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
The Cobourg Theatre.
The Cobourg,[*] although the last erected of our present Theatres, has to boast of higher antiquity for its foundation than any, without exception, of its rival neighbours on either side the river. The marshy land, on which this fabric is erected, requiring artificial aid, the ancient palace of John a Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, called the Savoy, being taken down about the time, for the purpose of opening a communication to the , and improving that part of , the projectors and proprietors of the then intended new Theatre contracted for a sufficient quantity of the ancient stones of which the Savoy palace was built, and had them transported in barges to the Surrey side of the river, from whence they were conveyed in wheelbarrows to the place of destination; and on those materials the superstructure of the Cobourg Theatre was raised.
It is not a century since all this part of Fields was completely inundated with water, and the health of the neighbouring inhabitants constantly endangered by the unwholesome vapours incessantly arising from the stagnated waters, only refreshed by accidental spring tides. Nothwithstanding the insalubrity of the soil, several persons of the highest consequence took up their abode in its immediate vicinity: the Bishops of Rochester had their town residence in , near the Marsh Gate; and Bonner, the well-known Bishop of London, had an establishment within a few yards of the Cobourg Theatre, which in all probability stands on some portion of that Prelate's former ground. Part of his house is still remaining, which, with some others on the opposite side of the road, exhibit curious specimens of our early building.
Fields have undergone a surprising and rapid improvement within the last years, and bid fair, through a ready communication with the metropolis by the , to become a prosperous neighbourhood, in trade and manufacture, in the course of a very few years. At present, however, Theatres might have been considered sufficient to furnish amusement to the population, but the project of erecting a , "the Cobourg," originated under the following circumstances:
A few years back Mr. Jones, the leaseholder of the Royal Circus (since called the ), became insolvent, when the lease came into the hands of persons, his assignees: they let the house to Mr. Elliston for guineas, and adventurers took it at guineas after he left it, at Lady-day, . of this latter firm died soon after, another became a bankrupt, and the continued until the expiration of the agreement, which was also the termination of Mr. Jones's lease, and the property reverted to the ground landlord, Temple West, Esq., who asked per annum. (The old ground-rent was guineas). Jones, with the last renter, came forward at Lady-day, , hoping to obtain the Theatre, and offered for what had last let for , and for which was now required (a liberal offer!) So trifling a sum was refused, with an intimation that a proper offer would be attended to.
The license, which is from Michaelmas to Michaelmas, was held by the assignees for the lessee, and Mr. West offered them for the unexpired part of it. (The license could only be used at the Royal Circus.) This, however, they declined; likewise to make any further offer. They thought by holding the license to bring Mr. West to their terms; but he, applying to Parliament, obtained an Act to perform at the Royal Circus from Easter to Michaelmas, , although the assignees held the license for that period. The leaseholders now stripped the Circus of everything the law would allow, and had a public sale on the premises, the , when all the trumpery not worth removing was sold, with or menage horses, &c., &c.; and they immediately projected building a new Theatre, to the remaining old scenery, dresses, &c. Shortly after, the following handbill was put in circulation:
"Mr. Jones, late Proprietor of the Royal Circus, having agreed for a piece of land near the foot of , on the Surrey side, for the purpose of building a Theatre, and having obtained the patronage of Her Royal Highness
|the Princess Charlotte of Wales, and His Serene Highness the Prince of Saxe-Cobourg, proposes to dispose of a part, by way of subscription, as follows:—The whole is estimated at .|
"A subscriber of of that sum to be considered a joint proprietor.
"Subscribers for share of to receive interest at per cent., and each share to entitle the holder to a personal free admission, transferable each season.
"The holder of shares to be eligible to be elected a trustee, and the holder of shares to be entitled to vote on all occasions.
"For the present, subscriptions are received at Sir John Pinhorn and Company's, Bankers, , in the name of
"Each subscriber to pay down per cent. at the time of subscribing, and per cent. monthly till the whole is paid.
"As soon as shall have been subscribed, a general meeting of the subscribers to be called, for the purpose of framing regulations for the government of the concern, and electing trustees, treasurers, and other officers.
"Materials, to the amount of several , are already purchased; the whole property, in scenery, dresses, &c., &c., at the , has been removed to this concern; and the Theatre is intended to open at Christmas next.
"Subscriptions are also received, and further information will be communicated, by Mr. Jones, near the Obelisk, Fields; and Mr. Chippendall, Solicitor to the Theatre, , ."
It will very easily be believed, that, upon such a prospectus, few, if any, subscribers came forward; and that there was no cause to call the general meeting therein proposed. Mr. Jones, the former leaseholder; a Mr. Dunn, the last tenant; and Mr. Serres, the marine painter (who procured the patronage of the Prince and Princess; which patronage entirely led to the procuring the license), formed the partnership; the , for his former connexion with the Circus, and procuration of the ground; the having scenery, dresses, &c., &c.; and the for the patronage, and thereby the license.
Upon the strength of the patronage they obtained, the proprietors ventured to designate their Theatre "Royal;" a title that can only attach to a Theatre sanctioned by His Majesty. The license was obtained at the Quarter Sessions, ; but the work proceeded very slowly, for want of money, till the spring, , when a few , advanced by Mr. Glossop, on the part of his son, Mr. Jos. Glossop, junior, then out of the kingdom, enabled them again to proceed, which they did till that money was expended; and on the day preceding Good Friday, , the workmen struck, and carried away the scaffolding. It lay in this state until the autumn; when, Mr. Glossop having advanced money, as before stated, thought proper to make such arrangements with the above-mentioned persons (who were little more than nominally concerned), that he might complete the Theatre, which he immediately put into execution, and opened the house Whit-Monday, .[*] The Theatre is situated nearly in the centre of the new
|road leading from the Marsh Gate, , to Rowland Hill's Chapel, , and immediately opposite the road from , in .|
Notwithstanding every exertion was made to get the house ready by Whitsuntide, the proprietors were necessitated to open it in a very unfinished state, and it was not completed for several weeks after. Before the performance commenced, a quarrel took place between the stage manager and the principal proprietor and director of the Theatre. The stage manager was for playing the last piece , and the last, that he might exhibit at , and enjoy the benefit of a double salary. They severally addressed the audience: the former, as director of the stage, insisted on commencing with the pantomime, and complained to the audience, that the director had locked up his , without which he could not appear before them. After some delay the pantomime was performed , and Mr. Norman went to Covent Garden. On the Thursday following, Mr. W. Barrymore's name appeared in the bills as the stage manager (Astley's bills at the same time, and long after, also announced Mr. W. Barrymore stage manager of their Theatre), and after the week, Norman was discharged as a performer.
On the a benefit was given as a commencement of a Theatrical Fund; but it must be long, very long, before this fund can benefit the subscribers; even and Covent Garden Funds, with their numerous and large subscriptions, and donations (and where so few claimants are likely to arise, to what may be expected here), have not until very lately been in a flourishing state: the attempt, however, is laudable, and merits every support the parties interested can afford it. The season closed on Monday, , and had been tolerably successful. When the neighbourhood is improved and extended, and the directory get more experienced in their new profession, it may perhaps answer their expectations.
The proximity of it to , Covent Garden, , , and the western part of the metropolis, gives the Cobourg Theatre a decided advantage over the other Surrey Theatres; and in proportion as the
|buildings in the proceed to accumulate, in like proportion will the chance of success attend the Cobourg establishment.|
The Theatre is very pretty, and does credit to the architect, though we think it injudicious, if they hope, and they say they do, that Prince Leopold will visit them, to place so many objects in his view to remind him of his severe loss. The Marine Saloon—of which they have said so much themselves!—will not bear criticism; winding stairs are bad, and should never be introduced where there is plenty of room (as they have here), particularly to the boxes.
There are tier of boxes divided into sections, adorned with elegant medallions from the antique, representing the Loves and the Graces, in imitation of cameos, on a red ground, in octangular frames, surmounted with elegant carved and gilt mouldings.
private boxes are provided for the advantage of the proprietors, and managers' boxes are erected over the stage doors.
The principal stage box is richly adorned and canopied with crimson velvet, gold fringed, to receive and accommodate any royal visitor.
The Cobourg Theatre is in the parish of St. Mary, .
[*] The word is thus spelled in all the official documents at the Heralds' College.
[*] The following bill of the entertainments represented on the first night of this Theatre's opening, is preserved to show the great variety and strength the company mustered on the occasion:— ROYAL COBOURG THEATRE, (Opposite Waterloo Bridge Road, Lambeth), Under the immediate Patronage of His Royal Highness PRINCE LEOPOLD OF SAXE-COBOURG, Will open on Monday, May 11, 1818. At the drawing up of the curtain will be sung the anthem of "God save the King," by the whole strength of the company; immediately after which (written expressly for the occasion by Joseph Lunn, Esq.) an appropriate Address will be spoken by Mr. Munro. After which will be presented an entirely new melo-dramatic spectacle, with new music, scenery, dresses, &c., called TRIAL BY BATTLE; or, "Heaven defend the Right!" in which will be portrayed the ancient mode of decision by Kemp Fight, or Single Combat. The scenery painted by Messrs. Morris, Scruton, Stanfield, and Wilkins. The machinery by Messrs. Lewis and Craddock. The dresses by Mr. Smithyes and Mr. Cross. The properties, banners, and armour, by Mr. Collett and assistants. The Melo-drama written and produced by Mr. W. Barrymore. Baron Falconbridge, Mr. Munro, from the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, Albert, Mr. Davidge, from the Sans Pareil. Hubert (his son), Mr. M'Carthy, from the Theatre Royal, Bath. Ambrose, Mr. Stebbing, late of Astley's Royal Amphitheatre. Rufus, Mr. Bradley, late of the Surrey Theatre. Henrie, Mr. T. Blanchard, from the Theatre, Liverpool. Barnard, Mr. Gallot, from the Theatre, Chester. Hufo, Mr. Morley, from the Surrey Theatre. Gilbert, Mr. Bryant, from the Surrey Theatre. Little Jem, Miss J. Scott, from the King's Theatre. Morrice (a silly peasant), Mr. Harwood, from the Theatre Royal, York. Chorus of Smugglers, Messrs. Stanley, Clarke, Willis, Holman, Webster, Ducrow, and George. Geralda, Miss Cooper, from the Worthing Theatre. Ninette, Miss E. Holland. Ladies of the Court, Mesdames Nicols, Brag, Hart, Smith, Enscoe, and Baylis. Knights, Squires, Herald, &c., by the rest of the company. In the course of the piece a Glee by Messrs. Gallott, Morley, and Nelson. After which, a grand Asiatic ballet (composed and produced by Mr. Le Clercq, ballet-master), with new music, scenery, dresses, and decorations, called ALZORA AND NERINE; or, the Fairy Gift. The scenery painted by Mr. Scruton. Alzora (an Eastern Prince), Mr. Le Clercq. His Suite, Mr. Gay, Mr. Cartlitch, Masters Ashbury and Honner, Messrs. Stanley, Holman, Clarke, Willis, Webster, Simpson, George, and Ducrow; Misses Enscoe, Nicholas, Hart, Brag, Cooper, Thorpe, Holland, Baker, and Miss J. Simpson, pupil of Mr. Le Clercq. The Fairy, Miss J. Scott. And Nerine, Mrs. Le Clercq. Peasants, Master Conway, Misses M. Nichols, C. Bennet, Brock, and Rountree, pupils of Mr. Le Clercq. In the course of the evening an entirely new comic song, called "1818 Wonders!" will be sung by Mr. Stebbing. The evening's entertainments to conclude with a new and splendid Harlequinade (partly from Milton's Masque of Comus), with new and extensive machinery, mechanical changes, tricks, and metamorphoses, invented and produced by Mr. Norman, called MIDNIGHT REVELRY; or, Harlequin and Comus. The music by Mr. Crouch. The dresses by Mr. Smithyes and Mrs. Cross. Comus (an enchanter), Mr. Hobbs, late of the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Damon (afterwards Harlequin), Mr. Kirby. Pan (afterwards Pantaloon), Mr. T. Blanchard. Bacchus (afterwards Clown), Mr. Norman, of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Sabrina (Goddess of the Deep), Miss Lewis. Ariel (Spirit of the Air), Miss J. Scott. The Lady (afterwards Columbine), Miss Ruggles, late of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Fauns, Satyrs, Bacchanalians, Sylvians, Ariels, and numerous other characters incidental to the Pantomime, by the rest of the Company. The Grand Marine Saloon, designed and executed by Mr. Serres, marine painter to His Majesty. The Chorusses and Vocal Department, arranged by Mr. Keeley, late of the Surrey Theatre. The Machinery and Mechanical Changes executed by Mr. Lewis and assistants. Stage Manager, Mr. Norman.—Hartnell, printer, Wine-office Court, Fleet Street; and Albion Press, Southwark. ††† The Proprietors, in order to meet the wishes and suggestions of many Noble Patrons and Friends, have appropriated the lower circles of boxes as dress boxes. The accommodation of the frequenters of the upper circle has also been paid particular attention to—a full and perfect view of the Stage is maintained—while the appropriation of a tastefully decorated Saloon, for the purpose of refreshments will, it is hoped, add to the general comfort.—Lower boxes, 4s. Upper boxes, 3s. Pit, 2s. Gallery, 1s.—Doors to be opened at half-past five, to begin at half-past six. Half-price at half-past eight. Places for the boxes to be taken of Mr. Grubb, at the Box Office, from ten till four. Extra patroles are engaged for the bridge and roads leading to the Theatre, and particular attention will be paid to the lighting of the same.
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.