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The Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester

Manchester Theatres Index

The Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester during the fire which destroyed it in 1844 - From the Illustrated London News, 11th of May 1844.

Above - The Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester during the fire which destroyed it in 1844 - From the Illustrated London News, 11th of May 1844.

 

A very early Bill for a production of 'Pizarro' and 'Wedding Day' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 17th of January 1817 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.The Theatre Royal in Fountain Street, Manchester was built in 1806 / 1807, and opened under the management of Mr. Macready, on June the 29th, 1807 with a production of the plays 'It Flies' and 'Rosina'. Macready was the father of the the well known tragedian, William Macready.

This Theatre was one of many to be built as, or renamed to, the Theatre Royal, in Manchester over the years, see the Manchester Theatres Index for details.

Right - A very early Bill for a production of 'Pizarro' and 'Wedding Day' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 17th of January 1817 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

The ERA published an extensive article on Manchester's Theatrical history in their 4th of January 1896 edition and in it was a section on the Fountain Street Theatre Royal which I have transcribed below, along with some interesting early Bills for the Theatre which have recently come to light. The ERA article says:-

'The foundation-stone was laid in 1806, and the new theatre was opened on June 29th, 1807, with the comedy Fall as It Flies and Rosina under the management of Mr Macready, father of the tragedian, who agreed to give an annual rent of £1,600, increased by rates and taxes to £2,200.

The theatre, which occupied a site of 2,065 square yards, at an annual chief rent of £180, was bounded on the north by the Garrick's Head, on the east by Back Mosley-street, on the south by Charlotte street, and on the west by Fountain-street.

The title deeds of the property reveal the names as proprietors of some of the most prominent and influential inhabitants and include Roger Aytoun, after wards Major-General Aytoun ; ThomasWalker, jun., the father of the author of The Original; and Dr. Percival, a relative of Prime Minister who was murdered in the lobby of the House of Commons by Bellingham...

 

A very early Bill for an amateur production of 'The Poor Gentleman' and 'The Lyar' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 22nd of February 1817 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

Above - A very early Bill for an amateur production of 'The Poor Gentleman' and 'The Lyar' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 22nd of February 1817 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

 

A very early Bill for a production of 'The Mountineers and 'The Hunter of the Alps' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 13th of March 1817 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond....The building was too large, and Mrs Linnaeus Banks tells us in the novel of "A Manchester Man" that the box lobby was so capacious that a coach and four could have been driven from one end to the other. It subsequently underwent a reduction, and the lobby was converted into a warehouse, which divided the theatre from the Garrick's Head. It then held upwards of 2,000 persons comfortably seated, and the rent was reduced to £800, the warehouse bringing in £330.

Left - A very early Bill for a production of 'The Mountineers and 'The Hunter of the Alps' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 13th of March 1817 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

On the opening of the theatre it was visited by a rapid succession of metropolitan meteors, to wit - Munden, Mrs Siddons (her farewell visit), your Roscius, and Elliston. In 1809 Macready found himself in financial straits, and young Macready, who was then at Rugby, was recalled, and although only a youth of sixteen, became practically manager of his father's company. In 1811 and 1813 Joseph Grimaldi appeared at the theatre, and in November, 1813, John Astley was there with his equestrian troupe. In the same year, Mrs Clark, youngest daughter of William Cowdroy, proprietor of the Manchester Gazette, appeared as Euphrasia, in The Grecian's Daughter. She was kindly received, and on the occasion of her benefit realised £200.

In 1828 there was a Fancy Dress Ball held in the Theatre and according to "Manchester: An Architectural History" covers were built between the Theatre and the neighbouring Assembly Rooms and Portico Library for the occasion. The scale of the venue can be seen in a painting held at the Salford Museum. There is a black and white photo of the painting here but the event is wrongly attributed to having been held at the Theatre Royal, Peter Street, which was at this time unbuilt.

In 1843 Simms Reeves made his debut as plain John Reeves at this theatre in the character of Tom Tug, having been engaged for singing parts, a circumstance which he appears to have forgotten, judging from his autobiography. It is worthy of note that Mr Salter's salary at this theatre was 50s. per week, and that when the younger Macready was here in 1834 Clarke paid him £91 for the week...

 

A very early Bill for an amateur production of 'Poor Gentleman' and 'The Review' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 21st of October 1817 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

Above - A very early Bill for an amateur production of 'Poor Gentleman' and 'The Review' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 21st of October 1817 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

A Token for the Theatre Royal, Manchester - Courtesy Stan Owen A Token for the Theatre Royal, Manchester - Courtesy Stan Owen

Above - A Token for the Theatre Royal, Manchester - Courtesy Stan Owen - The coin is stamped Theatre Royal Manchester on one side and Tho Hardman esq on the reverse. This appears to relate to one Thomas Hardman who was a Treasurer of Manchester Infirmary in 1826 and may have been a patron of the Theatre. If you know any more about the connection between Thomas Hardman and the Theatre please Contact me.

 

A very early Bill for an amateur production of 'Mountaineers' and 'The Review' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 29th of October 1818 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond....This Theatre was burnt down on May 7th, 1844, Mr Robert Roxby being the lessee at the time. The building, which had cost £10,700, was insured in three offices for £15,200, and as the insurance companies preferred to make a settlement in cash rather than rebuild the theatre, the proprietors determined to abandon the theatrical venture, believing the land to be more valuable for warehouse purposes.

They thereupon sold the patent to Mr John Knowles. They reckoned, however, without their host, for the land remained vacant until quite recent years (if we except a timber building called the Philharmonic Hall, erected during the exhibition year of 1857, and commonly let as a circus), when Daniel Lee and Co. built a warehouse upon its site.

Right - A very early Bill for an amateur production of 'Mountaineers' and 'The Review' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, for the 29th of October 1818 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

On the burning down of the old Theatre Royal in Fountain-street, a committee of gentlemen set to work, and obtained a fund of nearly £800, whereby every person employed at the theatre received his or her stipulated salary for about six weeks, until Mr Roxby transformed Cooke's Circus, then in Mount-street, into a temporary Theatre Royal, which was opened about June, 1844, with She Stoops to Conquer.

After the New Theatre Royal in Peter-street was opened it became again Cooke's Circus, and was called the City Theatre, and its name is now and again mentioned in the inquiry columns of our local newspapers.'

The above text in quotes is from an article in the ERA, 4th of January 1896.

 

A Bill for an amateur production of 'The Honey Moon' and 'The Bee Hive' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, on the 2nd of march 1820 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond. A Bill for an amateur production of 'Stranger' and 'The Turnpike Gate' at the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, on the 30th of November 1820 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

Above - Two early Bills for the Theatre Royal, Fountain Street, Manchester, one for an amateur production of 'The Honey Moon' and 'The Bee Hive' on the 2nd of march 1820, and one for an amateur production of 'Stranger' and 'The Turnpike Gate' on the 30th of November 1820 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

If you have any more information on, or an image 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.

 

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