Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
The Cockpit in was of the playhouses allowed in London, in the reign of King Charles I. for the acting of stage plays, which continued to be performed until the breaking out of the civil wars; when the flight of the King from the metropolis left the prevailing party and parliament in full power both with respect to church and state; who conceiving dramatic amusements as serving no other ends than corrupting the morals of the people, suppressed every diversion of that kind, with the exception of the Red Bull Theatre in , where feats of activity and drolls were only permitted to be performed. On the restoration of Charles II. theatrical amusements were revived, and the scattered remains of the companies formed themselves into , and performed under the title of the King's and Duke's Servants. The former, under Killigrew (who had obtained a patent from the King), built them a new Theatre in , on the site of the Cockpit,[*] which was opened on Thursday , with the Humorous Lieutenant, which was acted days successively, the characters being,
The play began at o'clock exactly; boxes , pit , gallery , upper gallery,
The introduction of females on the stage took place at this period, and the Company being strengthened with Mrs. Eleanor Gwynn, a known favourite and mistress of the King, could not fail of being attractive and drawing great profit and company to the Theatre, which from this time was called, and has ever since been styled, "Theatre Royal." In , was burnt, with from to houses in the neighbourhood; and in a new Theatre, built by Sir Christopher Wren, opened with a Prologue and Epilogue by Dryden; and in the same year all stage-plays were suppressed. In the Duke's Servants formed an union with the King's Company, and removed from the Theatre in Dorset Garden to that of ; and became incorporated his Majesty's Servants. Colley Cibber, in noticing this transaction, says, " only Theatre being now in possession of the whole town, the united patentees imposed their terms upon the actors; for the profits of acting were then divided into shares, of which went to the proprietors, and the other moiety to the principal actors, in such subdivisions as their different merit might pretend to. This occasioned great contentions from time to time between the patentees and performers, which arose to such an height, that Mr. Betterton, in , having consulted a few of the principal persons in the Theatre, and interested several of the nobility to aid them in a scheme to obtain an independent licence to perform on their own account, they shortly after had the honour of an audience of the King, who graciously dismissed Mr. Betterton and his adherents, with an assurance of relief and support; and accordingly a select number of them were empowered by his royal licence to perform for themselves at the Tennis Court Theatre, Bear Yard, Little ; where they performed Congreve's Love for Love with extraordinary success, and for a time carried on the concern with great spirit. This secession of the actors arose from the parsimonious conduct of Mr. Christopher Rich, who had purchased the patent of Charles D'Avenant. In the Theatres united, on which occasion Farquhar wrote a Prologue, under Rich's direction. Soon after this, Sir Thomas Skipwith, who had a share in the patent, and disgusted with the conduct of the property, in a fit of generosity gave his share to a Colonel Brett, who by great prudence so much improved it, that Sir Thomas applied to the Court of Chancery for restitution; obtained it, and soon after lost it at a gaming table. In , by order of the Lord Chamberlain, the house was closed; and the same year Collier obtained permission to re-open the Theatre; to effect which, on the d of November, he forcibly excluded Rich from the premises, where he continued acting till Cibber, Doggett, and Wilks' management commenced. On the , Sir Richard Steele had his name inserted in the patent for his life, and years after: this was granted to him because both the existing patents were in person's hands. In Mr. Booth came into the management, in opposition to Doggett, who retired. Sir Richard Steele dying in , Booth, Wilks, and Cibber severally sold out, and Mr. Highmore commenced manager; when the performers, led on by Theophilus Cibber, revolted, and acted for themselves at the little Theatre in the ; which so much perplexed Highmore, as to involve him in the greatest difficulties, and finally being ruined, the patent and management came into the hands of Fleetwood in , who carried on the concern with various success years. On the , the servants, who had been deprived of the former privilege of the use of the gallery gratis, forced their way in; the ringleaders were secured and sent to Newgate, and on the d of April following were tried at Hicks's Hall, and sentenced to hard labour: they had made an unsuccessful attempt the February previous. In the year , , a riot took place in the Theatre, while the King (George II.) was present: from which time the guards have regularly attended. In the patent was advertised for sale, when Messrs. Lacy and Garrick became the
|purchasers, Mr. Garrick paying down and Mr. Lacy the remainder, the whole purchase being ; Fleetwood retiring with an annuity of The house was this year enlarged, and opened with a prologue by Dr. Johnson. In , the price to the boxes was , pit , gallery , upper gallery , on the , Garrick and Lacy's patent was renewed for years. , a riot on the and , about not taking half price to new pieces. , when Garrick returned from Italy he removed the circular frames which lighted the stage. , Mr. Lacy dying, his share became the property of his son, Mr. Willoughby Lacy. , Sheridan, Ewart, Dr. Ford, and Linley purchased Garrick's share of the patent for ; new shares, to the amount of , had been previously raised—considerable alterations, both internal and external, were made to the house. , the Theatre was closed for nights, in consequence of Lacy's having made an illegal sale of his share to a Mr. Thomson and Langford, but the purchase was not allowed to stand. , Sheridan and Linley became possessed of the whole property. , , Old finally closed, with an address by Palmer. The following day the papers stated, "Last night died , who lived in reigns, and was years old." , the New Theatre was covered in, d. , opened , with Oratorios, and on with Macbeth and the Virgin Unmasked; both pieces played following nights. , Board of Management instituted in September, Sir R. Ford, Justice Graham, Richard Wilson, Alderman Combe, Edward Morris. , a night's receipt — boxes, pit, gallery, upper gallery. , , burnt down; insured—British , Imperial , Hope , Eagle The last performance on the d, was a new opera by Ward, the present secretary, and brother-in-law to the late Mrs. Sheridan.|
[*] The Cockpit had been pulled down and rebuilt, as it appears, that, March 4, 1617, "the Playhouse lately erected in Drury Lane was pulled down by the mob, and all the apparel torn in pieces." Downes's Roscius Anglicanus, p. 1, 1789. There was another Theatre in Drury Lane, denominated the Phœnix, but Killigrew's building was evidently on the site of the Cockpit. The old Playhouses, if we are to judge by the quantity in London and its vicinity at one time, must have been very small buildings, and accounts for the ease with which one might be pulled down in a day
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.