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 2

Wilkinson, Robert
1819-1825

The Royalty Theatre, Wellclose Square.

The Royalty Theatre, Wellclose Square.

Arena of the Royalty Theatre, Well Street, Wellclose Square; Built by John Palmer, Esq. formerly of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane; Proscenium.

The origin of this Theatre sprung from the Quixotic attempt of a celebrated performer to raise his fame and fortune by a bold venture at once; but, unfortunately, in the experiment, he not only lost the whole capital of the well-earned toil of many years' industrious application and deserved reputation, but entailed on himself and family a series of distresses and misfortunes, that ended but with his life. Mr. John Palmer, of Drury Lane Theatre, in conjunction with several friends, having projected a scheme for the erection of a Theatre at the east end of the metropolis, proceeded to raise as much money as possible by subscription, and otherwise, to carry their plans into effect: in consequence, on the 6th day of December, 1785, Mr. Palmer, assisted by his son (a grand procession being made on the occasion), laid the first stone of the spacious building intended for a new Theatre, near Wellclose Square, and deposited in a cavity appropriated for that purpose, an inscription, which was publicly read by John Morgan, Esq., Recorder of Maidstone; of which the following is an authentic copy: "The inscription on this scroll is intended to convey the following information; That, on Monday, the 26th day of December, in the year of our Lord 1785, and in the 26th year of the reign of our Most Gracious Sovereign George the Third, the first stone of a building, intended for a place of public entertainment, was laid by John Palmer, Comedian, in the presence of a numerous party of friends to the undertaking; John Wilmot, Esq., being the architect and builder. The ground selected for the purpose, being situated within the liberty of His Majesty's fortress and palace of the Tower of London, it has been resolved, that, in honour of the magistrates, the military officers, and inhabitants of the said fortress and palace, the edifice, when erected, shall be called THE ROYALTY THEATRE, sanctioned by authority, and liberally patronized by subscription." Mr. Palmer was the appointed manager; and among the performers engaged, were Messrs. Quick, Ryder, Johnstone; Mrs. Martyr, Mrs. Wells, &c. The opening of the Theatre was announced for June 20, 1787; but, previous to this, a cautionary advertisement appeared in the public prints, signed by Messrs. Harris, Linley, and Colman, managers of the Theatres Royal, showing the statute which enacts, that persons, acting contrary to the provisions in that act, shall be deemed rogues and vagabonds; and announcing a determination to prosecute all who should offend against the law. This had the desired effect, and all the chief actors and actresses seceded from the company. Fnding they could not act legally for hire, a subterfuge was resorted to, and the Theatre was opened for the benefit of the London Hospital, with the comedy of "As You Like It," and the farce of "Miss in her Teens," the characters were not expressed in the bills of the day, but were as follow: AS YOU LIKE IT. Jacques . . . . Mr. Palmer. Orlando . . . . Mr. Harrington. Oliver . . . . Mr. Shatfield. Touchstone . . . . Mr. Kipling. Duke Senior . . . . Mr. L'Estrange. Duke Frederick . . . Mr. Hudson. Amiens . . . . Mr. W. Palmer. Sylvius . . . . Mr. Marriot. Rosalind . . . . Mrs. Belfille. Celia . . . . Mrs. Fox. Audrey . . . . Miss Hale. Phœbe . . . . Miss Burnet. MISS IN HER TEENS. Fribble . . . . Mr. W. Palmer. Puff . . . . Mr. Follet, sen. Jasper . . . . Mr. Simpson. Captain Lovett . . . Mr. Westcoat. Captain Flash . . . Mr. Palmer. Miss Biddy . . . Mrs. Gibbs.

The house was exceedingly full, but far from brilliant, as no ladies of distinction ventured in, the contest for places being so violent. The curtain rose at seven o'clock, and a few voices calling for Mr. Palmer's patent, occasioned some disturbance, which was soon quelled, and the performance commenced with a prologue, written on the occasion, by Arthur Murphy, Esq., and spoken by Mr. Palmer. The play and farce being concluded, Mr. Palmer, having previously requested the audience would stay, came forward, and read an address, in which it was stated, "That the Theatre was built under a letter of approbation from the Lieutenant Governor of the Tower; and, being situated in a palace and fortress, in a district immediately within his jurisdiction, his consent, added to a licence obtained from the magistrates, authorizing a place of public entertainment, was deemed legal authority;" that, under that impression, he had embarked his all in this Theatre, and in the event of it, everything dear to his family was involved; but when he considered the case of other performers, who had been also threatened with prosecutions, he felt, whatever risk he ran himself, it was too much for them to venture on. He begged pardon of the audience for trespassing on their patience, but that, circumstanced as things were, and a combination being formed to oppress and ruin him, it was not in his power to give out another play. Mr. Palmer proceeded. "Under the Act of Parliament, which empowers the magistrate to allow certain performances, I obtained a licence; and to whatever purpose of innocent amusement this Theatre may be converted, your future patronage will abundantly compensate for every difficulty I have had to encounter. Tumblers and dancing dogs might appear before you unmolested; but the other performers and myself standing forward to exhibit a moral play, is deemed a crime. The purpose, however, for which we have this night exerted ourselves, may serve to show that a Theatre near Wellclose Square, may be as useful as in Covent Garden, Drury Lane, or the Haymarket. All that remains at present is to return you my most grateful thanks for the indulgence with which you have honoured me this night; I forbear to enlarge upon that subject—my heart is too full—I have not words to express my feelings. I shall be ever devoted to your service. Until it is announced that this house shall be again opened with a species of entertainment not subjecting me to danger, I humbly take my leave." The issue of this contest appeared soon after in an advertisement, in which Mr. Palmer declared his intention of opening his Theatre on Monday, July the 3rd, "with a species of entertainment, which the too rigid censors of his conduct could not impede." The Theatre accordingly opened with burlettas, pantomimes, &c.; and so attached was Mr. Palmer to the undertaking, that he, and Mr. Bannister, sen., whose friendship made him forget his interest, absolutely refused to return in the winter to their former situations. Some interest was made to get a patent now, but superior interest baffled the design; and when the Theatre lost the attraction of novelty, it dwindled into nothing, Mr. Palmer laid down his office of manager, and returned to Old Drury, where he was warmly congratulated by his admiring friends and the public in general. The Royalty Theatre was shut up for some years, but lately has been occupied in various theatrical speculations, and is now in use under the denomination of "The East London Theatre."

The following are the pieces brought out at the Royalty, during the management of Mr. Palmer: July 3, 1787. The Birth Day, a burletta. Hobson's Choice; or, Thespis in Distress; a pantomime, with an introductory burletta. Aug. 11, — Thomas and Susan; a burletta, borrowed from the Poor Soldier. Aug. 12, — Don Juan; or, the Libertine destroyed; a pantomime. Sept. 5, — Hero and Leander; a burletta. Sept. 10, — Almirina; a mock tragedy, by Arthur Murphy, Esq. Sept. 15, 1787. True Blue; a burletta. Nov. 13, — Harlequin Mungo; or, a Peep into the Tower; a pantomime. Dec. 3, — Apollo turned Stroller; a burletta. Jan. 1, 1788. The Deserter of Naples; a pantomimical exhibition. Jan. 16, — The Constant Maid; a ballet.

These entertainments were diversified by occasional prologues, recitations, lectures, imitations, &c.

 

The origin of this Theatre sprung from the Quixotic attempt of a celebrated performer to raise his fame and fortune by a bold venture at once; but, unfortunately, in the experiment, he not only lost the whole capital of the well-earned toil of many years' industrious application and deserved reputation, but entailed on himself and family a series of distresses and misfortunes, that ended but with his life. Mr. John Palmer, of , in conjunction with several friends, having projected a scheme for the erection of a Theatre at the east end of the metropolis, proceeded to raise as much money as possible by subscription, and otherwise, to carry their plans into effect: in consequence, on the , Mr. Palmer, assisted by his son (a grand procession being made on the occasion), laid the stone of the spacious building intended for a new Theatre, near , and deposited in a cavity appropriated for that purpose, an inscription, which was publicly read by John Morgan, Esq., Recorder of Maidstone; of which the following is an authentic copy: "The inscription on this scroll is intended to convey the following information; That, on Monday, the , in the year of our Lord , and in the year of the reign of our Most Gracious Sovereign George the , the stone of a building, intended for a place of public entertainment, was laid by John Palmer, Comedian, in the presence of a numerous party of friends to the undertaking; John Wilmot, Esq., being the architect and builder. The ground selected for the purpose, being situated within the liberty of His Majesty's fortress and palace of the , it has been resolved, that, in honour of the magistrates, the military officers, and inhabitants of the said fortress and palace, the edifice, when erected, shall be called THE ROYALTY THEATRE, sanctioned by authority, and liberally patronized by subscription." Mr. Palmer was the appointed manager; and among the performers engaged, were Messrs. Quick, Ryder, Johnstone; Mrs. Martyr, Mrs. Wells, &c. The opening of the Theatre was announced for ; but, previous to this, a cautionary advertisement appeared in the public prints, signed by Messrs. Harris, Linley, and Colman, managers of the Theatres Royal, showing the statute which enacts, that persons, acting contrary to the provisions in that act, shall be deemed and and announcing a determination to prosecute all who should offend against the law. This had the desired effect, and all the chief actors and actresses seceded from the company. Fnding they could not act legally for hire, a subterfuge was resorted to, and the Theatre was opened for the benefit of the , with the comedy of "As You Like It," and the farce of "Miss in her Teens," the characters were not expressed in the bills of the day, but were as follow:

AS YOU LIKE IT.
 Jacques . . . . Mr. Palmer. 
 Orlando . . . . Mr. Harrington. 
 Oliver . . . . Mr. Shatfield. 
 Touchstone . . . . Mr. Kipling. 
 Duke Senior . . . . Mr. L'Estrange. 
 Duke Frederick . . . Mr. Hudson. 
 Amiens . . . . Mr. W. Palmer. 
 Sylvius . . . . Mr. Marriot. 
 Rosalind . . . . Mrs. Belfille. 
 Celia . . . . Mrs. Fox. 
 Audrey . . . . Miss Hale. 
 Phœbe . . . . Miss Burnet. 
MISS IN HER TEENS.
 Fribble . . . . Mr. W. Palmer. 
 Puff . . . . Mr. Follet, sen. 
 Jasper . . . . Mr. Simpson. 
 Captain Lovett . . . Mr. Westcoat. 
 Captain Flash . . . Mr. Palmer. 
 Miss Biddy . . . Mrs. Gibbs. 

The house was exceedingly full, but far from brilliant, as no ladies of distinction ventured in, the contest for places being so violent. The curtain rose at o'clock, and a few voices calling for Mr. Palmer's patent, occasioned some disturbance, which was soon quelled, and the performance commenced with a prologue, written on the occasion, by Arthur Murphy, Esq., and spoken by Mr. Palmer. The play and farce being concluded, Mr. Palmer, having previously requested the audience would stay, came forward, and read an address, in which it was stated, "That the Theatre was built under a letter of approbation from the Lieutenant Governor of the Tower; and, being situated in a palace and fortress, in a district immediately within his jurisdiction, his consent, added to a licence obtained from the magistrates, authorizing a place of public entertainment, was deemed legal authority;" that, under that impression, he had embarked his all in this Theatre, and in the event of it, everything dear to his family was involved; but when he considered the case of other performers, who had been also threatened with prosecutions, he felt, whatever risk he ran himself, it was too much for them to venture on. He begged pardon of the audience for trespassing on their patience, but that, circumstanced as things were, and a combination being formed to oppress and ruin him, it was not in his power to give out another play. Mr. Palmer proceeded. "Under the Act of Parliament, which empowers the magistrate to allow certain performances, I obtained a licence; and to whatever purpose of innocent amusement this Theatre may be converted, your future patronage will abundantly compensate for every difficulty I have had to encounter. Tumblers and dancing dogs might appear before you unmolested; but the other performers and myself standing forward to exhibit a moral play, is deemed a crime. The purpose, however, for which we have this night exerted ourselves, may serve to show that a Theatre near , may be as useful as in Covent Garden, , or the . All that remains at present is to return you my most grateful thanks for the indulgence with which you have honoured me this night; I forbear to enlarge upon that subject—my heart is too full—I have not words to express my feelings. I shall be ever devoted to your service. Until it is announced that this house shall be again opened with a species of entertainment not subjecting me to danger, I humbly take my leave." The issue of this contest appeared soon after in an advertisement, in which Mr. Palmer declared his intention of opening his Theatre on Monday, , "with a species of entertainment, which the too rigid censors of his conduct could not impede." The Theatre accordingly opened with burlettas, pantomimes, &c.; and so attached was Mr. Palmer to the undertaking, that he, and Mr. Bannister, sen., whose friendship made him forget his interest, absolutely refused to return in the winter to their former situations. Some interest was made to get a patent now, but superior interest baffled the design; and when the Theatre lost the attraction of novelty, it dwindled into nothing, Mr. Palmer laid down his office of manager, and returned to Old Drury, where he was warmly congratulated by his admiring friends and the public in general. The Royalty Theatre was shut up for some years, but lately has been occupied in various theatrical speculations, and is now in use under the denomination of "The East London Theatre."

The following are the pieces brought out at the Royalty, during the management of Mr. Palmer:

 July 3, 1787. The Birth Day, a burletta. 
 Hobson's Choice; or, Thespis in Distress; a pantomime, with an introductory burletta. 
 Aug. 11, — Thomas and Susan; a burletta, borrowed from the Poor Soldier. 
 Aug. 12, — Don Juan; or, the Libertine destroyed; a pantomime. 
 Sept. 5, — Hero and Leander; a burletta. 
 Sept. 10, — Almirina; a mock tragedy, by Arthur Murphy, Esq. 
 Sept. 15, 1787. True Blue; a burletta. 
 Nov. 13, — Harlequin Mungo; or, a Peep into the Tower; a pantomime. 
 Dec. 3, — Apollo turned Stroller; a burletta. 
 Jan. 1, 1788. The Deserter of Naples; a pantomimical exhibition. 
 Jan. 16, — The Constant Maid; a ballet. 

These entertainments were diversified by occasional prologues, recitations, lectures, imitations, &c.

 
View all images in this book
 Title Page
collapseCourts, Halls, and Public Buildings
collapseSchools
collapseAlms-Houses, Hospitals, &c.
collapsePlaces of Amusement
collapseMiscellaneous Objects of Antiquity
collapseAncient and Modern Theatres
collapseTheatres
The Bull and the Bear Baiting,
The Red Bull Playhouse, Clerkenwell.
Fortune Theatre
Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre
D'Avenant's Theatre Otherwise the Duke's Theatre, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Destruction of Drury Lane Theatre by Fire
Opening of Drury Lane New Theatre
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden
The New Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.
Theatre Royal, Haymarket
New Theatre Royal, Haymarket
The King's Theatre, or the Italian Opera, Haymarket
Theatre in Goodman's Fields. The whole of Goodman's Fields was formerly a farm belonging to the Abbey of Nuns, of the Order of St. Clare, called the Minories or Minoresses, from certain poor ladies of that order; and so late as the time of Stow, when he wrote his Survey in 1598, was let out in gardens, and for grazing horses. One Trolop, and afterwards Goodman, were the farmers there. But Goodman's son being heir by his father's purchase, let the grounds in parcels, and lived like a gentleman on its produce. He lies buried in St. Botolph's church, Aldgate.
The Royalty Theatre, Wellclose Square
The Tennis Court Theatre, Bear Yard, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields
Olympic Theatre, Newcastle Street, Strand
Sadler's Wells.
The Pantheon Theatre, Oxford Street
Strand Theatre, the Sans Pareil
Astley's Amphitheatre, Westminster Road
The Regency Theatre. Tottenham Street Tottenham Court Road
The Cobourg Theatre
Royal Circus or Surrey Theatre
Lyceum Theatre, or English Opera, Strand.
Theatre in Tankard Street, Ipswich
Checks and Tickets of Admission to the public Theatres and other Places of Amusement.

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.

This object is in collection:
Edwin C. Bolles papers
Subjects
London (England)--Antiquities
London (England)--Description and Travel
Wilkinson, Robert, d. ca. 1825
Bolles, Edwin Courtlandt
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/53839
ID: tufts:MS004.002.057.001.00001
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights