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The Theatre Royal, Duke Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Formerly - The Liver Theatre (The Old Wooden Box) / The Circus

Bradford Index

 A notice on the opening of the Theatre Royal, Duke Street - From the Bradford Observer, 8th August, 1844The Theatre Royal, Duke Street, Bradford (not to be confused with the later Theatre Royal on Manningham Lane) was a wooden building which first opened on Duke Street as the Liver Theatre in 1841. The Theatre was later remodeled by Charles Rice and renamed the Theatre Royal when it reopened on August the 13th, 1844. This Theatre Royal went on to be associated with many of the greatest Theatrical names of the period before it was replaced in stature by the newer Theatre Royal in Manningham Lane which originally opened as the Alexandra Theatre on Monday the 26th of December 1864.

Right - A notice on the opening of the Theatre Royal, Duke Street - From the Bradford Observer, 8th August, 1844.

The ERA carried a report on the Early Drama of Bradford, and in it they wrote on the Duke Stret Theatre Royal saying: - 'Another theatre dear to the memory of many an old Bradford playgoer was the old Theatre Royal, Duke-street, or the old "wooden box," as it was often called. As the home for so many years of what was styled the " legitimate drama " it certainly was a shabby concern. It was erected in the year 1841 as a theatre for Mrs Wild, and went by the name of the "Liver" theatre. Then it did service as a circus for a time, and in 1844 it was engaged by Messrs Mosley and Rice for the purposes of a theatre. Before being opened by them, however, it was altered and improved very much, and a grand new front, designed by Mr Chas. Rice, was stuck on.

There were other associations, however, clinging to the quaint-looking old building in Duke-street that must not be overlooked. It was the cradle of histrionic talent of no common order. Here was the birthplace of reputations such as those of Amy Sedgwick, Julia St. George, Maria Jones, Lysander Thompson (the younger), Rogers, Belford, J. G. Shore, Stoyle, and others, "names which reflected a glory back upon the place whence they sprang."

The boards of that old "wooden box" had been honoured by the tread of actors no less distinguished than Macready, Vandenhoff and his talented daughter, Mr and Mrs Charles Kean, Phelps, the Misses Cushman, Helen Faucit, and others.

The audiences at the old Royal were chiefly made up of the sons of toil - horny-handed men, who liked good acting and plenty of it. It was the play they went to see - not blue-fire and saltpetre - and if it was not to their liking they had a way of showing their disapproval which could not possibly be misunderstood.

The first performance in the old Royal, under the lesseeship of Messrs Mosley and Rice, took place on August 12th, 1844, and the first play put on the boards was that of The Hunchback, which was followed by the laughable farce of The Illustrious Stranger; or, Married and Buried.

In a conversation which he had with Mr Rice a few years ago concerning this period of his connection with the Bradford theatre he told Mr Scruton that the company at this time was the best he (Mr Rice) had ever known to be brought together outside London. It included Lysander Thompson, Mr and Miss Woolgar, Julia St. George, Walton, the tragedian, Lewis Ball, Mrs Nunn, and others of scarcely less excellence. Mr Scruton produced a playbill which gave the cast of the company at this time. It gave the names of fifteen male and ten female actors. Out of this number (twenty-five) only three now survive - viz. Mr Lewis Ball, Mrs Nunn, of this town, and Miss Kirk (now Mrs Brooke).

In the old stock company days the capabilities of actors were severely taxed by laborious study and long rehearsals. Some conception of this might be formed when it was stated that Mrs Nunn had appeared in as many as fourteen characters in one week. To Mrs Nunn belonged the honour of having reached the highest sum ever realised in the old Royal on the occasion of a single benefit. The largest amount that could be raised with a crowded house and at ordinary prices was £50. The year 1845 was regarded as a very successful one, the three proprietors having the sum of £450 to share among them as the net profits of that season. In illustration of his paper, Mr Scruton exhibited a view of the old Theatre Royal in Duke-street.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 25th June 1887.

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

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