Actors, Musicians and Theatre Personalities with Scottish Links ~ R. H. Wyndham (1813–1894)

1. Wyndham

R. H. (Robert Henry) Wyndham, 1813-1894

Portrait of R. H. Wyndham (1813–1894), c.1846–1864,  Actor – Manager
by John Watson Gordon. Oil on canvas, 350 x 277 mm  Collection: National Galleries of Scotland.   [Copyright expired on original image.]

R. H. (Robert Henry) Wyndham, 1813-1894

R. H. (Robert Henry) Wyndham (1813-1894), was the founder of the Howard and Wyndham theatre management organisation.  Born in Salisbury, he was a skilful actor and manager.  William Murray brought him, from Glasgow, to join his company in Edinburgh in 1846.  Wyndham became Murray’s last assistant manager and, on Murray’s retirement, he took the lease of the Adelphi Theatre in 1851. 

From 1853 to 1859, after a short lease by the comedian W. F. Lloyd, Wyndham became the last lessee of the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh (responsible for the ground rent and the theatre building itself), where he made his headquarters.

A few years earlier he had married Rose Saker, the daughter of a low comedian. A talented actress, with a gift for training children in ballet, she became his working partner for a long and successful career. At the end of his life he could claim to have laid the foundations for what was to become, after Moss Empires, the biggest theatre-owning, play-presenting and touring management in Britain: a chain of theatres that was run, firstly, by his son Fred and his Irish-born business partner and fellow actor, J. B. (James Brown) Howard (1841-1895), and then by the Cruikshanks, another father and son partnership.

The business of producing theatre in Edinburgh was closely tied to winning official recognition and public approval. The Wyndhams kept a jealous eye on the credit and reputation of their company so that, for the first time in Scotland, actors were highly respected citizens. In a speech to the Edinburgh University Students Union in 1891, Irving told its members that he was a member of a University at Edinburgh - Wyndham's old Theatre Royal: I studied there for two years and a half my beautiful art, and learnt the lesson that you will learn, that: deep the oak must sink its roots in earth obscure, that hopes to lift its branches to the sky.

[Text based on Howard and Wyndham Actor-Managers in Edinburgh, 1851-94]



R. H. (Robert Henry) Wyndham, 1813-1894

When Murray retired, his Edinburgh monopoly was divided for a short time, with Lloyd at the Theatre Royal and Wyndham at the Adelphi Theatre. There was, rather like the Festival Theatre and King's Theatre in the 1990s, much speculation in the press as to the success of the two competing theatres.  Wyndham renovated the Adelphi, adding a new stage, redecorated the auditorium, enlarged the pit, with, for the first time in Scotland, upholstered the orchestra stalls in front of the pit benches. The alterations cost him £4,000, which was recovered from profits in his first year.

His opening production was The School for Scandal (Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1777) in which he played Charles Surface. His wife was Lady Teazle and, keeping family ties to the fore of the company, his brother-in-law, Mr. Saker, played Moses.  

In order to compete with the Theatre Royal under the management of LLoyd, Wyndham reduced prices. The Dress Circle was 2s.6d., pit (or orchestra stalls ) 2s., pit 1s., gallery 6d., half-price (at half-time) 1s. 6d. and 1s. The prices were, on average, 6d. less than those charged by Lloyd.  There were frequent clashes of repertory between the two theatres: Shakespeareâ's Macbeth, Gulliver's Travels, Rob Roy and The Corsican Brothers (Dionysus Boucicault, 1852) could often be seen in both theatres in the same week.

Despite rivalry the two managers were friendly to each other: We were particularly gratified with the enthusiastic reception given to Mr. Wyndham, the manager of the rival theatre, whose a ttendance at the Theatre Royal evinced the existence of cordiality and friendship between those whose position tends to produce estrangement.  The whole Theatre rose on his appearance, and for several minutes the huzzas were absolutely deafening. To these tokens of esteem and regard Mr. Wyndham feelingly responded.

[Text based on Howard and Wyndham Actor-Managers in Edinburgh, 1851-94 and The Theatre 25th November, 1851]


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