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


The Theatre, Magdalen Street, Oxford

And the early Oxford Theatre, Bull Inn Yard

Later - The Victoria Theatre / Theatre Royale / and part of the Site of the New Theatre

Oxford Theatres

A Playbill for Mrs Faucit appearing in 'The Wonder! A Woman Keeps Her Secret' and 'The Shepherd or Wolf Robber' and 'Of Age To-Morrow' at the first Oxford Theatre in August 1815 - From the New Theatre's opening souvenir brochure in February 1934. The Oxford Theatre was situated on Magdalen Street, and opened on Monday the 4th of July 1836 with a production of Shakespeare's 'Much Ado about Nothing' and a performance of the comic piece 'The Waterman'.

The Theatre replaced the even earlier Oxford Theatre which had entrances in Bull Inn Yard and Blue Boar Lane (See Playbill Right).

Right - A Playbill for Mrs Faucit appearing in 'The Wonder! A Woman Keeps Her Secret' and 'The Shepherd or Wolf Robber' and 'Of Age To-Morrow' at the first Oxford Theatre in August 1815 - From the New Theatre's opening souvenir brochure in February 1934.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported on the opening of the replacement Theatre in their 9th of July 1836 edition saying:- 'On Monday evening last Mr. Barnett commenced his theatrical season at his new quarters in Magdalen-street, in this city. The Theatre, which has been fitted up with very good taste, is exceedingly compact and convenient, and, owing to the proximity of the stage, is particularly advantageous to the audience. The house is exceedingly well lighted and ventilated, and the comforts and conveniences of box, pit, and gallery company, have been studiously and successfully considered.

The curtain being drawn up, Mr. Barnett and the whole of His dramatic corps occupied the stage while the National Anthem of "God save the King" was sung by Miss Atkinson and Mr. Frazer. Immediately after Mr. Harrington stepped forward and recited an Address, written for the occasion by a young and intelligent citizen of Oxford. This was succeeded by Shakespeare's much admired comedy of Much Ado about Nothing, a production which required no ordinary degree of talent in its various characters to do justice to it. The company, however, being by far the best and most talented that has visited Oxford in our remembrance, but little difficulty was met with in forming a perfect and efficient cast. The versatile part of Benedict was sustained by a Mr. Marston, a gentleman whose abilities, time and a longer acquaintance will enable us still more highly to appreciate. When we affirm that his delineation of the character was stamped with energy and truth throughout, realising all the conceptions of the honoured bard, we feel assured that we are but speaking the sentiments of an admiring and enraptured audience.

Of Beatrice, played by Mrs. Barnett, comment is unnecessary, since the varied talents of this lady have so often carried away the feelings and enthusiasm of an Oxford audience. The scenes between Benedict and Beatrice were characterised with much vivacity, feeling, and ability, and drew down long and repeated demonstrations of approval. The humorous part of Dogberry was taken by an excellent actor and old acquaintance, Mr. W. Keene, whose performance, particularly in his delivery of the charge to the watch, was so full of humour and originality as to make it difficult for the audience to repress their laughter and enjoyment. We hail the return of this actor to our boards as a most important addition to the company, and guarantee, in some measure, of the success of the season.

In Count Claudio a Mr. Creswick made his first appearance in Oxford, and we doubt not of his becoming a universal favourite while he continues to perform with such becoming dignity and truth. Don Pedro was well sustained by Mr. Harrington, in whose acting we traced strong and evident improvement. With a just conception of his character, and an earnestness in acting up to it, his performance was in no way deteriorated by the more prominent parts of the piece. Miss Webb's Hero was chaste and pleasing, and full of ease and eloquence. The miner parts were well and ably sustained, and on the whole spoke much in favour of the well-selected and efficient Company.

The interval between the play and the afterpiece was relieved by the introduction of the shawl dance by Miss Lidia and Miss Thomassin. The dancing, which was exceedingly graceful and elegant, was much admired, and, in spite of the excessive heat, the audience were so unmerciful (we would fain say so ungallant) as to insist on an encore, which was readily acceded to. This was succeeded by the comic musical piece, called The Waterman, in which the vocal talents of the company were put to the test. The part of Tom Tug introduced to our notice a Mr. Frazer, whose acting and style of singing was the theme of general commendation. The well-known song "Then farewell, my trim-built wherry," was sung with peculiar sweetness and effect; but in "The Bay of Biscay," Mr, F. literally electrified the audience. The pathos and spirit with which it was sung, not only won the admiration, but carried with it the feelings of all who heard it. It was a most decided hit, and the interest and pleasure it excited will not easily be forgotten.

In Mrs. Bundle we had the gratification of seeing Mrs. Barley (???) an excellent and unaffected actress, who proved herself to be an invaluable representative of that testy voluble dame, and we doubt not that in all such characters she is equally talented and successful. Miss Atkinson did ample justice to Wilhelmina, and charmed us not only with her sweet yet powerful voice, but with the ease and simplicity also with which she enacted her part. Renaud, as Mr. Bundle, was as usual quite at home; and Wyatt, as Robin, infused all that comic humour and drollery for which he is so remarkable, and which of itself is sufficient to keep an audience in good spirits all the evening.

The operatic drama of Guy Mannering, or The Gipsy's Prophecy, on Tuesday night brought once more before us that powerful actress, Mrs. Brooks, whose Meg Merrilies was full of excellence. The stern bearing which she upheld, varied at intervals by bursts of touching influence, obtained the sympathy and applause of the audience. Harrington looked and acted Dirk Hatteraich to the very life; Creswick's Colonel Mannering was well played, and Wyatt's Dominc Sampson and Keene's Dandie Dimont were as perfect and amusing as we could desire. Frazer made the most of Henry Bertram, and introduced several songs in exceeding good taste and style. Julia Mannering was faithfully represented by Miss Atkinson, whose sweet singing enhanced the interest of the piece. That most amusing of all afterpieces, The Irish Tutor, followed, and gave to Brougham an opportunity of shaking the house with laughter by his inimitable performance of Dr. Toole. He was well supported by Wyatt, Dixon, Morris, Miss Webb, and Mrs. R. Barnett (late Miss Weston), who is much improved, and is undoubtedly an engaging useful actress. The audience was in a complete roar of laughter from the commencement of this piece to the conclusion, and we predict it will continue to be so as long as Brougham's Irish wit and humour are embarked in the performance.

The entertainments on Wednesday evening were by desire and under the immediate patronage of the Hon. Colonel Parker and Warner Henley, Esq. who, we are much pleased to find, attended the Theatre with a fair and numerous party. We are glad to observe such a friendly disposition on the part of the leading families in the neighbourhood towards Mr. Barnett; it cannot but be complimentary to him and his company; and we hope to see the noble example followed up with the same earnestness and liberality. The entertainments selected were very judicious and attractive, consisting of Morton's admired comedy or Speed the Plough, and the farce of Simpson and Co. In both pieces we had the gratification of seeing the Manager himself exerting all his ablest and best energies, which seem to be invigorated rather than impaired. Much might we say on the merits of the performers, and the influence which their powerful and Spirited acting had in rousing the best and purest sympathies of our nature; but it is a task of no trifling difficulty in so efficient a cast to select objects of especial commendation. The vivacity of youth, the ardour of paternal pride, and the pangs of struggling conscience, were well portrayed; while the earnestness of heartfelt gratitude, the unsophisticated warmth of rustic life, and the enthusiasm of woman's love, stole imperceptibly yet powerfully upon the feelings of the audience. The afterpiece introduced Miss Gordon for the first time this season; and it would be injustice if we neglected to notice... (unreadable text).

Tobin's comedy of the Honey Moon and Rosina were played on Thursday night; but having already exceeded our limits, we cannot enter so fully into their merits as we desire. We congratulate Mr. Barnett on his effective company, and we trust he will be liberally compensated for his expensive and bold experiment. The Orchestra is still under the superintendence of Mr. Barnett, Jun. and the scenery on the stage has been greatly improved by a classic drop scene and others of an interesting nature. The saloon, conducted by Messrs. Stevens and Margetts, is also an important addition, enabling the audience to avail themselves of refreshments of any kind at an extremely moderate charge: The bill of fare for the next week is one possessing the greatest attractions; the most prominent of which is Sergeant Talfourd's Tregedy of Ion, and such of our country readers as have an opportunity of visiting the Theatre will do wrong if they neglect it.'

The above text in quotes was first published in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 9th of July 1836.

The Theatre opened on Monday the 4th of July 1836 with a production of Shakespeare's 'Much Ado about Nothing' and a performance of the comic piece 'The Waterman'. The Theatre would later be renamed the Victoria Theatre and had three entrances; boxes were reached from Magdalen Street, the Pit from George Street, and the Gallery from Red Lion Square. The Theatre was affectionately known as the 'Vic', and later as the 'Theatre Royale', after the company which played there. Companies were forbidden to perform plays during the University terms, and so the lessee's resorted to presenting 'Concerts', or 'Music Hall'. However by 1880 the Theatre was considered quite run-down and eventually had to be demolished.

A new Theatre, appropriately called the 'New Theatre Royale' was then built on part of the old Theatre's site in 1886 but with its main entrance now on George Street. Despite several rebuilds and changes of names the New Theatre is still open today. More information on the present can be found here.

If you have any more images or programmes 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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