Theatres and Halls in Richmond Upon Thames, Surrey
Richmond Theatre Main Article - Richmond
Theatre 1718 - Richmond Theatre 1765 / King's
Theatre - Present Richmond Theatre 1899 / Richmond
Theatre & Opera House / Theatre Royal - Castle
Hotel / Assembly Rooms, Whittaker Avenue - Orange
Tree - Queen's Hall - Richmond
Kinema / Odeon - Karsino Dining Theatre
- Byfeld Hall Theatre - Normansfield
Hospital Theatre - Theatrical Richmond by
Austin Brereton 1885
See also in this area: Kingston Theatres
Formerly - The Theatre Royal & Opera House / Prince of Wales Theatre / Richmond Hippodrome / - And also known as The Theatre on the Green
Above - The Richmond Theatre, Surrey in August 2009 - Photo M.L.
The Richmond Theatre which stands on the Green at Richmond in Surrey today was built in 1899 and designed by the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham. The present Theatre is actually the third Theatre on the site and there is much more information on this building further down on this page. There now follows a brief history of the previous two Theatres on the site.
The first Theatre on Richmond Green was built in 1718 by the actor manager Mr. Penkethman. (Note. The Cambridge History of British Theatre says that the Theatre was built in 1719 and opened on the 6th of June that year, and many other articles have copied this information, but the press cuttings below make the case for it being built a year earlier in 1718.)
A small article in the St James's Evening Post of the 31st of May 1718 advertised the building of the new Theatre saying: 'We hear, Mr. Penkethman is building a handsome Theatre at Richmond, for the Diversion of the Nobility and Quality, who attend the Court of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess : Contiguous to which, is a Room handsomely adorn'd, where he will shew his fine Musical Picture; in which the Royal Family are curiously Painted by the greatest Master of the Age; Drawn from Elizabeth, Princess of Great Britain, eldest Daughter of King James I. and Frederick King of Bohemia, her Husband, and originally design'd for the Entertainment and Diversion of their Highnesses the Young Princesses.' St James's Evening Post, 31st of May 1718.
And by July the same year the Theatre was open. On the 29th of July 1718 the St James's Evening Post carried the following notice saying: 'Last Night their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princes were at Mr. Penkethman's New Theatre at Richmond, to see the Play of the Busie-Body, which was excellently perform'd; and there was a very great Appearance of Quality and Gentry. St James's Evening Post, 29th of July 1718.
In 'Theatrical Richmond' by Austin Brereton 1885 he says that this Theatre was rebuilt in 1733, by an actor called Chapman, and that the Theatre 'fell into decay and was closed for theatrical purposes six years later, this temple of the drama being then used as a barn. Its site is now occupied by York Place.'
If you have any more information about this Theatre, or images you are willing to share, please Contact me.
Formerly - The King's Theatre
The second Theatre on Richmond Green was built by a Mr. Sanderson in 1765 and opened on the 15th of June that year with a production of the Comic Opera 'Love in a Village.' The Theatre was opened under the management of the actor Mr. Love, whose real name was James Dance. Love was also the architect of the Theatre, which became an important playhouse where many celebrated Actors of the time appeared on its stage.
The St James Chronicle of the 15th of June 1765 reported the opening of Love's new Theatre in Richmond saying:
'On Saturday, the fifteenth Instant, was opened, by Authority, the New Theatre on Richmond Green, with the Comick Opera of Love in a Village. The Performances, which are to continue during the Summer Season, are under the Direction or Mr. Love of Drury-Lane: The Theatre was planned and built by Mr. Sanderson, and the Scenes painted by Mr. French, both also belonging to the famed Theatre Royal. As the Audiences that honour the Richmond Theatre with their Presence are as polite and brilliant as those who frequent the Playhouses in London, it has long been lamented that the theatrical Entertainments there were as inelegant as the Company was respectable. The present Manager therefore, by the assistance of some opulent Friends, has at a very great expence erected a Theatre as commodious and handsome, and, for its size, as magnificent as those of the Metropolis. The Scenery and Decorations are also extremely elegant: There is provided a good Band of Musick; and the Performance in general was conducted with so much Decency and Regularity, as seem to give a fair Earnest of the Endeavours of the present Company of Players to merit Encouragement. The following elegant Prologue, written for the Occasion, by David Garrick, Esq; was spoken at the Opening by Mr. Love. It was received with universal Applause, and by particular Desire again repeated before the Comedy of the Provoked Husband Yesterday Evening.' The St James Chronicle, 15th of June 1765.
The Theatre was built on the North side of Richmond Green and next door was a house built of red brick, as was the Theatre, where the actor managers of the Theatre lived., including Edmund Kean who eventually died in the house on the 15th of May 1833.
The Theatre was redecorated in 1767 and it's auditorium was reported as having been 'elegantly decorated' in the St James's Chronicle of the 23rd of May that year, (Shown Above). and consisted of a pit with seperate and covered entrances on either side of the Theatre, a balcony, and boxes.
Right - An advertisement in the Public Advertiser of the 31st of July 1766 reports a benefit for Mr Hopkins at the New Theatre, Richmond. Appearing were Mr. Love, owner and manager of the Theatre, along with many other famous names of the day, including Mrs Juliet Baddeley, whose husband bequeathed the money to begin the Baddeley Cake Ceremony at Drury Lane Theatre in 1794 which is still celebrated today.
A state visit by King, George III, and Queen Charlotte meant that the owners were later able to rename their Theatre the Theatre Royal. (George III would later die blind, deaf and mad at Windsor Castle on the 29th of January, 1820.)
This second Richmond Theatre eventually became too dilapidated to continue and was demolished in 1884.
There is a nice piece about this Theatre in 'Theatrical Richmond' by Austin Brereton 1885 below.
If you have any more information about this Theatre, or images you are willing to share, please Contact me.
The third and current Theatre on Richmond Green was formerly opened on Thursday the 14th of September 1899 as the Theatre Royal and Opera House, although its public opening was on Monday the 18th of September 1899 with a production of 'As You Like It.' Even before the Theatre opened to the public however, the ERA visited the building and printed a report of what they saw there in their 9th of September 1899 edition saying:- 'The inhabitants of this popular suburb are evincing great interest in the handsome theatre which Mr F. C. Mouflet, the enterprising proprietor of the existing Theatre Royal, is having built on Richmond-green. During the past few months the building has been going on with despatch, and is now rapidly approaching completion. The opening night is fixed for Monday week, Sept. 18th. Mr Mouflet rightly claims to be one of the pioneers of the modern suburban theatre-building, and it is now nearly ten years since he first opened the theatre close to the river. The advance of the times, however, has necessitated a better and more commodious place of amusement, and Richmond people owe much to Mr Mouflet for his enterprise in giving the place a building more in keeping with its historic associations.
Right - A Programme for 'The Edwardians' the first Circle Theatres Ltd production at the Richmond Theatre in 1937.
It is a very handsome structure, and the decorations have been chosen with great taste. The new theatre will be under the management of Mr C. E. Hardy, who has for ten years so successfully managed the old one. It will be lighted throughout by electric light, which will be generated at an isolated station (or from the town main if necessary); and there is a reserve source of gas in case of emergency.
Above - The Richmond Theatre and adjoining Library in August 2009 - Photo ML
The theatre will hold 1,370 persons in boxes, stalls, pit stalls, dress circle, pit, amphitheatre, and gallery. The stage will have a depth of 34ft., a width of 52ft., and a proscenium of 27ft; and the height from grid to stage will be 50ft., taking any scenery. There is an asbestos curtain, which will completely cut off the stage from the auditorium, and is fitted with a patent sprinkler. The hydrants are similar to those used by the local fire brigade. There are a tableaux curtain and a drop curtain, and the scenery is painted by Mr Walter Drury. There are buffets and refreshment bars for every part of the house.
Left - A programme for the Circle Theatre Ltd production of 'Gas Light' at the Richmond Theatre in 1938.
The ventilation is on the latest principles, and, indeed, everything throughout the house is of the most approved and up-to-date style. The operations are ably superintended by Mr J. F. Revill. The artistes will be very comfortable in eight commodious dressing-rooms, fitted with hot and cold water, and a green-room. There will be a private view on Thursday evening next, and for the opening night on the following Monday Mr Ben Greet's company, including Miss Dorothea Baird, has been secured, and will perform As You Like It. The prologue, written by Mr Fred Bingham, will be spoken by Miss Norah Denny and Mr Ben Greet. Herr Mistowski will be the musical-director.'
The Theatre was formerly opened on Thursday the 14th of September 1899 and the ERA printed a sketch (Shown Above) and a complete review of the new building, including its opening night production, in their 16th of September 1899 edition saying:- 'The new Theatre Royal and Opera House which has been erected for Mr F. C. Mouflet, of the Castle and Greyhound Hotels, Richmond, was formally opened on Thursday evening by the Mayor of Richmond (Councillor C. B. Edgar, J.P.). It was Mr Mouflet's first intention to alter the Assembly Rooms into a theatre, but acting on the advice of his architect, Mr Frank Matcham, he purchased a very important site adjoining the Free Library, and instructed Mr Matcham to prepare plans. The result is one of the best arranged and most artistic and substantial theatres in or out of London.
The new house is within a minute's walk of two railway stations, and conveniently situated to the omnibus termini, and stands immediately opposite an open space known as the Little Green, to which it presents a highly ornamental front of red brick and terra cotta. On either side, the building is surmounted by a turret, each of which has been ingeniously utilised for ventilating purposes. In the centre, above the principal entrance, stands a figure representing Music, immediately beneath which the broadly-smiling face of Comedy looks out. (Shown Right). At night the front of the building will be brilliantly illuminated by three hanging arc lights and two standard lamps placed on either side of the broad flight of steps leading to the entrance to boxes, stalls, and dress circle. The elegant appearance of the whole structure is heightened by windows of stained glass, and a balcony, accessible to boxes, stalls, and dress-circle, extends along the entire front.
Above - The Ceiling Decoration in the Foyer of the Theatre Royal, Richmond - Courtesy Charles S. P. Jenkins
The entrances to all parts of the house (with the exception of the gallery) are in the front. The main doors in the centre, which, with the framework, are of massive mahogany, open into a small vestibule, which, in its turn, opens into a larger one (22ft. by 14ft.), both having marbled floors, and being panelled in mahogany. On the right of the larger vestibule (which is lighted by a large brass electrolier, and has a beautifully-painted ceiling), is the pay-box, constructed of mahogany and cut glass. The main staircase, facing the entrance, is of marble, with a marble scroll pattern balustrade on either side. In the centre is a plaster medallion portrait of Edmund Kean. On the right these stairs lead to the stalls, on the left to the dress-circle. The doors giving admission to pit stalls, amphitheatre, and pit are on either side of the main entrance.
A special feature in this connection is that each corridor leading from the street has a double door, thus ensuring the audience immunity from draughts. It may further be noted that all external and exit doors are fitted with Briggs' panic bolts, which, impervious to pressure from without, easily give way to a push from within.
Left and Right - The entrances to the left and right of the Theatre read Gallery, Pit Exit, and Pit Entry - Photo ML August 2009.
Another special feature is the semi-archway and surrounding forming the entrance to the orchestra stalls, while at the opposite side is a recess fitted up with rockery and ferns, and lighted with small coloured electric lamps. The walls of the stalls are all covered with fumigated panelled oak, giving an appearance of quiet richness which is very striking.
The upper circle over the dress circle is furnished with comfortable seating, which is continued along the two sides, and at the back of this the architect has introduced very handsome arcading with pilasters and arches, and coffered ceilings leading back to the main walls. The whole has the most unique and artistic appearance, being beautifully decorated.
Right - A programme for the Circle Theatres Ltd production of 'Ladies in Retirement' at the Richmond Theatre in 1939.
The stalls, pit stalls, and pit are on the floor, which has a generous rake to it; there are two boxes on each side of the proscenium, the other two being at the back of the dress circle. Stretching away in a broad sweep from the latter are the amphitheatre and the gallery, and, the house being constructed on the cantilever system, there is no seat in any part of it from which an absolutely uninterrupted view of the stage cannot be obtained. In front of the gallery a large coved ceiling springing away from the ceiling proper (an arrangement not found in many other theatres) is designed with an especial view to acoustic perfection. High above the heads of the "gods " is a lantern, 18ft. by 10ft., which is opened by a mechanical arrangement, and which should render the ventilation complete. Stalls, dress-circle, and pit-stalls have tip-up seats, and the amphitheatre is upholstered in red leather.
The seating accommodation for the public is as under:- 6 private boxes (holding four to six persons), 84 stalls, 179 dress-circle, 140 pit stalls (reserved), 120 amphitheatre, 300 pit, 400 gallery, making a total of 1,227.
Large and handsomely-decorated saloons are provided, that for the dress-circle being unusually elegant, the woodwork is all in polished mahogany, the beautiful modelled ceiling being supported with columns and pilasters, and the whole decorated most artistically. Access to outside balconies is obtained for smokers from the saloon overlooking Richmond-green, which, when furnished with ferns and plants, will be very attractive.
Right - A postcard depicting the Richmond Theatre in 1904.
The decorations of the auditorium, which are in the Elizabethan style, are rich, and yet characterised by an artistic reserve which is most pleasing to the eye. The gilt mouldings, set off by crimson hangings and upholstery, form a welcome combination of light and warmth. The entire building, before and behind the curtain, is lighted by electricity, gas being laid on simply as a precautionary measure. Altogether, the installation has provided for about 1,000 lights, the electricity for which is generated by a compound undertype loco boiler of 20 h.p. nominal, remotely situated at the back, and beneath the level of the stage. All the electric fittings in the auditorium and the approaches thereto have been specially designed in character with the general scheme of decoration.
The principal feature of the front of the house is the ceiling. From the sides over the amphitheatre a series of arches and groins bring the top of the auditorium to a dead square, off which springs a large inverted domical ceiling, almost every design in which stands out in fine relief. It has four large subject-panels representing scenes from Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, King Lear, and Romeo and Juliet. In the centre is a large sun burner fitted with gas, but designed for ventilating rather than lighting purposes, inasmuch as it is covered by a large thirty-light brass electrolier of ornamental design. The four spandrils left by the plan of the ceiling have decorated panels inscribed respectively with the names of Shakespeare, Goldsmith, Congreve, and Sheridan.
Left - A programme for 'When we are Married' at the Richmond Theatre in April 1946.
The proscenium opening is of marble, having on either side a draped column springing directly from an oak-panelled base, which forms the sides of the stalls. These columns have at the top figures representing Comedy and Tragedy, each being surmounted by a highly ornamental canopied head. At the top of the proscenium is an extended key-panel, having on it the inscription from Pope, "To wake the soul by tender stroke of art," this being surmounted by the arms of the borough of Richmond. Above is a 4f t. gold frieze with white figures in relief. The spandrils on either side are adorned with recumbent classical figures. The stage is veiled with an act-drop representing a view of Richmond-bridge looking up the river, and tableau curtains of crimson plush. There is also an asbestos curtain, with water sprinkler attached, which, with wall in cement under, entirely separates the stage from the auditorium. The whole of the material used in construction, in fact, is fireproof, there are hydrants on every floor, and access to the street is immediate and perfect. The heating will be accomplished throughout by radiators and steam pipes.
Above - The Richmond Theatre, Surrey in August 2009 - Photo M.L.
The width of the proscenium opening is 27ft., and the stage, which has been constructed under the supervision of a well-known stage carpenter, measures 34ft. from back to front, 52ft. across the full width, and 50ft. in height to the grid, above which there is room for men to work. In the flies there is well-lighted accommodation for scene-painting. Beneath the stage, which is fitted with an excellent system of trap-doors, are rooms for the supers and the members of the orchestra, which will be controlled by Herr Mistowski, of Richmond. On the prompt side is an elaborate arrangement of valves and switches, whereby the whole of the lighting arrangements can be easily controlled. On the other side is the manager's room, conveniently situated both to the stage and to the front of the house. The stock scenery has been painted by Mr W. Drury, of Brighton, at a cost of some hundreds of pounds. The performers themselves have been liberally cared for. The eight dressing-rooms, of varying size, on three floors at the back of the stage, are fitted with electric lights, hot and cold water is laid on, and the necessary warmth is secured by hot-water pipes.
Right - A programme for Noel Coward's 'Hay Fever' at the Richmond Theatre in September 1946.
The entire building, with decorations included, was designed by Mr Frank Matcham. The manager of the Theatre Royal and Opera House will be Mr Charles E. Hardy, who won his spurs at the other Theatre Royal in Whittaker-avenue.
At the opening ceremony on Thursday night there were present, in addition to the Mayor and Mayoress, several members of the Richmond Corporation, Alderman Sir James Szlrimper, Messrs T. Skewes Cox, M.P., A. F. Henderson, of the Fulham Theatre, Newman Maurice, of the Teddington Bijou Theatre, C. St. John Denton, C. E. Hardy (manager), E. Ledger, and others. The visitors made a tour of inspection of the new theatre, the appearance of which met with general approval and admiration. Brilliantly illuminated by the electric light, the interior of the house presented a very bright and animated aspect, while the taste shown in the scheme of decoration was evident.
Left - A programme for 'Daddy Long-Legs' at the Richmond Theatre in September 1952.
The MAYOR and members of the Corporation having taken their places on the stage his worship, in the course of a brief address, referred to the old Richmond Theatre facing the green, and remarked that David Garrick took a personal interest in its erection, the date being, he believed, 1776. The elder Mathews made his appearance there, and George the Third was a frequent visitor. In later years Charles Kean became the lessee of the theatre and ended his days in the neighbourhood. Remembering the associations of the old theatre it seemed proper that the green should witness the erection of this new and elegant structure. It was gratifying to know that they had in Richmond a burgess like Mr Mouflet, possessed of so much enterprise and good taste. He had engaged the services of an architect of wide experience in such work, and he was sure they would agree with him that the result reflected the highest credit upon all concerned. In conclusion he congratulated Mr Mouflet on his new and handsome theatre, and heartily wished him success in his enterprise.
Above - The rear elevation, dock doors, and stage door, of the Richmond Theatre, Surrey in August 2009 - Photo M.L.
Mr MOUFLET thanked the Mayor for the honour done him in opening the new theatre, and also for the kind words be had given utterance to. He was sure that everyone was pleased with the new house. He had been connected for a quarter of a century with the town of Richmond, and had spent many happy hours there. With regard to the new theatre, it would be his endeavour to get the best possible companies, and he hoped that success would crown his efforts. The house would be conducted on popular lines and popular prices, and he thought that if he could provide a comfortable, well-ventilated place of amusement for the district it would receive liberal patronage. He regretted that the house was not quite finished, but he was told that the theatre was more advanced towards completion than were ninety-nine out of a hundred houses just on the point of opening. In conclusion, he said that Mrs Mouflet would have been present, but was prevented by a sudden attack of illness.
Mr FRANK MATCHAM, the architect, thanked the audience for their kind approval of the new theatre, and expressed a hope that it would be generously supported. Mr J. S. COX, M.P., proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Mouflet, which was duly carried. The National Anthem was then sung, and cheers were given for the Mayor and Mayoress, &c.'
The Theatre opened to the public on Monday the 18th of September 1899 as the Theatre Royal and Opera House with a production of 'As You Like It. This name would soon be changed however, to the Prince of Wales Theatre, probably when Edward VII succeeded Queen Victoria to the throne after her death in January 1901.
In March 1909 the name was changed again, this time to the Richmond Hippodrome (see a programme for this period below). During the Theatre's Hippodrome years it was in use mainly as a variety Theatre and often showed early films as part of the entertainment from 1910 until 1914 when the name was changed again, this time to the Richmond Theatre, the name the Theatre retains to this day.
Above - A Programme for 'The Gunners' at the Richmond Hippodrome, now the Richmond Theatre, in January 1914 - Courtesy Roy Cross.
The Richmond Theatre has been a very successful and a much loved building since its opening over one hundred years ago.
The Theatre has had various alterations and improvements over the years but has kept its character and prominent place in the hearts of Richmond's population since its inception.
Right - The Richmond Theatre, Surrey, in a photograph taken from the green in August 2009 - Photo M.L.
I worked here myself for two years before the Theatre closed in 1990 for major refurbishment and renovation, both Front of House and Back stage. The auditorium's redecoration by Carl Toms, although not a restoration of Frank Matcham's original, is remarkably successful and pleasing to the eye.
The Richmond Theatre is Grade II Listed and currently has a stage depth of 9.1m - 29' 10", a proscenium width of 8.5m - 27' 10", and a height to the grid of 14m - 46 foot.
You may like to visit the Theatre's own website here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Later - The New Richmond Theatre, Castle Electric Theatre
The Assembly Rooms on Whittaker Avenue, Richmond were built adjoining the Castle Hotel in the 1850s. Part of the original Hotel was actually demolished when Whittaker Avenue was constructed and the Assembly rooms were built alongside.
In 1890 Mr F. C. Mouflet, who would later go on to have the present Richmond Theatre built in 1899, converted the Assembly Rooms into a Theatre. The Assembly Rooms Theatre had a stage and proscenium with a balcony and a music gallery and was capable of accommodating up to 750 people. The Theatre was subsequently renamed the New Richmond Theatre, a name which Mouflet carried with him to his new Theatre on the Green in 1899.
By 1912 the Theatre is said to have had a capacity of 800 and even today there are some fragments remaining of the building although it is much altered since Mouflet's time.
If you have any more information about this Theatre, or images you are willing to share, please Contact me.
Above - The Orange Tree Public House and Theatre, Richmond, Surrey in August 2009 - Photo M.L.
The Orange Tree Theatre, on Clarence Street, Richmond was a conversion from a former Victorian school hall and schoolmaster's house. The Orange Tree Theatre Company itself had been operating since 1971 in an upstairs room of the Orange Tree Public House, on the corner of Clarence Street, but in 1988 they appealed for a new Theatre to be built to house their successful Company. Eventually acquiring the old School premises, they set about converting the interior to form an auditorium in the round with a surrounding balcony designed by the architects The Elsworth Sykes Partnership with consultation by Theatre Projects. The auditorium seats from 150 to 200 patrons and can be constructed in the round or with an stage end on.
You may like to visit the Theatre's own website here.
Above - The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, Surrey in August 2009 - Photo ML
Later The Pictorial Hall / the New Pavilion / Inman's Club
The Queen's Hall in Sheen Road, Richmond was originally built in 1900 as a Freemason's Club. The auditorium had a small stage with a proscenium and was used for many different types of entertainment. In 1911 the Hall was converted so that it could also be used for the new Wright Brothers Bioscope film showings. This continued alongside other forms of entertainment until 1938 when it was put into use as a servicemen's club and canteen for the war. After the war the Queen's Hall became a community Centre for Richmond and was in use as such until its eventual demolition in 1986.
Later The Casino Hotel
Above - The Karsino Ballroom and Dining Theatre, Tagg's Island in the late 1940s - Courtesy Alan Chudley
The Karsino was built in 1913 and is notable for being one of the last buildings designed by the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham, before he retired. Matcham had earlier built the present Richmond Theatre in the town in 1899.
The stage in the Ballroom, although small, could be opened up so that the adjoining gardens could be viewed from it, and the whole building, which was in the form of a Pavilion, had windows down each side open to the gardens too. The stage was never designed for true theatrical productions, rather, it was used for solo 'Turns' and orchestral Concerts.
Unfortunately the enterprise was not successful for Fred Karno but the complex itself survived until the 1970s. In the 1960s it was known as the Casino Hotel.
The former Karsino Hotel and entertainment centre was eventually demolished in 1971.
Alan Chudley writes: '60 years ago if you were working at Kingston Empire and, if it was a nice sunny day, it was pleasant to take a walk from Kingston Bridge to Hampton Court, a distance of about 3 miles, and from Hampton Court we would take the steamer river boat to Richmond which would stop at Taggs Island on route. If you had female company you could score points by treating her to a cream tea on Taggs Island. Cream Teas could be had at Taggs Island for 3 shillings and sixpence. We would return to Kingston on a No. 65 bus. You do not get afternoons out like this any more for 75 pence for two people. The ornate Matcham ballroom had a small stage capable of staging Cabaret entertainment. - Alan Chudley.
Later - The Barnes Theatre / Ranelagh Cinema / Olympic Studio / Olympic Cinema
The Byfield Hall Theatre in Church Road, Barnes was original built in 1906 as a Public Hall but it was also licensed for Stage Plays, Musical Performances, and Dancing. The Theatre did have a proper stage and the auditorium could accommodate 350 on the ground floor and another 150 in the gallery above.
Although Bioscope Films were shown right from the start, in 1910 a proper projection room was installed when the Theatre gained a Cinematograph License. From then on the building functioned mostly as a Cinema until 1925 when it was renamed the Barnes Theatre, under the management of Philip Ridgeway, who staged five Russian Plays there, directed and designed by the leading Russian Director of the period, Theodore Komisarjevsky.
Right, Left and Below - A programme for 'The Offence' a play in three acts by Mordaunt Shairp produced at the Barnes Theatre, Richmond on the 20th of July 1925.
The building then reverted back to Cinema use again, under the name of the Ranelagh Cinema, until 1941. Guild TV bought it in the late 1950s and converted it into a film studio. Later still it was converted into a sound recording studio called Olympic Studios in 1966. Here many of the famous bands of the 60s and 70s were recorded. The Olympic Studios had several venues over the years and there is more information on the Company here.
Virgin took over the Olympic Studio in 1987 and the exterior of the building was refurbished in 1989 whilst the interior was gutted for reconstruction of the recording studio itself. EMI acquired this arm of the Virgin Empire in 1992 and continued to run the Studio until December 2008 when it was finally closed down after the U2 album No Line on The Horizon was recorded there. This left the future of the building suddenly looking rather uncertain. There is more on the closure and the Studio's history from the Independent Newspaper here.
Above - Programme details for 'The Offence' a play in three acts by Mordaunt Shairp produced at the Barnes Theatre, Richmond on the 20th of July 1925.
In March 2010 the building was purchased by a businessman who wanted to turn the venue back into a two screen 'Boutique style Cinema' called the Olympic Cinema. The reconstruction has taken a long time but it is expected to be finished by the Spring of 2013. You can find out more about this on the Olympic Cinema's own website here.
Later - The Langdon Down Centre Trust
Above - The stage of the Normansfield Hospital Theatre in September 2008, with the scenery dock door open and a modern reproduction false proscenium in view - Courtesy Roger Fox.
The Normansfield Hospital Theatre was built as a private Theatre within the grounds of the Normansfield Hospital which was itself built in 1868 as an institution for the care of people with congenital mental health conditions. The Hospital was founded by John Haydon Langdon-Down, whose name lives on in the condition Downs Syndrome.
The Theatre itself, originally known as the Entertainment Hall, was completed in 1879 and was used by the staff and patients of the hospital for therapeutic purposes. Down's wife acted as the acting manager. Although externally the building is nothing special the interior, situated above the original 'kindersaal', is far more impressive. The Theatre Trust say it is: "A complete and virtually unaltered survival of the 1870s and of outstanding architectural, historic and archaeological importance."
Right - The Stage of the Normansfield Hospital Theatre in September 2008, shown here with modern lighting and reproduction scenery - Courtesy Roger Fox.
The auditorium of the Theatre still has its iron fronted balcony, a rare surviving gas sun-burner in the roof, and all of its original proscenium decoration and figure-paintings.
The stage of the Normansfield Theatre is even more interesting in that it still retains its original wings, borders, and painted cloths, which ran in still surviving grooves in the stage. In fact there are around 90 pieces of stage scenery still in the Theatre which are extremely rare, but six panels which were originally painted for the Savoy Theatre's touring production of 'Ruddigore' have now been removed into safer storage.
The Normansfield Hospital and its Theatre now come under the banner of The Langdon Down Centre Trust, and the entire building is used for a variety of entertainment and conference purposes.
You may like to visit The Langdon Down Centre Trust's own website here.
Formerly - The Richmond Kinema - Later - The Premier Cinema
The Odeon Theatre on Hill Street, Richmond was originally built as a Cine Variety Theatre for the Joseph Mears Theatres circuit and opened on the 21st of April 1930. The Theatre was designed and built by Julian Leathart & W F Granger. The auditorium, with an original capacity of 1,533, was constructed in the Atmospheric style and was designed to evoke a Spanish Nobleman's 17th Century house and courtyard.
The Theatre was renamed The Premier Cinema on the 29th of June 1940 so that the name Richmond was not on display to German parachutists who may have landed nearby.
The Theatre was taken over by Oscar Deutsch's Odeon Theatres Ltd., on the 3rd of January 1944 and then in May the following year it was renamed Odeon.
In 1972 the Theatre was converted into a three screen Cinema by retaining the original circle and extending it to the proscenium for Screen One with a capacity of 406. And then creating two further screens under the circle in the former stalls of the Theatre with capacities of 178 each. Screen One of the Odeon, in the former circle of the Theatre, still retains much of the original Theatre's 'Atmospheric' auditorium although the proscenium decoration is hidden by the Cinema's large screen. A photograph of the Odeon's Screen One can be seen here.
The Hill Street Richmond Odeon is now a Grade II Listed building and should not be confused with the modern Odeon Complex at 6 Red Lion Street, Richmond. You may like to visit the website of both Odeon's here.
From an article in The Theatre 1885
THE speculative builder, the destroying angel of antiquity, has been particularly busy of late. He has penetrated into quiet, remote, and ancient villages, where he has laid heavy and irreverent hands on the lovely lands and substantial well-situated houses of our ancestors, erecting in their place cheap and draughty if not "cheap and nasty" stucco villas. This matter-of-fact gentleman has a friend and ally in many a country rector who has "restored" his church out of all recognition, leaving only the old tower, with its sun-dial, as a memorial of times gone by. We live in an age of progress indeed; an age which apparently bears no remembrance of the past and no thought of to-morrow. There are many old towns in England quite untouched by the ruthless destroyer of historical mementoes; but these, alas, are being swept away gradually, but still, surely.
Nowhere is the improvement of the moderns more manifest than in the world-famed Richmond of Surrey. The old Palace of Shene, where Henry VII. and Queen Elizabeth died, where Wolsey kept Christmas in high and mighty fashion, and in front of which the young and lovely, but frolicsome, Duchess de Chevreuse swam across the Thames, has long since been abolished. The church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, has been twice restored and enlarged, and the graves of the dead who lie there have, in many cases, been obliterated, while yet a further alteration in the structure is contemplated. The old and famous taverns, with a number of the old dwelling-houses, have been either destroyed entirely or reconstructed.
Last of all to go was the old theatre on the Green. It is with the theatre and the theatrical associations of Richmond that I am most concerned and the history of which I propose to relate.
The Richmond Wells" was the first place of entertainment here. Opened in 1696, for the sake of its medicinal spring, it flourished for over half a century. It was a favourite resort for jaded nymphs and their faithful swains. Concerts, card-playing, and raffling were the chief amusements indulged in here when the "quality frequented the Wells. After 1750 the resort went to rack and ruin. The visitors drank copiously of something stronger than the medicinal waters, the company took to rowdyism, the quiet, genteel air of the Wells passed away, and, in 1780, the place gained such an unenviable notoriety that it was thought desirable to close it. Therewith an end. Two maiden ladies bought the buildings and speedily abolished them.
The drama has never flourished in Richmond, wealthy though the place is in theatrical associations. In the Assembly Rooms only is it now possible to give an entertainment. Yet Richmond has had, in its time, three theatres. The first of these was situated on the hill where York Place now stands. It was built on a piece of ground formerly used as a shed for asses; it was opened on June 6, 1719 (see note M.L.). The facetious Will Pinkethman, who died in 1725, once managed it. Here he and Henry Norris burlesqued the tragedy of "Cato." Pinkethman, like his successor, Ned Shuter, always took liberties with his audience, but was pardoned on account of his genial humour. He's the darling of Fortunatus," wrote Downes, the prompter, in his "Roscius Anglicanus;" "he has gained more in theatres and fairs these twelve years than those that have tugged at the oar of acting these fifty." This theatre was, I imagine, not long in existence, for, in 1733, a new one was built on the hill, by Chapman, an actor. At this house Ned Shuter was a great favourite; from here Miss Barton, afterwards famous as Mrs Abington, was engaged; and of a performance which he saw here Walpole wrote thus: "I am just come from the play at Richmond, where I found the Duchess of Argyle and Lady Betty Campbell at their court. We had a new actress, a Miss Clough, an extremely tall and fine figure, and very handsome; she spoke very justly and with spirit. Garrick is to produce her next winter, and a Miss Charlotte, a poetess, and a deplorable actress. Garrick, Barry, and some more of the players, were there to see these new comedians. It is to be their seminary." Whether Garrick did bring out the handsome Miss Clough in town or not it is impossible to say. But it is certain that the lady's name is not famous in theatrical annals. In 1756, Colley Cibber's son, Theophilus, had the theatre. There being a difficulty about the licence he was obliged to resort to strategy in order to evade the law. Accordingly, when, on July 8 of the year named, the theatre was re-opened it was advertised as a "Cephalic Snuff Warehouse," and the following remarkable advertisement concerning it was issued:- "Cibber and Co., Snuff Merchants, sell at their warehouse on Richmond Hill most excellent cephalic snuff, which taken in moderate quantities, in an evening particularly, will not fail to raise the spirits, clear the brain, throw off ill humours, dissipate the spleen, enliven the imagination, exhilarate the mind, give joy to the heart, and greatly improve and invigorate the understanding. Mr. Cibber has also opened at the aforesaid warehouse (late called the theatre), on the hill, an histrionic academy for the instruction of young persons of genius in the art of acting, and purposes for the better improvement of the performance of such pupils, and frequently with his assistance, to give public rehearsals, without hire, gain, or reward."
In 1758 "the Duke of Cleveland and Southampton's servants" gave a performance here. The theatre fell into decay and was closed for theatrical purposes six years later, this temple of the drama being then used as a barn. Its site is now occupied by York Place.
Most famous in the theatrical annals of Richmond is the King's Theatre, as it was first called, which, until this year, stood at the North-West corner of the Green. It was built in 1765-6, by a lady named Horn, for a relative of hers, one James Dance, who is known to the stage under his assumed name of Love. The theatre opened in May, 1766, when a prologue, written by David Garrick, was spoken by Love. The unsophisticated nature of the latter gentleman may be gathered from the fact that in his advertisements he invariably announced that the entertainments would conclude early each night, "in order," as he put it, "to allow persons to reach London after the play is over. The idea of anyone going to Richmond from London to see a play performed is vastly humorous. Love was a favourite of Sir Horace Walpole's. His management of the Richmond Theatre extended from 1766 to 1773. He altered and produced here, Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens," in 1768, and Massinger's "City Madam," in 1771. He was by no means a success either as actor, manager, or dramatist, but his Falstaff was popular and was accounted a good performance.
The first of the famous family of the Jefferson's was manager here in 1774. Seven years later the theatre was rented by twelve tradesmen, who were dubbed by their town's- folk the Twelve Apostles. Lord Barrymore appeared here, in 1790, as Scaramouch, in "Don Juan," for Edwin's benefit. This house was never in a very flourishing condition. In thirty-nine years it had no less than thirty-seven managers, a fact which sufficiently testifies to its want of financial success. The theatre generally brought ruin to its managers, although Garrick, Macready, Young, Munden, Quick, Shuter, Liston, Mrs. Jordan, Edmund Kean, Mrs. Siddons, and Madame Vestris have, from time to time, played here. Dora Jordan lived at Richmond during the summer months, and frequently appeared upon the boards of its theatre. Here, on September 7, 1793, the elder Mathews made his first appearance on the stage. A fellow-enthusiast played Richard III., Mathews appearing as Richmond, and as Bowket in the farce of the "Son-In-Law." The companions paid fifteen guineas for the privilege of this appearance. "For the delight of my exhibiting my skill and legitimate love of the art (of fencing), I kindly consented," says Mathews, in his delightful "Life," " to take the inferior, insipid part of Richmond, who does not appear until the fifth act of the play - I stipulating, however, for a good part in the after-piece. I cared for nothing except the last scene of 'Richard,' but in that I was determined to have my full swing of carte and tierce. I had no idea of paying seven guineas and a half without indulging my passion. In vain did the tyrant try to die after a decent time - in vain did he give indications of exhaustion. I would not allow him to give in. I drove him by main force from any position convenient for his last dying speech. The audience laughed; I heeded them not. They shouted; I was deaf. Had they hooted, I should have lunged on in unconsciousness of their interruption. I was resolved to show them all my accomplishments. Litchfield frequently whispered 'enough,' but I thought, with Macbeth, 'damned be he who first cries ' hold, enough.' I kept him at it, and I believe we almost fought literally ' an hour by Shrewsbury clock.' To add to the merriment, a matter-of-fact fellow in the gallery, who in his ignorance took everything for reality, and who was completely wrapped up and lost by 'the very cunning of the scene,' shouted out at last: 'Hang it, why don't he shoot him?' The Duke of Clarence was in a private box with Mrs. Jordan on the occasion, having been attracted from Bushy by the announcement of an amateur Richard, and I heard afterwards that they were both in convulsions of laughter at the prolongation of the scene, which that fascinating and first-rate of all great comic actresses never forgot." Diddear, sometime a manager of the Richmond Theatre, had a cork leg himself, and was generally accompanied and waited on by a man servant who had two wooden ones! The most notable management of this theatre was that of Mr. Klanert, who, with his wife, performed the principal characters in their productions. This astute person made himself popular by giving a wherry, which was rowed for every August by local watermen. In the evening the successful competitor was carried in triumph on the stage, where he was presented with his prize by Mrs. Klanert, other prizes being distributed by Master Charles Klanert, who became a genial clergyman in his later days. Klanert first appeared at Richmond, under the management of Mr. W. R. Beverley, father of Mr. Beverley, the well-known scenic artist, in 1810. His own management extended from June 23, 1817, to November 10, 1829.
Edmund Kean often acted at Richmond under the Klanert management. The first record which I can find of his acting there is on October 17, 1817, when he was announced to play "for one night only," and, being under articles to Drury Lane, his full name was suppressed, and he was advertised as MR. K. !!!
He played Sir Edmund Mortimer on this occasion, the receipts amounting only to £58 - 1s, out of which he received £40. During this engagement he also acted Bertram, Richard III., and Sir Giles Overreach. Manager Klanert always paid Kean before the conclusion of the performance. During this visit the actor brought with him from town some three or four boon companions, hangers-on to the great man. After he had been staying two nights at the "Castle," he sent a note to the manager, of which this is a copy:-
Dear Sir, Will you be kind enough to lend me ten pounds till Wednesday? Yours, &c., E. Kean. Castle Tavern, Klanert, Esq.
A year later Kean again acted at Richmond, the engagement proving still more remarkable than the former one. The night was October 14, 1818, the play "Richard the Third" (a biographer of Kean incorrectly gives the date as October 24, and the play as "The Distressed Mother"), and the house held £77-19s.
Klanert was the Richmond; the company was a good one (Benjamin Webster, then twenty years old, appeared as the Lord Mayor), and the tragedy was well acted all round. The audience bestowed their applause generally, whereat Kean became annoyed, and precipitately quitted the theatre at the close of the performance, without waiting, as was his custom, to chat with Klanert. There had been some conversation in the early part of the evening respecting another performance, so when the manager found that the actor had retired to the "Castle" he despatched a note, requesting him to fix the date and bill for the second night. Kean's reply was characteristic. Here it is:-
My Dear Sir, I have the greatest respect for you, and the best wishes for your professional success; but if I play in the Richmond Theatre again Ill be damned! Yours sincerely, EDMUND KEAN. - Klanert, Esq.
Kean's good-nature, however, soon got the better of him, and, despite his avowed determination never to act in Richmond again, he appeared on the 30th of the same month (October) for the benefit of a member of the company named Cunningham. He played Orestes in "The Distressed Mother," a piece little acted and comparatively unknown. The notice was very short, and the play consequently was got up in a great hurry. No rehearsal took place with Kean, the other actors knew but little of their characters and still less of their words. But Kean was at his best, and his acting drew forth as much applause as the little theatre was capable of producing. And Mr. Cunningham no doubt rejoiced when he heard that on the night in question over eighty-five pounds flowed into the treasury.
Kean lived at Richmond, in the little house adjoining the theatre, during the last months of his life. He died there on May 15, 1833. The painful closing scenes of his life here have been frequently related elsewhere. He was buried in Richmond churchyard, and over his grave a tablet to his memory was erected by his son Charles. Of this anon.
A vastly favoured piece during the Klanert management of the Richmond Theatre was a spectacular romantic drama, entitled "Tekeli; or, the Heroine of Montgartz." When the manager was in doubt this was his trump-card. He produced "Tekeli" with a "real bridge," or "real water," or "real horses," or the firing of "real cannon," and always secured a good house with this bill. What, I wonder, has become of "Tekeli" now?
In her charming, recently-published volume, "Shakespeare's Female Characters," Lady Martin has told us how, being then Miss Helen Faucit, she made her first appearance on the stage at the Richmond Theatre, in November, 1833, appearing as Juliet, Mariana in "The Wife," and Mrs. Haller in "The Stranger." During the succeeding half-century the Richmond play-house had a chequered career. The superior attractions of London, together with improved means of conveyance, rendered it hopeless for anyone to make it pay. The rent which, at the beginning of the century, was £250 a year, dwindled to nearly a fifth of that amount. The theatre fell from bad to worse. Only the other day a "leading actor" was offered half a pig's head and an old Dutch clock in lieu of salary. That actor took the pig's head, I believe, out of sheer starvation, but he abandoned the disorganised Dutch clock and the theatrical profession at one and the same time. The Richmond Theatre ceased to exist early this year. The ground whereon it stood has been cleared for building purposes.
Let us turn to the old church, where a group of actors lie in graves now almost indiscernible. First of the actors to be buried here was Joseph Taylor, who lived from 1585-1653. He was the second representative of Hamlet, a character which, according to Wright, in the "Historia Histrionica," he acted incomparably well." His lago was also considered excellent, and he was unmatched as Truewit in "The Silent Woman," and Face in "The Alchemist." In the year 1614 he was manager of a company of comedians at Richmond, who were known as the Lady Elizabeth's Servants. He was subsequently manager of the King's company, and Yeoman of the Revels to Charles I.
His grave, of course, is unknown. Mrs. Yates, the celebrated tragic actress of Garrick's time, who died in 1787, and her husband, Richard Yates, a clever comedian, also rest here. They lie buried under the altar rail, at the south side of the chancel. But their monument is on the outer side of the northern chancel wall. It represents Yates, who was not of the most angelic temperament, meekly kneeling at the side of his wife, while on either side of the effigy is an extremely "proper" looking female figure. This is the second monument erected to Mr. and Mrs. Yates. The first one possessed figures representing comedy and tragedy, but these, not being thought appropriate for a church, were moved, and their place taken by the modest, and meaningless, figures aforesaid. Another player, James Hearon, was laid to rest here. He lived at Richmond, and, after acting at Covent Garden, he walked home at night. Edmund Kean, as all the world knows, is buried at Richmond. Intent on paying a tribute to his memory, I went to the church one beautiful evening this summer. The gates being locked, I enquired of a woman who was leaning out of a cottage-window hard by if she could tell me where the sexton lived, as I wished to go into the church. "The person," she replied, laying particular stress upon the word "person," "who keeps the keys lives next door, whereat she banged down her window and retired to the sanctity of her chamber, leaving me not a little surprised and amused.
I immediately sought out the "person," who proved an elderly and very intelligent woman. She pointed out the tablet erected by Charles Kean to his father, but could not indicate with any degree of certainty the exact position of the actor's grave. Less than thirty years since the church was enlarged, many of the graves being built over in the process. Disappointed in the fruitlessness of my search, I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Henry Crisp, whose father, the late Richard Crisp, long a resident in Richmond, had made a plan of the various graves before the alterations. From this I found that Kean's grave is just outside the old church tower, at the southern side, and close to the wall where the new part of the building commences. To get at the position of the grave it is necessary to go into the church, where, above the place indicated, will be found a closet containing the implements used for cleaning the church. It is not a little significant of the stormy unhappy career of the most brilliant actor who ever trod the stage, that a dust-hole should be made above his nameless grave. One more connection between Edmund Kean and Richmond remains to be stated. Here, those practised in the art of bringing objects of interest to the light of day, may discern a pair of the actor's buckles and the skull and sword which he used in "Hamlet." But as I have an eye to their possession, I shall not indicate their whereabouts more exactly.
A note on James Thomson, "sweet poet of the seasons," who died and was buried at Richmond, and I have done. Born at Ednam, Roxburghshire, on September 11, 1700, he came to London a quarter of a century later, living first of all as a tutor in the City, afterwards in the West-End. His indolence is well known. "So charming Thomson," Mrs. Piozzi recorded, "wrote from his lodgings, a milliner's in Bond-street, where he seldom rose early enough to see the sun do more than glisten on the opposite windows of the street." The bard and James Quin formed a lasting friendship. When Thomson first came to London he was not over-burdened with cash, and he, not unnaturally, got into debt. One of his creditors imprisoned him. Quin, hearing of his misfortunes, visited him in the sponging-house in Holborn, ordered an excellent supper for two, and, when the glass had gone briskly round, delivered himself thus:- "I read the other day your poem of 'The Seasons; the pleasure which it gave me called forth my gratitude; it struck me that as I had some property, I ought to make my will, and to make those the legatees to whom I was under some obligation. Consequently I have bequeathed a hundred pounds to the author of the poem The Seasons.' This morning, hearing that you were in this house, I thought I might as well have the pleasure of paying the money myself, as order my executors to pay it when you would be no longer in need of it." Therewith the good-natured actor laid a hundred-pound note on the table. An offer so delicately and so timely made was not refused. Poet and actor left the house together, and the friendship thus cemented was never afterwards broken. Later on, in his poem "The Castle of Indolence," Thomson paid a tribute to his friend. Thomson's dramatic works never obtained much celebrity. They died, indeed, almost at their birth. "Sophonisba," his best-known play, was acted in 1729, when a feeble line, "O Sophonisba, Sophonisba, O!' was parodied by a wag in the pit, who exclaimed "O Jemmy Thomson, Jemmy Thomson, O!"
"Agamemnon," acted at Drury Lane in 1738, when Pope was present, was only endured. His Edward and Leonora" was refused a licence in 1739. His masque of "Alfred," written in conjunction with David Mallett, a year later, was performed once. "Tancred and Sigismunda" was produced at Drury Lane in 1745. In 1748, on August 27 of which year Thomson died, his tragedy, "Coriolonus," was brought out at Drury Lane for the benefit of his sisters. The poet was a somewhat singular creature, inasmuch as he succeeded in keeping his wife secluded from the common eye, and made no mention of her existence to his friends. Thomson frequently walked from London to Richmond. One summer evening, having overheated himself by walking, he took a boat from "The Doves" at Hammersmith, by which he went to Kew. The chill air of the river brought on a cold, and, eventually, a high fever. From this he partly recovered, when, again imprudently exposing himself to the weather, he relapsed, and speedily died. "Rosedale House," in Kew Lane, long his residence, still stands, but it has been altered almost past identification.
"The Doves," however, at Hammersmith, is in much the same condition now as when Thomson frequented it. It is about three or four minutes' walk to the west of the suspension bridge. It is surrounded by a number of cheap tenements, and the coach-house formerly belonging to it has been turned into a dwelling-house; but even here Thomson's memory is perpetuated in a brass plate affixed to a door, on which is engraved, "The Seasons." The yard, facing the river, and the interior of the tavern, are unchanged since Thomson's day. In the quaint old tap-room there is a tablet which records the fact that on December 28, 1821, the tide flowed fourteen inches into the room. Here the ancient game of pigeon-holes, which resembles the modern bagatelle, is still played. Thomson was buried in Richmond Church, where the tablet which is supposed to indicate his grave is affixed to the wall at the north-west. As a matter of fact, Thomson's remains are below the place now occupied by the second bench at the south-west side.
The above article entitled 'Theatrical Richmond' was written by Austin Brereton and published in The Theatre in 1885 - Kindly sent in by Alan Garner.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.