19th Century Theatres and Concert Halls

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden

Section under development

The current building is the third theatre on the site following disastrous fires in 1808 and 1857. The façade, foyer, and auditorium date from 1858, but almost every other element of the present complex dates from an extensive reconstruction in the 1990s. The Royal Opera House seats 2,256 people and consists of four tiers of boxes and balconies and the amphitheatre gallery. The proscenium is 12.20 m wide and 14.80 m high. The main auditorium is a Grade 1 listed building as noted by Theatres Trust.[1]

"Rich's Glory": John Rich takes over (seemingly invades) his new Covent Garden Theatre. (A caricature by William Hogarth)
A satirical drawing from 1811 of the "Pigeon Holes" that flanked the upper gallery at Covent Garden
A picture of the first theatre drawn shortly before it burned down in 1808
An 1810 illustration of the auditorium of the second theatre shortly after opening

The second theatre

Rebuilding began in December 1808, and the second Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (designed by Robert Smirke) opened on 18 September 1809 with a performance of Macbeth followed by a musical entertainment called The Quaker. The actor-manager John Philip Kemble, raised seat prices to help recoup the cost of rebuilding and the cost of an increased ground rent introduced by the landowner, the Duke of Bedford, but the move was so unpopular that audiences disrupted performances by beating sticks, hissing, booing and dancing. The Old Price Riots lasted over two months, and the management was finally forced to accede to the audience's demands.[6]

During this time, entertainments were varied; opera and ballet were presented, but not exclusively. Kemble engaged a variety of acts, including the child performer Master Betty; the great clown Joseph Grimaldi made his name at Covent Garden. Many famous actors of the day appeared at the theatre, including the tragediennes Sarah Siddons and Eliza O'Neill, the Shakespearean actors William Charles Macready, Edmund Kean and his son Charles. On 25 March 1833 Edmund Kean collapsed on stage while playing Othello, and died two months later.[7]
Joseph Grimaldi, as clown (contemporary print)
Harlequin's escape into the bottle (print)

In 1806, the pantomime clown Joseph Grimaldi (The Garrick of Clowns) had performed his greatest success in Harlequin and Mother Goose; or the Golden Egg at Covent Garden, and this was subsequently revived, at the new theatre. Grimaldi was an innovator: his performance as Joey introduced the clown to the world, building on the existing role of Harlequin derived from the Commedia dell'arte. His father had been ballet-master at Drury Lane, and his physical comedy, his ability to invent visual tricks and buffoonery, and his ability to poke fun at the audience were extraordinary.[8]

Early pantomimes were performed as mimes accompanied by music, but as Music hall became popular, Grimaldi introduced the pantomime dame to the theatre and was responsible for the tradition of audience singing. By 1821 dance and clowning had taken such a physical toll on Grimaldi that he could barely walk, and he retired from the theatre.[9] By 1828, he was penniless, and Covent Garden held a benefit concert for him.

In 1817, bare flame gaslight had replaced the former candles and oil lamps that lighted the Covent Garden stage.[10] This was an improvement, but in 1837 Macready employed limelight in the theatre for the first time, during a performance of a pantomime, Peeping Tom of Coventry. Limelight used a block of quicklime heated by an oxygen and hydrogen flame. This allowed the use of spotlights to highlight performers on the stage.[11]

The Theatres Act 1843 broke the patent theatres' monopoly of drama. At that time Her Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket was the main centre of ballet and opera but after a dispute with the management in 1846 Michael Costa, conductor at Her Majesty's, transferred his allegiance to Covent Garden, bringing most of the company with him. The auditorium was completely remodelled and the theatre reopened as the Royal Italian Opera on 6 April 1847 with a performance of Rossini's Semiramide.[12]
The Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in the 1820s

In 1852, Louis Antoine Jullien the French eccentric composer of light music and conductor presented an opera of his own composition, Pietro il Grande. Five performances were given of the 'spectacular', including live horses on the stage and very loud music. Critics considered it a complete failure and Jullien was ruined and fled to America.[13][14] Costa and his successors presented all operas in Italian, even those originally written in French, German or English, until 1892, when Gustav Mahler presented the debut of Wagner's Ring cycle. The word "Italian" was then quietly dropped from the name of the opera house.[15]
The third theatre

On 5 March 1856, the theatre was again destroyed by fire. Work on the third theatre, designed by Edward Middleton Barry, started in 1857 and the new building, which still remains as the nucleus of the present theatre, was built by Lucas Brothers[16] and opened on 15 May 1858 with a performance of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots.

The Royal English Opera company under the management of Louisa Pyne and William Harrison, made their last performance at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 11 December 1858 and took up residence at the theatre on 20 December 1858 with a performance of Michael Balfe's Satanella[17] and continued at the theatre until 1864.

The theatre became the Royal Opera House (ROH) in 1892, and the number of French and German works offered increased. Winter and summer seasons of opera and ballet were given, and the building was also used for pantomime, recitals and political meetings.

Rebuilding began at once. The foundation stone, later incorporated in the present structure, was laid by the Prince of Wales, later George IV, on 31 December 1808, and the second Theatre Royal, Covent Garden opened on 18 September 1809 with a performance of Macbeth followed by a musical entertainment called The Quaker.

The management, among them the actor John Philip Kemble and his sister Sarah Siddons, raised seat prices to help recoup the cost of rebuilding, but the move was so unpopular that audiences disrupted performances by beating sticks, hissing, booing and dancing.The O.P. (Old Prices) riots lasted nearly three months, and the management was finally forced to accede to the audience's demands.
The theatre becomes an opera house

The audience's taste was extremely varied, and so were the entertainments offered. Opera and ballet did appear on the bill of fare, but not exclusively. An evening of excerpts from Shakespeare might well be followed by a performance on the high wire by Madame Sacchi, the Italian acrobat. Then, in 1843, the Theatres Act broke the patent theatres' monopoly of drama. At that time Her Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket was the main centre of ballet and opera, but after a dispute with the management in 1846 Michael Costa, conductor at Her Majesty's, transferred his allegiance to Covent Garden, bringing most of his company of singers with him. The auditorium was completely remodelled to designs by Benedetto Albano, and the theatre reopened as the Royal Italian Opera on 6 April 1847 with a performance of Rossini's Semiramide.
The Royal Opera House

On 5 March 1856 disaster struck again. For the second time the theatre was completely destroyed by fire. Although rebuilding was felt to be imperative, financial considerations delayed matters. Work on the third and present theatre eventually started in 1857 and the new building opened on 15 May 1858 with a performance of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots.

The theatre became the Royal Opera House in 1892 as the number of French and German works in the repertory increased. Winter and summer seasons of opera and ballet were given.

Rebuilding began at once. The foundation stone, later incorporated in the present structure, was laid by the Prince of Wales, later George IV, on 31 December 1808, and the second Theatre Royal, Covent Garden opened on 18 September 1809 with a performance of Macbeth followed by a musical entertainment called The Quaker.

The management, among them the actor John Philip Kemble and his sister Sarah Siddons, raised seat prices to help recoup the cost of rebuilding, but the move was so unpopular that audiences disrupted performances by beating sticks, hissing, booing and dancing.The O.P. (Old Prices) riots lasted nearly three months, and the management was finally forced to accede to the audience's demands.
The theatre becomes an opera house

The audience's taste was extremely varied, and so were the entertainments offered. Opera and ballet did appear on the bill of fare, but not exclusively. An evening of excerpts from Shakespeare might well be followed by a performance on the high wire by Madame Sacchi, the Italian acrobat. Then, in 1843, the Theatres Act broke the patent theatres' monopoly of drama. At that time Her Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket was the main centre of ballet and opera, but after a dispute with the management in 1846 Michael Costa, conductor at Her Majesty's, transferred his allegiance to Covent Garden, bringing most of his company of singers with him. The auditorium was completely remodelled to designs by Benedetto Albano, and the theatre reopened as the Royal Italian Opera on 6 April 1847 with a performance of Rossini's Semiramide.
The Royal Opera House

On 5 March 1856 disaster struck again. For the second time the theatre was completely destroyed by fire. Although rebuilding was felt to be imperative, financial considerations delayed matters. Work on the third and present theatre eventually started in 1857 and the new building opened on 15 May 1858 with a performance of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots.

The theatre became the Royal Opera House in 1892 as the number of French and German works in the repertory increased. Winter and summer seasons of opera and ballet were given. In between seasons the theatre either closed or offered such diverse fare as film shows, cabarets, lectures or dancing.


Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

Section under development

The building that stands today opened in 1812. It has been the residency of a number of well known actors including; Edmund Kean, child actress Clara Fisher, comedian Dan Leno, musical composer and performer Ivor Novello and the comedy troupe Monty Python (who recorded a concert album there). Today, the theatre is owned by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber who rents the theatre for popular musical theatre shows. It is a Grade I listed building.

4 Modern theatre: 1812
5 Theatre Royal Druy Lane 350th Anniversary
6 Drury Lane Theatre Royal Ghosts
7 See also
8 Notes
9 References
10 External links

The design plan mistakenly attributed to Christopher Wren

Since 1995, other scholars have questioned this presumption, including: Professor Robert Hume (Penn State University) in 2007, Dr. Tim Keenan (Queensland University) in 2011, the late Dr. Graham Barlow (University of Glasgow Theatre Dept.) in 1984) and Mark A. Howell in 1995.[15] On balance, and when considered together, the evidence they present strongly suggest this drawing shows a theatre that was, in all probability, never built. Professor Robert Hume has the final word, explaining that any description of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from 1674 to 1775 "rests almost entirely on the supposition that the so-called "Wren section" at All Souls represents this theatre. It could just as easily be a discarded sketch unconnected to Drury Lane in any way."[16] The fact that this drawing shows four doors on the stage front, when only two were generally needed in "Restoration" plays, helps persuade some historians that this anonymous drawing shows a theatre that may never have been built. (This is supported by the fact that, although "Restoration" plays remained high in the performance repertoire throughout the eighteenth century, surviving illustrations show eighteenth-century Theatres Royal with only two doors—one on each side—of their stage fronts.)

Careful inspection of the drawing at All Soul's Library shows it has one pencil inscription: "Play house" [sic], which may have been added by a librarian or by anyone else. No sign of a signature or a date appears anywhere on the drawing. Despite this, in the twentieth century nearly every theatre historian writing about play performance and theatres in the cities of Westminster and London wrongly supposed this undated, anonymous and untitled section was drawn by Wren in 1674.[17]

Several good reasons exist for excluding this drawing from all considerations of how the Theatre Royal Drury Lane might have looked:

The drawing's un-numbered scale appears to suggest the theatre building shown in the drawing was too long for the known site dimensions of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. This theatre "appears" to scale at 112 ft (34 m) – the known east-west total length of the site. However, surveys drawings and maps from the period clearly indicate passageways measuring at least 5–10 ft wide Drury Lane Theatre Royal surrounded its south, west and east walls;
The original manuscript has been torn twice across as if discarded. (It appears to have been pasted back together by a librarian in the 20th century);
No signature by Wren;
No title mentioning "Drury Lane" or "Theatre Royal";
No date.

Only one reference briefly identifies Christopher Wren as the architect for the 1674 Drury Lane – the theatre manager Colley Cibber (An apology for the life of Mr. Colley Cibber, comedian, and late patentee of the Theatre-Royal: With an historical view of the stage during his own time 1750 ed., 81). Cibber's claim is questionable because he wrote it in 1740.


Surrey Theatre

Section under development

It continued in use until 1810, although it had a troubled existence, being burnt down in 1799 and again on 12 August 1805. Rebuilt in 1806 by the German architect of the Old Vic, Rudolph Cabanel, it was converted into a theatre by Robert Elliston. He renamed it the Surrey Theatre, being determined to perform Shakespeare and other plays. He reopened on Easter Monday and to avoid trouble with the law, which did not allow dialogue to be spoken without musical accompaniment except at the two patent theatres, he put a ballet into every such production, including Macbeth, Hamlet, and Farquhar's The Beaux' Stratagem. Contemporary reviewers noted that the Lambeth streets teemed with prostitutes.[4] Elliston left in 1814, and the Surrey became a circus again until Thomas Dibdin reopened it as a theatre in 1816. The arena where the equestrian exercises had been displayed was converted into a large pit for spectators, and the stables became saloons.[2] Fanny Fitzwilliam and Sally Brook starred in melodramas, but the theatre had little success overall. John Baldwin Buckstone made his first London appearance at the theatre, on 30 January 1823, as Ramsay in The Fortunes of Nigel. George Holland also appeared at the theatre, in 1826.

When Elliston returned in 1827, the theatre's fortunes changed. In 1829, Douglas Jerrold's melodrama Black-Eyed Susan, with T. P. Cooke as William, the nautical hero, ran for over 300 nights, which was extraordinarily successful for the time. Elliston made his last appearance at this theatre on 24 June 1831, twelve days before he died. Osbaldiston then took over and, among other plays, produced Edward Fitzball's Jonathan Bradford; or, the Murder at the Roadside Inn, which ran for 260 nights. Productions of Dickens dramas, among others, followed. Ira Aldridge, the first successful black actor, appeared here in the 1840s.[4] C. Z. Barnett's adaptation, A Christmas Carol; or, The Miser's Warning played in 1844. Richard Shepherd, who succeeded Alfred Bunn in 1848, remained at the theatre until 1869 and established its reputation for 'rough-and-tumble' transpontine melodrama.

On 29 January 1865, during the last scene of the pantomime Richard Coeur de Lion, a fire began above the chandelier. The audience evacuated safely, but before the cast could leave the entire theatre was plunged into darkness, as the gas supervisor cut the gas supply to prevent an explosion. Panic ensued backstage, but the cast were led to safety through the burning scenery by the efforts of Green (acting manager), Rowella (the 'clown'), Evans (the 'pantaloon'), Vivian (the 'sprite') and others. The cast, still in their flimsy stage clothes, were conveyed to their lodgings in a fleet of cabs, provided by the police. In less than ten minutes the interior was ablaze, and the theatre was burnt down shortly after midnight.[5]

A new theatre, designed by John Ellis, seating 2,161 people in four tiers, opened on 26 December 1865. Little of note took place until 1881, when George Conquest took over, staging sensational dramas, many of them written by himself, which proved extremely popular, and each Christmas a pantomime.

The Surrey flourished until his death in 1901. The theatre was remodelled by Kirk and Kirk, as a music hall, but did not prosper, becoming a cinema in 1920. It finally closed in 1924, and the building was demolished in 1934. The site is now occupied by modern flats.

Rebuilt in 1806, it was converted into a theatre by Robert ELLISTON, who gave it the name by which it was thereafter known.

Right - The Surrey Theatre Blackfriars Road.

To avoid trouble with the PATENT THEATRES, he put a ballet into every production, including Macbeth, Hamlet, and FARQUHAR's The Beaux' Stratagem. Elliston left in 1814, and the Surrey became a circus again until Thomas DIBDIN reopened it as a theatre in 1816, but with little success. Not until Elliston returned did its fortunes change, with the production on 8 June 1829 of Douglas JERROLD'S Black-Ey'd Susan, which with T. P. COOKE as William, the nautical hero, had a long run. Elliston himself made his last appearance at this theatre on 24 June 1831, twelve days before he died. Osbaldiston then took over, and among other plays produced Edward FITZBALL'S Jonathan Bradford; or, the Murder at the Roadside Inn, which ran for 260 nights, but it was Richard Shepherd (who succeeded Alfred Bunn in 1848 and remained at the theatre until 1869) who established its reputation for rough-and-tumble TRANSPONTINE MELODRAMA. On 30 Jan. 1865 the theatre was burnt down, but a new theatre, seating 2,161 people in four tiers, opened on 26 Dec. 1865. Little of note took place until 1881, when George CONQUEST took over, staging sensational dramas, many of them written by himself, which proved extremely popular, and each Christmas an excellent PANTOMIME. The Surrey prospered until his death in 1901, but thereafter went rapidly downhill until in 1920 it became a cinema. It finally closed in 1924 and the building was demolished in 1934.

Above text from The Oxford Companion To Theatre 4th edition 1983.

...On the west side of Blackfriars Road, near St. George's Circus, stood the Surrey theatre, destroyed by fire On 30 January 1865 and rebuilt within twelve months. The fire occurred during the final scene of the Pantomime called 'The Investigation in the Forest of Fancy', but the audience, not being very large, soon dispersed, and nobody was hurt. Shortly afterwards the theatre was a mass of flames and nothing was saved except the money in the box office. In less than an hour the building had been burned to the ground. The first theatre on this site was known as the St. George's Fields Circus. It was built in 1782 by Charles Dibdin the poet; in 1805 it was burned to the ground like its successor. The second theatre was opened in 1805 The site has been acquired for an extension of the Royal Eye Hospital. Close by is Peabody Square, built in 1871, which contains sixteen blocks of artisan dwellings enclosing two quadrangles, which communicate with each other. They occupy the site of the old Magdalen Hospital on the west side of Blackfriars Road.

Above text (edited) from The Face Of London by Harold P. Clunn (1956)

The Royal Circus had a very troubled existence and was burned down in 1803. Rebuilt in 1804, it continued its previous course, until in 1809 Elliston, the Great Lessee, converted it into a theatre. To evade the Patent Act he put a ballet into all the plays, which included Macbeth, Hamlet, and The Beaux' Stratagem.

In 1814 he gave up, and the building became a circus again until in 1816 Thomas Dibdin reopenedit and named it the Surrey. He failed in 1823 and the theatre sank very low. Elliston took it over again in 1827, when he left Drury Lane. Douglas Jerrold, then a struggling young playwright, brought him Black-Eyed Susan, which he accepted at once. T. P. Cooke was engaged for it at £60 a week and a 'half clear' benefit every sixth week, and it was produced on 8 June 1829. It drew all London, and on the 300th night the theatre was illuminated. The author, who wrote many more plays for the Surrey, received no more than £70 as remuneration for a successful run Of 400 nights.

Elliston made his last appearance at the theatre on 24 June 1831, and died a fortnight later. Osbaldiston then took over, and among other things produced Jonathan Bradford; or, the Murder at the Roadside Inn, a poor play which ran successfully for 260 nights. It had a novel stage-set divided into four, with four actions going on simultaneously.

Royal Surrey Theatre Bill for April 15th 1895.Osbaldiston was succeeded by Davidge, a miserly man, and then by Bunn, from Drury Lane, who essayed opera. In 1848 'Dick' Shepherd, the originator of the rough-and-tumble melodrama now associated with the Surrey, took over, with Osbaldiston back as his partner. This soon ended, however, and Creswick, a fine legitimate actor, joined Shepherd, who was broad and vulgar. Yet their association was successful and lasted, with a short break, from 1848 to 1869. During this time the theatre was burned down and rebuilt.

Left - Royal Surrey Theatre Bill for April 15th 1895.

Nothing of importance then took place until 1880, when George Conquest, actor, playwright, and pantomimist, took over.

Surrey Theater1872 Old Ordnance Survey Maps -- Waterloo & Southwark, 1872He ran sensational dramas, many of them written by himself, which proved very much to the taste of his patrons, and every Christmas he put on a fine pantomime. The house flourished until his death in 1901.

Right - Surrey Theater from and Old Ordnance Survey Map of Waterloo & Southwark, 1872.

It declined after this and became a cinema from 1920 to 1924, with a brief season of opera. Several attempts were made to reopen it, but there were too many restrictions in the lease and it became derelict. Eventually the land was purchased by the Royal Ophthalmic Hospital, and the building was pulled down in 1934.

Text from The Oxford Companion To The Theatre (Second edition)

Surrey Theatre Blackfriars Road Playbill 1839 - From 'Charles Dickens and Southwark' (London borough of Southwark)In Blackfriars Road, near the obelisk, was the old Surrey Theatre. It is possible that Dickens had in mind this this theatre as the one in which Frederick Dorrit played the clarinet in the orchestra. Performances of Dickens's works used to take place in this theatre during his lifetime to wildly enthusiastic audiences. In November 1838, only a month after the issue of the last instalment, a Surrey Theatre playbill records a dramatised production of Oliver Twist. Other productions included Nicholas Nickleby. John Forster relates how 'One version at the Surrey Theatre was so excruciatingly bad that in the middle of the first scene the agonised novelist lay down on the floor of his box and never rose until the curtain fell.'

Right - Surrey Theatre Blackfriars Road Playbill 1839 - From 'Charles Dickens and Southwark' (London borough of Southwark)

Text from 'Charles Dickens and Southwark' (London borough of Southwark)

The Circus was destroyed by fire in August, 1805, and re-built the following year. When it was re-opened it carried on the old style of entertainment until 1809, when Robert Elliston took it over. He paid a rental of £2,200 per year for the building, and transformed the amphitheatre into a commodious pit and the stables into saloons.

The main type of entertainment now produced was melodrama, and here Miss Sally Brook made her first appearance in London. Then followed all sorts of varieties; one piece being produced especially to exhibit two magnificent suits of armour of the fourteenth century, which afterwards appeared in the Lord Mayor's Show.

In 1816, Tom Dibdin offered his services as stage manager under Elliston, and the Circus was extensively altered, and reopened as the Surrey Theatre.

'The Romance of London Theatres" by Ronald Mayes - From a Programme for the Marble Arch Pavilion December 16th 1929

Surrey Theatre 1 British History ONLINE


Formation of Blackfriars Road—The Surrey Theatre, originally the "Royal Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic Academy"—The Circus burnt down in 1805—The Amphitheatre rebuilt, and under the Management of Elliston—The Manager in a Fix—The Theatre burnt down in 1865, and rebuilt the same year—Lord Camelford and a Drunken Naval Lieutenant—The "Equestrian" Tavern—A Favourite Locality for Actors—An Incident in Charles Dickens' Boyhood—The Temperance Hall—The South London Working Men's College—The South London Tramway Company—The Mission College of St. Alphege—Nelson Square—The "Dog's Head in the Pot"—Surrey Chapel—The Rev. Rowland Hill—Almshouses founded by him—Paris Garden—Christ Church—Stamford Street—The Unitarian Chapel—Messrs. Clowes' Printing Office—Hospital for Diseases of the Skin—The "Haunted Houses" of Stamford Street—Ashton Lever's Museum—The Rotunda—The Albion Mills.

This great thoroughfare—which, starting at Blackfriars Bridge, meets at the Obelisk five other roads in St. George's Circus—assumed something like its present shape and appearance in the last half of the last century. It seems at one time to have been called St. George's Road, but was long known as Great Surrey Street. The road is perfectly straight, and is about two-thirds of a mile in length. Pennant, as we have already remarked, describes the roads crossing St. George's Fields as being "the wonder of foreigners approaching by this road to our capital, through avenues of lamps, of magnificent breadth and goodness." One foreign ambassador, indeed, thought London was illuminated in honour of his arrival; but, adds Pennant, "this was written before the shameful adulteration of the oil," which dimmed the "glorious splendour!" Pennant, doubtless, was a knowing man; but he lived before the age of gas, and was easily satisfied.

One of the earliest buildings of any note which were erected in this road was Christ Church, near the bridge on the west side, occupying part of the site of old Paris Garden; then came Rowland Hill's Chapel, or, as it is now generally called, "Surrey Chapel," of both of which we shall speak more fully presently. Next came the Magdalen Hospital, which we have already described; and finally, the Surrey Theatre. The early history of this theatre, if Mr. E. L. Blanchard states correctly the facts in his sketch of it, the "Playgoer's Portfolio," affords an illustration of the difficulties under which the minor theatres laboured in their struggle against the patented monopoly of Drury Lane and Covent Garden. The place was first opened under the title of the "Royal Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic Academy," in the year 1782, by the famous composer and song-writer, Charles Dibdin, aided by Charles Hughes, a clever equestrian performer. It was originally planned for the display of equestrian and dramatic entertainments, on a plan similar to that pursued with so much success at Astley's. The entertainments were at first performed by children, the design being to render the circus a nursery for actors. The play-bills of the first few months' performances end with a notice to the effect that a "Horse-patrol is provided from Bridge to Bridge." The theatre, however, having been opened without a licence, was closed by order of the Surrey magistrates, but this was not done without a disturbance, and until the Riot Act had been read on the very stage itself. In the following year a licence was obtained, and the theatre being re-opened, a successful harvest appeared now in prospect, when differences arose among the proprietors which seriously threatened its ruin. Delphini, a celebrated buffo, was appointed manager in 1788, in succession to Grimaldi, the grandfather of the celebrated clown of Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells Theatres; he produced a splendid spectacle, with a real stag-hunt, &c. Then there were several "dog-pieces," so called because they were put together in order to introduce upon the stage as actors two knowing dogs, "Gelert" and "Victor," whose popularity was such that they had an hour every day set apart for them to receive visitors. Afterwards a series of "Lectures on Heads" were given here by a Mr. Stevens, (fn. 1) and many pantomimic and local pieces were performed with indifferent success; among the latter were the "Destruction of the Bastile," "Death of General Wolfe," &c. The popularity of the theatre was largely increased by the skill of a new stage manager, John Palmer, a gay-hearted comedian, who rather enjoyed than otherwise a life "within the Rules of the King's Bench;" but this gleam of sunshine came to an end, in 1789, by the arbitrary and (it would seem) illegal committal of Palmer to the Surrey Gaol as a "rogue and a vagabond," a clause being, at the same time, inserted in the Debtor's Act making all such places of amusement "out of the Rules."

Having been conducted for several years by a Mr. James Jones and his son-in-law, John Cross, as lessees, with average success, the Circus was destroyed by fire in August, 1805; it was, however, rebuilt and re-opened at Easter, 1806. In 1809 the lesseeship was taken in hand by Elliston, who introduced several of Shakespeare's plays, and otherwise endeavoured to raise the character of the house. His success was such that he now resolved to attempt an enlargement of the privileges of his licence, a step which is thus recorded by Mr. E. L. Blanchard: "Hitherto the performances authorised did not permit the introduction of a dialogue, except it was accompanied by music throughout. On the 5th of March, 1810, Sir Thomas Turton presented to the House of Commons a petition for enabling Mr. Elliston and his colleagues to exhibit 'all such entertainments of music and action as are commonly called pantomimes and ballets, together with operatic or musical pieces, accompanied with dialogue.' The petition, however, was rejected, on the ground that it would 'go far to alter the whole principle upon which theatrical entertainments are at present regulated within the metropolis and twenty miles round.' The expenses of this fruitless appeal were £100 for the petition, and £30 more for a second application to the Privy Council."

The amphitheatre, which had previously been the arena for occasional equestrian exercises, was now converted into a commodious pit for the spectators, and the stables into saloons. Melo-dramas now became the order of the day; and here Miss Sally Brook made her first appearance in London. All sorts of varieties followed. One piece was brought out specially to exhibit two magnificent suits of armour of the fourteenth century, which afterwards appeared in the Lord Mayor's show. (fn. 2)

Tom Dibdin, in 1816, having offered his services as stage-manager under Elliston, the Circus was extensively altered and re-opened as "The Surrey," and he held sway here till 1822. After that time the theatre had a somewhat chequered existence, and on the whole may be said to have been one of the chief homes of the English sensational melo-drama. At one time the gig in which Thurtell drove, and the table on which he supped, when he murdered Mr. Weare, were exhibited; and at another, the chief attraction was a man-ape, Mons. Goufflé. In 1827 Elliston became lessee a second time, and made several good hits, being seconded by such actors as T. P. Cooke, Mrs. Fitzwilliam, &c.

It was perhaps during the lesseeship of Elliston that the greatest "hit" was made at "The Surrey." "Elliston," as a writer in the Monthly Magazine tells us, "was, in his day, the Napoleon of Drury Lane, but, like the conqueror of Austerlitz, he suffered his declensions, and the Surrey became to him a St. Helena. However, once an eagle always an eagle; and Robert William was no less aquiline in the day of adversity than in his palmy time of patent prosperity. He was born to carry things with a high hand, and he but fulfilled his destiny. The anecdote we are about to relate is one of the ten thousand instances of his lordly bearing. When, on one occasion, 'no effects' was written over the treasury-door of Covent Garden Theatre, it will be remembered that several actors proffered their services gratis, in aid of the then humble but now arrogant and persecuting establishment; among these patriots was Mr. T. P. Cooke. The Covent Garden managers jumped at the offer of the actor, who was in due time announced as having, in the true play-bill style, 'most generously volunteered his services for six nights!' Cooke was advertised for 'William,' Elliston having 'most generously lent [N.B., this was not put in the bill] the musical score of Black-Eyed Susan, together with the identical captains' coats worn at a hundred and fifty court martials at the Surrey Theatre. Cooke—the score—the coats, were all accepted, and made the most of by the now prosecuting managers of Covent Garden, who cleared out of the said Cooke, score, and coats one thousand pounds at half-price on the first six nights of their exhibition. This is a fact; nay, we have lately heard it stated that all the sum was specially banked, to be used in a future war against the minors. Cooke was then engaged for twelve more nights, at ten pounds per night—a hackney-coach bringing him each night, hot from the Surrey stage, where he had previously made bargemen weep and thrown nursery-maids into convulsions. Well, time drove on, and Cooke drove into the country. Elliston, who was always classical, having a due veneration for that divine 'creature,' Shakespeare, announced, on the anniversary of the poet's birthday, a representation of the Stratford Jubilee. The wardrobe was ransacked, the propertyman was on the alert, and, after much preparation, everything was in readiness for the imposing spectacle. No! There was one thing forgotten—one important 'property!' 'Bottom' must be a 'feature' in the procession; and there was no ass's head! It would not do for the acting manager to apologise for the absence of the head—no, he could not have the face to do it. A head must be procured. Every one was in doubt and trepidation, when hope sounded in the clarion-like voice of Robert William. 'Ben!' exclaimed Elliston, 'take pen, ink, and paper, and write as follows.' Ben (Mr. Benjamin Fairbrother, the late manager's most trusted secretary) sat 'all ear,' and Elliston, with finger on nether lip, proceeded—'My Dear Charles,—I am about to represent, "with entirely new dresses, scenery, and decorations," the Stratford Jubilee, in honour of the sweet swan of Avon. My scene-painter is the finest artist (except your Grieve) in Europe; my tailor is no less a genius; and I lately raised the salary of my property-man. This will give you some idea of the capabilities of the Surrey Theatre. However, in the hurry of "getting up" we have forgotten one property—everything is well with us but our "Bottom," and he wants a head. As it is too late to manufacture—not but that my property-man is the cleverest in the world (except the property-man of Covent Garden)—can you lend me an ass's head; and believe me, my dear Charles, yours ever truly, Robert William Elliston. P.S.—I had forgotten to acknowledge the return of the Black-Eyed Susan score and coats. You were most welcome to them.'

"The letter was dispatched to Covent Garden Theatre, and in a brief time the bearer returned with the following answer:—'My Dear Robert,—It is with the most acute pain that I am compelled to refuse your trifling request. You are aware, my dear sir, of the unfortunate situation of Covent Garden Theatre; it being at the present moment, with all the "dresses, scenery, and decorations,' in the Court of Chancery, I cannot exercise that power which my friendship would dictate. I have spoken to Bartley, and he agrees with me (indeed, he always does) that I cannot lend you an ass's head—he is an authority on such a subject—without risking a reprimand from the Lord High Chancellor. Trusting to your generosity and to your liberal construction of my refusal, and hoping that it will in no way interrupt that mutually cordial friendship that has ever subsisted between us, believe me, ever yours, Charles Kemble. P.S.—When I next see you advertised for "Rover," I intend to leave myself out of the bill, and come and see it.'

"Of course this letter did not remain long unanswered. Ben was again in requisition, and the following was the result of his labours:—

"'Dear Charles,—I regret the situation of Covent Garden Theatre; I also, for your sake, deeply regret that the law does not permit you to send me the "property" in question. I knew that law alone could prevent you; for were it not for the vigilance of equity, such is my opinion of the management of Covent Garden, that I am convinced, if left to the dictates of its own judgment, it would be enabled to spare asses' heads, not to the Surrey alone, but to every theatre in Christendom. Yours ever truly, Robert William Elliston. P.S.—My wardrobe-keeper informs me that there are no less than seven buttons missing from the captains' coats. However, I have ordered their places to be instantaneously filled by others.'

"We entreat our readers not to receive the above as a squib of invention. We will not pledge ourselves that the letters are verbatim from the originals; but the loan of the Surrey music and coats to Covent Garden, with the refusal of Covent Garden's ass's head to the Surrey, is 'true as holy writ.'"

At the time when Elliston was lessee of the Surrey and the Olympic Theatres, about 1833, the actors, who were common to both houses, had to hurry from St. George's Fields over Blackfriars Bridge to Wych Street, and occasionally back again also, the same evening. Sometimes the "legitimate drama" was performed here in a curious fashion. The law allowed only musical performances at the minor theatres: so a pianoforte tinkled, or a clarionet moaned, a dismal accompaniment to the speeches of Macbeth or Othello. The fact is that, as Dr. Doran tells us in the epilogue to "His Majesty's Servants, "the powers of the licenser (the Lord Chamberlain) did not extend to St. George's Fields, where political plays, forbidden on the Middlesex side of the river, were attractive merely because they were forbidden." Considerable excellence has generally been shown in the scenery at this theatre, which appeals through the eye to the "sensations" of the lower classes; and M. Esquiros, in his "English at Home," tells us that Danby, as scene-painter, produced at the Surrey some of the chastest effects ever witnessed on an English stage.

After the death of Elliston, the lesseeship was held in succession by Davidge, Osbaldiston, Creswick, and other individuals of dramatic note; but it never rose far above mediocrity. The fabric was burnt down a second time in January, 1865, but rebuilt and re-opened in the course of the same year, great additions and improvements having been made in its interior arrangements.

The change in the name of this theatre, after it ceased to be used for equestrian performances, is thus mentioned in the "Rejected Addresses:"—
"And burnt the Royal Circus in a hurry:
'Twas called the Circus then, but now the Surrey."

James Smith, in a note in the "Rejected Addresses," writes:—"The authors happened to be at the Royal Circus when 'God save the King' was called for, accompanied by a cry of 'Stand up!' and 'Hats off!' An inebriated naval lieutenant perceiving a gentleman in an adjoining box slow to obey the call, struck his hat off with his stick, exclaiming, 'Take off your hat, sir.' The other thus assailed proved to be, unluckily for the lieutenant, Lord Camelford, the celebrated bruiser and duellist. A set-to in the lobby was the consequence, where his lordship quickly proved victorious."

The exterior of the old theatre was plain but neat, and the approaches very convenient. The auditorium, which was nearly square in form, was exceedingly spacious. The upper part of the proscenium was supported by two gilt, fluted composite columns on each side, with intervening stage-doors and boxes. The pit would seat about 900 persons. The general ornamentation of the boxes, &c., was white and gold. The gallery, as customary in the minor theatres, was remarkably spacious, and would hold above 1,000 persons. It descended to a level with the side boxes in the centre, but from its principal elevation it was continued along both sides over them. The ceiling sprang from the four extremities of the front and of the side galleries. The centre was painted in imitation of a sky, with genii on the verge and in the angles. A handsome chandelier depended from the centre, besides smaller ones suspended from brackets over the stage-doors, which were continued round the boxes.

The present theatre, which, as we have stated above, was built in 1865, is a great improvement upon the old building in every respect. It is considerably larger, and its construction cost £38,000; the machinery, with the new appliances insisted on by the Lord Chamberlain for the security of life from fire, cost nearly £2,000. Like most of the minor theatres in London, the Surrey has of late years been occasionally used on Sundays for religious "revival" services, thereby reconciling to some extent the old enmities between the pulpit and the stage.

The fact of the Surrey Theatre having been at one time used for the exhibition of feats of horsemanship is kept in remembrance by the sign of a tavern which adjoins it, called "The Equestrian."

The actors of the transpontine theatres of half a century ago very naturally had their habitations almost invariably on the south side of the Thames. Elliston himself lived in Great Surrey Street (now Blackfriars Road); Osbaldiston in Gray's Walk, Lambeth; Davidge, of the Coburg, afterwards manager of the Surrey, lived in Charlotte Terrace, near the New Cut. St. George's Circus, at the south end of Blackfriars Road, was so thickly peopled by second-rate actors belonging to the Surrey and the Coburg, that it was called the Theatrical Barracks. Hercules Buildings, in the Westminster Bridge Road, had then, and for twenty years afterwards, a theatrical or musical family residing in every house. Stangate, at the back of "Astley's," was another favourite resort for the sons and daughters of Thespis; and the cul de sac of Mount's Place, Lambeth, where Ellar, the famous harlequin, lived and died, was also in great repute as a residence for the pantomimic and equestrian fraternity.

A house "somewhere beyond the obelisk," but not capable of identification now, was the scene of a trifling event in the early life of Charles Dickens, which he records with some minuteness in the autobiographical reminiscences preserved by Mr. J. Forster in his published "Life!" When his father had to pass through the insolvent Court of the Marshalsea, it was necessary to prove that the apparel and personal matters retained were not above £20 in value. Charles, we suppose, must have been regarded by the law as part and parcel of his father, for he had to appear before an official at this house in his best holiday clothes. "I recollect his coming out to view me with his mouth full and a strong smell of beer upon him, and saying, good-naturedly, 'That will do,' and 'All right.'" He adds: "Certainly the hardest creditor would not have been disposed (even if legally entitled) to avail himself of my poor white hat, my little jacket, and my corduroy trousers. But I had in my pocket an old silver watch, given me by my grandmother before the blacking days, and I had entertained my doubts, as I went along, whether that valuable possession might not bring me above the twenty pounds' standard. So I was greatly relieved, and made him a low bow of acknowledgment as I went out."

THE SURREY THEATRE. 1. The Old Theatre, 1865. 2. Interior of New Theatre, 1865. 3. Ruins of the Old Theatre, 1865.


Between the Surrey Theatre and the Peabody Buildings, which, as we have already stated, stand on the site formerly occupied by the Magdalen Hospital, is the Temperance Hall, a neat brickbuilt Gothic structure, one of several others erected by the London Temperance Halls' Company. It was built in 1875, and is used for concerts, lectures, temperance meetings, and so forth.

Further northwards, between Webber Street and Great Charlotte Street, is a house, No. 91, used as the Working Men's College. It was opened in 1868, for the purpose of giving to the working men of South London, and their families, the means of a thorough education. Professor Huxley has long acted as principal of the college. Among the work carried on here are technical classes for carpenters and bricklayers, elementary classes in chemistry and in mathematics, and a Civil Service class.

A few doors further northward are the offices of the South London Tramway Company, which was founded in 1870, in order to supply cheap and rapid communication by street cars, on the American principle. The company have laid down no less than 20½ miles of street-rails along the high roads connecting Vauxhall, Westminster, Blackfriars, and London Bridges with Greenwich, Deptford, Camberwell, Brixton, Kennington, and Clapham. The cars constantly in use are 90 in number, employing about 1,000 horses and 350 men. They carry in the course of a year about 15,000,000 passengers.

Nearly opposite the above-mentioned offices is the modern Mission College of St. Alphege, named after the saint with whose murder by the Danes the reader has been already made acquainted in our account of Greenwich. (fn. 3)

Nelson Square, close by, on the east side of Blackfriars Road, was doubtless built at the commencement of the century, when the great naval hero was in the height of his glory, and named in honour of him. Beyond a tavern, bearing the sign of the "Lord Nelson," the square is merely occupied by small tradesmen and as lodginghouses, and therefore is one of those fortunate places which has little or no history attached to it.

The "Dog's Head in the Pot" is mentioned as an old London sign in a curious tract, printed by Wynkyn de Worde, called "Cocke Lorelle's Bote." A sign of this description is still to be seen in the Blackfriars Road, over the door of a furnishing ironmonger's shop, at the corner of Little Charlotte Street, close by Nelson Square.

Surrey Chapel, which stands on the eastern side of the road, at the opposite corner of Little Charlotte Street, about 500 yards from Blackfriars Bridge, is an ugly octagonal building, with no pretensions to any definite style of architecture. It is still often called "Rowland Hill's Chapel," after its former minister, the Rev. Rowland Hill, who, though the son of a Shropshire baronet and a deacon of the Established Church, became a Dissenter from conviction, and was for half a century the able and eloquent minister of a congregation of Calvinistic Methodists who worshipped here. He was eloquent, witty, and warm-hearted, and was for many years a power in the religious world, being on the best of terms with the more "Evangelical" portion of the national clergy. His wit was almost as ready as that of Douglas Jerrold or Theodore Hook. Once when preaching near the docks at Wapping, he said, "I am come to preach to great, to notorious, yes, to Wapping sinners!" Another day, observing a number of persons coming into his chapel, not so much to hear his sermon as to escape the rain, he declared that though he had known of persons making religion a cloak, he had never heard of it being made an umbrella before! His congregation were much attached to him personally, and always subscribed liberally in answer to his appeals to their purses; and he, therefore, compared them to a good cow, which gives the more the more that she is milked! His wife was too fond of dress for a minister's wife; and it is said that within these walls he would often preach at her by name, saying, "Here comes my wife, with a whole wardrobe on her head and back;" but this story is apocryphal. At all events, he always denied its truth, declaring that though he was always outspoken in denouncing vanity and frivolity, he was not a bear, but a Christian and a gentleman!

In his youth Rowland was noted for that redundant flow of spirits which never failed him even to his latest years. He was, likewise, even in his younger days, celebrated for wit and humour, an instance of which occurred at Eton, on the occasion of a discussion among the scholars as to the power of the letter H. Some contended that it had the full power of a letter, while others thought it a mere aspirate, and that it might be omitted altogether without any disadvantage to our language. Rowland earnestly contended for its continuance, adding, "To me the letter H is a most invaluable one, for if it be taken away, I shall be ill all the days of my life." With the intention of qualifying himself for one of the livings in the gift of his family, he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, where, from his serious behaviour and somewhat unusual zeal in visiting the sick and engaging in out-door preaching, he became the subject of much obloquy. When the time came for taking orders, he found that his former "irregular" conduct proved an insuperable difficulty. His brother Richard was the only member of his family who approved of his eccentric conduct at this period. For several years after leaving college he had been extensively occupied in out-door preaching, both in the country and in the metropolis. The Church of England pulpits were, of course, not then open to him; but among the Dissenters no such obstacle existed. It was at one time generally believed that he would be the successor of Whitefield at Tottenham Court Road Chapel. During four years he experienced six refusals from several prelates; but in 1773 the Bishop of Bath and Wells consented to admit him to deacon's orders. His first curacy was Kingston, near Taunton. The Bishop of Carlisle had promised to ordain him a priest, but was commanded by the Archbishop of York not to admit him to a higher grade in the Church, on account of his irregularity. This refusal caused Rowland to remark that he "ran off with only one ecclesiastical boot on." After leaving his curacy, he returned to his former course of fieldpreaching, and during the next ten years he visited various parts of England, Wales, and Ireland, London not excepted. "As we are commanded," he once remarked, "to preach the Gospel to every creature, even to the ends of the world, I always conceived that in preaching through England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, I stuck close to my parish." In later life nothing gave him greater pleasure than the occasional offer of a Church of England pulpit, for to the close of his life, although fraternising extensively with the Dissenters, he considered himself a clergyman of the Established Church. The time at length came when his somewhat erratic career was to end in a more settled ministry in the metropolis, and where his former popularity would be still further extended.

Being in London during the riots of 1780, Rowland Hill took advantage of the opportunity afforded him of addressing the large multitudes then assembled in St. George's Fields, sometimes preaching to as many as 20,000 persons. Up to this period of his life, he had exercised his ministry irregularly, preaching in Church of England pulpits when practicable, but more frequently in Dissenting chapels or in the open air. He had, it is said, for some time felt the desirability of a settled ministry, and his wish was soon afterwards carried into effect by some liberal-minded persons coming forward with subscriptions towards the erection of a large chapel in the south of London. The spot selected was in the new road then recently opened from Blackfriars Bridge to the Obelisk. Among the contributors to the proposed chapel were Lord George Gordon, who gave a donation of £50, Lady Huntingdon, and others. The first stone was laid early in 1782, and the building, which cost about £5,000, was opened in June, 1783. From that time till his death, in 1833, Mr. Hill was the minister of the chapel, residing in the adjoining parsonage-house for the long period of fifty years.

When first erected, the chapel stood almost among fields, but in the course of a few years the locality on every side became thickly populated. With regard to the shape of the chapel, Mr. Hill is stated to have once remarked that he liked a round building, for it prevented the devil hiding in any of the corners. Its close proximity to the public road, and the excellence of the singing, for which it was long celebrated, induced many passersby to enter the chapel. Many wealthy persons were regular attendants; and among the occasional visitors were Dean Milner, William Wilberforce, Ambrose Serle, and the Duke of Kent. Sheridan once said, "I go to hear Rowland Hill, because his ideas come red-hot from the heart." Dean Milner once told him, "Mr. Hill, Mr. Hill! I felt to-day—'tis this slap-dash preaching, say what they will, that does all the good;" and the Duke of Kent, in Mr. Hill's parlour, mentioned how much he was struck by the service, especially the singing.

Sir Richard Hill, the brother of Rowland, was one of the first trustees, and a frequent attendant. Although in every particular it was essentially a Dissenting chapel, the liturgical service of the Church of England was regularly used, while the most celebrated preachers of all denominations have occupied the pulpit. For the first few years after the erection of the chapel, Mr. Hill availed himself of the occasional services of clergymen of the Establishment, among whom were the Revs. John Venn and Thomas Scott, and also some eminent Dissenting ministers. But, in 1803, the publication of a satirical pamphlet directed against the Established clergy, entitled "Spiritual Characteristics," having special reference to an Act then recently passed in Parliament, with the object of enforcing the residence of some of the beneficed clergy, and generally believed to have been written by Mr. Hill, resulted in the withdrawal of the services of his clerical friends. It was his usual custom to spend the summer of each year in itinerant preaching in various parts of England and Wales, and during these absences from London his pulpit was regularly supplied by eminent Dissenting ministers. He found time to visit Scotland more than once. The popularity of several of his substitutes was so great that the spacious chapel, which had sittings for about 2,000 persons, was sometimes more crowded than when Rowland Hill was the officiating minister. Very large sums have been annually raised for the various charitable institutions and religious societies connected with Surrey Chapel. The organ, which in its day was considered a powerful instrument, was for many years played by Mr. Jacobs, whose musical ear was so fine that he was selected by Haydn to tune his pianoforte. The singing at Surrey Chapel was long a special feature; and Mr. Hill is said to have once remarked that he "did not see why the devil should have all the good tunes," for in his lifetime and some years afterwards it was a common occurrence to hear certain hymns, composed by Rowland Hill, sung to the tunes of "Rule, Britannia," or the "National Anthem."

The poet Southey, who paid a visit to Surrey Chapel in 1823, when Rowland Hill was in his seventy-ninth year, gives in one of his letters the following particulars:—

"Rowland Hill's pulpit is raised very high; and before it, at about half the height, is the reader's desk on his right, and the clerk's on his left—the clerk being a very grand personage, with a sonorous voice. The singing was so general and so good, that I joined in it. During the singing, after Rowland had made his prayer before the sermon, we were beckoned from our humble places by a gentleman in one of the pews. He was very civil; and by finding out the hymns for me, and presenting me with the book, enabled me to sing, which I did to admiration. Rowland, a fine, tall old man, with strong features, very like his portrait, began by reading three verses for his text, stooping to the book in a very peculiar manner. Having done this, he stood up erect, and said, 'Why, the text is a sermon, and a very weighty one too.' I could not always follow his delivery, the loss of his teeth rendering his words sometimes indistinct, and the more so because his pronunciation is peculiar, generally giving e the sound of ai, like the French. His manner was animated and striking, sometimes impressive and dignified, always remarkable; and so powerful a voice I have rarely or ever heard. Sometimes he took off his spectacles, frequently stooped down to read a text, and on these occasions he seemed to double his body, so high did he stand. He told one or two familiar stories, and used some odd expressions, such as, 'A murrain on those who preach that when we are sanctified we do not grow in grace!' And again, 'I had almost said I had rather see the devil in the pulpit than an Antinomian!' The purport of his sermon was good; nothing fanatical, nothing enthusiastic; and the Calvinism it expressed was so qualified as to be harmless. The manner, that of a performer, as great in his line as Kean or Kemble: and the manner it is which has attracted so large a congregation about him, all of the better order of persons in business."

Mr. Hill sometimes caused his chapel to take a prominent part on public occasions, even in politics. For instance, when the peace of Amiens took place in 1802, he exhibited in front of his chapel an appropriate transparency, with the quaint motto, "May the new-born peace be as old as Methuselah!" When, a few months later, the peace was at an end, and the invasion of this country was threatened by Napoleon, volunteer companies were raised in every district. Mr. Hill at once invited the volunteers in and around the metropolis to come to his chapel to hear a sermon, on the afternoon of the 3rd of December, 1803, on which occasion the building was thronged in every part. Of this service he afterwards remarked, speaking of the volunteers, "I acknowledge that your very respectacle appearance, your becoming deportment while in the house of God, and especially the truly serious and animated manner in which you all stood up to sing the high praises of our God, filled me with solemn surprise, and exhibited before me one of the most affecting scenes I ever beheld." Mr. Hill composed a hymn specially for the occasion, which was sung to the tune of the "National Anthem;" and another commencing thus—
"When Jesus first, at Heaven's command,
Descended from his azure throne,"

which was sung to the air of "Rule, Britannia." After the battle of Waterloo, in which five of his nephews were engaged, a neat transparency, which attracted some attention, was placed in front of the chapel. At the head of it two hands held, on a scroll, the words, "The tyrant is fallen!" Under this came a quotation from Obadiah 3, 4; to which was added, "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth." The subject of the painting was the sun setting on the sea, exhibiting on the shore, to the left, a lion crouching at the foot of a fortress near the trophies of war; and to the right, a lamb lying by the implements of agriculture, with a village church and a cottage before it.

Rowland Hill's labours as a philanthropist are not so generally known as his fame as a preacher. During one of his summer visits to Wotton-underEdge, Gloucestershire, where he had erected a small chapel, he became acquainted with Dr. Jenner, who lived in the vicinity of that village. He soon saw the advantages resulting from vaccination, and henceforward very earnestly recommended the practice of inoculation, publishing, in 1806, a pamphlet on the subject, in which he defended the new proposal from the aspersions of some of its opponents. "This," said he, "is the very thing for me;" and wherever he went to preach on his country excursions, he frequently announced after his sermon, "I am ready to vaccinate to-morrow morning as many children as you choose; and if you wish them to escape that horrid disease, the small-pox, you will bring them." One of the most effective vaccine boards in London was established at Surrey Chapel. At different places he instructed suitable persons in the use of the lancet for this purpose. It has been stated that in a few years the numbers inoculated by him amounted to more than 10,000. It may be further added that the first Sunday School in London was established in Mr. Hill's chapel. (fn. 4)

His untiring exertions on behalf of religious liberty ought not to be forgotten. In the earlier part of the present century a most determined effort was made to subject Dissenting chapels to parochial assessments, or the payment of poor's rates, and the experiment was first tried with Surrey Chapel, on account of its nondescript character. Mr. Hill resisted the attempt, because he regarded it as an invasion of the Toleration Act, which George III., in his first speech from the throne, had pledged himself to maintain inviolable. Mr. Hill and his friends were summoned to attend at the Guildford sessions, and although they gained a temporary success, they were compelled to appear on five subsequent occasions, on each of which the parochial authorities were unsuccessful. The subject was then taken up by the Dissenters generally, Mr. Hill meanwhile publishing a pamphlet on the subject, which soon passed through three editions. His exertions were at last crowned with success by the passing of the Religious Worship Act, which repealed certain Acts relating to religious worship and assemblies, and henceforward set the question for ever at rest. During these inquiries concerning the taxation of Surrey Chapel, it was elicited in evidence that instead of the revenues of the chapel going to Rowland Hill, as was by some persons believed, it turned out that the chapel was vested in the hands of trustees, and after the payment of all expenses incident to public worship, only a small surplus remained. Some person once said of him, "Rowland Hill must get a good annual sum by his chapels and his travelling;" and on this coming to his ears, he remarked, "Well, let any one pay my travelling expenses for one year, and he shall have all my gains, I promise him." He did not relax his labours even in old age, for in one week, when past seventy-one, he travelled a hundred miles in a mountainous part of Wales, and preached twenty-one sermons. During his long ministry of sixty-six years he preached at least 23,000 sermons, many of which were delivered in the open air, being an average of 350 every year.

In the "Picture of London" for 1802 the name of Mr. Rowland Hill is placed at the head of the popular preachers among the "Calvinistic Methodists." He is described as "remarkable for a very vehement kind of eloquence, and on all subjects having the gift of a ready utterance; he is followed," adds the writer, "by the most crowded audiences, chiefly composed of the lower classes of society. . . . . Many of the most popular preachers among the Methodists are ordained ministers of the Established Church, and have no objection to administer the ordinances of religion either in the church, the chapel, the meeting-house, or the open air." As a preacher, he long held a position in the religious world which has never been paralleled, except, perhaps, by Robert Hall. Even Bishop Blomfield declared that Mr. Hill was the best preacher that he had ever heard. On one occasion Bishop Maltby accompanied Dr. Blomfield to the Surrey Chapel. The two bishops were great Greek scholars, and as the preacher floundered in some allusion to the original Greek of his text, the two prelates sat and winked at each other, enjoying the fun.

Mr. J. T. Smith, in his "Book for a Rainy Day," tells an amusing anecdote concerning Rowland Hill, which we may be pardoned for quoting. Mr. Smith narrates how that one Sunday morning, in his younger days, he was passing Surrey Chapel on his way to Camberwell, when the "swelling pipes" of the organ had such an attraction that he was induced to go inside. He then proceeds:—"No sooner was the sermon over and the blessing bestowed, than Rowland electrified his hearers by vociferating, 'Door-keepers, shut the doors!' Slam went one door; bounce went another; bang went a third; at last, all being anxiously silent as the most importantly unexpected scenes of Sir Walter Scott could make them, the pastor, with a slow and dulcet emphasis, thus addressed his congregation:—'My dearly beloved, I speak it to my shame, that this sermon was to have been a charity sermon, and if you will only look down into the green pew at those—let me see—three and three are six, and one makes seven, young men with red morocco prayer-books in their hands, poor souls! they were backsliders, for they went on the Serpentine River, and other far distant waters, on a Sabbath; they were, however, as you see, all saved from a watery grave. I need not tell ye that my exertions were to have been for the benefit of that benevolent institution, the Humane Society. What! I see some of ye already up to be gone; fie! fie! fie!—never heed your dinners; don't be Calibans, nor mind your pockets. I know that some of ye are now attending to the devil's whispers. I say, listen to me! take my advice, give shillings instead of sixpences; and those who intended to give shillings, display half-crowns, in order not only to thwart the foul fiend's mischievousness, but to get your pastor out of this scrape; and if you do, I trust Satan will never put his foot within this circle again. Hark ye! I have hit upon it; ye shall leave us directly. The Bank Directors, you must know, have called in the dollars; now, if any of you happen to be encumbered with a stale dollar or two, jingle the Spanish in our dishes; we'll take them, they'll pass current here. Stay, my friends, a moment more. I am to dine with the Humane Society on Tuesday next, and it would shock me beyond expression to see the strings of the Surrey Chapel bag dangle down its sides like the tags upon Lady Huntingdon's servants' shoulders. Now, mind what I say, upon this occasion I wish for a bumper as strenuously as Master Hugh Peters did when he recommended his congregation in Broadway Chapel to take a second glass.'" Mr. Smith adds, as a foot-note, that it is recorded of Hugh Peters, a celebrated preacher during the usurpation of Oliver Cromwell, that when he found the sand of his hour-glass had descended, he turned it, saying, "Come, I know you to be jolly dogs, we'll take t'other glass."

Mr. Sidney, one of Rowland Hill's biographers, relates an amusing instance of his ready wit. It seems he was accustomed, when in the desk, to read any request for prayer that might be sent in. One day he thus commenced—"'The prayers of this congregation are desired for'—well, I suppose I must finish what I have begun—'the Rev. Rowland Hill, that he will not go riding about in his carriage on Sundays.'" Not in the least disconcerted, Mr. Hill looked up, and gravely said, "If the writer of this piece of folly and impertinence is in the congregation, and will go into the vestry after service, and let me put a saddle on his back, I will ride him home, instead of going in my carriage." He then went on with the service as if nothing unusual had happened. Being reminded of this circumstance many years afterwards by Mr. Sidney, he said it was quite true. "You know I could not call him a donkey in plain terms."

From the Rev. T. W. Aveling's "Memoirs of the Clayton Family" we quote two anecdotes of Rowland Hill:—As he was entering Surrey Chapel, one Sunday morning, Mr. Hill passed two lads, one of whom said to his companion, "Let's go and hear Rowland Hill, and have some fun." The old gentleman went inside the porch, just before the boys, and gave directions to the verger to put them in a certain pew, in front of the pulpit, and fasten the door. This was done. After the prayers were finished, Mr. Hill rose and gave out his text—"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Ps. ix. 17); and looking full into the faces of the two youths, who sat immediately before him, he said, significantly, "And there's fun for you." The congregation, somewhat familiar with the old man's oddities, felt sure that he had a special reason for this strange remark; and when, each time he repeated the text, this singular commentary immediately followed, all looked to see in what direction his glance was turned, and the two lads soon found themselves "the observed of all observers." The tremor and alarm with which they heard the words that reminded them of their design on coming that morning to Surrey Chapel were not diminished when they saw every eye fixed upon them, whichever way they looked; and conscience, "which doth make cowards of us all," wrought so powerfully—in conjunction with Mr. Hill's illustrations of his text—that one of them fainted away, and had to be carried out by his companion. The latter remained comparatively unaffected, except with a temporary feeling of shame. The youth who fainted returned the next Sunday to the chapel; in the course of time he became an Independent minister; and before he died was chairman of the Congregational Union. The other grew up careless and abandoned, and became an outcast from country and friends.


Another anecdote has been related of Mr. Hill, which shows the readiness and wit with which London working men can sometimes retort an unwelcome reproof. One day, going down the New Cut, opposite his chapel, he heard a brewer's drayman, who was lowering some barrels, swearing most fearfully. Rowland Hill rebuked him very solemnly, and said, "Ah, my man! I shall appear one day as a witness against you." "Very likely," rejoined the offender; "the biggest rogues always turn king's evidence!" This unwelcome retort made Mr. Hill resolve to be cautious in future, when he reproved such men again, how he reproved them.

Rowland Hill's biographers inform us that a generous benevolence was a distinguishing trait of his character, and that he seemed to possess the power of inspiring his flock with a similar spirit. On two occasions on which collections were made in the churches and chapels throughout the kingdom (the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd's, and the subscription for the relief of the German sufferers), the collections at Surrey Chapel are recorded to have been the largest raised at any one place. The sum annually raised for charitable and religious institutions at Surrey Chapel has varied from £2,000 to £3,000.

Rowland Hill's death took place in April, 1833, in the eighty-ninth year of his age. Up to the last fortnight of his life he was able to preach a sermon of nearly an hour's duration once every Sunday. He was buried, at his own request, beneath the pulpit of Surrey Chapel. The funeral service was attended by a very large congregation; his nephew, the head of his family, Lord Hill, then Commanderin-Chief of the army, being the chief mourner. A tablet and bust in his memory were placed soon afterwards in the gallery behind the pulpit. His successor in the ministry of Surrey Chapel was the Rev. James Sherman, on whose resignation, in the year 1854, the pulpit became occupied by the Rev. Newman Hall.

Rowland Hill, when advanced in life, became possessed of some fortune; and accordingly, at his decease, he left the large sum of £11,000 to the Village Itinerancy, together with sundry donations to different religious institutions. Besides these bequests, he left a sum of money for the perpetuation of Surrey Chapel at the expiration of the lease; but this gift having subsequently been declared informal, as coming under the Statute of Mortmain, the bequest reverted to Hackney College, and in 1859 the congregation set themselves zealously to work to subscribe a sum equal to that which they had lost (£8,000). As they were unable to obtain a renewal of the lease, a new church was erected in the Westminster Bridge Road, on the site formerly occupied by the Female Orphan Asylum, as we have already stated; (fn. 5) and to this new building the congregation migrated in July, 1876. Since that date Surrey Chapel has been occupied by the Primitive Methodists.

Surrey Chapel became "the centre of a system of benevolent societies designed to reach the various classes of the community;" and in 1812 Rowland Hill established some almshouses in the adjacent Gravel Lane, in a thoroughfare now known as Hill Street, on a spot ominously enough named Hangman's Acre, where twenty-four poor widows found a home. Mr. Charlesworth, in his recently published "Life of Rowland Hill," thus records the eccentric preacher's mode of dealing with applicants:—"An aged female wished to qualify herself for admission to an almshouse by becoming a member of the church. 'So you wish to join the church?'—'If you please, sir.' 'Where have you been accustomed to hear the Gospel?'—'At your blessed chapel, sir.' 'Oh! indeed; at my blessed chapel; dear me! And how long have you attended with us?'—'For several years.' 'Do you think you have got any good by attending the chapel?'—'Oh! yes, sir. I have had many blessed seasons.' 'Indeed! Under whose ministry do you think you were led to feel yourself to be a sinner?'—'Under your blessed ministry.' 'Indeed! And do you think your heart is pretty good?'—'Oh, no! sir; it is a very bad one.' 'What! and do you come here with your bad heart, and wish to join the church?'—'Oh, sir! I mean that my heart is not worse than others; it is pretty good on the whole!' 'Indeed! that's more than I can say; I'm sure mine's bad enough. Well, have you heard that we are going to build some blessed almshouses?'—'Yes, sir, I have.' 'Should you like to have one of them?' Dropping a very low curtsey, she replied, 'Yes, sir, if you please.' 'I thought so. You may go about your business, my friend; you won't do for us.' The severity of this treatment was doubtless justified by Mr. Hill's knowledge of the applicant, and the suspicion of her ulterior object."

On the west side of Blackfriars Road, about midway between Great Charlotte Street and the bridge, is Christ Church, which dates its erection from the middle of the last century. The parish of Christ Church was taken out of that of St. Saviour, Southwark, and was originally part of the district called the Liberty of Paris Garden. This spot, as we have shown in a previous chapter, (fn. 6) was one of the ancient places of amusement of the metropolis; and it seems to have been much frequented on Sundays for bear-baiting, a favourite sport in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Paris Garden, according to the ancient maps, extended from the west end of Bankside and the Liberty of the Clink towards what is now the southern extremity of Blackfriars Bridge. On the east it appears bounded by a mill-stream and mill-pond, and a road marked as leading to Copt Hall; there was also a mill, with gates, between the pond and the Thames. There is, or used to be, a ditch or dyke running across Great Surrey Street; but for some years it has been covered or built upon. All buildings thereon are subject to a ground-rent, payable to "the steward of the manor of Old Paris Garden, and are collected half-yearly. (fn. 7) In the centre of the Liberty stood a cross, from which a narrow thoroughfare, marked "Olde Parris Lane," leads down to the river. On the south-east, a winding thoroughfare, with water on both sides, leads to St. George's Fields; and on the south-west another to the "Manner (sic) House." There are small rows of cottages along parts of these roads.

In early times very few houses stood on this marshy ground; but we have an account of a mansion or manor-house built upon a somewhat elevated part of the marsh, near the river, by one Robert of Paris, in the reign of Richard II.; the locality is still indicated by the name of Upper Ground Street. "It is said," writes the author of "London in the Olden Time," published in 1855, "that the king commanded the butchers of London to purchase this estate by the river-side for the purpose of making it a receptacle for garbage discharged from the city slaughter-houses, so that the inhabitants might not be annoyed therewith. This plot of ground, called Paris Garden—for so it has always been designated—is, or was, surrounded by the Thames and its waters which flow through ditches at high tides."

It appears that subsequently this estate of Robert of Paris came into the possession of the prior and monks of Bermondsey Abbey; but on the dissolution of the monasteries it was sold, and fell into lay hands. About one hundred and fifty years afterwards, in the reign of William and Mary, we find Paris Garden an inhabited locality, the property of a gentleman named Marshall, who founded and endowed here a church, which he named Christ Church, having obtained an Act of Parliament converting the ancient manor of Paris Garden into a parish under that name.

The first church was erected at the expense of Mr. Marshall, and finished in 1671. The steeple and spire, which were 125 feet high, were not completed till 1695. This edifice, in consequence of the badness of the foundations, soon became so dilapidated, that in 1737 Mr. Marshall's trustees applied to Parliament for power to rebuild it, with the sum of £2,500, which had accumulated in their hands from the trust, and obtained an Act for that purpose. The present structure was accordingly erected. This is situated in a spacious burialground. The plan of the fabric is nearly square; and at the west end is a square tower, flanked by lobbies. The walls are of brick, with stone dressings. The tower is built partly within and partly without the wall of the church; it is in three storeys: the lower has an arched doorway, with a circular window over it, and the second and third storeys each have arched windows. An octagon turret of wood rises above the parapet in two stages, the lower forming the plinth to the other; in four of the faces are dials, and the whole is finished with a cupola and vane. The general appearance of the body of the church is plain and uninteresting, both externally and internally. The great east window contains some ornamented stained glass and a painting of the descending dove; in the side lights are the arms of the see of Winchester, impaled with those of Izaak Walton's "good Bishop Morley," who was bishop of that diocese at the time of the consecration of the church.

In Church Street, about the year 1730, Mr. Charles Hopton founded a row of almshouses for twenty-six "decayed housekeepers," each of whom received £10 per annum and a chaldron of coals.

At a short distance northward of Christ Church, Stamford Street branches off westwards from Blackfriars Road, and thus forms a connecting link with that thoroughfare and Waterloo Bridge Road. It is a good broad street, dating from the beginning of this century; and, with York Road westward of it and Southwark Street to the east, serves as a direct communication, almost parallel with the river, from the High Street, Borough, to Westminster Bridge and Lambeth. On the south side of Stamford Street is a chapel, built about the year 1824, for the Unitarians. The building, from an architectural point of view, forms a striking contrast with the generality of chapels and meetinghouses. A portico, of the Grecian Doric order, occupies the whole front of the edifice, and imparts to it a commanding and temple-like aspect. The wall within this portico is unbroken by any other aperture than a single door, forming the entrance to the building. The interior corresponds with the exterior in simplicity of taste and in the style of its decoration, which is of that plainness that it might even satisfy a congregation of Quakers.

Nearly opposite the above-mentioned chapel, at the corner of Hatfield Street, is the Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, an institution which since its establishment, in 1841, has done a deal of good in the gratuitous medical treatment of the poor afflicted with cutaneous diseases. This institution was originally established in New Bridge Street, Blackfriars, and from 800 to 1,000 of the suffering poor are every week relieved here.

In Duke Street, close by, are the extensive printing works of the Messrs. Clowes and Sons. This is one of the largest establishments of the kind in the kingdom, and from its presses have issued many of the works of Charles Dickens, Charles Knight, and other eminent men of letters, as well as the publications of the "Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales," numerous military works, and statistical reports for various Government offices. The firm, in 1840, undertook the contract for supplying the famous Mulready envelope. The Mirror stated that they arranged to supply the public with half a million a day; but the design was distasteful to the public, and the envelope was speedily recalled.

At the corner of Stamford Street and Blackfriars Road, on the spot now occupied by the Central Bank of London and three or four large houses adjoining it, stood, till 1874, a row of tenements, which for many years previously, owing to the eccentricity of their owner, a Miss Angelina Read, had been allowed to remain unoccupied. They had long been windowless, and the dingy rooms encumbered with dirt and rubbish and overrun with rats; indeed, such a forlorn and desolate aspect had they assumed that they became generally known as "the haunted houses." In the above year, Miss Read having bequeathed them to the Consumption Hospital at Brompton, they were demolished, and some fine buildings have been erected in their place.

A few doors northwards of Stamford Street, on the west side of Blackfriars Road, is the building once occupied by the museum collected by Sir Ashton Lever, and removed hither from Leicester Square, (fn. 8) when it became the property of a Mr. Parkinson. The following is a fac-simile of an advertisement of the exhibition, taken from a London newspaper of March, 1790:—

The Surrey End of Black Friars Bridge.

This admired Assemblage of the Productions of Nature and Art, with several curious and valuable additions, both presented and purchased, continues to be exhibited every day (Sundays excepted) from Ten to Six.

Admittance Half a Crown each person.

Good Fires in the Rotunda, &c.

Recently added to the Museum, a variety of Specimens of the most rare and beautiful Birds from GUAYANA, in SOUTH AMERICA.

Annual Admission Tickets may be had at the Museum, at One Guinea each.

Part the First of the Catalogue of this Collection may be had at the following places:—Messrs. White and Son, in Fleet Street; Mr. Robson, in New Bond Street, Mr. Elmsly, in the Strand; Mr. Sewell, in Cornhill; and at the Museum. Price 2s. 6d.

This curious, extensive, and valuable collection here experienced the most mortifying neglect, till, in 1806, it was finally dispersed by public auction, in a sale which lasted forty days. The premises were subsequently occupied by the Surrey Institution, which was established in the following year. Here some gentlemen proposed to form an institution on the Surrey side of the river, on a plan similar to that of the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street. It was intended to have a series of lectures, an extensive library and reading-rooms, a chemical laboratory and philosophical apparatus, &c. In 1820 this valuable institution was dissolved, the library, &c., being sold by auction. After that, the building, which was called the Rotunda, was occupied for some years as a wine and concertroom. In September, 1833, it was opened as the Globe Theatre. Two years previously it had been appropriated to all kinds of purposes, including the dissemination of the worst religious and political opinions, and penny exhibitions of wax-work and wild beast shows. In 1838 the Rotunda was again opened as a concert-room; but the concern never prospered, and its vicissitudes afterwards are not worth noting. It was finally closed as a place of amusement about the year 1855, and the building is now used for business purposes, being known as the Rotunda Auction and Sale Rooms.

At the foot of Blackfriars Bridge formerly stood a range of buildings, which at one time constituted part of the Albion Mills. This extensive concern was set on foot by a company of spirited and opulent individuals, with the view of counteracting the impositions but too frequently practised in the grinding of corn. On the 3rd of March, 1791, the whole building, with the exception of the corner wing, occupied as the house and offices of the superintendent, was destroyed by fire, together with four thousand sacks of flour which it contained. When these mills were burnt down, Horace Walpole was not ashamed to own that he had literally never seen or heard of them, though the flakes and the dust of burning grain were carried as far as Westminster, Palace Yard, and even to St. James's. "One may live," writes Walpole, "in a vast capital, and know no more of three-parts of it than of Carthage. When I was in Florence I have surprised some Florentines by telling them that London is built (like their city, where you often cross the bridges several times in a day) on each side of the river, and yet that I had never been but on one side; for then I had never been in Southwark." What would Horace Walpole have said of London, had he lived in the reign of Victoria?

The front of the mill remained for many years unrepaired, but was subsequently formed into a row of handsome private habitations. These, in turn, were demolished a few years ago, to make room for the Blackfriars station and goods depôt on the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway.

Somewhere near this spot, at no great distance from the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge, stood the most westerly of the play-houses on Bankside—the Swan Theatre. It was a large house, and flourished only a few years, being suppressed at the commencement of the civil wars, and soon afterwards demolished.

Before the building of Blackfriars Bridge, in 1766, there was a ferry at this spot for the conveyance of traffic across the river. An idea of the value of some of the ferries on the Thames may be formed from the circumstance that on the construction of this bridge the committee of management agreed to invest the Waterman's Company with £13,650 Consolidated Three per Cent. Annuities, to satisfy them for the loss of the Sunday ferry at Blackfriars, which was proved to have produced, upon an average for fourteen years, the sum of £409,000.
1 See Vol. II., p. 539.
2 See Vol. I., p. 329.
3 See ante, p. 164.
4 See ante, p. 71.
5 See ante, pp. 350, 362.
6 See ante, p. 53.
7 Notes and Queries, 1854.
8 See Vol. III., p. 165.


Theatre Royal, The Haymarket

In 1720, John Potter built his modest little theatre, the ‘Little Theatre in the Hay’, nestling beside the ‘Cannon and Musket’ gun shop, on the current site of the Kings Head tavern.  Following the introduction of Walpole's Licensing Act, in 1737, the theatre was closed down, effectively, for the next eight years and the Censorship Bill, with all its powers, was not abolished until 1968. The theatre reopened in 1741 under the management of the celebrated classical actor, Charles Macklin.

1754 brought Samuel Foote to the the Hay Market, as successor to John Potter, and the grant of the Royal Patent valid only in the summer months, and only until Foote’s death.  When Foote died unexpectedly 1777, the patent expired but George Colman purchased the theatre from Foote's estate and the Colmans, father and son, were able to continue operating the Haymarket theatre under the Lord Chamberlain's license renewed annually.  

After several years, Morris (as successor to the Colmans obtained a 99 year Lease from the Crown for the sum of £356 nine and six pence. A new era began for the Theatre Royal, marked by yet another renovation.

Section under development

1820 – John Nash
John Nash : the new Theatre Royal Haymarket

In 1820, deciding that London was looking tired and old, the Prince Regent instructed architect John Nash to enhance the appearance of the city, redesigning its shabby fronticepieces with new awe-inspiring glamour. Nash had particular plans for the modest little Haymarket Theatre, envisaging a lofty, elegant frontage with a spectacular theatre behind. For optimum impact however, the architect insisted the whole building be shifted, south of where it stood, so that it may line up with St James’s Square. Morris of course agreed, and the work began.

On the 4th of July 1821, the new Theatre Royal Haymarket opened with a production of Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’. Nash’s new Haymarket Theatre was in many ways the same as the last. The interior sidewalls were still flat, all three with three tiers of boxes and containing the back gallery and the pit. The crucial difference lay in the splendour of the whole. The décor was ornate and opulent; the colours were pink, crimson and gold and the proscenium arch was supported by two massive marble pillars, lined at their tops with spectacular golden palm fronts. The theatre also sported what is now one of the few surviving raked stages, slanting away from the audience so that the actor, moving back, could be more clearly seen. Through the ensuing season, theatrical legends such as Edmund Kean graced this new stage, playing King Lear and Richard III among others.

1837 – Benjamin Webster
Benjamin Webster : the Royal Box

In 1837, Benjamin Webster succeeded Morris, placing the theatre once again in the hands of an actor-playwright. Under Webster’s watch, a progression of the finest actors, including the great William Macready, trod the boards, and a young Queen Victoria became a regular attendee. The Queen was to become friendly with Webster and, as a result, the Royal Receiving Room (now the VIP Room) and the Royal Box (now Box No.1) were created.

Actor John Buckstone was next in line for the theatre, having played its stage for 20 years. Buckstone, also a firm friend of the Queen, brought many an innovation to the schedule, at one time running a series of up to 4 plays, back to back in one evening, which brought the final curtain crashing down at an impressive 1am. This he juxtaposed with a string of fast-paced farces bringing comedy back to the theatre.

One notable success was Tom Taylor’s, My American Cousin, which involved one ‘Lord Dudreary’, who took London men’s fashion scene by storm with his dandified manner, elegant clothes and a set of outrageous whiskers curled to his shoulders. The demand for his look was (rather inexplicably) huge and even prompted a new entry in the dictionary.

This now legendary character was created by actor Edward Southern and the play ran for 500 nights, the first extended run in theatrical History, making Buckstone a phenomenal sum of £30,000.

1879 – Bancroft and Beerbohm Tree
Squire & Marie Bancroft and Herbert Beerbohm Tree : the proscenium arch

In 1879, Squire and Marie Bancroft took the lease, altering the layout of the theatre once again. Doing away with the pink marble, they built a magnificent proscenium arch in the form of a gold frame and did away with the pit, to install the stalls as we know them today. The alterations caused uproar among the regular ‘patrons of the pit’, but in time they were placated, not least by the introduction of a new bar.

The Bancrofts also introduced matinees, which remained for five strong years, until the theatre was taken in hand by the great Herbert Beerbohm Tree.

A leading light in the London theatre scene, the larger than life Beerbohm Tree attracted glittering, fashionable audiences to his Opening Nights. One of the great actor/managers of the Victorian and Edwardian periods, all who met him fell under his spell. All but for George Bernard Shaw, at the time a critic, who had less than flattering words to impart about his acting prowess.

These were wonderful days at the Haymarket, with audiences littered with the likes of Shaw and Oscar Wilde, swanning through the halls backstage, sparring with Beerbohm Tree, insisting on having cardboard tickets printed just for him.

Two of Wilde’s most famous plays premiered at the Haymarket during this time, ‘A Woman of No Importance’ and ‘An Ideal Husband’, and Wilde, much in attendance, was a lively presence in the Royal Box.

Taking for himself the role of ‘Falstaff’, Tree also brought Shakespeare back to the Haymarket, along with George Du Maurier’s ‘Trilby’ in which he saw himself as the ugly, evilhypnotist ‘Svengali’. He and Du Maurier cast the unknown young Dorothea Baird as the heroine ‘Trilby’, to huge success, making Tree a fortune.

After 10 years in spectacular management, Tree moved across the road, knocked down Vanbrugh’s old Theatre and built Her Majesty’s Theatre, moving in as the owner, the star, the director and producer, even living in the theatre.

New technology facilitated the expansion: iron columns replaced bulky wood, supporting five tiers of galleries. The stage was large, too: 83 feet (25 m) wide and 92 feet (28 m) deep. Holland, the architect, said it was "on a larger scale than any other theatre in Europe." Except for churches, it was the tallest building in London.[37]

The "very popular notion that our theatres ought to be very small" proved hard to overcome, however. Various accounts from the period bemoan the mammoth size of the new theatre, longing for the "warm close observant seats of Old Drury," as one May 1794 theatre-goer put it.[38] Actress Sarah Siddons, then part of the Drury Lane company, called it "a wilderness of a place" (and left Drury Lane along with her brother John Philip Kemble in 1803). Not only was any sense of intimacy and connection to the company on stage lost, but the very size of the theatre put a great deal of the audience at such a distance from the stage so as to make hearing a player's voice quite difficult. To compensate, the productions mounted in the new theatre tended more toward spectacle than the spoken word.[37] An example of such a spectacle is a 1794 production that featured real water flowing down a rocky stream into a lake large enough on which to row a boat. This water issued from tanks in the attics above the house, which were installed – along with a much-touted iron safety curtain – as proof against fire.[39]
After standing only 15 years, the third Drury Lane theatre building burned down on 24 February 1809. This painting from the period, artist unknown, shows the view of the fire from the Westminster Bridge.

Richard Sheridan continued as theatre owner during the entire lifetime of this third building. He had grown in stature as a statesman during this time, but troubled finances were to be his undoing. The 1794 rebuilding had cost double the original estimate of £80,000, and Sheridan bore the entirety of the debt. Productions were more expensive to mount in the larger structure, and increased audience revenues failed to make up the difference.[40]

An assassination attempt against King George III took place at the theatre on 15 May 1800. James Hadfield fired two pistol shots from the pit toward the King, sitting in the royal box. The shots missed by inches, Hadfield having been jostled by a Mr Dyte.[41] Hadfield was quickly subdued, and George, apparently unruffled, ordered the performance to continue.[42]

On 24 February 1809, despite the previously mentioned fire safety precautions, the theatre burned down. On being encountered drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire, Sheridan was famously reported to have said: "A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside."[43] Already on the shakiest financial ground, Sheridan was ruined entirely by the loss of the building. He turned to brewer Samuel Whitbread, an old friend, for help.[44] As well as investing strongly in the project, Whitbread agreed to head a committee that would manage the company and oversee the rebuilding of the theatre, but asked Sheridan to withdraw from management himself, which he did entirely by 1811.[45]
Modern theatre: 1812
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The present-day Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, sketched when it was new, in 1813

The present Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, designed by Benjamin Dean Wyatt on behalf of the committee led by Whitbread, opened on 10 October 1812 with a production of Hamlet featuring Robert Elliston in the title role. The new theatre made some concessions toward intimacy, seating 3,060 people, about 550 fewer than the earlier building (though this size is still considered an extremely large theatre). On 6 September 1817, gas lighting was extended from the audience area to the stage, making it the first British theatre to be gaslit throughout.[46] In 1820 the portico that still stands at the theatre's front entrance on Catherine Street was added, and in 1822 the interior underwent a significant remodelling. The colonnade running down the Russell Street side of the building was added in 1831.[47]

Productions relying more on scenery and effects than on dialogue and acting remained commonplace in the new facility. The 1823 production of Cataract of the Ganges had a finale featuring a horseback escape up a flowing cataract "with fire raging all around."[48] Effects for an 1829 production were produced by hydraulic apparatus that reportedly could discharge 39 tons of water.[49]

There were those concerned that the theatre was failing in its role as one of the very few permitted to show legitimate drama. Management of the theatre after it reopened in 1813 fell to Samuel James Arnold, overseen by an amateur board of directors and a subcommittee focusing on the theatre as a centre for national culture. (Lord Byron was briefly on this subcommittee, from June 1815 until leaving England in April 1816.)[50] Actor Edmund Kean was the on-stage highlight; like Macklin before him, he made his reputation as Shylock, premiering in the role in 1814. Kean remained until 1820 through praise and notorious disputes with local playwrights such as Charles Bucke,[51] but despite his popularity, the committee-led efforts to appeal to culture yet still turn a profit eventually proved a failure, and in 1819 the theatre and all its accompanying rights were leased to Robert Elliston.
The last scene of a critically acclaimed 1865 performance of Shakespeare's King John at the theatre, as depicted in the Illustrated London News.

Elliston went bankrupt and was unable to renew his lease in 1826. An American, Stephen Price, followed (1826–1830); then through most of the remainder of the 19th century, Drury Lane passed quickly from one set of hands to another. A colonnade was added to the Russell Street frontage, in 1831, by architect Samuel Beazley.[52] In 1833, Alfred Bunn gained control of both Drury Lane and Covent Garden, managing the former from 1833 to 1839, and again from 1843 to 1850. Following the lead of the Lyceum Theatre, London, Bunn championed English opera, rather than the Italian operas that had played earlier at the theatre. These included Fair Rosamond and Farinelli by John Barnett; a series of twelve operas by Michael Balfe including The Maid of Artois and The Bohemian Girl; Maritana and others by William Vincent Wallace and several by Julius Benedict.[53] In 1837, actor-manager Samuel Phelps (1804–1878) joined the company at Drury Lane, appearing with William Charles Macready, the gifted actor-manager in a number of Shakespeare plays. He also created the role of Captain Channel in Douglas Jerrold's melodrama, The Prisoner of War (1842), and of Lord Tresham in Robert Browning's A Blot in the 'Scutcheon (1843).[54] Macready was briefly manager in 1841–1843, putting significant reforms in place. Nevertheless, most productions there were financial disasters.[55]

The theatrical monopoly first bestowed by Royal Letters Patent 183 years earlier was abolished by the Theatres Act 1843, but the patent had been largely toothless for decades and this had little immediate effect. On the other hand, other theatres, used to presenting musical entertainments, continued to do so, and Drury Lane continued as one of the most accepted venues for legitimate theatre. The 19th-century run of financial and artistic failures at Drury Lane was interrupted by four plays produced over a twenty-five-year period by the actor-playwright Dion Boucicault: The Queen of Spades (1851), Eugenie (1855), Formosa (1869), and The Shaughraun (1875). But this period of general decline culminated with F. B. Chatterton's 1878 resignation; in his words, "Shakespeare spells ruin, and Byron bankruptcy."[27] During the 19th century, Drury Lane staged ballet as well, with performers including Italy's Carlotta Grisi.[56]

One famous musical director of Drury Lane was the eccentric French conductor and composer of light music Louis-Antoine Jullien (1812–1860), who successfully invited Berlioz to visit London and give concerts in the Theatre.[57]
Pantomime characters from the Augustus Harris era including Dan Leno, Marie Lloyd and Little Tich by Phil May

The house's fortunes rose again under the management of Augustus Harris from 1879. In the 1880s and 1890s, the theatre hosted many of the productions of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. Harris focused increased resources on the theatre's annual pantomime, beginning at Christmas 1888, adding a well-known comedian, Dan Leno. These spectacular Christmas shows were a major success, often playing into March. They were choreographed by the theatre's dance master, John D'Auban. Many of the designs under Harris were created by the imaginative designer C. Wilhelm, including the spectacular drama, Armada (1888), and many of the pantomimes.[58] Productions relying on spectacle became the norm at Drury Lane under the managements first of Harris, from 1879 to 1896, and then of Arthur Collins from 1896 to 1923.[27] Examples include the successful 1909 play, The Whip, which featured not only a train crash complete with hissing steam, but also a horserace: twelve real horses jockeying on an on-stage treadmill.

The last major interior renovation was in 1922 under the ownership of managing director Sir Alfred Butt at a cost of £150,000,[59] leaving a four-tiered theatre able to seat just over 2,000 people.[60] It was decorated with one of the most notable interiors produced by the specialist ornamental plasterwork company of Clark and Fenn.[61] Composer and performer Ivor Novello, immensely popular in his time though little-remembered today, presented his musicals in Drury Lane from 1931 until the theatre was closed in 1939 because of World War II. During the war the theatre served as the headquarters for the Entertainments National Service Association; it sustained some minor bomb damage as well. The theatre reopened with Noël Coward's Pacific 1860 in 1946.[27]
Oliver! bill board at the theatre in 2009.

In the post-war years, a number of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals made their London debuts in Drury Lane, including Oklahoma! (1946), South Pacific (1951) and The King and I (1953). American imports also included Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady, which began a five-year run in 1958.[27] Comedy troupe Monty Python also performed one of their reunion shows here.

The theatre became part of the West End theatre scene and still stages popular musical productions. It is owned and managed by Really Useful Theatres, a division of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group.[citation needed] The seating plan for the theatre remains the same and the auditorium is still one of the largest in London's West End. The building was Grade I listed by English Heritage in February 1958.[62] It is one of the 40 theatres featured in the 2012 DVD documentary series Great West End Theatres, presented by Donald Sinden.[63] The seating plan offers seats at various prices, with premium seats in the front of the stalls and at the front of the Dress Circle.[citation needed]

Long-running productions include 42nd Street (1984–89) and Miss Saigon (1989–1999). A staging of Mel Brooks' musical The Producers closed in January 2007. The theatre then hosted a musical adaptation of The Lord of the Rings from May 2007 through July 2008.[citation needed]

Sir Cameron Mackintosh's new production of Oliver! began in December 2008, starring the winners of the reality show I'd Do Anything. Laurence Jeffcoate, Harry Stott and Gwion Wyn Jones shared the role of Oliver, while Jodie Prenger appeared in the role of Nancy. The musical continued to play at the theatre until January 2011.[citation needed]

The next show to open from May 2011 was Shrek the Musical, based on the 2001 Dreamworks animated film, and the book by William Steig. It featured Amanda Holden and ran for two years, closing in February 2013.[citation needed]

Roddy Frame performed a concert at the theatre in December 2013.[64]
Theatre Royal Druy Lane 350th Anniversary

On 15 May 2013, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber revealed a £4m restoration of the theatre to mark its 350th anniversary. Using a team of specialist heritage tradesmen,[65] the detailed restoration has returned the public areas of the Rotunda, Royal Staircases and Grand Saloon, all of which were part of the 1810 theatre, to their original Regency style.[66]
Drury Lane Theatre Royal Ghosts

Drury Lane has been called one of the world's most haunted theatres.[67] The appearance of almost any one of the handful of ghosts that are said to frequent the theatre signals good luck for an actor or production. The most famous ghost is the "Man in Grey", who appears dressed as a nobleman of the late 18th century: powdered hair beneath a tricorne hat, a dress jacket and cloak or cape, riding boots and a sword. Legend says that the Man in Grey is the ghost of a knife-stabbed man whose skeletal remains were found within a walled-up side passage in 1848.[68]

The ghosts of actor Charles Macklin and clown Joseph Grimaldi are supposed to haunt the theatre. Macklin appears backstage, wandering the corridor which now stands in the spot where, in 1735, he killed fellow actor Thomas Hallam in an argument over a wig ("Goddamn you for a blackguard, scrub, rascal!" he shouted, thrusting a cane into Hallam's face and piercing his left eye).[69] Grimaldi is reported to be a helpful apparition, purportedly guiding nervous actors skilfully about the stage on more than one occasion. The comedian Stanley Lupino claimed to have seen the ghost of Dan Leno in a dressing room.[70]
See also

Bristol Old Vic
Rose Theatre


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"Definition from the Everything 2 website". Everything2.com. 6 January 2002. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
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Hartnoll. See also this scale reconstruction, crediting Richard Leacroft, The Development of the English Playhouse, Eyre Methuen Ltd 1973, p. 83.
Pepys diary for May 1663. From www.pepys.info.
Beauclerk p. 60.
Spiers, Theatres.
Spiers, Theatres, citing Thomas, David (1989). Restoration and Georgian England 1660–1788 (Theatre in Europe: A Documentary History). Cambridge University Press. p. 66.
Milhous pp. 15–26.
"Apparently the King's Company had no strong, centralized management ... Of course Killigrew would have had trouble getting Mohun's troupe to accept the kind of absolute control Davenant was able to impose upon his fledglings. But squabbles over management and shares were to characterize the King's Company throughout its stormy career, and ultimately they led to its downfall" (Milhous p. 12).
Pepys' 19 March 1666 s:Diary of Samuel Pepys/1666/March#19th describes a visit to the play house during the renovations, noting "God knows when they will begin to act again." For the royal order closing the playhouses see Latham & Matthews 'Diary of Samuel Pepys,' vol vii (1666), p. 76 note 5.
First published by Hamilton Bell "Contributions to the History of the English Playhouse," Architectural Record XXXIII (I913, it has been unquestionably accepted as an accurate representation of Drury Lane in 1674 on no more than a presumption in plate 5a in Volume 35 of The Survey of London; Peter Holland, The Ornament of Action (1979), 30; J. L. Styan, Restoration Comedy in Performance 1986, 20; Richard Leacroft, The Development of the English Playhouse (1970). Most recently, for example, supervisors of Graduate College of Bowling Green State University allowed Hope Celeste Bernar to inadvertently reproduce it on page 108 of her "Playing (with) Space in the Author on the Wheel." Diss. PhD. May 2009 as "Wren’s drawing provides detailed evidence of Theatre Royal Drury Lane’s design.
E. A. Langhans Theatre Notebook 18 (1964), 98, Mark A. Howell, Theatre Notebook 49.1 (1995), 52–3 and 49.2–3), Graham Barlow ("From Tennis Courts to Opera House", Phd. Diss.I, 99 submitted 1984 to University of Glasgow", 100; Dr. Tim Keenan '"Scaenes With Four Doors": Real And Virtual Doors On Early Restoration Stages', Theatre Notebook, 65.2, (2011), 62–81 have each separately weighed up different types of evidence to agree that the safest conclusion is that the theatre shown in this sectional drawing was probably never built.
Players, Playwrights, Playhouses: Investigating Performance, 1660–1800, ed. Michael Cordner and Peter Holland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 23
This illustration erroneously appears everywhere under the title "Wren's design of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1674". David Wilmore (Theatresearch) and Professor David Thomas went further. They jointly recorded a television programme, from inside the current Drury Lane auditorium, showing how the Theatre Royal might have looked in 1674 using this anonymous drawing. During the programme, Professor Thomas repeatedly described this drawing as "by Wren", forgetting that Wren's signature is missing from the drawing.
15. See: Kathleen Barker, The Theatre Royal Bristol, 1766–1966: Two Centuries of Stage History (Society for Theatre Research, 1976), 8; Mark A. Howell, "Planning Provincial Theatres Under the 1737 Stage Licensing Act", Theatre Notebook 43 (1989), 104–119, and Walter Ison, The Georgian Buildings of Bristol. An extensive archive on its surviving Theatre Royal exists at Bristol Record Office, Bristol Reference Library and Bristol University Theatre Collection .
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Stone, p. 80.
Nagler p. 208.
The Georgian Playhouse (1948). Stone, pp. 80–81.
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Milhous pp. 37–40, 56–57.
A Comparison Between the Two Stages, 1702, quoted by Milhous, 82.
Milhous p. 82.
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Mackintosh p. 20.
King, David (2001). Complete Works of Robert and James Adam and Unbuilt Adam. Architectural Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0-7506-4468-0.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition.
Auburn p. 42.
McConnell Stott, pp. 45–46
McConnell Stott, pp. 117–118
Grimaldi (Boz edition), pp. 117–119
Thomson p. 310 specifies 3611.
Mackintosh p. 34.
John Byng, later Viscount Torrington. (Mackintosh p. 35.)
Bradby et al. p. 92.
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"This day, May 15, in Jewish history". Cleveland Jewish News.
Fraser, Antonia (2000). The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England. University of California Press. p. 287. ISBN 0-520-22460-4.
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Morning Chronicle, 7 July 1815.
Auburn p. 45.
"Theatres Compete in Race to Install Gas Illumination - 1817". Over The Footlights. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
Details in this paragraph from Thomson p. 310.
Bradby et al. pp. 103–104.
Bradby et al. p. 103.
Bone, Drummond ed. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Byron. Cambridge University Press. p. 135. ISBN 0-521-78676-2.
The Works of Lord Byron, footnote p. 202
Earl and Sell, p. 268 (2000)
Gordon-Powell, Robin. Ivanhoe, full score, Introduction, vol. I, p. VII, 2008, The Amber Ring
"Profile of the theatre from". Victorian Web. 9 May 2007. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
Thomson p. 310.
Pasi, Mario et al. (1980). Aguilar, ed. El Ballet Enciclopedia del Arte Coreográfico. Aguilar.
"Jullien biographical site". Louisjullien.site.voila.fr. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
"Mr. Pitcher's Art" – Obituary, The Times, 3 March 1925
'The Theatre Royal: Management', Survey of London: volume 35: The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1970), pp. 9-29. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=100227 Date accessed: 23 February 2014.
Historic Machinery Restorations at London's Royal Theatre in Drury Lane, Dorothea Restorations. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
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English Heritage listing details. Retrieved 28 April 2007. Archived October 30, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
Fisher, Philip. "Great West End Theatres", British Theatre Guide, 19 February 2012
"Roddy Frame - Release - Theatre Royal, Drury Lane 01/12/2013" (Video upload). Alistair Burns on YouTube. Google Inc. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
Locker & Riley completes plaster restoration work at the prestigious Theatre Royal Drury Lane from SpecFinish Magazine http://www.specfinish.co.uk/latest-news/locker-riley-complete-restoration-at-drury-lane/ Last accessed 21 March 2014
Andrew Lloyd Webber reveals £4m restoration of Drury Lane's Theatre Royal from The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-news/10059884/Lord-Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-reveals-4m-restoration-of-The-Theatre-Royal-Drury-Lane.html
All haunting details from Ogden, Tom (1999). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings. Alpha Books. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-02-863659-7.
Morley, Sheridan Theatre's Stranges Acts Robson Books 2006 ISBN 978-1-86105-674-0 p.26 Google Books
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Auburn, Mark S. (1995). "Theatre in the age of Garrick and Sheridan". In James Morwood, David Crane eds. Sheridan Studies. Cambridge University Press. pp. 7–46. ISBN 0-521-46466-8.
Bradby, David; Jame, Louis; Sharratt, Bernard (1981). Performance and Politics in Popular Drama. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-28524-0.
Earl, John and Sell, Michael Guide to British Theatres 1750–1950, pp. 107–8 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
Faul, Michel (2006). Louis Jullien: musique, spectacle et folie au XIXe siècle. Atlantica. ISBN 2-35165-038-7.
Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. (1983). The Oxford Companion to the Theatre (4th ed.). London: Oxford University Press. pp. 230–232. ISBN 0-19-211546-4.
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External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

The fourth and present building opened in 1812. It was designed by Benjamin Wyatt and the front of house areas today are much as they were at the first performance. In early 2013 the front of house areas were all refurbished with a major decoration project restoring the areas as closely as possible to the original 1812 scheme. The building was financed by a ‘Committee of Renters’ recruited by the brewer Samuel Whitbread, and Lord Byron was chairman of the board. It was here that Edmund Kean became a star overnight with his performance of Shylock, where the great clown Joseph Grimaldi gave his farewell benefit performance and where Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell triumphed in a series of spectacular pantomimes. Drury Lane became famous throughout the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries for producing spectacles under the guidance of its adventurous managers, most notably F B Chatterton, Augustus Harris, Arthur Collins and Alfred Butt. Scenes staged included chariot races in Ben Hur, the Derby and an earthquake in The Hope, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in Youth, a train crash in The Whip, sinking ships, air balloons, underwater fights, the Chelsea Flower Show, Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors, the flooding of Paris and Alpine avalanches.

CavalcadeShrek The Musical was the latest all-singing, all-dancing spectacular to grace the stage of ‘The Lane’, which since the 1920s has become London’s major home for the lavish musical. Rose Marie introduced the American singer and actress Edith Day (1924-27) who went on to head the casts of The Desert Song (1927-28), in which Anna Neagle also made her stage debut, and Show Boat (1928) with Cedric Hardwicke and Paul Robeson. The New Moon (1929) starred Evelyn Laye who received ‘torrents of applause’ and included a blazing pirate ship as one of its scenic attractions.

Noël Coward had a major success with Cavalcade (1931). Produced by C.B. Cochrane, the cast of 400 included a young John Mills and set-pieces included a troopship setting sail, the relief of Mafeking and Queen Victoria’s funeral. Coward’s post-war musical Pacific 1860 (1946) starred Mary Martin but did not tap into the public psyche so well and closed after four months.

Ivor NovelloDrury Lane also hosted most of Ivor Novello’s major successes. Glamorous Night (1935), Careless Rapture (1936), Crest of the Wave (1937) and The Dancing Years (1939) all had audiences flocking to the theatre. Novello starred in all of the productions and in true Drury Lane fashion introduced as many major scenic effects as possible, including sinking ships, a fair on Hampstead Heath, a train crash and an earthquake.

During the Second World War the theatre was the home base for ENSA and received a direct hit from a gas bomb which, fortunately, did not explode but did destroy the rear of the auditorium.

The Lane was taken over for almost a decade by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II with a succession of ground-breaking hits. Oklahoma! (1947-50) originally starred Howard Keel, Carousel (1950-51), Mary Martin in South Pacific (1951-53) andThe King and I (1953-56) with Valerie Hobson and Herbert Lom were all big hits. A revival of The Boys from Syracuse (1963) with Bob Monkhouse and Ronnie Corbett did not fare so well.

My Fair Lady (1958-63) opened with the original Broadway cast of Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway, and Cecil Beaton’s costume designs, so familiar from the film version. Cameron Mackintosh’s revival of the show transferred here from the National Theatre in 2001 starring Jonathan Pryce.My Fair Lady

Camelot (1964-65) was an enormous spectacle and Mary Martin returned to the theatre in Hello, Dolly! (1965-67). Dora Bryan took over the leading role in 1966 to great acclaim. Ginger Rogers flew in for another Jerry Herman extravaganza in Mame (1969) and Harold Fielding produced the surprise hit The Great Waltz (1970-72) and a musical version of Gone with the Wind (1972).

Michael Crawford became a star overnight in Billy (1974-76), with Roy Castle succeeding him, and Michael Bennett’s A Chorus Line (1976-79) opened with its American company before equally talented British chorines became the ‘singular sensation’.

Miss SaigonThe original production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (1980) starred Denis Quilley and Sheila Hancock, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1981) was deemed a little too risqué and The Pirates of Penzance (1982), in a newly scored production by Joseph Papp, was a genuine crowd pleaser. 42nd Street (1984-89) made tap dancing fashionable again and was enormously popular.

Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Miss Saigon (1989-99) holds the record as the theatre’s longest-running show, with a total of 4,263 performances. The helicopter landed at almost every one of them!

Into the 21st century the theatre hosted The Witches of Eastwick (2000), The League of Gentlemen (2001), The Stars of the Bolshoi (2001) and Trevor Nunn’s award-winning NT production of Anything Goes (2003). The Producers (2004) kept the building alive with laughter for over two years while The Lord of the Rings (2007) continued the theatre’s tradition of presenting the best and newest trends in musical theatre and using cutting-edge technology to create a stage spectacle reminiscent of the late Victorian and Edwardian productions so popular with the masses. Next French and Saunders chose The Lane as the venue for their farewell live performances prior to the opening of Cameron Mackintosh’s revival of Oliver! (2009) starring Rowan Atkinson and Jodie Prenger (cast as Nancy in the BBC’s I’d Do Anything). Before Shrek The Musical (2011), the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, hosted the Society of London Theatre’s Laurence Olivier Awards in a spectacular stage production which included guest appearances from Barry Manilow, Angela Lansbury and Stephen Sondheim. A brand new musical production of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory began to fit up in March 2013, beginning previews in May and opening in June.

Recent concerts have seen Petula Clark, ABC, M People and K T Tunstall on the Drury Lane stage and in February 2014 John Travolta flew in from America for an on stage interview.

Since December 2005 the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, has been owned 100% by The Really Useful Group Limited.

Mark Fox with thanks to George Hoare

Space does not allow for detailed inclusion of all productions at this theatre. A complete chronological history of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from its inception in 1660, is available in a lavishly illustrated souvenir brochure on sale in the theatre foyer.

During productions there are regular daily tours of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

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Vauxhall Gardens

Section under development

A statue depicting George Frederic Handel was erected in the Gardens, which later found its way to Westminster Abbey. In 1817, the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted with 1,000 soldiers participating. Vauxhall was closed in 1840 after its owners suffered bankruptcy, but re-opened in 1841. It changed hands in 1842, and was permanently closed in 1859.

Contents 1 Cultural significance 2 History 3 The Spring Gardens and the Rococo in England 4 The experience 5 Further reading 6 See also 7 References 7.1 Notes 7.2 Bibliography 8 External links Cultural significance Entrance to Vauxhall Gardens by Thomas Rowlandson


After Boswell's time the admission charge rose steadily: to two shillings in 1792, three-and-sixpence in the early 19th century, and 4/6 in the 1820s. Season tickets were also sold. [1] Entertainment in this period included hot air balloon ascents, fireworks, and tightrope walkers. In 1813 there was a fête to celebrate victory at the Battle of Vitoria, and in 1827 the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted by 1,000 soldiers. The contributor to the Edinburgh Encyclopedia (1830 edition) comments that: the garden's great attraction arises from their being splendidly illuminated at light with about 15,000 glass lamps. These being tastefully hung among the trees, which line the walks, produce an impression similar to that which is called up on reading some of the stories in the Arabian Nights Entertainments. On some occasions there have been upwards of 19,000 persons in them, and this immense concourse, most of whom are well dressed, seen in connection with the illuminated walks, add not a little to the brilliant and astonishing effect of the whole scene. Charles Dickens wrote of a daylight visit to Vauxhall Gardens, in Sketches by Boz, published in 1836: We paid our shilling at the gate, and then we saw for the first time, that the entrance, if there had been any magic about it at all, was now decidedly disenchanted, being, in fact, nothing more nor less than a combination of very roughly-painted boards and sawdust. We glanced at the orchestra and supper-room as we hurried past—we just recognised them, and that was all. We bent our steps to the firework-ground; there, at least, we should not be disappointed. We reached it, and stood rooted to the spot with mortification and astonishment. That the Moorish tower—that wooden shed with a door in the centre, and daubs of crimson and yellow all round, like a gigantic watch-case! That the place where night after night we had beheld the undaunted Mr. Blackmore make his terrific ascent, surrounded by flames of fire, and peals of artillery, and where the white garments of Madame Somebody (we forget even her name now), who nobly devoted her life to the manufacture of fireworks, had so often been seen fluttering in the wind, as she called up a red, blue, or party-coloured light to illumine her temple![22] The Gardens feature in a number of other works of literature. They are the scene for a brief but pivotal turning point in the fortunes of anti-heroine Becky Sharp in William Makepeace Thackeray's 19th-century novel Vanity Fair, as well as a setting in his novel Pendennis. Thomas Hardy sets scenes in his The Dynasts in the Gardens. As well as Cecilia by Frances Burney where the character Mr Harrell commits suicide. The Gardens passed through several hands. In 1840, the owners went bankrupt and the Gardens closed. They were revived the following year, and again in 1842 under new management, but in 1859 they closed for good. Further reading Scott, Walter Sidney, Green retreats; the story of Vauxhall Gardens, 1661–1859. London: Odhams Press, 1955 The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, Vol. 10, Issue 262, July 7, 1827 Solkin, David H., Painting for money: the visual arts and the public sphere in eighteenth-century England. New Haven; London : Yale University Press, 1993 See also Ranelagh Gardens — Vauxhall Gardens' rival, which operated from 1742 to 1803. Cremorne Gardens — 19th century public gardens in Chelsea. Cuper's Gardens — 18th century tea garden in Lambeth. Charles Green - record-making balloonist in the "Royal Vauxhall" 1836 Marylebone Gardens - musical gardens in Marylebone, 1738-1781. Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, which were originally called Tivoli and Vauxhall Gardens. John Hebden, principal cellist and bassoonist, 1745 James Hook (composer), organist and composer at Vauxhall Gardens, 1773-1820. Louis Emanuel, music director of Vauxhall Gardens from 1845. William Thomas Moncrieff, managed Vauxhall Gardens in 1827. Ching Lau Lauro, performed at Vauxhall Gardens in 1827, 1828 and 1834.[23] References Notes The English pleasures of Vauxhall John Barrell, 25 January 2012 Curiosities of London John Timbs, 1867, page 745 Pepys, Samuel (1893). The Diary of Samuel Pepys. p. 231. London; being an accurate history and description of the British metropolis... vol IV, David Hughson, 1807, page 327 Walford, Edward (1893). Old and New London VI. London: Cassell. p. 449. Coke, 1984: p.75. The lease to Jonathan Tyers (1702-1767) was from 1728; little is known of Tyers' early history; his portrait bust, attributed to Louis-François Roubiliac, is in the Birmingham City Museum and Art Collections. David Coke, "Vauxhall Gardens", Rococo: Art and Design in Hogarth's England (London: Victoria and Albert Museum) 1984:75-81, p.75, and cat. no. F1 (bust). In Venice, a ridotto was a small apartment for entertaining convenient to Piazza San Marco, the intimate setting for paintings of fashionable life by Alessandro Longhi: see Procuratie; the squib in the paper reported that "several Painters, and Artificers are employed to finish the Temples, Obelisks, Triumphal Arches, Grotto Rooms &c for the Ridotto Al' Fresco, commanded for the 7th of June, at Spring Gardens, Vauxhall." (quoted by Coke 1984:75). These were season tickets; William Hogarth, who marshalled the painters to decorate the supper boxes, was issued a gold "lifetime" ticket, now in the British Museum (1984 Rococo exhibition, cat. no. F4. Hawkins, John (1853). A General History of the Science and Practice of Music 2. London: Novello. p. 888. The seated marble of Handel by Louis-François Roubiliac (1738), almost the only survivor of the vanished Vauxhall Gardens, is at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Gardens were so central to the dissemination of Rococo in the public fancy, a section devoted to "Vauxhall Gardens" with an introductory essay by David Coke, was included in the 1984 exhibition Rococo: Art and Design in Hogarth's England held at the Victoria and Albert Museum (pp 75-81 and catalogue numbers F1-F43). 1984 exhibition catalogue F5, lent by the Prince of Wales. Hayman's 'conversation piece of Tyers and his family (1740), at the National Portrait Gallery, was included in the 1984 Rococo exhibition, cat. no. F2. "And what adds not a little to the pleasure of these pictures, they give an unexceptionable opportunity of gazing on any pleasing fair-one, without any other pretence than the credit of a fine taste for the piece behind her", according to a correspondent to the Scots Magazine quoted by Coke 1984:78. He was the owner of the real estate. (Coke 1984:76). Coke 1984:80. The Walpole Society, Vertue Note-Books III:150. Boswell, James (1851). Boswell's Life of Johnson. London: James Murray. p. 599–600. Works Serious and Comical in Prose and Verse, Vol III, Thomas Brown, 1760, page 44 Walford, Edward (1893). Old and New London VI. London: Cassell. pp. 452–453. Dickens, Charles (1836). Sketches by Boz. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard. p. 75. Ching Lau Lauro Retrieved 14 December 2013. Bibliography David Coke, "Vauxhall Gardens", Rococo: Art and Design in Hogarth's England (London: Victoria and Albert Museum) 1984:75-81. Ilias Chrissochoidis, "'hee-haw ... llelujah': Handel among the Vauxhall Asses (1732)", Eighteenth-Century Music 7/2 (September 2010), 221–262. External links Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vauxhall Gardens. A selection of poems inspired by Vauxhall Gardens Details on Vauxhall Gardens maintained by the Vauxhall Society Website on Vauxhall Gardens from David Coke, FSA, a curator and expert on the pleasure gardens The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens Detailed History from vauxhallandkennington.org.uk The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, Vol. 10, Issue 262, July 7, 1827 "An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens". British Galleries. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2009-02-04. Coordinates: 51°29.20'N 0°07.31'W This is a good article. Click here for more information.

The 'supposed' last night of the gardens was on 5 September 1839 when it attracted 1089 people. Vauxhall was sold at auction on 9 Sept 1841 for £20,000, following bankruptcy of the owners, after which it re-opened, but it was permanently closed in 1859, and most of the land sold for building purposes. The Spring Gardens and the Rococo in England The Spring Gardens were the most prominent vehicle in England for the public display of the new Rococo style.[12

Vauxhall Gardens ran for two centuries, through the reigns of ten monarchs, until its final and rather pathetic demise in 1859. During that time, Vauxhall had a succession of owners and managers, but by far the greatest was a remarkable young entrepreneur and developer called Jonathan Tyers. Tyers came from a family of Bermondsey fellmongers, dealers in skins and hides, part of the booming leather industry. He was a very shrewd businessman, with a deep understanding of advertising techniques, and a talent for re-inventing himself as a gentleman landowner, a wit, an urbane host, and a munificent patron of the arts.

Theatre Royal, Dublin

In 1820, Henry Harris bought a site in Hawkins Street and built the 2,000–seater Albany New Theatre, designed by architect Samuel Bazley, at a cost of £50,000.  This theatre opened in January of the following year. In August, George IV attended a performance at the Albany and, as a consequence, a patent was granted. The name of the theatre was changed to the 'Theatre Royal' to reflect its status as a patent theatre. The building work was not completed at the time of opening and early audience figures were so low that a number of side seating boxes were boarded up.

On 14 December 1822, the Bottle Riot occurred during a performance of She Stoops to Conquer attended by the Lord Lieutenant, Marquess Wellesley: Orangemen angered by Wellesley's conciliation of Catholics jeered him during the national anthem, and a riot ensued after a bottle was thrown at him. 

Section under development

In 1830, Harris retired from the theatre and a Mr Calcraft took on the lease.  This theatre attracted a number of famous performers, including Paganini and Jenny Lind.  By 1851, the theatre was experiencing financial problems and closed briefly. It reopened in December under John Harris, who had been manager of the rival Queen's Theatre. The first production under Harris was a play by Dion Boucicault. Boucicault and his wife were to make their first Dublin appearances in the Royal in 1861 in his The Colleen Bawn.

This theatre burned to the ground on 9 February 1880.


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