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The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

Theatres in Bath, Somerset

The Theatre Royal - The Lyric Theatre / Palace Theatre

The Theatre Royal, Sawclose, Bath

Also - The Ustinov Studio / The Egg Children's Theatre

With some details of The Theatre Royal, Old Orchard Street, Bath

The Theatre Royal, Bath in March 2013 - Courtesy Piers Caunter

Above - The Theatre Royal, Bath in March 2013 - Courtesy Piers Caunter

The Theatre Royal, Orchard Street in 1804 - With kind permission (c) Bath in Time - Bath Central Library Collection.There have been two Theatres Royal in Bath since the mid 1700s. The first was built in Old Orchard Street in 1750 and despite having had many alterations and conversions over the years the building is still standing, currently being used as the Bath Masonic Hall (see a photograph here).

Right - The Theatre Royal, Orchard Street in 1804 - With kind permission (c) Bath in Time - Bath Central Library Collection.

There is a great deal of information on the building itself, and details of guided tours which are given four days each week, on the website of Bath's Old Orchard Street Theatre here.

The second and present Theatre Royal was designed by George Dance the Younger and Bath's City architect John Palmer. Dance designed the Beaufort Square facade and provided the decorative scheme for the Theatre's auditorium. The architectural historian Görel Garlick says that:- 'Dance's restrained neoclassical facade in ashlar with its projecting three-storeyed, five-bay centre piece with panelled pilasters topped by carved theatrical masks, gave the Theatre an architectural and civic status which few British Provincial Theatres could match at that time. The U-shaped auditorium had deep centre boxes and shallower side boxes spread over three tiers. Bronzed cast-iron columns, set back two feet from the box front, supported the upper tiers. The boxes were papered with stamped crimson-coloured wall paper with crimson-coloured, painted box fronts, the latter decorated with four 'broad stripes of gold' with 'scrolls of gold in the centre' (The Beauties of England and Wales, v.13, 1813). The ceiling was divided into five octagonal compartments each containing an allegorical painting by Andrea Casali taken from Fonthill Abbey. Restrained proscenium with the stage doors set in a slight elliptical curve with two narrow proscenium boxes on each side level with the upper tiers. The auditorium was redecorated in 1819 and again in 1838 when Casali's paintings were removed (four of them are now at Dyrham Park) and the stage cut back by 7 ft to make room for stalls.' - Görel Garlick.

The Theatre had first opened on the 12th of October 1805 but was partly destroyed by fire in 1862. The fire gutted the interior but Dance's Beaufort Square frontage survived. Subsequently the Theatre was rebuilt to the designs of the now well known Theatre Architect C. J. Phipps in 1863. The Theatre was Phipps' first commission and for his rebuilt Theatre the architectural historian Görel Garlick says that:- 'Phipps moved the main entrance to the Sawclose adding an eye-catching single-storey, three-bay extension where robust columns topped by medieval-style capitals featuring intricate carvings of mischievous dragons and lions chasing each other's tails, support heavy round arches and a balustraded balcony. It was the first Gothic Revival Theatre entrance in Britain' - Görel Garlick.

A very detailed description of Phipps' new interior, published in 'The Builder' on the 7th of March 1863, says:- 'The plan of the house is totally different from that of the old theatre. The diameter of the circle is 36 feet, with a depth of 46 feet from the proscenium wall to the back of the pit or frontline of the box tiers. The diameter diminishes to 33 feet in a straight line to the proscenium pillars (28 feet wide), opening by a convex curve to 35 feet in a line parallel to the diameter; the space between the pillars at this part and the proscenium opening being devoted to private boxes which are terminated by carved capitals at the level of the gallery front, third tier. An arch spans the opening of the same curve and depth as the private boxes. The ceiling takes the exact line of the box fronts, meeting the outer edge of the proscenium arch, and is 36 feet diameter measure inside the cove. The stage advances about 6 feet into the house from the curtain line. The orchestra pit occupies the usual position, dividing the stage from the pit, the floor being 4 feet 4 inches in dept from the front part of the stage. The floor of the first pit seat is 9 inches above this rising at an incline of seven-eighths of an inch to a foot to the dress-circle tier, the floor there being 6 feet 6 inches to the top of the box front. The dress circle has a depth of 18 feet in the centre with seven rows of seats gradually diminishing to two rows only at the sides. The angles from the stage are very sharp...

The auditorium of C. J. Phipps' 1863 Theatre Royal, Bath, during a meeting of the British Association in 1864 - From the Illustrated London News September 1864.

Above - The auditorium of C. J. Phipps' 1863 Theatre Royal, Bath, during a meeting of the British Association in 1864 - From the Illustrated London News September 1864.

...The upper box tier is supported by eight iron columns, thrown back to the second row of seats, the height being 9 feet from floor of front floor of front row of dress circle to the ceiling and 9 feet again from floor of upper boxes to soffit under gallery; there being a height of 12 feet from front of gallery tier to soffit round the coves of the ceiling. The upper tier is similar to the tier bellow except that two private boxes are taken from it on either side.

The Stage at the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1863 - An Extract from the Builder, 7 March 1863.
The Stage at the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1863 - An Extract from the Builder, 7 March 1863.

The gallery recedes a considerable distance, being continued over the box corridors and saloons to a depth on the incline of 51 feet from the front. It takes the whole width of the building, the staircase being external, and though [sic] more than usual height to the soffit of the ceiling at the gallery part, enables those at the top to see clearly to the back of the stage and also to the foot lights. The sides of the gallery are formed by arches at the same springing as the proscenium – what is usually known as slips but which in this case is called amphitheatre and takes in the first three rows of the gallery and can be filled at either pit or upper box price at the discretion of the manager; the circular staircases at the sides of the proscenium being made available in the latter case, while the staircase to the gallery would be used in the former.

The ceiling itself is a flat dome 36 feet in diameter, rising about 3 feet in the centre. The ventilator – a circular shaft 6 feet diameter runs directly through the roof with a second tube inside it from the sun-burner. There are also large an effective ventilators with separate shafts in the gallery ceiling. The height from centre of the ceiling to the floor of the pit is 42 feet.

The decorations of the theatre are... by Messrs. Green & King of Baker-street, London, and were chiefly designed and executed by their artist Mr. Devilder. The mode of treatment throughout has been in flat oils; the ceiling and proscenium arch being painted upon canvas and pasted on. The former is divided into eight compartments with allegorical figures representing comedy, tragedy, opera, ballet, pantomime, spectacle, farce and melodrama; and medallions of Shakespeare and other dramatists of his date and style. The other ornaments are rather eclectic in character, principally taken from thirteenth century illuminations and ornament.

The proscenium arch represents the "Seven Ages of Man" by a series of figures painted in outline with strong black lines and slight shadow, on a pale blue ground, the parts of the arch at springing being filled with spandrils assimilating to the ornament in ceiling.

The box fronts are executed... in carton pierre from designs by the architect. The dress-circle front has a series of twenty-four panels filled with subjects from the principal of Shakespeare's plays, painted in colours upon a gold ground, alternating with the heads and heraldic devices of the English kings introduced in the historical plays. The colour of the box linings is a light grey green, perfectly dead so as to prevent reflection.

The whole cost of the building, not including the site or main walls... has been about 7,000l.'

The above text in quotes (Edited and kindly sent in by the Architectural Historian Görel Garlick) was first published in 'The Builder', 7th March 1863. Details of the Stage and backstage equipment from the same article can be seen here.

Görel Garlick adds that:- 'The original workshops backstage were removed at this time and the stage was enlarged to take the latest stage machinery. A large separate workshop was built on the north side connected by a bridge to the back of the stage. Phipps's Bath Theatre Royal was his first Theatre commission and a landmark building in terms of British Theatre design and his own career. It signalled the beginning of Victorian Theatre architecture outside London - Görel Garlick.

A Google StreetView Image of the Theatre Royal, Bath - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Theatre Royal, Bath - Click to Interact.

A Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Theatre Royal Bath December 1938.In 1892 the Theatre was the subject of further improvements, carried out again by C. J. Phipps, at a cost of £1,000. The Theatre reopened on Monday the 29th of August 1892 and the ERA printed a report on the refurbished Theatre in their 3rd of September edition saying:- 'The Theatre Royal, Bath, in which improvements and embellishments, at a cost exceeding £1,000, have been made under the direction of Mr C. J. Phipps, was reopened on Monday last.

A marked improvement is observable immediately on entering the building. In place of the old heavy doors, which the visitor in the first place encountered, there have been erected handsome doors of teak, which are polished a rich brown mahogany colour, and in the upper parts is panelled plate glass.

Right - A Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Theatre Royal Bath in December 1938.

The entrance vestibule has been much improved by the introduction of a floor in mosaic, and the stencilling and decorating in warm colours of the ceilings and walls. After admiring the rich Japanese embossed panelling above the steps in the corridor beyond, and perhaps noting the pretty design overhead, the visitor passes through swing doors of the same description, which displace the old baize ones so familiar to frequenters of the dress-circle, and enters the semi-circular lobby. Here the walls are of a dainty salmon colour, with a rich Pompeian red dado, harmonising well with the carpeting...

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1991 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1991 - Courtesy Ted Bottle who says:- 'The 1991 photographs shown here were taken after the gallery slips were restored. Both had been cut back to roughly the second pillar in the Dress Circle, probably because of some structural difficulty. The house tabs are a replacement for those with Greek Key at the bottom. These have the initials C.C. in the centre and were given in memory of Charlie Chaplin by his wife.'

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1991 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1991 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

A Postcard view of the Auditorium and Stage of the Theatre Royal, Bath - Courtesy Roger Fox.

Above - A Postcard view of the Auditorium and Stage of the Theatre Royal, Bath - Courtesy Roger Fox.

...Patent pneumatic springs have been affixed to all the doors. In the dress-circle itself improvement has been made wherever possible, besides the general decoration harmonising with the rest of the house. The cloakrooms have been nicely papered, and the sanitary arrangements here, as in every part of the theatre, have been renewed, improved, and brought up to date...

The Rear elevation, Stage House, Scene Dock doors, and Stage Door of the Theatre Royal and Ustinov Theatre, Bath in March 2013 - Courtesy Piers Caunter.

Above - The Rear elevation, Stage House, Scene Dock doors, and Stage Door of the Theatre Royal and Ustinov Theatre, Bath in March 2013 - Courtesy Piers Caunter.

A detail from the main facade of the Theatre Royal Bath in March 2013 - Courtesy Piers Caunter....For the purpose of heightening the artistic effect, and of accentuating the elegantly designed fronts of the three tiers, which are chiefly adorned in ivory white, pale blue, and gold, the walls of the circles behind are papered in rich rose red. At the top of each tier run handsome gold beadings. Different in design, and more bold in execution, are the lower tier, circles, diamonds, and panels, each of which contains an elaborate design, which is let into the ivory background. Especially beautiful are the panels, which are painted in red and yellow, with an edging of turquoise blue.

Left - A detail from the main facade of the Theatre Royal Bath in March 2013 - Courtesy Piers Caunter.

On either hand the private boxes are decorated in a charming blue tint, the silk brocade curtains being on the inner side of the same shade, but outwardly of rose red to match the walls of the circles. The pillars supporting the tiers are suitably adorned, and conduce greatly to the brilliancy of the whole. The Improvement has not, however, stopped at the auditorium...

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1991 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1991 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1991 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1991 - Courtesy Ted Bottle who says:- 'The 1991 photographs shown here were taken after the gallery slips were restored. Both had been cut back to roughly the second pillar in the Dress Circle, probably because of some structural difficulty. The house tabs are a replacement for those with Greek Key at the bottom. These have the initials C.C. in the centre and were given in memory of Charlie Chaplin by his wife.'

...Behind the scenes everything has been overhauled and scrupulous cleanliness reigns supreme. The walls of the stage have been distempered right up to the "gridiron," while the ten commodious dressing-rooms, repainted and improved sanitarily, afford ample accommodation. The green-room, with its sixteen neat arm chairs, is very comfortable, as is the manager's room near. The audience on Monday night testified their approval by repeated applause; cheers were given for Mr Lewis, who has borne the entire cost of the work, and satisfaction was general.

After the overture by the orchestra the members of Mr Fred. Fredericks' burlesque company, who were presently to appear in the new burlesque The Rose of the Alhambra, sang the National Anthem, the solo being given by Miss Florence Black, the audience standing.'

The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in the ERA, 3rd September 1892.

The Auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in May 2016 - Courtesy Michael Shaw

Above - The Auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in May 2016 - Courtesy Michael Shaw

The Auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in May 2016 - Courtesy Michael Shaw

Above - The Auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Bath in May 2016 - Courtesy Michael Shaw

The entrance to the Theatre Royal's Ustinov Theatre, in March 2013 - Courtesy Piers Caunter.The Theatre Royal had a new stage and Grid constructed in 1981 and its auditorium was restored at the same time (see the 1991 and 2016 photographs on this page).

The Theatre today is a Grade II Listed Building with a seating capacity of 950.

The Theatres Trust calls this '...the most important surviving example of Georgian theatre architecture'.

The Theatre Royal also includes a small Studio Theatre at the rear of the Theatre on Monmouth Street called the 'Ustinov Studio', which was built in 1997, and named after Peter Ustinov. And a children's Theatre called 'The Egg' which is a Grade II Listed conversion from a former Cinema and Church Hall.

Right - The entrance to the Theatre Royal's Ustinov Theatre, in March 2013 - Courtesy Piers Caunter.

You may also like to visit the Theatre Royal's main Website here.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Bath in 1869 and 1879 although the venues are currently unknown.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Lyric Theatre, Sawclose, Bath

Formerly - The Bath Pavilion - Later - The Palace Theatre / Regency Ballroom / Gala Bingo and President Cinema

A Google StreetView Image of the former Lyric / Palace Theatre, Bath - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Lyric / Palace Theatre, Bath - Click to Interact

The Lyric Theatre was constructed by Frank Kirk on the site of the former Hay and Straw Market and the later (1886) Bath Pavilion (not to be confused with the present Bath Pavilion which opened in 1910.) The Lyric Theatre was designed by the well known architects Wylson and Long and opened on Monday October the 28th 1895, the same day as the Bristol Empire Theatre reopened after its reconstruction for the owners of both Theatres; the Bath and Bristol Theatres of Varieties, Limited.

The ERA reported on the opening of the Lyric Theatre and the Bristol Empire in their 2nd of November 1895 edition in the following article:

Varieties at Bath and Bristol
(By our special Representative)

The opening of two theatres of varieties in the same district on one night is a notable example of business enterprise, and is in itself an evidence of the rapid progress which has of resent years been made in providing for the public an increasingly popular form of entertainment. The directors of the Bath and Bristol Theatres of Varieties, Limited, are gentlemen of experience and knowledge, both of which are certainly required by those who have to do with the erection and carrying out of places of amusement for the people, and the inhabitants of the two West of England cities may feel the utmost confidence that under the direction of the company the entertainment at both houses will be of the highest class possible, while the buildings themselves are replete with the most modern improvements.

The directors, accompanied by some of the principal artists (amongst these being Miss Fanny Leslie and Little Tich, with whom was Mrs Tich) and several press representatives, left Paddington for Bath on Monday afternoon at three o'clock, travelling by a special saloon carriage. The party had a pleasant journey to the West, and on arriving at Bath Station were met and welcomed by several gentlemen well known in the music hall world, amongst these being Messrs Edward Swanborough, Vernon Dowsett, H. Lundy, Angelo Asher, and others. The party were conveyed in carriages to the Castle Hotel, a comfortable old-fashioned hostelry, where dinner was provided. Mr E. Rawlings (chairman of the company) presided, and Mr G. A. Payne (managing director) occupied the vice-chair.

Amongst the party here and at Bristol were, in addition to those already mentioned, Captain Warren Wright, Messrs James Kirk, Frank Kirk, E. C. Haynes, W. Graham, W. Millwood, H. J. Turner, F. Jackson, Henry Tozer, F. Holden, Harry Rickards, Charles Godfrey, Paul Valentine, Richard Warner, George Foster, S. Hyman, Will Oliver, Wylson, J. M. Boekbinder, H. C. Newton, J. Campbell, J. H. Barnes, Ibbetson, Brokenston, and Macnicoll.

A few complimentary toasts were briefly given and responded to, the hope being expressed on all sides that the new enterprises would prove as successful as they unquestionably deserved to be.

THE LYRIC, BATH

An adjournment was then made to the new Lyric Theatre, which occupies the site of the demolished Bath Pavilion. It is a handsome and commodious house, built on modern principles and affording seating accommodation for over 800 persons, and promenade and standing room for a considerable number more. The grand circle is constructed on the cantilever system, so that every seat in the house commands a perfect view of the performance.

Great care has been taken to provide each part of the house with separate and roomy entrances and exits, and the staircases are formed throughout of fireproof materials, thus ensuring a safe means of exit to the public in case of fire. The artists have been provided with ample dressing-rooms in a separate adjoining building, entered from Bridewell-lane, and communicating directly with the stage by a passage divided from the theatre by brick walls. On the circle floor a handsome foyer and bar have been provided, and each portion of the audience has been similarly catered for, together with ample cloakrooms and lavatory accommodation.

The house has been designed by the well-known theatre architects Messrs Wylson and Long, of London, and has been erected under their personal superintendence by Mr Frank Kirk, of Westminster. The decorations of the auditorium have been executed from the architects' design by Mr J. M. Boekbinder, in plastic relief, in cream and gold picked out with light tints of blue, with a painted ceiling of which blue forms the groundwork, and the house has been richly carpeted and upholstered by Messrs Atkinson and Co., of Westminster-bridge-road, London, who have also had entrusted to them the execution of the plush tableau and box curtains, and the theatre is provided with both gas and electric lighting by Messrs Vaughan and Brown, who are well known for this class of work. The bar fittings and the pewtering are the work of Mr T. Heath, of Clerkenwell. In regard both to elegance and comfort this house will vie with the theatres of the West-end of London, and it is evident at a glance that no pains have been spared to make the new hall worthy of the patronage of the inhabitants of the ancient city of Bath.

The house was filled to its utmost capacity, and the programme opened with the singing of the National Anthem, the solo being excellently rendered by Miss Nita Clavering, a pleasing young vocalist, who was heard again later in the evening. Little Tich, specially engaged for the opening night, had a most enthusiastic reception, and while he occupied the stage merriment prevailed in all parts of the house. He sang three of his latest successes, and was applauded to the echo. Miss Fannie Leslie, in consequence of missing a train, through being given incorrect information as to the time it started, did not arrive at the hall until within a few minutes to eleven, when all the other artists had finished their 'turns,' but the band played until the popular comedienne was ready to appear, and the audience gave her as hearty a welcome as could be desired. Miss Leslie was in her best form, and her contributions to the evening's amusement were much enjoyed. Miss Nora Girton, who is new to the variety halls, gave the musical monologue entitled Onward, and also sang "The Lady Nurse," which received quite an ovation. Here also appeared in the course of the evening Mr George Ridgewell, baritone vocalist; Miss Ada Templeton, plantation dancer; Nick Hughes and Clare Farron, in the sketch Echoes from the South; the Girards (Louise, Amiee, and Julian); the Elliott Family, male and female acrobats; Miss Frances Roma, ballad vocalist; Mr Sam Torr, comedian; Les Trois Diables, the elastic three; and Mr Francis Doyle, song and dance artist. The band was ably conducted by Mr Jules Rebelly.

The above text was first published in the ERA, 2nd November 1895.

A Poster for 'Vive Les Femmes' at the Palace Theatre, Bath in 1950 - Courtesy David Garratt. The Lyric Theatre opened on Monday October the 28th 1895 under the management of George Adney Payne as a Music Hall and Variety Theatre.

The Theatre was renamed the Palace Theatre of Varieties in 1905 when it was taken over by the MacNaghten Vaudeville Circuit. Still showing variety the Theatre also began showing early Bioscope films at this time and would continue with film presentations up until the 1920s when it reverted to variety only.

Right - A Poster for 'Vive Les Femmes' at the Palace Theatre, Bath in November 1950 - Courtesy David Garratt. On the Bill were Frank Preston, Geofrey Shaw, Edward Farley, Yvonne, Mehro, Eric Watts, Jack Hayden, Pauline Terry, Barry O'Brien, Eaves & Travers, and Haval & Byl.

In the 1930s the Theatre was altered so that its original ornate auditorium became simpler with one straight fronted balcony.

In 1955 the Theatre was closed and then converted for use as the Regency Ballroom by removing the stage boxes and opening the space gained into the auditorium, with the balcony extended around the auditorium. The Regency Ballroom opened in 1956.

In the late 1960s the Theatre was converted for Bingo use by Gala Bingo. The former Saloon Bar of the Theatre was later converted into a pub and a small cinema called the President Cinema was fitted into the Theatre's former circle bar in 1976.

The Theatre survives today as a Grade II Listed Building, still housing Bingo, and with its exterior unaltered and its auditorium intact. The former Saloon Bar of the Theatre which was converted into a pub in the 1960s is today in use as a cafe/ restaurant called the Market. There is an image of the Lyric's original auditorium here, although the date of opening stated there is incorrect. And there is a programme for the Palace Theatre here.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Bath in 1869 and 1879 although the venues are currently unknown.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.

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