The original part of the main building on South Road is the birthplace of Cecil Rhodes, financier, entrepreneur and founder of the De Beers diamond company. Rhodes was born in 1853 and spent some of his early childhood in Bishop’s Stortford, but suffered from poor health in his teenage years and his family decided to send him to Natal in South Africa, where they thought the hot, dry climate would help him. For more information on Cecil Rhodes visit the Museum pages on this website.
In 1938 the Rhodes Memorial Museum was created. The Museum was located in the building where Cecil Rhodes was born and was designed by Rhodes’s personal architect, Herbert Baker. In 1963, The Commonwealth Centre, a community arts venue was built adjacent to the Museum. The Bishop’s Stortford Local History Museum, run by the Local History Society, opened in 1979 at Cemetery Lodge, Apton Road. However, the limited space available for the Museum prevented its growth and in the mid 1990’s a merger with Rhodes Memorial Museum was proposed.
Throughout the 1960’s the Commonwealth Centre was a national music venue. Famous artists who appeared here include Gene Vincent, The Yardbirds, Billy Fury, The Tornados, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie. By 1968 the Commonwealth Centre had become a hall for hire and a natural home for local talent, most notably the Bishop’s Stortford Operatic Society( now The Bishop’s Stortford Musical Theatre Company). It continued to support the artistic life of the town until 2002.
In 2002, both Museums and the Commonwealth Centre closed and following the result of a successful Heritage Lottery bid for £1.3 m, a modern and interactive Museum was created incorporating the collections from the Rhodes Memorial Museum and those of the Bishop’s Stortford History Museum. The Commonwealth Centre was redeveloped simultaneously into a contemporary theatre and conference venue and in 2005 Rhodes and the Bishop’s Stortford Museum re-opened to the public.
Rhodes is a vibrant entertainment venue with a refurbished auditorium, new conference rooms, a dance studio and a cafe/bar. It hosts a wide variety of shows, workshops, events and exhibitions. The venue is also licensed for Civil Wedding and Partnership Ceremonies in the Cedar and Linden Rooms.
Rhodes Arts Complex is run by a trust registered with the Charity Commission as the Rhodes Birthplace Trust, registration no 1090267.
There are currently eight trustees:-
The terms of office expire in May 2020.