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The Royal Princess's Theatre, 73 Oxford street, London
Formerly - The Royal Bazaar / The Queen's Bazaar /
Princess's Theatre

Exterior of Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street

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

 

See Theatreland MapsThe Royal Princess's Theatre, on London's Oxford Street, was originally built in 1840 and constructed on the site of the former Royal Bazaar which was destroyed by fire in 1829 and quickly rebuilt as the Queen's Bazaar, a home for dioramas and exhibitions of paintings. The Princess's Theatre opened in 1840 but was completely rebuilt in 1880, to the designs of the well known Theatre Architect C. J. Phipps, and took six months to construct, reopening on the 6th of November the same year with a production of 'Hamlet', featuring Edwin Booth and his Company, and a comedy entitled 'An Old Master'. The Theatre had a long and involved history but was finally demolished in 1931. The last production at the Princesse's 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.

Arthur Lloyd wife's father, T. C. King, performed here in 1851 and was resident for 3 years circa 1858

Information on the rest of this page comes from various sources but I hope to update the page with a more complete history in the near future.

A postcard depicting a scene from 'The Fatal Wedding' the last production at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1931 - Courtesy Barbara Longley

Above - A postcard depicting a scene from 'The Fatal Wedding' the last production at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1931 - Courtesy Barbara Longley

The Princesse's Theatre - From 'Old and New London' - 1897

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 - 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 - Site of 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.
Princess's Theatre site information courtesy - Graham Hoadly

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

 

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 - Pogramme 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. In the year 1860, on his resigning the management of the theatre, Mr. Kean was invited to a Photograph from 'Two Little Vagabonds' at the Princess's Theatre in 1897.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 - 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.

Above text from 'Old and New London - 1897

 

Princess's Theatre

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.

Above text from 'The Face of London' by Harold P. Clunn, 1956

Princess's Theatre

The Lights Of London - 1882 - Programme coverThis 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. 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.

Above text from The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, second edition, 1962.

 

The Lights Of London - 1882 - Inside programme

 

The Lights Of London - 1882 - Back of ProgrammeThe 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. 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. 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. 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, 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.

Above text from The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, second edition, 1962.