Home Page
The Music Hall and Theatre History Website

Home - Index - New - Maps - Contact




The Prince's Theatre, Park Row, Bristol

Formerly - The Theatre Royal

See also - The Theatre Royal, King Street, Bristol

Bristol Index

An early photograph of the Prince's Theatre, Park Row, Bristol - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive)

Above - An early photograph of the Prince's Theatre, Park Row, Bristol - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive) who says 'My father effectively ran the theatre on behalf of Mr Hickson who was the manager in the 1930s. He was his chauffeur, security officer, commissionaire and was responsible for ensuring that all performers were greeted and shown to their rooms etc. He was on first name terms with many of the greats of the late 30's and was drinking companion with some of the solo stars.'

 

A programme for 'Cinderella' at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol in December 1902 - Click to see entire programme.The Prince's Theatre, Park Row, Bristol was built on the site of the former residence of the Baillie family and took six months to construct. The Theatre was built by Davis and Sons for J. H. Chute of the Theatre Royal, King Street, Bristol and cost around £17,000 to construct. The Theatre was designed by the well known Theatre Architect C. J. Phipps and originally opened as the Theatre Royal, Park Row on Monday the 14th of October 1867 with a production of 'The Tempest'.

Right - A programme for 'Cinderella' at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol in December 1902 - Click to see entire programme.

Reporting on the plans for the proposed Theatre in their February 23rd 1867 edition the ERA said: 'By the courtesy of Mr. Chute we have been favored with an inspection of the plans prepared by the architect selected, Mr. C. J. Phipps, of Bath, for the proposed new Theatre Royal, Park-row, The experience which Mr. Phipps has had in the erection of some of the moat recent and elegant theatrical structures in England, based, as we know that experience was, on a careful study of the principal continental theatres, and aided, as it doubtless has been, by the great practical knowledge which the proprietor, Mr. Chute, possesses of the requirements of a Bristol audience, prepared us to anticipate a very perfect design. And certainly the drawings which have been thrown open to our criticism evince an amount of thought and study, and a care in the arrangement and adjustment of details, which could hardly be surpassed.

The front elevation is handsome and imposing, and has been economised in a way which, without interfering with the general harmony and beauty of the design, will bring a considerable contribution to the income of the concern.... Owing to the peculiar conformation of the site, there will be no part of the building which is not above ground; whilst the entrance to the boxes throughout its entire course from street to seating will be uninterrupted by steps of any kin., The opening of the basement at all points upon the free air will be important, not merely on the score of economy of light, but because also it must contribute most materially to the all-important consideration - ventilation. Another marked feature of the plans is the great anxiety evinced to reduce the risks of fire to a minimum, and to provide ready egress from the interior in case of (whether needful or needless) alarm amongst the audience.

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Park Row, Bristol, later the Prince's Theatre - Courtesy John West.

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Park Row, Bristol, later the Prince's Theatre - Courtesy John West.

In the first place there will be no heating by means of hot-air flues, a system which has led to such frequent mischief; but ample arrangements are made for raising the temperature of the house in a way that keeps the fires employed under constant view and management. Secondly, the carpenter's, machinist's, and other workshops will be placed not within, but on the outside of the main building. Thirdly, the gas arrangements have been contrived with a regard to constant supervision and the readiest control. There will also be extra doors, which can he thrown open at will for the exit of the audience from the gallery, pit, &c.

Souvenir Programme for a Charity Matinee for the Royal Infirmary Fund at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol on February the 27th 1906Another matter which has received studied attention is the ready sighting of the stage from the front. Some sacrifice of seating space has been made to accomplish the end, but there will not be a spot in the entire auditorium which will not command a good view of the stage. The stage itself will be considerably larger than that of the present Theatre Royal; it will be of more manageable proportions, and will be fitted with every appliance suggested by the experiences of management.

Left - A Souvenir Programme for a Charity Matinee for the Royal Infirmary Fund at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol on February the 27th 1906 - The first part of the programme was a Variety performance with a cast including Harry Tate in his sketch "Golfing," George Lashwood singing "She's my Best Girl," Barbara Deane singing "For You," Nellie Christie singing "Susie Tootsie," Albert Le Fre singing "The Dancing Family," and many more popular artistes of the period. Part two of the programme was a performance of 'Mother Goose" with Wilkie Bard and a large cast.

There will be, in connexion with it, ample and well-arranged dressing-rooms for "stars," the regular company, and the "supers;" and a commodious green-room, manager's and stage-manager's rooms, and stars' sitting-rooms. The wardrobe, library, property-rooms, music-room, treasury, scene-rooms, &c, will be arranged in the most convenient manner so as to facilitate the operations of the stage and lighten the labours of those actively engaged.

The comfort and convenience of visitors are matters which have received an equal amount of thoughtful consideration. Between the orchestra and pit will be a number of handsome and comfortable stalls, and fronting the gallering will be a gallery amphitheatre. The account which the habitues of the pit have in this last-named arrangement need not, we are sure, be dwelt upon. The sweep of the gallery, like that of the boxes, will only be carried partially round the building, so that there may be no interruption of the stage view even to the humblest patron. The entrance to the dress circle and boxes will be through a commodious lobby opening into what is termed a "crush" room, but which we, looking to its ample and convenient proportions, should rather designate an "expansion" room. The seats in the boxes will be of a superior kind, and accessible by means of convenient avenues at suitable intervals. The lobbies on the outside of the tiers will also be wide and lofty, and there will be ladies' cloak-rooms, &c., and a refreshment saloon, open to the occupants of both ranges of boxes.'

The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in the ERA, 23rd February 1867.

 

Seating plan for the Prince's Theatre - From a Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Theatre in December 1902.Plans for the Theatre were first presented in February 1867 and by October the same year the Theatre had been built. The ERA published a report on the soon to be opened Theatre in their 12th of October 1867 edition saying: 'During the week the progress made in the works in the interior of the new building has been marvelous, and last night it presented to a great extent the finished appearance which it will wear on the opening night (Monday next). On Tuesday the effect of Strode's patent sun light, which concentrates the whole of the illumination for the auditory in one small circle, close to the ceiling of the building, was tried, and it proved perfectly dazzling to those who looked at it steadfastly even for a abort time, but being at so great a height this intense illuminating power is beautifully softened in the light which is diffused over the whole of the interior. The chaste and delicate character of the decorations of ceiling, proscenium, and box tiers was rendered doubly attractive beneath the softened artificial light. The act drop scene, and Mr. Geo Well's really fine pictures of Tragedy and Comedy which adorn the panels at the base of the columns on either side the proscenium were brought up with charming effect. Mr. Well's figures have already won the admiration of many persons who have been privileged to see them, and they will certainly add much to the well-earned reputation of the artist...

Right - A seating plan for the Prince's Theatre, formerly the Theatre Royal, Park Row, Bristol - From a Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Theatre in December 1902.

The internal decorations are characterised by the most exquisite delicacy and finish, while in the whole of the enrichments of auditorium, ceiling, proscenium, drop-scene, and everything before the stage there is a happy and harmonious blending of the light, flowing, and graceful design which is the special feature of the decorations. The sittings of the different parts of the house have been arranged with a studied regard to comfort. The dress circle chairs are luxuriously cushioned, have arms attached to them, and are so constructed that the seats will turn up vertically, thus greatly facilitating the ingress and egress of the visitors. They are covered with scarlet cloth, with gilt nails. The upper circle is nicely cushioned with leather. The orchestra stalls (which in London form the most fashionable part of the theatre) will also be elegantly fitted. The pit stalls are very comfortable, and nearly all the pit seats are backed. The front row of the gallery is set apart as an amphitheatre, an arrangement which will, we believe, be found to have many advantages; and the gallery seats generally are of very easy access.

 

A period postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Park Row, Bristol.The "Tempest" has been appropriately selected as the piece for the opening night, both on account of its being one of the most beautiful works of the greatest of all dramatists, and the scope which it will give for the scenic and spectacular display necessary to show the full capabilities of the new theatre; and from the arrangements that have been made during the past week we feel convinced that Mr. Chute will produce the striking and beautiful scenes of the Enchanted Isle in a manner that has never been surpassed. The cast is a very strong one Miss Cross, the lady who produced such a great impression as Diana Vernon in the revival of Rob Roy at Drury Lane, has been specially engaged for the character of Ariel, Mr. James Bennett will personate Prospero, and probably no man on the stage would be so equal to the effective declamation of the polished and poetic language to which the banished prince gives utterance.

Left - A period postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Park Row, Bristol.

Miss Jane Bignold peculiarly suited to the gentle simplicity and girlish naiveté of Miranda, Mr Vernon has shown himself so versatile an actor and so capable of forming an original conception of peculiar and difficult characters that we expect to find his Caliban a decided success. At one time it was the custom of managers to assign the part to a low comedian, but Mr. Macready, when he produced the same piece upon such a perfect scale during his famous management of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, broke through the system by assigning the part to Mr. George Bennett, the well-known tragedian. On Monday morning the box-office was opened for the purpose of letting seats for the first night. It was speedily thronged, and in less than an hour the whole of the plan was filled. The admission even to the popular parts of the house on Monday are intended to be effected, as far as possible, by tickets, and we advise those who desire to be present to be prompt. The "Tempest" will be repeated every night during the week.'

The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in the ERA, 12th October 1867.

 

A period postcard depicting the Prince's Theatre, Park Row, Bristol, formerly the Theatre Royal.The Park Row Theatre Royal, later to be named the Prince's Theatre, opened on Monday the 14th of October 1867 with a production of 'The Tempest' and the ERA reported on the opening in their 19th of October edition saying: 'The really beautiful and elegantly-decorated Temple of the Muses which has been erected in Park-row within the past six months, thanks to the energy, enterprise, and practical judgment of Mr. J. H. Chute, the skill of his architect, and the taste and cunning art of the craftsmen whom he has employed, was opened on Monday night at the very hour named by the manager before the foundation-stone was laid, and (despite the difficulties which are inseparable from a first night's representation) with an éclat which gives abundant promise of its future success.

Right - A period postcard depicting the Prince's Theatre, Park Row, Bristol, formerly the Theatre Royal.

We have already described the structural proportions of the building and the internal design so fully that we need only add here that beneath the brilliant illumination of Strode's sun burner the exquisitely chaste and strikingly original character of Mr. Gordon's design was fully appreciated by the audience. In the decorations, the act-drop, proscenium, and every part of the house before the stage, the colour and design were blended in one harmonious whole with a success which reflected the greatest credit on Mr. Gordon, Mr. Harford, Mr, Bell, and the other artists connected with the work.

The house will seat 2154 persons, being 500 more than can enter the house in King-street. The gallery will take 700, and the pit 800. The pit itself is 64 feet wide; the width of the stage including scene docks, is 107 feet; height from the level of the stage to "the gridiron floor" 59 ft. and from the basement of the cellars below to the same floor is 79 ft.

The arrangements behind are as complete as they are before the curtain, and with all the latest improvements to work the machinery of Messrs Shattock and Eddles, the New Theatre Royal, Bristol, will, we are sure, vie with any theatre of its size in the successful production of elaborately wrought dramatic scenes. As an instance of the extensive scale of the mechanical arrangements behind the scenes, we may state that more than twenty-four miles of rope have been used in connexion with the machinery.

In addition to the names of the promoter of the building, the architect, and the artists who have decorated it, we may appropriately mention others who have taken prominent parts in the work. Messrs. Davis and Sons, the builders, we have mentioned on a previous occasion. The following tradesmen and others executed and supplied various parts of the structure: - Messrs Osbourne and Son, plumbers' work ; Mr, Williams, St, Michael's-hill, the gas arrangements; Messrs. Jones and Co., London, gas regulator and index plate; Mr. Cowling, the painting and plastering; Messrs. Champion and Sons, the paper hanging; Messrs, Wadman (Bath), and Anderson and Abbott (High-street), box seats and coverings; West of England Furnishing Company, the chairs, &c.; Messrs. Leverton, the upholstery, hangings, carpets, &c,; Messrs. Shattock and Eddles, the machinery; Mr, J. L. Smith, of Birmingham, the lime light apparatus; Mr. May, Mrs. Adams, and Mrs. Shapcott, the costumes; the St. Helen's Glass Company, the plate glass; Messrs, Hall and Pedder, the street lamps, &c.

The Prince's Theatre, Bristol, formerly the Theatre Royal, Park Row - From a Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Theatre in December 1902.Behind the curtain, and in connexion with the scenery, Mr. Gordon, sen., Mr. Spong, Mr. Horn, and Mr, Frank Jones have, with Mr. Geo. Gordon and the others already named, rendered valuable aid; and last, but not least, we must not omit mention of Mr. Tasker, who proved an efficient clerk of the works.

Left - The Prince's Theatre, Bristol, formerly the Theatre Royal, Park Row - From a Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Theatre in December 1902.

The choice of the immortal dramatist's " Tempest " as the opening play was a very happy selection, for through the long line of Shakespearean critics there is a common accord as to its exquisite fancy, its true poetry, and the force of its numerous character. The revival of Mr. Chute is in many respects unique. Whilst he has availed himself of the reproductions of Mr, Macready, during his never-to-be-forgotten management of Covent Garden, and of Mr. Charles Kean, whilst wielding the sceptre of the Princess's Theatre, he has not been a subservient follower of either. There are respects in which he is far better off than they were. At the date of the first-named revival many mechanical appliances which now exist were unknown, and the lime light and other great aids to scenic effect had not been enlisted on behalf of the drama; Mr. Kean's exertions, moreover, were "cabin'd, cribb'd, and confined" by his inadequate stage limits, Mr. Chute's work has been undertaken in an advanced age, and he has at his command a stage which is not only fitted with all the latest improvements, but is only two feet smaller than that of Drury-lane. Those who have witnessed the performance will agree that he has not thrown away the advantages he possesses.

Postcard showing the first scene; 'The Village Green' from the pantomime 'Mother Hubbard' at the Princess Theatre, Bristol in 1909. The cast included G. H. Elliott, Fred Conquest, Lulu Valli (Principle Boy) Alice Pollard (Principle Girl), Sydney Fairbrother, and Charles Harvey.

Above - Postcard showing the first scene; 'The Village Green' from the pantomime 'Mother Hubbard' at the Princess Theatre, Bristol in 1909. The cast included G. H. Elliott, Fred Conquest, Lulu Valli (Principle Boy) Alice Pollard (Principle Girl), Sydney Fairbrother, and Charles Harvey. There is more information about this production here...

The doors opened on Monday at a quarter-past six o'clock, and the large building was speedily filled, the dress circle, private boxes, and pit stalls being occupied by the most fashionable residents of our city and neighbourhood. When the sunlight was fully turned on, and a blaze of light brought out the beauties of the house, there was a load burst of applause.

Postcard showing the second scene 'The Village Green' from the pantomime 'Mother Hubbard' at the Princess Theatre, Bristol in 1909 - The cast included G. H. Elliott, Fred Conquest, Lulu Valli (Principle Boy) Alice Pollard (Principle Girl), Sydney Fairbrother, and Charles Harvey.

Above - Postcard showing the second scene 'The Village Green' from the pantomime 'Mother Hubbard' at the Princess Theatre, Bristol in 1909 - The cast included G. H. Elliott, Fred Conquest, Lulu Valli (Principle Boy) Alice Pollard (Principle Girl), Sydney Fairbrother, and Charles Harvey. There is more information about this production here...

A  programme for the Prince's Theatre, Bristol in October 1940 - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive).The raising of the green baize curtain and disclosure of the beautiful act drop led to a second shout of approbation. A very capital orchestra of more than 20 artistes having, under Mr, Chapman's able leadership, played Weber's overture, "The Ruler of the Spirits," Mr. Chute then came forward, and was received in a manner that warmly testified to the respect in which he is held and the approbation with which his enterprising spirit is regarded by the public.

Right - A programme for the Prince's Theatre, Bristol in October 1940 - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive).

The plaudits were continued round after round, and it was some minutes before he could utter a word. He then spoke as follows: - I wish the first words uttered upon these boards to be those of welcome, I am most proud and happy in being able this evening to say, ladies and gentlemen, you are most heartily welcome. It is usual on occasions like the present for the manager to deliver a poetic address, and, "with much verbosity," "throw himself upon a British public's generosity." I thought a few simple and sincere words would be more in keeping and more acceptable to you, "for never anything can be amiss when simpleness and duty tender it." Many may remember seeing in the Pantomime of last Christmas, at the old Royal Theatre, in King-street, a pictorial representation of this building, with the announcement - "Opening Night, October 14, 1867." It was a long shot, but I have hit the mark (loud cheers). I have kept my promise; I am, indeed, happy in being able to say, I have kept faith with you; for, although at that time the ground was purchased, it did not come into my hands until six weeks afterwards, and on Ash Wednesday the place beneath my feet was a charming lawn, surrounded by shrubs, trees, and vineries - in fact, nature with her hair combed (cheers). Then came the monster demolition; but also stepped in with him reconstruction. We did not alter to deface. I hope that we have given you an equivalent (cheers). During the progress, but more especially towards the completion of this building, people standing outside would exclaim, "Magical, perfectly magical." Nothing of the kind. "We worked by wit and not by witchcraft." Twas done by method, order, system. Before a stone was laid we knew the cost of the whole structure. The time required, every cube of stone, every square of slate, every article used in the building was priced out. We took this for our base of action; that's our secret - the exercise of a little common sense. Now honour should be given where honour is due, and will you permit me to introduce to you the working bees, my friends, my coadjutors. First, let me say this is the House that Jack built (load applause). Let me introduce my friend Mr. Phipps (that gentleman at this moment walked on the stage and was received with tremendous cheering). This is the man that designed the House that Jack built (laughter) - this is the architect. I remember reading in the vaults of the Pantheon at Paris an inscription to the following effect: "If you desire to see the monument of the architect, look around you." We know also that the same idea is to be found in the Cathedral of St, Paul's. If my friend Phipps should be called upon for a reference, or to produce a certificate of fitness, we might very fairly and proudly point to this building and say Look around you,"

A Satin programme dated 24th June 1901 for the annual benefit of Mr Chute at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol, formerly the Theatre Royal, Park Row - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive).

Above - A Satin programme dated 24th June 1901 for the annual benefit of Mr Chute at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol, formerly the Theatre Royal, Park Row - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive).

A programme for the Royal Carla Rosa Opera Company at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol in October 1921 - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive).(Mr, Davis, the contractor, then appeared upon the stage, and Mr. Chute introduced him with) "This is the man who built the House for Jack, and it is his first appearance on any stage in public" (cheers and laughter). If any of my friends should have a passion for bricks and mortar, they may indulge an amiable weakness with more than ordinary advantage by availing themselves of the skill, industry, energy, and honesty of my friend Mr. Davis (cheers). Mr. Chute next called for Mr, George Gordon, who was enthusiastically cheered, Mr. Chute said, "This is the man that adorned the house that Jack built." This is my old, young friend, Mr, George Gordon, to whom we are indebted for this charming picture (pointing to the "Act Drop") and for these elegant decorations (loud cheers)...

Right - A programme for the Royal Carla Rosa Opera Company at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol in October 1921 - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive).

The stage has given to the world two of its best painters in the late Clarkson Stanfield and the late David Roberts. Both these gentlemen commenced their art life in the painting gallery of the theatre, and finished the foremost men amongst the forty Royal Academicians in the gallery in Trafalgar-square. May similar honours attend my young friend (cheers). Associated with these gentlemen are many others who have done good service. I would name Mr. Tasker, clerk of the works ; Mr, G. Wells, to whom they were indebted for the paintings on the proscenium, "Tragedy and Comedy;" Mr. Phillips, Mr. Harford, Mr, Bell, and my old friend Mr. Gordon, and I am proud to say that the work has all been done by west countrymen (hear, hear). I hope you like the bread none the worse for being home-made (hear, hear). And now let me say a few words for myself. Various objections have been made from time to time against the drams, Some people like to be gloomy; they have a bitter pleasure in believing that man was sent into the world to go sorrowing through it, to them an artistic display is an awful exhibition. They are ignorant that the stage is the lay palpit of the people, for here we preach six times a week; and that it presents the most practical morality in a more persuasive and irresistible way than any other method of appeal. It is nothing to say that abuses have existed; we are told that "foul things will creep into a palace." It is the abuse and not the use of a thing that makes the evil. Wine is "a good familiar creature" well used, but taken in excess "man puts an enemy into his mouth to steal away his brains." So we declaim against wine."In law what plea so tainted and corrupt but being seasoned by a gracious voice obscures the show of evil," and so we rail against the lawyer. In religion, "what damned error but some sober brow will bless it and approve it with a text, hiding the grossness with fair ornament." Sweeping condemnations are always unjust. I thoroughly believe in the value of the drama. I thoroughly believe that the position of a dramatic artist is both useful and honourable, and that he has as high functions to perform as any artistic profession can aspire to. No one can lay claim to a better pedigree, for the man whose name is the pride of England and the envy of other countries - he who wrote, not for an age, but for all time - he who has left behind him the most glorious drama in the world, William Shakespeare (loud cheers), was an actor. Were it not for the stage, that mighty genius could not have found a field for the inspiration of his wondrous powers. We feel, then, some little pride in following a calling that has been so honoured. He bequeathed to us a rich legacy, and by my position I find myself appointed one of his trustees; I hope I shall discharge my duty faithfully (cheers). A good deal has been said about the success of this scheme depending upon one man. When did ever anything depend upon one man only? No single loss is irreparable. Man's best friend is a true wife. Any one so blest possesses two right hands, I possess two right hands (loud cheers), I never undertake anything of importance without first consulting my other self, and I always find myself the better for it. Should I be disabled or removed, my other self is as able as I am to conduct this concern (cheers). This is a great undertaking to be carried oat single-handed by one man, and that man not a rich one. I have given ten hostages to fortune, and the effort to redeem them has kept me from being a rich man, but though not rich in money, I am rich in friends, who come nobly to the front to support and assist me, and I am very proud in being thus able publicly to acknowledge my gratitude to them (Cheers).

A programme for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol in 1938 - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive).Mr, Chute referred to the company behind the curtain, who were anxiously waiting, and said, in conclusion, that they had taxed their powers and strength that night - they had undertaken a double duty: not only to provide the frame but also the picture. The frame was there, and would do; let them hope that the picture would give equal satisfaction; but should any little hitch occur, or any inaccuracy in the working of the machinery, he knew he might safely rely upon their indulgence (load applause).

Mr. Chute having retired, the act-drop then rose and disclosed nearly the whole of the members of the manager's company in evening dress. In the centre were Mr. and Mrs. Chute, supported by Miss Cross, Miss Rignold, Miss Cruise, Miss Erskine, and the principal gentlemen of the corps dramatique. The whole of the audience remained standing during the performance of the National Anthem.

Left - A programme for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol in 1938 - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive).

The orchestra then played a selection, chiefly from Dr. Arne's music to the "Tempest," at the close of which the curtain again rose and the play was proceeded with. It was splendidly presented as regards dresses, Scenery, and decorations, and was admirably acted. Some of the "effects" surpass anything we have ever before seen produced on the stage. We may instance the transition from a violent storm to a sun-lit calm is the first act; the masque in the forth act, with the appearance of Phoebus "poised in mid-air" and driving the chariot of the sun, the ballet with nymphs and satyrs, and the flight of Ariel in the last scene. The acting of the piece is quite equal to the "mounting," miss Cross is indeed a "dainty " Ariel. Her vivacity and sprightliness, her pleasing face and graceful figure, and perhaps most of all her rare powers as a singer, peculiarly fit her for the part in which she has already created a great impression. Miss Rignold is a charming exponent of the gentle Miranda, and Miss Cruise sings admirably as Juno. Mr. James Bennett is a dignified representative of the banished Duke of Milan, Prospero; Mr. W. H. Vernon presents a repulsive but vigorous portrait of the monster Caliban; Mr, Fosbrooke is a good Trinculo; and Mr. Alfred Raymond an excellent Stephano. Mr. Rosiere's Alenzo is somewhat marred by a tendency to rant, and Mr. Augustus Glover, who has great advantages as regards face, voice, and figure, weakens what would be an effective Ferdinand by the forced and stagey manner in which he delivers the dialogue.

The defects may be readily amended in both instances, and probably they arise from the actors not having yet completely mastered the vocal pitch required by the new house. The part of Gonzalo is cleverly acted by Mr. Hilton, and the other characters are well filled by Mr. Arnott, Mr, Lilly, Mr, Geo, Nelson, Mr. Temple, Miss Lelia Ellis, &c. In the ballets there is some nice dancing by Miss Mandelbert, Mr, Carl Rowells, and Miss Jenny De Brent. The two last-named artistes are new to our boards, but they will be welcome additions. The Orchestra is a powerful and skilled one, and the way in which the music is rendered reflects great credit on the leader, Mr. Chapman. The choruses are also very effective and show that Mr. Jones, the conductor, has drilled his forces, The play has been followed nightly by the farce of "A Rough Diamond," in which Miss Robertha Erskine has, by her admirable acting as Margery, at once established herself a favourite.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 19th October 1867.

 

On Monday the 27th of December 1869 a terrible catastrophe occurred at the Theatre Royal, Park Row, when eighteen people, mostly children, lost their lives in a crush which happened when they tried to enter the Theatre. The ERA reported on the event in their 2nd of January 1870 edition saying: 'One of the most tragic and terrible catastrophes it has ever fallen to our lot to chronicle, and by which eighteen poor creatures were, at a few moments' warning, hurried into eternity, took place on Monday night at the New Theatre in Park-row.

Mr Chute having issued an attractive programme, thousands flocked, as usual, to witness the performance. The entrance to the pit and gallery is down a passage about twenty feet wide, leading from Park-row. There is a steep gradient from the level of the road, and at the bottom of the passage there is a sharp turning, leading, at right angles, to the gallery on the left. The door to the pit is situated also on the left-hand side, but about two feet higher up, and consequently nearer the roadway. It is, of course, impossible to compute the exact number of persons in the passage; but it is stated by several policemen, who were near the spot, that nearly 2,000 persons were endeavouring to gain admission either to the pit or gallery, the crowd extending some distance into the roadway.

Directly the doors were opened those behind pushed forward, heedless of the cries of those in front of them. Women and children were screaming for help, and even strong men seemed powerless to act. The tide behind was too strong to be resisted. Those behind called. "Forward!" but in vain those in front called "Back!" They might as well have appealed to the waves to stay their progress. The momentarily gathering crowd outside - ignorant, of course, of the imminent danger of those packed in the passage - pressed on with all their energy. Things at this juncture looked ugly enough, when a new alarm arose. Some one, desirous of restraining the impetuous advance of those behind, called out "Fire !" A panic was the result. Men, women, and children immediately made a frantic effort to drive back those coming in. In consequence of this movement a woman about fifty years of age fell down, and others fall upon her. The crowd began to sway backwards and forwards, and those who were down were trampled upon. The scene was now a most terrible one. Screams and moans rent the air. Cries for assistance were made in vain. People were pushed down and trampled under foot, and when once down it was almost impossible to recover their footing.

As soon as the crowd had to some extent cleared away a sad spectacle met the view. Bodies were lying about the passage in various spots. A boy named Charles Talbot, living at South Green street, Hotwell-road, was the first rescued, and he was found to be very seriously injured. Police-constable 95 took him to the shop of Mr Saunders, chemist, at the top of Park-street, who considered him in a dangerous condition, and at once advised his immediate removal to the infirmary. He was taken to that institution, but died soon after his admission. In the meantime other bodies were picked up, and sixty or seventy policemen were soon in attendance, and they at once drew a cordon round the entrance to the passage, thus preventing any one from getting admission. Meanwhile a number of bodies had been removed, and it was found that fourteen were quite dead. The bodies of all these were laid out in the lower refreshment-room of the Theatre, and no one except the representatives of the Press were permitted to see them. Eight persons whose condition appeared to be very precarious were taken instantly to the infirmary, where every attention was paid them. Three, however, did not yield to the treatment, and died after they had been only a short time in the institution.

 

An inquest was opened on the bodies on Tuesday afternoon, before the City Coroner, Mr H. S: Wasborough, at the Griffin Inn, Griffin-street. The Jury proceeded to view the bodies, and evidence of identity having been given, the inquiry was adjourned. On Thursday the inquest was resumed, when the Jury, after fifteen minutes' consultation, returned a verdict of Accidental Death, fully exonerating the Proprietor of the Theatre from all blame. - From the Western Daily Press.

The Bristol Daily Post says, and our own correspondent attests the accuracy of the statement - It may be worth mentioning that the catastrophe remained all but entirely unknown on the inside of the house until the performances closed and the audience came out. A sudden stoppage of the receipts drew the pit money and check takers to the matter at once, and we believe that they joined in the efforts employed to get out the sufferers. The Manager, treasurer, and officials in attendance on the boxes were likewise necessarily informed of the sad event. Beyond them, however, scarcely any one before the curtain was aware of it, and on the stage the secret was confined to the Stage Manager, the head carpenter, and one or two others. We are assured by a member of the orchestra that he played through the night without the smallest suspicion that anything was amiss, and that when he heard the mournful tidings on quitting the house he was as much pained and astonished as ever he had been in his life. It was a most fortunate thing that this ignorance so widely prevailed, for, as has been already remarked, a panic within the Theatre might have proved even more disastrous than that which ended so tragically without.'

The above text in quotes and box out was first published in the ERA, 2nd Jan 1870.

The following is a correct list of the killed :—

Joseph Smith, 15 years of age, 9, Phoenix-street, Barton-hill, Charles Pring, 17 years of age, Mill-lane, Bedminster.
Mary Ellen Sherwood, aged 16, domestic servant, of 10, Alfred-hill.
John Merchant, aged 18, of St. James's-back.
Eliza Lucas, aged 18, of 2, Marsh-lane, St. Philip's.
Patrick Donovan, aged 17, of 2, Jacob-street, St. Philip's.
Alfred
William Kew, aged 18, of 11, Clark-street, Philip-street, Bedminster.
Thomas Pearson, aged about 21, shopman to Mr Seth Thomas, glass and china dealer, of High-street. Pearson had only been in Bristol about a fortnight. He is a native of Blackpool, near Liverpool.
George Potter, son of Samuel Potter, of Mead-lane, Bedminster.
Samuel Hill, aged 13, of 21, Lamb-street, St. Jude's.
Ellen Jones, aged 15, daughter of James Jones, carrier between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, of Regent-street, Weston. Also her sister (aged 19), since dead.
Sarah Ann Gilby, of West-street, Bedminster.
A middle-aged man, named Vining, of 41, Stanley-street, Euston-road.
William Alden, assistant to Mr Thomas, High-street, Bristol. Catherine Brewer, aged 16 years, Kingsland-road, St. Philip's.
'Charles Talbot, aged 10, Hotwells.
John Davies, aged 13 years, 19, Castle-ditch.
Elizabeth Hall, aged 59, Croft's-end, St. George's, Gloucestershire.

 

Renaming of the Theatre Royal to the Prince's Theatre in 1884

The Prince's Theatre, Bristol whilst the Doyly Carte Opera Company were performing there in 1940 - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive) whose father can be seen in front of the Theatre as Commissionaire.

Above - The Prince's Theatre, Bristol whilst the Doyly Carte Opera Company were performing there in 1940 - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive) whose father can be seen in front of the Theatre as Commissionaire.

On the 4th of August 1884 the Theatre was renamed the Prince's Theatre, a name which it would retain for the rest of its life.On the 4th of August 1884 the Theatre Royal, Park Row, was renamed the Prince's Theatre, a name which it would retain for the rest of its life. (See cutting right).

The Theatre was closed for five weeks in June 1889 for redecoration by the Plastic Decoration Company of 21, Wellington Street, Strand, London, and alterations to the upper circle by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham. The Theatre reopened on Thursday the 1st of August the same year with a production of 'As You Like It' with Miss Wallis as Rosalind, and Mr. Kemble Cooper as Orlando.

Further alteration to the Theatre were carried out by Frank Matcham in 1902.

The Prince's Theatre, which had been Bristol's number one touring date for many years, was a casualty of the Second World War, along with the Coliseum Theatre which was opposite it, when they were both destroyed by enemy aircraft on the 24th of November 1940. The Bristol Hippodrome took on the Prince's role as the major touring Theatre for the rest of the war as it managed to remain mostly intact apart from some slight damage to its front entrance.

The cast of a Prince's Theatre Pantomime from the 1930s or 1940s along with staff and dignitaries at an annual Pantomime Ball - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive)

Above - The cast of a Prince's Theatre Pantomime from the 1930s or 1940s along with staff and dignitaries at an annual Pantomime Ball - Courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive) who says: 'In this photo there is a couple at the left hand rear, immediately in front of them there are 4 women in pale dresses. The one on the left is Ivy Crew, my mother. To her left 'unknown', but to her left is Kathleen Meayers, my aunt, and in front of Edna Crew is my half sister. I believe one of the gents in the photo is my half brother. I believe the cleric in the centre was the Theatre chaplain who married my parents.

 

Details of some of the productions played at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol between 1939 and 1940

24th April 1939

Rose Marie.

Vernon John, Phyllis Bourke, Ewart Locke, Sanders Warren, Jeffery Piddock, Greta Buchanan, Billy Merson, Derek Oldham, Tessa Deane, Lesley Crane, Charles Lomax.

1st May 1939

Idiots Delight

8th May 1939

Going Greek.

15th May 1939

Spring Meeting

Enid Hewit, Philippa Hewit, Arthur Sinclair, Margaret Rutherford, Denis Carey, Edmund Breon, W G Fay, Zena Dare, John Perry.

22nd May 1939

Plan for a Hostess

Yvonne Arnaud, Basil Perry

29th May 1939

Variety

12th June 1939

Drawing Room

Fay Compton, Victoria Hopper, Noel Howlett, Gillian Lind, Percy Marmont.

19th June 1939

Arthur Brough Rep Players.

24th July 1939

The Middle Watch

Arthur Brough Rep Players

Closed until Sept 11th then D'Oyly Carte.

19th Sept 1939

Roberts Wife

Rosamund Burne, Jaqueline Clake, Nell Carter, Fay Compton, Sam BeaZley, Owen Nares, Aubrey Mather, Nona Wynne, Jordan Lawrence, E J Kennedy, John Rattray, Isabel Ohmead, A W Tyrer.

25th September 1939

They walk alone

2nd Oct 1939

Design for Living by Noel Coward

Diana Wynyard, Alan Webb, Anton Walbrook, Rex Harrison, Ella Miln, Cyril Wheeler, Dorothy Lane, Philippa Hiatt, Ross Landon, Charles Peters.

9th October 1939

Ballets Jooss

16th October 1939

The importance of being Earnest

John Geilgud, Edith Evans, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Peggy Ashcroft, Jack Hawkins, Margaret Rutherford, George Howe.

23rd October 1939

Runaway Love

Barry Lupino, Billy Mayerl, George Gee

27th Nov 1939

Spotted Dick

Dorothy Batley, Basil Lynn, Horace Hunter, Joyce Barbour, Clive Morton, Alfred Drayton, Robertson Hare, Wilfred Babbage, Josephine Travers, Pauline Vilda, Carla lehmann, Patrick Barr, Percy Parsons, Claude Bailey, Constance Lorne,

3rd December 1939

When we were married

Robb Wilton

23rd December 1939

Red Riding Hood

1st April 1940

Full House by Ivor Novello

Phyllis Dare, Olwen Brookes, Zena Dare, Barry Sinclair, Barrie Livesey, Heather Thatcher, Stuart Kern, Frank Cochrane, Percy Marmount, Ronald Buchanan, George Burn, Anthony Howard

8th April 1940

The Women by Clare Booth

Naita Moore, Mary Collins, Josephine Dent, Rita Davies, Kathleen Boutall, Gwynne Whitby, Mary McDermott, Dorothy Ranns, Eileen Dale, Margaret Hinton, Nelva Singer, Vera Martyn, Daphne Maddox, Katherine Poulton, Joan Greenwood, Gwen Day Burroughs, Mary Lennox, Audrey Russell, Enid Hewit, Barbara Carswell, Nan Hopkins, Paulette Preny, Helen Dassau, Meg Townsend, Tucker McGuire.

15th April 1940

The Devils Disciple by Bernard Shaw

Janet Barrow, Joyce Redman, Jonathan Field, Robert Donat, Roger Livesey, Rosamund John, Erik Chitty, Leonard Shepherd, Frances Waring, Edgar K Bruce, Ruth Gower, Grenville Darling, Henry Caine, Milton Rosmer,Clive Woods.

22nd April 1940

Carla Rosa Opera

29th April 1940

Springtime for Henry

Tom Walls, Eileen Peel, Eric Cowley, Veronica Rose.

6th May 1940

What say they by James Bridie

Yvonne Arnaud, Alastair Sim

13th May 1940

Arthur Brough Rep Players

Performance details courtesy Michael Crew (Crew Archive)

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

 

You may find the following pages from this site of interest: