The Theatre Royal, Broughton Street, Top of Leith Walk, Edinburgh, Scotland
Formerly - Jones and Parkers Circus / Sadler's Wells / New Theatre Royal / Corri's Rooms / Pantheon / The Caledonian Theatre / Adelphi Theatre / The Queen's Theatre and Operetta House
Above - An early photograph of the Broughton Street Theatre Royal, Edinburgh - Courtesy Graeme Smith
The Theatre Royal, Broughton Street, Edinburgh was built on the site of several former places of entertainment and Theatres. The first on the site was the Jones and Parkers Circus which opened in 1788. This was replaced by The Sadler's Wells Theatre in 1793. The Sadler's Wells Theatre was replaced by a concert hall in 1811, called Corri's rooms, after the owner Mr. Corri. This was later renamed the Pantheon and remained as a concert hall until 1815.
After 1815 the building was known as the Caledonian Theatre. Horatio Lloyd is known to have performed at the Caledonian Theatre from Monday the 1st of October, 1832 and later, when it was renamed the Adelphi Theatre, until 1848, and his son Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the later Theatre Royal in July 1870, details of which can all be seen below.
Left - Horatio Lloyd's Newhaven Fishwife, as sung at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh - Click to Enlarge.
In 1830 the Theatre was renamed the Adelphi Theatre but the building was destroyed by fire on the 23rd / 24th of May 1853. In Laurence Irving's book 'Henry Irving' he mentions the fire saying: 'Charles Wyndham, as Lessee of the Adelphi Edinburgh, at that stage, had seen his wife, who had been confined in the upper part of the theatre, carried with their new-born son to safety as the flames enveloped the stage and auditorium.'
The Adelphi Theatre was replaced by a new Theatre which opened as the Queen's Theatre and Opereta House on the 19th of December 1855, but this too succumbed to fire and another new and very elaborate Theatre was built on the site in 1857, this time by David Bryce, and named the Queen's Theatre and Opera House.
Above - A Sketch showing the Queen's Theatre and Opera House, Edinburgh - From the Illustrated London News, 14th of February 1857 - Courtesy Alfred Mason.
The Illustrated London News reported on the Queen's Theatre and Opera House in their 14th of February 1857 edition, along with the sketch shown above, saying:- 'This newly built theatre, designed by Mr Bryce, is considered to be creditable to the taste and skill of the architect, both as regards the picturesque frontage of the building and the commodious and convenient construction of the interior.
The house is seated for about 1,700 having three tiers of boxes and galleries. The front lines of the different tiers form a semicircle with a ogee curve outwards, while the stage boxes between the Corinthian columns of the proscenium curve inwards, their line of vision embracing the front stage and the body of the house rather than the usual perspective of the scenery.
There are two stage boxes on each side, from the omnibus box to the box crowning the arch of the pillars. The dress circle consists of open boxes, seated for 260; the second tier accommodates about 400; and the third circle consists of a capacious gallery, comfortably seated for above 600 persons. The stalls and pit, accommodating nearly 500, fill the wide area below, along with the orchestra. From every part of the house a complete view of the stage is to be obtained, while from the great majority of the seats almost the whole house is to be seen.
The adoption of the semicircular, instead of the horseshoe form of the house greatly foreshortens the distance between the centre boxes and the stage, and thus enhances both the power of the voice and the effect of the scene. Indeed, from the furthest seat of the gallery the line of vision is perfect, and the actor or vocalist will be distinctly heard in every corner.
The work of painting has been executed by Mr D R Hay, and the fitting up of the dress circle, stalls etc. has been intrusted to Messrs. Potts, Cairnie and Ray. The arrangements for the stage were intrusted to Messrs. Grieve, Telbin and Co. London - the working department being conducted by Mr Bare, who fitted up the theatre for Her Majesty at Windsor. The proscenium curtain and the act drop have been painted by Mr Grieve.
The Queen's theatre has been leased from the shareholders by Mr Black, whose management has been characterised by great spirit and enterprise.'
The above text in quotes, and its accompanying illustration, were first published in the Illustrated London News, February 14, 1857 and are courtesy Alfred Mason.
The Royal Patent from the former Theatre Royal, Shakespeare Square, Edinburgh was transferred to the Broughton Street Theatre in 1859 after the Shakespeare Square Theatre was demolished. Sadly in January 1865 the Queen's Theatre and Opera House was also destroyed by fire.
Graeme Smith now takes up the story:- After the calamitous fire in January 1865 a new larger Theatre Royal was built on the site and opened in November 1865 under the management of Mr & Mrs Wyndham (senior), see image and information in box below.
The Theatre was sold to W. H. Logan, a banker, playwright and producer, but fire destroyed it again in February 1875. The site was then purchased by the, newly formed company, Edinburgh Theatre Royal Ltd who built the successor Royal this time to the designs of the architect Charles Phipps. It accommodated 2,300 people, opening in January 1876.
It was subsequently managed by James B. Howard and W. H. Logan, until 1883 when Howard went off to join young Frederick W. Wyndham in charge of the city`s Royal Lyceum Theatre. In that same year Robert Crawford, of Leith Distillery, and a scion of Crawford`s bakeries, first became a shareholder. Within three years he became the largest shareholder and ultimately chairman of Edinburgh Theatre Royal Ltd.
Above - Burning of the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh - From 'The Illustrated London News' 5th July 1884.
Fire came again in 1884 but the Royal was rebuilt under Charles Phipps' continuing guidance. This time it was leased to Cecil Beryl of the Princess`s Theatre, Glasgow, who staged a full bill of fare including pantomime.
During the 1890s it came under different management until 1895 when Robert Crawford was invited by Michel Simons of Glasgow to wind up the Edinburgh company and join his new formation Howard & Wyndham Ltd - quoted on the Stock Exchanges. The new group started with two theatres in Glasgow and two in Edinburgh.
Howard & Wyndham Ltd`s first pantomime in the Royal was in 1895/96 with F. W. Wyndham directing The Forty Thieves. Previously Mr Howard and Mr Wyndham had been presenting pantomime at the smaller Royal Lyceum. Edinburgh`s Royal staged light opera and plays, and was the first theatre in the city to produce Peter Pan.
In 1923 H & W Ltd leased it to Edinburgh Varieties Ltd, owned by Fred Collins of the Fred Collins Variety Agency in Glasgow; and later in 1935 his son Horace Collins bought it outright and modernised it. The Evening News of 25th July 1935 reported upon the reconstruction work which cost some £15,000, the architect being Thomas B Gibson:-
New seating, lighting and the introduction of amenities has done much to raise it to first class service to its patrons. The manager, Mr Collins, is proud of the individual seating introduced in the gallery, which was his idea, and also the carpeting throughout the theatre. There is a new stalls bar and also retiring rooms for both sexes. The bar, about the biggest outside of London, is underground which called for clever engineering. The floor of the bar is covered with leather, having a quaint pattern of violins and musical notes.
The large stage boxes and the pit have disappeared, which has made more room for the stalls. Thousands of costumes and many props are now housed systematically indexed in what was once a tenement - Little King Street - comprising 30 old one-room houses.
The Collins group of theatres now included Edinburgh Theatre Royal, Liverpool Shakespeare, and, by major shareholding, the Aberdeen Tivoli, Dundee Palace, and Glasgow Pavilion. Collins reintroduced pantomime to the Royal, the last having been in 1922/23 when it was under Howard & Wyndham Ltd.
Horace Collins was also a keen cine-film maker and fortunately many of his films of pantomimes in his theatres have survived and kindly made available by his family to the Scottish Screen Archive and to Glasgow University`s Pantomime Research Archive (including their major DVD on sale through the University`s gift-shop and website. A lively extract of the colour film of Edinburgh Theatre Royal`s pantomime the Queen of Hearts, made in December1937, can be enjoyed here.
Fire destroyed much of the Royal in March 1946. Rebuilding, as it had been, was planned with Thomas Gibson again architect, but Edinburgh Corporation wanted it to be on a different site. The backstage area continued as a scenic workshop. Plans for a new modern, but smaller, theatre on the site were drawn up to the designs of architect (Sir) Basil Spence, but by the time planning permission was finally granted Horace Collins had died, and costs were spiralling. The building was demolished in the late 1950s.
The early death of Horace Collins also brought to an end his increasing shareholdings in the Alhambra Theatre, Glasgow with a view to buying it over as part of his post-war expansion. More about the Collins Family of Glasgow can be read in JOURNEY THROUGH STAGELAND written by Josette Collins Marchant and published in 1998.
Four large medallions from the Theatre Royal were salvaged in 1946. These were installed in the foyer walls of Edinburgh Festival Theatre when it opened in 1994. Molière, Shakespeare, Dante and Sir Walter Scott are flanked by several posters from the Royal.
The above article after 1865 was written for this site and kindly sent in for inclusion by Graeme Smith in December 2013.
See also - The Theatre Royal, Shakespeare Square, Edinburgh.
As I have just mentioned the Adelphi, this may
be as good a place as any to give a brief glance at the history of that
house from 1830 down to the present
date. As the reader is aware, my first appearance of all in Edinburgh
was at the Caledonian Theatre, to the manager of which, Mr Bass, I had
brought a letter of introduction from my eccentric friend the agent,
Mr Smythson. Mr Bass having made a complete "burst up" of
it in 1830 - soon after I left
to go to Alexander in Glasgow - Mr Murray,
to prevent opposition, became the lessee of the house, and re-christened
it - "The Adelphi Theatre." In this speculation he was at
the outset joined by Mr Yates, of the London
Adelphi; but that gentleman retired at the end of the first season,
and Mr Murray remained sole lessee of this as well as the Theatre Royal,
until his retirement from the stage and from business in November 1851.
Mr R. H. Wyndham then became lessee, and continued so until the house
was burned down on 23rd May, 1853,
when he got the Theatre Royal. The Adelphi, having been rebuilt, got
into the hands of a Mr Black, a merchant of Leith, who opened it on
19th December, 1855, under
the name of "The Queen's Theatre and Operetta House." As,
however, he knew nothing of theatrical management, the result was that
he became bankrupt. Mr Wyndham then acquired the management, in addition
to carrying on the Royal. As the Queen's Theatre, it was twice destroyed
by fire during this gentleman's management - the last time being in
January 1865. The old theatre,
having been purchased by Government to make way for the new Post Office,
Mr Wyndham transferred the title and patent to the Queen's, which it
remained until it was again burned down, the fourth time, on 30th June,
1884, under the management
of Mr Hislop. On it being again re-built, the ownership came into the
hands of Mr H. Cecil Beryl, of the "Princess's
Theatre", Glasgow, in the beginning
The Era - 17th July 1870 - MR. ARTHUR LLOYD has accomplished a feat never attempted by any other vocalist or public performer. He sang on Saturday last at the Canterbury Hall, Pavilion and Sun, at Knightsbridge. On Monday night he appeared at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, for the benefit of his father, Mr. Lloyd, the celebrated comedian, who has been so long connected with the Edinburgh and Glasgow Theatre. He was on the stage at Edinburgh at half-past nine o'clock Monday night and on Tuesday evening he was doing his turns at the various Halls, as usual, in London, thus appearing in Edinburgh and London within twenty-four hours and travelling a distance of over eight hundred miles, not having rested in a bed from Saturday till the Tuesday night. Mr. Arthur Lloyd felt that it was "something attempted, something done" and he had earned his nights repose.
The Era 17th July 1870 EDINBURGH THEATRE ROYAL (Sub Lessees. Miss Rhodes and Mr. Fisher)
Formosa, having enjoyed a run of three weeks duration, was withdrawn
from the boards of the Theatre Royal on Saturday (9th) and the performances
have since been of a varied nature. On Monday Mr.
Lloyd took his benefit and got
...And now, dear friends, who have followed me thus far, I approach the commencement of the longest and pleasantest period of my professional life. A Londoner born and bred, it was fated that my career should be carried out in Scotland; and it is on that considerable portion of it constituted by the sixteen years I remained under Mr W. H. Murray, of the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, that I look back with the completest satisfaction.
It was one morning at Dunlop Street that the prompter brought me a letter from the stage door. "Here's a letter for you from Edinburgh," he said; "and its Mr Murray's handwriting, I'm certain." This was on 24th August, 1832. The letter was from Mr Murray; and it contained the offer to me of an engagement at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, for the first low-comedy," in room of Mr George Stanley, who was leaving. I was delighted at the chance; and yet I feared that my youth and inexperience in the profession would scarcely justify me in accepting such a responsible position as that proposed. For it must be born in mind that at this time in Edinburgh, theatre was looked upon as the first in the provinces, and the stepping-stone to London. I accordingly wrote to Mr Murray, stating the doubts that I had of my capability of filling the position he had been so kind as to offer me: and I also said that, having become a favourite in Glasgow, I feared to change certainty for an uncertainty. Two days later I received the following:-
Edinburgh, 27th August, 1832
Upon receipt of this I regretted that I had written in a style to produce such a reply and possibly lost myself an opportunity I might never have again. I resolved to try and undo the mischief, if possible, and so wrote a reply stating that, having thought the matter well over, I was prepared to accept the engagement -merely hoping that he would not put me into any characters which Mr Stanley had made a special feature of. By return of post I received a note requesting me to forward a list of the parts I wished for and was willing to play and state my expectations as to terms. With this I was well pleased, and in reply sent a list of parts I wished to play, and a salary of £2 10s a week. Two days later there came to me the following:-
Edinburgh, 1st September, 1832.
I immediately replied, accepting the engagement. I felt proud to think I had so rapidly arrived at the top of the tree, and that, without encountering any-at all events, but few- of those harassing and disgusting experiences that young beginners have so often to come through. I can scarcely believe, when I think of my youth and inexperience at that time, how it came about that I should have attained such a position in a first-class theatre, and been called upon to take the place of a talented and favourite actor of 40 years like George Stanley. Such was the fact, however, and I made my first appearance on the boards of the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, on Monday, 1st October, 1832. I played the little part of Lopez in "The Honeymoon." I was exceedingly well received by the audience, and next morning had the further gratification of being complimented by my manager, who-let me say it here and at once-fully kept up his word with me in regard of promoting my professional interests in every way he could. In fact, his kindness was unbounded. He seemed proud of me, and treated me more like a son than a servant. As already stated, I remained under the banner of Mr Murray for the long period of 16 years-that is, in theatrical management, 32 seasons, winter and summer respectively-and, during all that time, never one angry word passed between us.