre Royal in 1957 left the Company without a venue. However, having finally been offered a date at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton we performed Oklahoma in 1958. In 1981 the Grand Theatre closed its doors for three years and Razzle Dazzle, The Pajama Game and Me and My Girl were performed at the Wulfrun Hall. After a massive renovation and restoration had been completed, Bilston Operatic Company returned to the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in 1983 with Kiss Me Kate.

Following a second major refurbishment in 1998, the Grand Theatre is now highly regarded and ranks amongst the ‘first division’ of provincial theatres. In keeping with this, Bilston Operatic Company has always strived to present productions of the highest attainable standards, as well as bringing to their audiences fresh innovative theatre for their entertainment and enjoyment. Whether performing or working back stage, it is a privilege for
everyone involved.