Home Page
The Music Hall and Theatre History Website

 

Home - Index - Forum - Contact

____________________________________________________________________________________________

St. James's Theatre, King Street, London, SW1

Also known as The Prince's Theatre / The Theatre Royal / St. James's / The Royal St. James's Theatre

An early postcard of The St. James's Theatre St. James's House, which was built on the site of the Theatre in 1959 - Photo Nigel Rideout, 1959

Above Left - An early postcard of The St. James's Theatre, and Right - St. James's House, which was built for Tate and Lyle on the site of the St. James's Theatre in 1959 - Photo Nigel Rideout, a descendant of Sir George Alexander, in 1959 (More photos bottom of page).

 

Right - For more images of King Street and London's lost Streets see the Disappearing London page here.The St. James's Theatre was situated in King Street and built by Messrs. Grissell and Peto to the designs of Samual Beazley for the well known Tennor John Branham, on a site formerly occupied by an hotel called the Nerot's Hotel which had been in existence since 1776. The hotel had since relocated and the building had lately become a warehouse.

Right - For more images of King Street and London's lost Streets see the Disappearing London page here.

John Branham bought the building for £8,000 and had it demolished, subsequently spending more than £18,000 on building his new Theatre on the site. The Theatre was built in just under fourteen weeks, which is hard to imagine these days, and when it opened the exterior was not even finished, and wouldn't be until the middle of the following year.

The St. James's Theatre should not be confused with the current St. James Theatre in Westminster.

Poster advertising the opening of the St. James's Theatre on December the 14th 1835 - From the book 'The St James's Theatre, it's strange & Complete History' by Barry Duncan 1964.Click to see a pre 1907 seating plan for this theatreThe St. James's Theatre opened on the 14th of December 1835 with an Operatic Burletta: 'Agnes Sorel', two farces: 'A Clear Case' and 'The French Company' and an opening address written by James Smith and narrated by Clara selby.

Left - Poster advertising the opening of the St. James's Theatre on December the 14th 1835 - From the book 'The St James's Theatre, it's strange & Complete History' by Barry Duncan 1964.

Horatio Lloyd was offered a part at the St. James's Theatre in 1836, just a year after it opened. You can read his correspondence with the acting manager of the time, Mr Gilbert Abbot A'Beckett, in Horatio's autobiography here.

The Times printed a description of the new Theatre in their 15th of December 1835 edition, (Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London,) which said:

The St. James's Theatre - From a postcard."This house, the offspring of Mr. Branham's enterprise, was last night open with great eclat. Long before the public could gain admission, King Street, St. James's, presented a long line of carriages, and the theatre was surrounded by an impatient multitude. At length, about 7 o'clock, the box doors were thrown open; a rush immediately took place, and many coats, which were unfortunately thrust against the newly distempered walls, suffered a very considerable change of colour. This precipitancy was unnecessary; for, though the house was extremely well attended, it was not uncomfortably crowded.

Right - The St. James's Theatre - From a postcard.

Much has been said in approbation of the form, and in praise of the decoration, of the theatre. These laudatory avant-courriers are rarely to be depended on as the heralds of truth; but in this instance they have rather fallen short of than gone beyond the fact. This theatre is indeed a beautiful structure, and as unique as it is beautiful. The audience part of the house inclines very slightly, almost imperceptibly, to the horse-shoe form. The prevailing colour is a delicate French white. A series of arches, supporting the roof, and sustained by Caryatides, runs entirely round the upper part of the theatre. The effect is novel and very pleasing.

Programme for 'Old Heidelberg' at the St. James's Theatre March 19th 1903.The chandelier is a most striking object. It is formed of gilt copper, and is elaborately carved. It is for splendour of appearance, and curious elegance of design, the handsomest thing of the kind that we have ever seen. It throws forth an immense flood of light, and, aided by the girandoles which are placed round the dress circle, creates a mimic day. To the architect, Mr. Beazley, much praise is due; and the decorator (Frederick Crace and Son of Wigmore Street), who has, to a nicety in every point, imitated the gay yet splendid style of the age of Louis Quatorze, must not be passed by without high eulogium. He has executed his task with extraordinary ability, and he deserves the highest commendation.

Left - Programme for 'Old Heidelberg' at the St. James's Theatre March 19th 1903.

The tout ensemble of the house is light and brilliant. It looks like a fairy palace. Then, the two great points which are most important to the comfort of an audience-hearing and seeing-have been sedulously consulted; and, with reference to them, we think that the new theatre takes the lead of all its brethren."

The Times 15th of December 1835, (Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London.)

 

The St. James's Theatre in early August 1957, shortly after the run of 'It's the Geography That Counts'. This was the last production at the Theatre before it was demolished - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

Above - The St. James's Theatre in early August 1957, shortly after the run of 'It's the Geography That Counts'. This was the last production at the Theatre before it was demolished - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

 

The Morning Herald at the same time also printed a description of the building ( Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London,) which said:

Programme for 'Paolo and Francesca' at the St. James's Theatre in 1902."The Facade which immediately faces Duke Street, is of the pure Roman architecture of the middle ages; and, though not very extensive, will present, when completed, an extremely chaste and elegant appearance. The portico is composed of six Ionic columns, with angular volutes fully enriched, supporting a stone balustrade; behind which, and sustaining the main cornice of the front, is a range of Corinthian columns, with richly-embellished entablature of the same order. The centre of the building is appropriated to the box-entrance, whilst at the extremities, right and left are commodious approaches to the pit and gallery.

Right - Programme for 'Paolo and Francesca' at the St. James's Theatre in 1902.

The box visitors are admitted through the portico into a small entrance-hall, leading by a handsome flight of stone steps into a compact vestibule adjoining the dress circle, from whence two circular stone staircases ascend to the upper boxes and saloon, which is in front of the building, looking into King Street. Owing to the lateness of the season, the front will not be stuccoed, nor will the various entrances be finished off, until the approaching spring-till when they will be temporarily fitted up with draperies. When completed, it is intended that the entrance-hall, the ceiling of which is coved, shall be supported on either side by four imitative marble columns, between which, in niches, are to be placed six figures from the antique.

The interior, which is something less in size than the English Opera House, comprises two tiers of boxes under the gallery, with what are known as 'slips' on each side of it. The dress circle, consisting of sixteen boxes, is kept considerably lower than in any other theatre, so as to place the spectator as near with the level of the stage as possible. On each side of the pit nearest the stage, are two compact, private boxes, which command a perfect view of the performances. The gallery is so constructed as to admit of the stage being seen from every part-a desideratum not obtained in other theatres.

 

Programme for 'Pride and Predudice' at the St. James's Theatre in 1936, with Celia Johnson.The lobbies running entirely round the theatre, are formed of stone landings and brick walls, so as to prevent the possibility of danger from fire; and the staircases, every where in the public department, are of stone. The walls and timber would 'laugh a siege to scorn,' being of unusual strength and thickness, further secured by iron chain-ties, which have been worked in the centre of all the walls, at intervals, from the bottom upwards, so as to strengthen them during the hardening of the mortar.

Left - Programme for 'Pride and Prejudice' at the St. James's Theatre in 1936, with Celia Johnson.

The ceiling, encircled by a carved cornice, on which rest six groups of children in bas-relief, is composed of rich, spreading foliage, branching from the centre into six, enriched panels, from which are suspended carved swags and drops of fruit and flowers. The ceiling is supported by Caryatides on gilded plinths, and terminates in a cove formed into twelve arches, in the spandrels of which are paintings of sylph-like figures, emblematical of music.

The gallery front is arranged in panels, in a form peculiar to the style adopted, intersected by circular ones, formed of twining palm, in which are paintings of children, playing on various instruments.

The first circle is also arranged in panels, but varying much in their form from the above. These contain paintings after the manner of Watteau, relating to the origin of the Italian drama and pantomime, and between them are smaller panels of gilt trellis-work. Over this circle is a carved canopy, supported by eight pilasters.

 

Programme for 'The Shining Hour' at the St. James's Theatre in 1934, with Galdys Cooper and Raymond Massey.The front of the dress circle, which is formed with a bold swell, is embellished with a carved foliage in high relief, and of most tasteful design, on which the light, owing to its peculiar form, strikes with great splendour. This circle has also its canopy and pilasters, but more splendid; from the latter spring handsome girandoles, each bearing three wax lights, in addition to a magnificent, central chandelier.

Right - Programme for 'The Shining Hour' at the St. James's Theatre in 1934, with Galdys Cooper and Raymond Massey.

The proscenium is quite novel in its decoration, having no drapery at top, but a richly carved, undulating line instead. In the three arches above the stage, which form part of the twelve we have described as belonging to the ceiling, are introduced three beautifully executed paintings. That in the centre represents a medallion of the royal arms, from which children surrounding it are raising a crimson drapery; whilst those on its left and right are symbolical of Comedy and Music, also personated by children; these are enclosed in rich framework. The lower part of the proscenium consists of a Programme for 'Worse Things Happen At Sea' at the St. James's Theatre in 1935, with Galdys Cooper and Raymond Massey.rich entablature, ornamented with trusses and swags of flowers, supported by fluted columns, with intersecting enrichments, and splendid, gilt capitals resting on carved pedestals. A foliage of palm, terminating against the entablature, is the decoration of the upper box; the lower one is formed by a curved canopy. The box front is a trellis panel, containing a mask surrounded by foliage, with frill and shell-work in burnished gold. The whole of these splendid ornaments on a white ground, which is the prevailing colour of the interior, have a most chaste and pleasing effect. The interior of the boxes is a rich crimson.

Left - Programme for 'Worse Things Happen At Sea' at the St. James's Theatre in 1935, with Galdys Cooper and Raymond Massey.

Complete as is the audience part of the St. James's Theatre, no less so are the arrangements for the stage and scenic departments. Besides a very extensive stage, which possesses every modern improvement, are excellent painting rooms, with an adjoining building, six stories in height, containing dressing and green rooms, at the top of which is a tank of water for fire services."

The Morning Herald 1835 ( Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London.)

 

Poster for John Mitchell's second season of French Plays at the St. James's Theatre in 1843, including the last night of Madame Albert's engagement on February the 28th, with the plays 'LOmelette Fantastique,' 'Marie,' and 'Les Rendezvous Bourgeois' - The Poster has been very kindly donated to the Arthur Lloyd Archive by Sue Fulcher - For more information on this poster, Madame Albert, and what was going on at the Theatre in 1843 Click Here.The Theatre was renamed the Prince's Theatre and opened on the 27th of April 1840 with a season of German Operas starting with 'Der Freischutz.' However, on the 7th of February 1842 the Theatre's name was changed back to the St. James's Theatre.

Right - Poster for John Mitchell's second season of French Plays at the St. James's Theatre in 1843, including the last night of Madame Albert's engagement on February the 28th, with the plays 'LOmelette Fantastique,' 'Marie,' and 'Les Rendezvous Bourgeois' - The Poster has been very kindly donated to the Arthur Lloyd Archive by Sue Fulcher - For more information on this poster, Madame Albert, and what was going on at the Theatre in 1843 Click Here.

The interior of the St. James's was reconstructed, renovated and redecorated again in 1869, this time by James Macintosh. The Theatre reopened on the 16th of October 1869 with an Operetta called 'Treasure Trove,' a performance of 'She Stoops to Conquer,' and the Ballet 'The Magic Waltze.' The ERA printed their impression of the improvements to the Theatre in their 16th of October edition, (Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London,) which said:

"The prevailing colours are rose pink and light blue, and the ceiling represents a clear sky studded with silver stars. Around the front of the gallery tier are panelled wreaths of raised and coloured flowers alternating with smaller panels of gilded Cupids. The walls are coloured in distemper with rose-pink, and the 'family circle' tier, as the upper boxes are now called, is decorated in blue, with panels of gilded Cupids; whilst the back of the boxes is painted in dark oak, so as to throw up the pink walls beyond. On the dress circle tier the original ornaments remain, but they have been entirely regilded, and supplemented with festoons of raised and coloured flowers. The dress circle is fitted with chairs, upholstered in blue damask, and the hanging of all the private boxes are blue satin valences and white lace curtains. The stall chairs are upholstered in blue Sardinian cloth. Two wide passages surround the stalls, and a broad isle is opened down the centre, so that the seats are attainable with the greatest ease. There is no pit, the whole of the area being occupied by stalls. The orchestra remains in its former position. When it is added that Messrs. Spiers and Pond have charge of the refreshments in the Theatre, that a bell rings in the saloon when the curtain is about to rise, and that a neat playbill, with much useful information, is gratuitously supplied the visitors, it will be seen that the comfort of the frequenters has been duly studied."

The ERA 16th of October 1869, (Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London.)


Opening night Programme for the newly reconstructed St. James's Theatre in 1879 with 'Monsieur le Duc,' and 'The Queen's Shilling.' Until 1879 the Theatre underwent several name changes, namely The Theatre Royal, St. James's and the Royal St. James's Theatre but on the 4th of October 1879, after another reconstruction of the auditorium and redecoration, it became known as the St. James's Theatre again with an opening production of the play 'Monsieur le Duc,' and a comedy called 'The Queen's Shilling.'

Right - Opening night Programme for the newly reconstructed St. James's Theatre in 1879 with 'Monsieur le Duc,' and 'The Queen's Shilling.'

The ERA printed their impression of the latest improvements to the Theatre in their 5th of October 1879 edition, (Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London,) which said:

"Messrs. Hare and Kendal are now in possession of a house which, for taste, elegance, and comfort, is far in advance of anything the Metropolis has yet been able to boast. For them the old St. James's has been transformed into a Temple of the Drama complete and beautiful in all its details, and likely, we should say, to become one of the sights of London. The visitor, on entering, will imagine that he has passed the portals of some Parisian mansion, for the very ticket office has all the appearance of an antechamber sumptuously furnished...

Opening night Programme for the newly reconstructed St. James's Theatre in 1879 with 'Monsieur le Duc,' and 'The Queen's Shilling.'

Above - Opening night Programme for the newly reconstructed St. James's Theatre in 1879 with 'Monsieur le Duc,' and 'The Queen's Shilling.'

 

...The fancy of Mr. Walter Crane has been brought to bear upon the designs for the decoration of the walls, which are covered with embossed paper of green and gold. On the one side is to be seen a curiously carved mantelpiece in walnut, surmounted by a picture of Venus emerging from a shell, painted by Mr. J. Macbeth, while on the other is the ticket box, having all the appearance of an elegant cabinet, with antique clock and choice 'blue and white' as ornaments. On the floor are spread rich and costly rugs and Indian carpets.

Programme for 'Othello' at the St. James's Theatre, staring Orson Welles who came over from America to play the part and direct the play himself. It opened on the 18th of October 1951 and ran until the 15th of December that year.A flight of stairs made of Siena marble, covered with Indian carpet, and having brass standards on either side of the bannisters, conducts to the crush-room, which is fancifully furnished, draped with printed tapestry, and resplendent with mirrors. The walls are tapestried, and each doorway leading to the dress circle is draped with the simplest and most elegant formation of portiere curtains, by a mere looping back of the plain-cut hanging on either side. A large oblong perpendicular Venetian mirror, inclining forward, faces the stairs; and beneath it is a magnificent console-table, with a grey marble slab supported on gilt carvings of an appropriate character.

Right - Programme for 'Othello' at the St. James's Theatre, staring Orson Welles who came over from America to play the part and direct the play himself. It opened on the 18th of October 1951 and ran until the 15th of December that year.

The apartment is furnished with superb Venetian stools; and another figure painting, by the artist whose design decorates the mantelpiece in the hall, will attract attention here, the allegorical subject being 'Dawn', and the colour harmonising admirably with the general tone in all save the flat blue on the girders or beams which support the ceiling, which are a little out of key. The doors behind the Portiere hangings are covered with warmly toned embossed leather, and containing panels of bevelled glass in the upper division. A side passage branching from the main entrance affords access to the room which is fitted up for the Prince of Wales.

 

Programme for 'The Glass Slipper' at the St. James's Theatre in 1944.Ascending again the visitor will find himself in the foyer or picture gallery. Ferns and cool trickling fountains may tempt him to linger, but attention will speedily be arrested by the specimens of art which cover the walls, and which convey the idea of a Royal Academy on a small scale. Among those whose works may be inspected we find such artists as Messrs. Goodall, Watts, Tadema, T. Faed, Erskine Nicol, Fildes, and Marcus Stone. Outside the gallery is a 'Black and White' exhibition.

Left - Programme for 'The Glass Slipper' at the St. James's Theatre in 1944.

Recent labours of note by Mr. R. W. Macbeth and Mr. Du Maurier are among these attractions for connoisseurs of the first rank; the first mentioned etcher's latest triumph, Phillis on the New-made Hay,' and his 'Road to Ives' Market' being prominently displayed. Both the picture gallery and the collection of etchings are lit most effectively, the former on a principle which the experience of Mr. Deschamps has dictated as the best. His plan is greatly assisted by an ingenious and practically scientific appliance, which has been adopted universally by the management throughout the house, and which is the invention of Messrs. James Barwell, Son, and Fisher, of the Worcester Works, Birmingham, a firm that has inspired great confidence in these matters by its work in connection with the Holte Theatre, Aston, and elsewhere.

 

Programme for 'Emma' at the St. James's Theatre in 1944, with Anna Neagle.Coming to the auditorium we find that it is elegant and commodious, and of horseshoe form, permitting a good view of the stage from all points. There is a pit, and, though a small one, it is convenient and easy of access, the well-padded seats being divided so that all corners may have their fair share of space. The stalls, of which there is a great number, are covered with red silk. They are sufficiently commodious, and there is plenty of room between the rows. The dress circle contains 160 seats, the cushioned edge of the front being of crimson plush instead of velvet, and the seats commodious instead of cramped, as of old. There are fourteen private boxes with outer curtains of figured cherry red silk, and inner curtains of Madras muslin. The panels of the boxes are in gold, pale green, and cream colour.

Right - Programme for 'Emma' at the St. James's Theatre in 1944, with Anna Neagle.

It is satisfactory to find that the musicians, instead of being banished beneath the stage, will have an orchestra in front according to the good old fashion. This orchestra, separated from the stalls by only a festooned crimson cord running on gilt standards, is of pretty and novel design, and is adorned with pictures in panel by Mr. J. Macbeth. The dropcurtain is a copy by Mr. J. O'Connor of Turner's celebrated landscape 'Crossing the Brook.' Round both circles, at the back, are ranged sconces for lighting these portions of the auditory, the burners branching from Repousse brass-work, in burnished plaques, mounted on crimson plush, while the opalescent glass shades and overhanging bells of the same material, from the Whitefriars factory, are of a peculiarly light and fanciful design. From the street to pit and stalls there are direct entrances, and abundant means of exit should remove all thought of danger in case of panic. The upholstering of the house has been carried out by Messrs. Hampton and Sons, of Pall Mall, and the decorations and alterations of the auditorium by Mr. E. W. Bradwell, of Great Portland Street, from the designs and plans of Mr. Thomas Verity, F.S.A., the architect."

The ERA 5th of October 1879, (Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London.)


The Theatre underwent furthur changes in 1900 when the building which adjoined it was rebuilt and included into the Theatre providing more space and a new stage door in Angel Court for its then owner George Alexander. The ERA again reported on the newly converted Theatre in their 13th of January 1900 edition, (Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London,) which said:- "Since the St. James's Theatre was closed at the conclusion of the season, some six months ago, a surprising alteration has been effected in the appearance of the interior of the house. It is practically a new theatre, for only the four walls of the old building remain; and the work of alteration and reconstruction, which has been carried out under the direction of Mr. Arthur Blomfield Jackson, is in such an advanced state that Mr. George Alexander hopes to be able to open the greatly improved house at the end of the present month.

The Grave site of Sir George & Lady Alexander in the churchyard at Chorleywood - Courtesy Nigel Rideout, a descendant of George Alexander.His aim has been, not only to increase the holding capacity of the theatre, but materially to add to the comfort of the audience; not merely to obtain a substantial increase in the size of the stage, but, in addition, to provide the members of his company with commodious dressing rooms, fitted with all the needful modern appliances.

Right - The Grave site of Sir George & Lady Alexander in the churchyard at Chorleywood, next to their country home designed by Lutyens. One of two bronze heads of Sir George is placed on the inside of the church, the other is in the hands of the V & A, donated to them by Emile Littler. - Photo Courtesy Nigel Rideout, a descendant of George Alexander, whose collection of material on him is now held at the University of Rochester.

The church at Chorleywood -  Courtesy Nigel Rideout, a descendant of George Alexander.

Above - The church at Chorleywood, next to the Alexander's country home designed by Lutyens. One of two bronze heads of Sir George is placed on the inside of the church, the other is in the hands of the V & A, donated to them by Emile Littler. - Photo Courtesy Nigel Rideout, a descendant of George Alexander, whose collection of material on him is now held at the University of Rochester.

 

Programme for 'The Wind Of Heaven ' at the St. James's Theatre in 1945, with Diana Wynyard and Emlyn Williams.Naturally, alterations of so drastic a character have involved an exceedingly heavy expenditure, but, in return, Mr. Alexander finds himself in possession of what is practically a new theatre, bright, roomy, most comfortable, and having the great additional advantage of containing in money value £50 more than the one it replaces.

Right - A Programme for 'The Wind Of Heaven ' at the St. James's Theatre in 1945, with Diana Wynyard and Emlyn Williams.

And where a successful play is concerned this is a gain not lightly to be esteemed. Although the scaffolding has not yet been removed from the interior of the building, a very fair idea can even now be formed regarding its ultimate appearance. By lowering the stage and the stall flooring some 3 ft. it has been possible to provide both with a 'Rake' of so pronounced a description that no difficulty can be experienced in obtaining a clear view of the former, even from the backmost row in the pit. Having come to the conclusion, moreover, that there is no longer the demand for boxes which once existed, he has swept away all, save two, and there now remain only the Royal box and its companion on the other side of the proscenium. To the former is attached a large retiring room, with separate entrance from the street. Starting from the top of the building, it is observable that the size of the gallery has been greatly increased by the addition of some dozen rows of seats. Yet, although the most remote of these is some eighty feet distant from the stage, neither as regards seeing or hearing it is confidently expected, will the spectator placed upon it have any grounds for complaint. The same careful attention has been bestowed upon the upper circle, at the back of which runs a convenient promenade.

 

Programme for 'Venus Observed' at the St. James's Theatre in 1950, with Laurence Olivier.Stalls and dress circle have also been extended and greatly improved, while the pit, which, with its added slope, should constitute one of the best points from which to witness the performance, has been considerably enlarged. A very important factor to the comfort and the safety of the audience is, further, to be found in the numerous new exits, which admit of the theatre being emptied in an exceptionally short time, if necessary. Behind the curtain the improvements are no less noticeable than in front of it.

Left - Programme for 'Venus Observed' at the St. James's Theatre in 1950, with Laurence Olivier.

For the convenience of the artists eighteen capital dressing rooms have been furnished, while there are new business offices and a new private room for Mr. Alexander. But the most marked alteration is in the stage itself, which now boasts a depth of 60 ft., a circumstance of great value when it is desired to create an effect by the introduction of a lengthy procession or a large concourse of people. The roof has been raised to a height of 74 ft., the distance from stage to gridiron being 52 ft., so that the scenery can be easily and expeditiously manipulated. By the clearing away of certain old buildings a spacious 'dock' for furniture, properties, and scenery has been obtained, thus ensuring a considerable economy in time and trouble in the dressing of the stage.

 

The St. James's Theatre in early August 1957, shortly after the run of 'It's the Geography That Counts'. This was the last production at the Theatre before it was demolished - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.Another feature of the front of the house is that separate cloak-room and bar accommodation is provided for every part of the theatre. Mr. Alexander has had a brilliant idea. He is fitting up a room with every convenience for gentlemen to don evening dress. This should prove a very great convenience to City men, who cannot get home to change, and who will now be able to bring a portmanteau to town and dress at the theatre. The old dress circle and stall saloon has, meanwhile, been vastly enlarged, and with its dainty decorations in green and gold presents a wonderfully bright and gay appearance. The system of heating and ventilation is singularly complete. By means of it the temperature can be regulated at all times of the year, while fresh air is driven into the building and the vitiated air extracted by fans worked by electric motors.

Left - The St. James's Theatre in early August 1957, shortly after the run of 'It's the Geography That Counts'. This was the last production at the Theatre before it was demolished - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

Along the entire frontage of the house a new glass awning will be erected for the protection of those waiting outside in wet weather. Nor is the indispensable fireproof curtain wanting, while it is almost superfluous to say that throughout the entire building the electric light is employed. The general scheme of the decorations, designed by Mr. Percy Macquoid, is based upon that of the transitional period between the reigns of Louis XII and Francois I of France. Red, green, and gold are the colours chiefly in evidence, and particularly prominent on the proscenium, upon the arch of which figure, in striking relief, the coats of arms respectively of Shakespeare and Arden on the right, and St. James and Dante on the left. For the occasion of the re-opening a new act-drop, representing a picture in old tapestry, is being painted by Mr. William Telbin, and, as is generally known, Rupert of Hentzau, adapted by Mr. Anthony Hope from his novel of that name, is to form the first attraction which Mr. Alexander will offer to the public in his new, graceful, and essentially cosy theatre."

The ERA 13th of January 1900 (Reprinted in Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatre of London.)

 

Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh lead a protest march in 1957 to try and save the ill fated St. James's Theatre.The Theatre closed on July the 27th 1957 under much protest and was demolished to make way for an office building, St. James's House. In the last months of the Theatre's existence a huge nation wide campaign was fought to try and save this most popular of Theatres, led by Vivien Leigh. Sir Winston Churchill offered the sum of £500 to help start a fund to save the building. The situation was raised in the Houses of Parliament several times and there were even marches in the street and protests at the House of Lords but despite this there was to be no reprieve for the St. James's. The interior was gutted in October and the building was demolished in December, (see photo below).

Left - Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh lead a protest march in 1957 to try and save the ill fated St. James's Theatre.

The new St. James's House office building was completed in September 1959 and as a homage to the Theatre it had sculptured balcony fronts featured on each floor above the main entrance with four bas-relief panels created by Edward Bainbridge Copnall which depicted the heads of Gilbert Miller, George Alexander, Oscar Wilde and the Oliviers. Sadly when this building was demolished in the 1980s and a new office building was erected on the site, still called St. James's House, the sculptures were moved to a small alley running down the side of the building called Angel Court but can still be seen today if you look hard enough. (See photos below of the various buildings since the Theatre was demolished).

Much of the historical detail on this page was gleaned from Mander and Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres of London' 1968, and 'The St. James's Theatre, its strange and complete history' by Barry Duncan 1969.

 

The St. James's Theatre, boarded up and awaiting demolition in 1957 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins

Above - The St. James's Theatre, boarded up and awaiting demolition in 1957 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins

 

The first building to be constructed on the site of the St. James's Theatre in 1959, St. James's House. This photo was taken in 1968 by Nigel Rideout, who can be seen standing in front of the building.

Above - The first building to be constructed on the site of the St. James's Theatre in 1959, St. James's House. This photo was taken in 1968 by Nigel Rideout, a descendant of Sir George Alexander, who can be seen standing in front of the building. This building was itself replaced by another St. James's House in the 1980s.

The first building to be constructed on the site of the St. James's Theatre in 1959, St. James's House. This photo was taken shortly after it opened in 1959 by Nigel Rideout.

Above - The first building to be constructed on the site of the St. James's Theatre in 1959, St. James's House. This photo was taken shortly after it opened in 1959 by Nigel Rideout, a descendant of Sir George Alexander. Note the sculptured balcony fronts featured on each floor by Edward Bainbridge Copnall which are today situated in Angel Court. This building was itself replaced by another St. James's House in the 1980s.

The second St. James's House in September 2008, this was built on the site of the first St. James's House and the former St. James's Theatre in the 1980s. In 2012 this building is itself currently being replaced by yet another.

Above - The second St. James's House in September 2008, this was built on the site of the first St. James's House and the former St. James's Theatre in the 1980s. In 2012 this building is itself currently being replaced by yet another.

The second St. James's House in September 2008, this was built on the site of the first St. James's House and the former St. James's Theatre in the 1980s. In 2012 this building is itself currently being replaced by yet another.

Above - The second St. James's House in September 2008, this was built on the site of the first St. James's House and the former St. James's Theatre in the 1980s. In 2012 this building is itself currently being replaced by yet another.