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 in Tankard Street, Ipswich.
Every subject which casts new light towards a Memoir on so justly celebrated a person as the late David Garrick, will doubtless be received with pleasure by those at present living who have witnessed his wonderful performances; as well as those to whom he is only known by traditionary anecdotes, handed to posterity by contemporary persons with himself. The Ipswich Theatre, therefore, becomes doubly interesting, both as a topographical illustration of its county history; and, as connected with the metropolitan theatres, in being, as it were, the very cradle of that surprising genius the BRITISH ROSCIUS! Garrick having made his public appearance on the boards of this Theatre, on the , in the character of Captain Duretête, in Farquhar's comedy of the Inconstant, or the Way to win Him. Though it is generally supposed his part was that of Aboan, in Southern's tragedy of Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave; prior to the date of his appearance under the name of Lyddall.
It always is a matter of curiosity and research to learn from what source the foundation or spring is derived, from which public institutions or buildings take their rise; the earliest information we can collect concerning Ipswich theatricals is from the following play-bill.[*]
At the Shire-Hall, in Ipswich, on Monday, , will be acted a Play, called King Henry the , &c. with several entertainments.—By Command we shall begin at o'Clock. Vivat Rex.
N. B. Mr. Buck teaches Back-Sword, Small-Sword, and Quarter-Staff, during the Stay of the Company in Town, as usual."
Nothing concerning any theatrical performances at Ipswich has come to our knowledge, from the above period until the year , when the following notice is extracted from the Ipswich Journal, of Saturday, .
The Company will begin at o'Clock exactly during this Season, which will be no longer than Week after the Races.
In the Ipswich Journal for Saturday, , is an advertisement for a Musical Clock, various Automata, and a Pantomime Entertainment, under the name of The Noted Medley, from London.
In the Ipswich Journals for there are no play-bills.
The following week is an advertisement by the same company, in which the performers' names are as follow: Mr. Cuthbert, Mr. Freeman, Mr. Whitaker, Mr. Grimes, Mr. Adams, Mr. Daniel, Mr. Phœnix, Mr. Irish, Mr. Hasleup; Mrs. Whitaker, Mrs. Cuthbert, Mrs. Hasleup, Mrs. Daniel.
The following weeks continue the same names, with the addition of young Phœnix; and repeated, Monday, the .
On Saturday, , was advertised the MISER and the DEVIL TO PAY; with an Address of Thanks to the Town, by Mrs. Daniel, for the Benefit of Mr. Henry Betts, towards the Charge of the House.
(Mr. Henry Betts was the proprietor of the Theatre, and the reversionary right of the present Theatre is vested in his descendants.)
On the was performed the Spanish Fryar, the characters as follow:
From this time the company continued performing without any new name appearing in the bills, till Saturday, the , when the following advertisement appears:
In , Yeates's Company performed Ballad Operas and Pantomimes for Weeks.—Boxes —Pit — Gal. —Upp. Gal.
On the , the Norwich Company advertise their performances at Woodbridge; most of the actors' names the same as in . And on the , the Company from the Theatres in London announce Richard the , and the Lying Valet, written by Mr. Garrick (as it was performed upwards of nights successively, with universal applause, at the Theatre in , London.) On this occasion a Mr. Peterson played Richard. The same Company advertise no more till the , when (by desire of Lady Barker) they played the Miser and the Lying Valet; and closed their season on the , announcing for the Othello and the Lying Valet.
In , the Norwich Comnany played in the autumn at Woodbridge and Saxmundham, and in December at the Playhouse in Tankard Street, Ipswich; after which, to the end of , the Norwich Company appear to have had seasons yearly at the Theatre in Tankard Street, which is in use for that purpose to the present time.
The Ipswich Theatre has undergone much alteration since the time of Garrick's performances on those boards. About years since it was rebuilt, or rather re-edified, most part of the old walls being incorporated in the present building, which at that time was new fronted and decorated with a heavy colonade; since removed, which gives the aspect of the building the exact resemblance as represented in the Plate. The building to the right, with the bench and figures before it, is the Tankard Tavern; in use to the present time as a Tavern, though that has undergone some alteration since the period our drawing was taken; the windows at present being much improved by widening; the gateway, under the window, is the passage to the Pit; the boarded gateway next the Tavern, probably, is the entrance way to the Upper Gallery and Stage Door.
By the play-bills it appears, that when Garrick made his debut as an actor, he was already before the public as an author: his Farce of having been performed at the Theatre in , on Tuesday, , after the play of the Careless Husband, as a "New Dramatic Satire, called Lethe, or Aesop in the Shades," for the benefit of Mr. Gifford. It is believed, that this farce was also produced in , in the winter of -. This fact appears to have been unknown to Murphy, who places his Lethe after his Lying Valet. The play-bill of Saturday, the , does not militate against the fact of Aboan's being the part he played.
[*] It is probable, that theatrical representations were first established at Ipswich, and some serious accident happened at a theatrical representation there, about 1729. In that year was published A Prelude to the Plays; or, a few serious Questions, proposed to the Gentlemen, Ladies, and others, that frequent the Playhouse; which they are desired to answer deliberately to themselves, before they go again to those Diversions. Of this octavo tract there were two editions in the same year, and the SECOND is dedicated "To the worshipful the Bailiffs and other Magistrates of His Majesty's ancient Corporation of Ipswich, or any others in like Places of Trust and Honour, through His Majesty's Dominions." One of the questions begins: "Could you never think that there was a rebuke of divine Providence upon those that attended these plays; when in Ipswich, and other places, their building fell down, to the hurt of many, and the fright of many more?"
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.