The Royalty Theatre, 73 Dean Street, Soho
Formerly - Miss Kelly's Theatre / Royal Soho Theatre / Soho Theatre / New English Opera House/ New Royalty Theatre / Theatre Francais
Above - A Google StreetView Image of Royalty House which was built on the site of the Royalty Theatre - Click to Interact.
The Royalty Theatre was situated at 73 Dean Street, Soho, and originally opened on the 25th May 1840 as Miss Kelly's Theatre and Dramatic School.
Far Right - The Royalty Theatre in 1913 - From 'The Lost Theatres of London' Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson - 1968 edition.
The Royalty Theatre, Soho, reopened after redecoration as the Royal Soho Theatre in January 1850. It was called the New English Opera House for a short period from the 5th of November 1850. A new portico was added in 1851 and the Theatre was renamed yet again, as the Theatre Francais, in 1861.
In 1863 the Theatre was redecorated and reopened on Monday August the 31st under the direction of Mrs. Charles Selby. The ERA reported on the opening in their 6th of September edition saying:- 'Under the direction of that experienced actress Mrs. Charles Selby, this pretty little Theatre, cleaned throughout and newly decorated by Mr. Bradwoll, commenced on Monday night a season that promises to have some distinctive features infused into the character of its entertainments, and so far to indicate a better chance of ultimate success.
Right - Royalty House which was built on the site of the Royalty Theatre. The building on the left of this picture can also be seen in the 1913 picture shown above right. Photo M.L. 05.
Situated in a well populated neighbourhood, where amusements are considered essential to the very existence of its inhabitants, who have brought with them from the Continent the musical and dramatic tastes of their native region, the New Royalty ought to answer if conducted with spirit, discretion, and liberality. The experiment is now being tried by Mrs. Selby, whose long acquaintance with the Stage decidedly qualifies her for such an enterprise, and as an instructress of youthful aspirants to histrionic eminence she has a chance of showing on these boards the talent of fresh and young actresses, that managers of larger theatres may from time to time find it worth their while to transfer to a wider sphere... Three new pieces, which have evidently been selected from the bureau of the late Mr. Charles Selby, were produced on the occasion, and furnished an opportunity of exhibiting the feminine strength of the company in the most favourable point of view. The first was a two act comeclietta called Court Gallants, adapted from the French, and illustrating one of those innumerable incidents of intrigue so repeatedly made use of on the Parisian Stage, and which have become, in an Anglicised form, so exceedingly familiar to our own...
Miss Eliza Newton (Mrs. F. G. Lloyd), from the Provinces, who made her first appearance in London as the Court Page, exhibited a remarkable amount of confidence, and rattled through the part with the easy vivacity of one who felt her position too surely to become abashed by the sight of a new audience. The same absence of all nervousness characterised the acting of Miss Pelham as the Young Widow, and Miss Lydia Maitland as her fille de chambre; and whilst the former agreeably embodied the not very prominent part assigned her the latter showed much archness of style and piquancy of facial expression. Mrs. Charles Selby as the Countess played with her usual sound judgment and real artistic feeling, and received on her entrance the most cordial welcome. Mr. D. James, who is familiar with this stage if we remember rightly, pleasantly personated an eccentric gentleman, Francois de Bricabac, who disguises himself for no very intelligible object as Joconde, a valet, and proved himself an excellent specimen of that important, but usually unappreciated class, known as "walking gentlemen," Mr. W. H. Stephens as the amorous Duke, Mr. J. Robins as the timid Viscount de Pigeoncoeur, and Mr. C. Lambert and Mr. T. J. Anderson as the Marquis de Bristow and the Duke de Vantour, filled up the rest of the characters most efficiently.
The National Anthem was then well sung by the whole of the company, who presented, especially in the aggregate number of fair faces, a most imposing display, and Mrs. Charles Selby next came forward and delivered [an] occasional Address, which, given by her with great earnestness and point, was received with hearty applause...
As an addition to the amusements of London, and more particularly
as a nursery for promising talent, the public who take an interest in
the lighter department of the drama will find amusements of a varied
kind at the New Royalty.'
In 1872 the Theatre became know as the Royalty Theatre again, although it was occasionally called the New Royalty Theatre. After another internal reconstruction, to the designs of Thomas Verity, the Theatre reopened on the 23rd April 1883 as the Royalty Theatre again. The ERA reported on the rebuild in their 20th of January 1883 edition saying:- 'The Royalty is being rebuilt from the plans of that well-known architect Mr Thomas Verity, and Miss Kate Santley, who has a long lease of the house, is sparing no expense or pains to make it one of the most elegant, luxurious, and comfortable theatres in London. The work is being rapidly pressed forward, and will, we believe, be completed early in March, when, as already announced, the theatre will reopen with an entirely new and original three-act English comic opera, entitled The Merry Duchess, by George R. Sims and Frederick Clay, with Miss Santley in the title-role, supported by a strong company. Miss Santley is to be complimented on her spirit and enterprise in resolving to open her new house with an English novelty, and to leave the foreign market alone. The Merry .Duchess will be Mr Sims's first comic opera, and its production will be looked forward to with interest. Mr Clay has done much good work, and with such happy collaboration an excellent result may be looked forward to. - The ERA 20th of January 1883.
Left - A Poster for 'The Chili Widow' at the Royalty Theatre, (Courtesy Patrice De Cuyper) - This production reopened the Theatre on the 7th September 1895 - Click for the entire programme, enlarged poster, and a review of the production.
The Royalty Theatre closed for the last time on the 25th November 1938 after losing its license, and although several schemes were considered for its rebuilding or reconstruction nothing came of them.
The Theatre soon became derelict and was damaged in the Blitz. The Royalty Theatre was demolished in 1953 and an office building, Royalty House, was built on the site.
Right - A Programme extract for 'A Snug Little Kingdom' at the Royalty Theatre, January 31st 1903.
(The Royalty Theatre, Dean Street, Soho should not be confused with the Royalty Theatre, Kingsway which was built on the site of the old Stoll Theatre and is now called the Peacock. This Theatre and its history can be found here.)
Description of the building from a souvenir programme for the reopening of the New Royalty Theatre on the 4th of January 1906
By the incorporation of adjoining premises the theatre has been considerably enlarged, the interior entirely remodelled and new exits provided. The entrance vestibule and the grand saloon have been extended to better proportions, and separate bars have been arranged for the pit, the upper circle and the gallery. There is now a third more seating accommodation in the stalls than before, and the popular pit has been made more than double its original size. All the seats have been so arranged that an excellent view of the stage may be obtained from every part of the house (capacity 657).
Right - A Programme for 'Lady of the Lake' at the Royalty Theatre in 1906.
A very needful and ingenious alteration has also been made in the stage, where the roof has been raised fifteen feet. By means of this improvement the scene shifting is facilitated during the progress of the play, thus reducing the time of waiting between the acts. All the upholstery and curtain materials throughout the theatre are absolutely fireproof. The sanitary arrangements are remodelled on the latest system, and careful consideration has been given to the important matters of warming and ventilation. Thus the new Royalty Theatre may be said to rank as one of the most secure and comfortable houses in the kingdom.
The entire work of enlarging, redecorating, lighting, heating, and furnishing, was entrusted to Messrs. Smee & Cobay of 139, New Bond Street, W., and we have pleasure in congratulating them upon the ingenuity and taste they have displayed, and also upon the rapidity with which the work has been done. Taking into consideration the nature and difficulties of the work, we believe it constitutes a record in theatre reconstruction.
Left - A Programme extract for 'The Man Who Stayed Home' which ran for 584 performances at the Royalty Theatre from 1914.
The scheme of decoration employed is characteristically French. Indeed it was a happy inspiration that prompted Messrs. Smee & Cobay to adopt the delicate 'Regency' style which, with its exquisite soft colourings and restrainedly fanciful decorations, make it the mode de rigueur for high-class theatre embellishment.
Right - A Programme extract for 'The Admirable Crighton' at the Royalty Theatre 1920.
The walls throughout are treated in very pale cream, with the raised ornaments daintily touched with gold. The main entrance has a fine marble floor laid with Swedish green and Sicilian white, and the balustrade of the staircase has been executed in wrought iron, with a handrail of Derbyshire alabaster. This staircase leads to the foyer and grand saloon, where the decorations are of a soft tint of Celadon green, with raised decorations and mouldings in cream. This comfortably furnished lounge and saloon will form a pleasant promenade and rendezvous for the guests of the New Royalty Theatre.
The royal box is appropriately decorated with Gobelin blue and gold walls, and gilt furniture covered with Aubusson tapestries in delicate colourings.
The carpeting throughout is cerise with a cream border of ribands, and is in the style of the 'Regency'.
Left - A Programme for 'Pillars of Society' at the Royalty Theatre 1926.
The piece de resistance of the scheme of colour, however, is the proscenium drapery. This, we believe, to be unsurpassed in the theatrical world for its delightful colouring and sumptuous embroidery. The valance and tableaux curtains are of rich colours of an exquisite tint of cerise, with an elaborate applique of scroll work and floral sprays of shaded silver satin upon a trellis of pale Gobelin blue. The effect is a lovely construction of most delicate tints, unique in its result, being at once elaborate and yet in excellent taste.
Above - Programme extract for 'The Canary' and 'The Sacrament of Judas' at the Royalty Theatre Saturday January 27th, 1900. Proceeds from this performance went to the 'Widows and Orphans' Fund and the War Fund.
(The Royalty Theatre, Dean Street, Soho should not be confused with the Royalty Theatre, Kingsway which was built on the site of the old Stoll Theatre and is now called the Peacock, or the Royalty Theatre, Whitechapel.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were kindly collated and sent in for inclusion by B.F.