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The Royal Princess's Theatre, 73 Oxford street, London

Formerly - The Royal Bazaar / The Queen's Bazaar / Princess's Theatre

The Exterior of Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street - From a print dated 1851 - From 'London's Lost Theatres of the 19th century' by Errol Sherson.

Above - The Exterior of Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street - From a print dated 1851 - From 'London's Lost Theatres of the 19th century' by Errol Sherson.

A report on the opening of the Princess's Theatre in 1840 - From The Morning Chronicle, 21 Sep 1840.The Royal Princess's Theatre, on London's Oxford Street, was originally built in 1840 and opened on Wednesday the 30th of September that year with a promenade concert. The Theatre was built for Mr. Hamlet in the Renaissance Style to the designs of the architect T. M. Nelson. The Theatre was constructed on the site of the former Royal Bazaar which had been destroyed by fire in 1829 and quickly rebuilt as the Queen's Bazaar, a home for dioramas and exhibitions of paintings.

Right - A report on the opening of the Princess's Theatre in 1840 - From The Morning Chronicle, 21 Sep 1840.

The Morning Post rather scathingly reported on the opening of the Princess's Theatre in their 1st of October 1840 edition saying:- 'This theatre, formerly the Queen's Bazaar, in Oxford-street, was last night opened for the now favourite speculation of promenade concerts, under the direction of Mr. Willy, the violinist. It is, we believe, understood that Mr. Hamlet is the proprietor of the theatre, and Mr. Nelson the architect.

We regret that the house should have been so prematurely opened under any circumstances. The interior arrangements were altogether incomplete and immature, and the great inconvenience of want of "settlement" was manifest and palpable. In the first place the hall of entrance was not in fair condition to receive the audience, and we are told that the stonemasons were working inside while the public were hammering at the doors.

An Advertisement for the opening of the Princess's Theatre in 1840 - From The Morning Chronicle, 30th of September 1840.The crowd of visitors was tremendous, and the crush as close and unceremonious (one gentleman we heard was robbed of fifteen pounds) as possible.

Left - An Advertisement for the opening of the Princess's Theatre in 1840 - From The Morning Chronicle, 30th of September 1840.

The house, that is to say every accessible public part of it, was speedily filled; and the private boxes, of which there are a predominant number, were well attended. The whole interior of the theatre in front of the stage is costly in its appointments and design. The construction is of the usual horseshoe form, with a profusion of crimson and gold in the drapery and embroidery. The roof, or rather ceiling and sides of the theatre, are full of elaborated ornaments—carving, gilding, medallion painting, &c. But the rich and drawing-room aspect of the front of the stage is totally at variance with the cold, mean, unfinished appearance of "what remains behind," and with the naked plainness of the orchestra. The roof, too, is square and flat, and without a sounding-board, and thus the music is not projected, as it should be, into the body of the house. There is no ensemble as yet in the arrangement of the interior of this theatre.

Of the performances we can only make common-place remark. The band has not an assemblage of eminent names, has few solo-players, and is very inferior to that of the English Opera. Last evening we had waltzes, overtures, and quadrilles—not always in the best taste. Russiger's overture is by no means original as a composition, and Child's quadrille still less so. The new fashion of introducing a rallentando at the end of such quadrilles is much to our aversion. Willy's solo did not please us. He played it well; but he adopted a meretricious style for ad captandum purposes, and is capable of much better performance. At the termination of the concert the national anthem was called for by the audience, and very well played; but immediately at its conclusion some indiscreet advocate of infidelity called out "Harmer for Mayor !" which gave rise to a burst of "goose" worthy of celebrating, to say nothing of succeeding "Michaelmas-day." In a word, every respectable person hissed, and, by the token of the hissing, the audience were all respectable When the establishment is better disciplined we will give it a second notice.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Morning Post, 1st October 1840.

A Letter printed in the ERA of the 9th of May 1880 from Walter Gooch, Lessee and Manager of the Princess's Theatre shortly before the Theatre's demolition and rebuild to the designs of C. J. Phipps. The Princess's Theatre had first opened in 1840 but was closed on Wednesday the 19th of May 1880 for a complete rebuild to the designs of the well known Theatre Architect C. J. Phipps, (see images below). The new Theatre took six months to construct, reopening on the 6th of November 1880 with a production of 'Hamlet', featuring Edwin Booth and his Company, and a comedy entitled 'An Old Master'.

Right - A Letter printed in the ERA of the 9th of May 1880 from Walter Gooch, Lessee and Manager of the Princess's Theatre shortly before the Theatre's demolition and rebuild to the designs of C. J. Phipps.

The Princess's Theatre went on to have a long and involved history with many of the Country's leading actors performing on its stage over the years including Arthur Lloyd's father in law, T. C. King, who performed here in 1851 and was resident for 3 years circa 1858. The last production at the Theatre was Bert Coote's production of 'The Fatal Wedding' (see image below) which opened on the 25th of August 1902 and ran for 50 performances. However, despite it's closure in 1902, and subsequent conversion for warehouse use, the Theatre wasn't finally demolished until 1931 to make way for a large Woolworth store, which itself was eventually replaced by a shopping centre called Oxford walk, and this was subsequently replaced by HMV, Oxford Street. The numbering of the street has changed and the site is now at No. 150, Oxford Street. More historical information on the Princess's Theatre can be seen in several articles below.

C. J. Phipps' 1880 rebuilt Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of April 1st 1881.

Above - C. J. Phipps' 1880 rebuilt Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of April 1st 1881. The caption for this image reads:- 'This theatre, recently erected from the designs of Mr. C. J. Phipps, F.S.A., has a frontage towards Oxford-street of 21ft., and is built in Portland stone. Over the entrance is an open loggia 8ft. deep, forming a balcony overlooking the street. This is approached from the smoking-room and grand foyer on the level with the dress-circle corridor.'

A multiple view of Phipps's Princess's Theatre in London, 1880, showing the vestibule, the small foyer, the auditorium, the saloon and the smoking-saloon - From the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, November 1880 - Courtesy Görel Garlick.

Above - A multiple view of Phipps's Princess's Theatre in London, 1880, showing the vestibule, the small foyer, the auditorium, the saloon and the smoking-saloon - From the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, November 1880 - Courtesy Görel Garlick.

A postcard depicting a scene from 'The Fatal Wedding' the last production at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1902 - Courtesy Barbara Longley

Above - A postcard depicting a scene from 'The Fatal Wedding' the last production at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1902 - Courtesy Barbara Longley

The Princess's Theatre

From 'Old and New London' - 1897

The Princess's Theatre, Oxford street at the turn of the century - From 'Ghosts and Greasepaint' W. Macqueen Pope.

Above - The Princess's Theatre, Oxford street at the turn of the century - From 'Ghosts and Greasepaint' W. Macqueen Pope, but actually the same photo as the Postcard shown below. Note the building to the right of the Theatre remains, see 2003 image below.

See Theatreland MapsThe Princess's Theatre stands on the north side of Oxford Street, about four hundred yards east of the Circus; it stretches backwards as far as Castle Street. It occupies the site of a building known as the Queen's Bazaar, which had existed for some years, but never gained popularity. The theatre was destroyed by fire in 1829, but rebuilt. In 1833 were exhibited here Mr. Roberts's great picture of the "Departure of the Israelites out of Egypt," and also the "Physiorama," comprising twelve views arranged in a gallery 200 feet long. The edifice, like its successor, had a back entrance in Castle Street...

Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street - From a postcard dated 1900

Above - The Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street - From a postcard dated 1900

Site of Princess's Theatre in 2003 - between Winsley Street and Wells Street, Oxford Street

Above - The Site of The Princess's Theatre in 2003 - between Winsley Street and Wells Street, Oxford Street. The Pricess's Theatre was demolished in 1931 to make way for a large Woolworth store, which itself was replaced by a shopping centre, Oxford walk, which was subsequently replaced by HMV, Oxford Street. The numbering of the street has changed and the site is now at No. 150, Oxford Street. Information courtesy - Graham Hoadly

A Programme for 'Two Little Vagabonds' at the Princess's Theatre in 1897....The building of the original theatre was a costly and unsuccessful speculation, and it nearly ruined Hamlet, the silversmith of Leicester Square. In 1841 it was entirely remodeled from the designs of Nelson, and decorated by Mr. Crace; and it was opened in the September of that year with a series of promenade concerts. It was a chaste, elegant, and commodious house, having three tiers of boxes, besides another row just below the ceiling.

Right - A Programme for 'Two Little Vagabonds' at the Princess's Theatre in 1897.

The history of the old theatre is chiefly remarkable for its having been the scene of Mr. Charles Kean's Shakespearian revivals, which were commenced in 1849, and continued for ten years. In putting these plays on the stage Mr. Kean spared no expense, and shirked no amount of study and trouble, and the theatrical world and the public at large are greatly indebted to his liberality and erudition for the admirably correct costumes and mise en scene which were in his time characteristic of the plays at the Princess's. In all this he was ably seconded by Mrs. Kean (formerly known as Miss Ellen Tree), who entered warmly into the spirit of his work of revival. In the first year he adapted and produced Byron's play of Sardanapalus, and varied his Shakesperian revivals by putting on the boards at various times Sheridan's Pizarro, Louis Xl., and other standard dramas.

Photograph from 'Two Little Vagabonds' at the Princess's Theatre in 1897.In the year 1860, on his resigning the management of the theatre, Mr. Kean was invited to a dinner in St. James's Hall, where a large company, with the Duke of Newcastle in the chair, assembled to do honour to the famous tragedian and spirited manager. Shortly afterwards, in recognition of his efforts to raise the dramatic profession and elevate the English stage, Mr. Kean was presented with a handsome service of plate.

Left - A Photograph from 'Two Little Vagabonds' at the Princess's Theatre in 1897.

The theatre subsequently passed into the hands of Messrs. Webster and Chatterton, of the Adelphi, and Mr. Dion Boucicault for some time figured as the leading actor. In 1864 a drama entitled the Streets of London was performed here to overflowing houses. The play, however, like many others of a similar character which have been since produced, appears to have aimed more at "sensationalism" than to have rested on its literary merits, and therefore, as stated in Charles Dickens's "Life," may be put down as "but an inferior style of theatrical taste." Mr. Kean died in 1868.

In 1879-80 the theatre was rebuilt on an enlarged and more elaborate scale, and has since been under the management of Mr. Wilson Barrett, and that of Mrs. Langtry.

The above article was first published in 'Old and New London' in 1897.

The Princess's Theatre

From 'The Face of London' by Harold P. Clunn, 1956

Amongst the old buildings which stood in this part of Oxford Street was the former Princess's Theatre, which for many years past had been used as shopping premises. This building, together with the adjoining houses, was pulled down in 1931 to make way for a large Woolworth store. It was erected on the site of a building formerly known as the Queen's Bazaar, which extended back as far as Castle Street. It was destroyed by fire in 1829 and then rebuilt. For ten years, commencing from 1849, it became famous for the Shakespearian revivals of Mr Charles Kean; it was demolished in 1880 and rebuilt from the designs of Mr C. J. Phipps. Later it passed into the management of Mr Wilson Barrett and for some years became a home of melodrama, though it was never a great success. About thirty years ago it was proposed to erect a large hotel on this site, but the scheme failed to mature.

The above article was first published in 'The Face of London' by Harold P. Clunn, 1956.

The Princess's Theatre

From The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, second edition, 1962

A Programme for 'The Lights Of London' at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1882.This was built by a silversmith named Hamlet, on the site of a building called the Queen's Bazaar, on the north side of Oxford Street, near the Circus. This was used for the sale of fancy and miscellaneous goods. It was destroyed by fire in 1829 and rebuilt to house exhibitions. Hamlet transformed it into a theatre and opened it on 5 Oct. 1840. Its reconstruction evidently took some time, since it had been named by permission after Queen Victoria before her accession. It was advertised as being 'fitted up in a style and splendour never before equalled in this country', and the first attractions were promenade concerts, for which the prices were 1s. and 2s. These were not very successful, and after further alteration the theatre reopened on 26 Dec. 1842 with Bellini's 'La Sonnambula' and other operas and light dramatic pieces.

Right - A Programme for 'The Lights Of London' at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1882.

In 1843 Hamlet went bankrupt and Maddox took over. He staged several of Balfe's operas, and General Tom Thumb, the circus midget, also appeared. In 1845 Charlotte Cushman and Edwin Forrest made their London debut there in a tragedy called Fazio. In 1850 Maddox gave up the theatre, which was taken over by Charles Kean, with Keeley as his partner for the first year. Kean's management was memorable, both for his productions of Shakespeare and for his success in transforming French drama into entertainment palatable to English popular taste. Queen Victoria was so thrilled by Pauline that she clutched the curtain of her box in a convulsive grasp until the tense situation was over...

A Programme for 'The Lights Of London' at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1882.

Above - A Programme for 'The Lights Of London' at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1882.

A Programme for 'The Lights Of London' at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1882....The Corsican Brothers was a great personal success for Kean, as was Louis XL In his Henry VIII limelight was used for the first time, and the burning of the palace in Sardanapalus was a great piece of realism. Here Ellen Terry, as a child, had her first engagement under Kean, who gave up the Princess's on 29 Aug. 1859, when he appeared as Wolsey. In the following September Augustus Harris, father of the future manager of Drury Lane, took over, and engaged Henry Irving, then a stock actor at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh. He failed, and returned to the provinces. In 1860 Harris brought Fechter to the Princess's, where his portrayal of Hamlet in what was then a novel fashion caused a sensation.

Right - A Programme for 'The Lights Of London' at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1882.

A Programme for 'The White Heather' at the Royal Princess's Theatre, London in 1899 - Courtesy Roy Cross. In Oct 1862 Harris retired and a Mr. Lindus took the theatre to please his wife, sustaining a heavy loss. George Vining was the next tenant, and he inaugurated the epoch of melodrama, for which the theatre became famous, with The Huguenot Captain (starring Adelaide Neilson), The Streets of London, including the thrilling fire scene, and Arrah-Na-Pogue.

Left - A Programme for 'The White Heather' at the Royal Princess's Theatre, London in 1899 - Courtesy Roy Cross. The production was a transfer from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and was put on whilst the Princess's was under the management of Robert Arthur and Albert Gilmer. See Cast List below.

In Oct 1865 It's Never Too Late To Mend began with a riotous first night, when the audience objected to the savagery of one of the scenes, showing a boy in prison being flogged. The critics railed against it, but the play ran for 148 nights and made a profit of £8,000. In the same year Kean gave a farewell season, dying three years later. Benjamin Webster succeeded Vining as manager in 1869, Chatterton joining him the following year and becoming sole manager in 1872. Chatterton ran seasons of Shakespeare, alternating Phelps with Creswick in an attempt to revive the glories of Kean's management, but he had to go back to melodrama, including Lost in London and The Lancashire Lass...

A page from a Programme for 'The White Heather' at the Royal Princess's Theatre, London in 1899 - Courtesy Roy Cross. The production was a transfer from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and was put on whilst the Princess's was under the management of Robert Arthur and Albert Gilmer.

Above - A page from a Programme for 'The White Heather' at the Royal Princess's Theatre, London in 1899 - Courtesy Roy Cross. The production was a transfer from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and was put on whilst the Princess's was under the management of Robert Arthur and Albert Gilmer.

... In 1875 Joseph Jeflerson revived Rip Van Winkle with great success, and in 1879 Charles Warner startled theatre-goers with his amazing performance as Coupeau in Drink. After a short and unsuccessful venture by Booth, Wilson Barrett, with Modjeska, took the theatre. His first success was The Lights of London (Programme shown above), and on 16 Nov. 1882 came The Silver King, which ran a year and became, perhaps, the classic example of melodrama. In 1886 Barrett left, and the importance of the theatre waned. The last successful play staged there was The Fatal Wedding in 1902. Shortly afterwards it was taken over by an American syndicate, but owing to difficulties with the lease, and considerable requirements in the way of alterations, it was never reopened and became a warehouse.

The above article was first published in The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, second edition, 1962.

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