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The Peacock Theatre, Kingsway, London

Formerly - The London Opera House / National Theatre of England / Stoll Picture Theatre / Stoll Theatre / Royalty Theatre

Introduction - The London Opera House - The Stoll Picture Theatre / Stoll Theatre - The Royalty Theatre - The Peacock Theatre

The Peacock Theatre in 2005, originally built as the Royalty Theatre in 1960, on the site of the former London Opera House / Stoll Theatre - Photo M.L. 05.

Above - The Peacock Theatre in 2005, originally built as the Royalty Theatre in 1960, on the site of the former London Opera House / Stoll Theatre - Photo M.L. 05.

 

 

See London's West End TheatresSee Theatreland MapsThe Peacock Theatre on London's Kingsway originally opened as the Royalty Theatre in 1960 and was built on the site of the former London Opera House which opened on the 13th of November 1911.

Information on the London Opera House, later the Stoll Theatre, follows, and more information on the Royalty and Peacock Theatres can be found below.

 

The London Opera House

Later - The Stoll Picture Theatre / The National Theatre of England / The Stoll Theatre

A Postcard of the London Opera House, Kingsway, from above.

Above - A Postcard showing the London Opera House, Kingsway, from above.

A Thumbnail image of the Stoll Theatre auditorium which can be seen in its original size at the photo sharing site Flickr here. The London Opera House was designed by the well known Theatre Architect Bertie Crewe for Oscar Hammerstein who envisaged it as a rival to the Covent Garden Opera House. The Theatre was enormous and consisted of an entire block on the recently constructed Kingsway, covering an area of over 24,000 square feet with a facade stretching 272 feet along the street and a height of 80 foot. The stage of the Theatre was 44'8" by 78' and it had an auditorium capable of accommodating some 2,660 people.

Right - A Thumbnail image of the auditorium of the London Opera House, later the Stoll Theatre, which can be seen in its original size at the photo sharing site Flickr here.

The Theatre cost over £200,000 to build and was designed in the French Renaissance style with a Portland stone frontage. Along the roof of the Theatre were twelve statues by the sculptor Thomas Rudge and at either end were statues representing Melody and Harmony.

The lavish auditorium was in the French Renaissance style, built on four levels, Stalls and three Balconies, with 22 boxes, 18 on three rows flanking either side of the proscenium and 4 at stalls level. There were also private boxes around the rear stalls and the front of the first circle. Thirteen dressing rooms provided accommodation for up to 76 artistes.

 

A Sketch of the London Opera House - From the Stage Newspaper November 2nd 1911

Above - A Sketch of the London Opera House - From the Stage Newspaper November 2nd 1911

The Stage Newspaper reported on the building in their November the 2nd 1911 edition saying:- 'The magnificent new building which Mr Oscar Hammerstein has erected in Kingsway has been watched in its growth with considerable interest by Londoners generally. Many and wonderful have been the stories relating to its interior, and on Friday a large number of people accepted Mr. Hammerstein's invitation to view the new house. Nor were they disappointed in any particular. The visitor found a finely proportioned house, lavishly yet tastefully decorated, and one withal which in every way is worthy to occupy the position of a home for opera.

A photograph of the London Opera House Auditorium - From the Stage Newspaper November 2nd 1911

Above - A photograph of the London Opera House Auditorium - From the Stage Newspaper November 2nd 1911

The Entrance Vestibule of the London Opera House - From the Academy Architecture and Architectural review of 1912.A curious fact of the exterior is that there is nothing in the way of a noble entrance to match the building; indeed, all the exits and entrances seem to be quite miniature affairs. Of course one does not suggest that they are not adequate for the comfort and convenience of the public, because one is well aware that the watchful eyes of the L.C.C. are upon opera house and picture palace alike. But the huge structure dwarfs all its own doorways. The site occupied by the London Opera House has an area of 24,500 feet, with a frontage of 265 feet to Kingsway, and returns of 103 feet and 88 feet in Portugal Street and Sardinia Street respectively.

The exterior facade is of Portland stone, with a granite base, and at each side of the building after the first 50 feet red-brick facings are used. A feature of the facade is the central window, the height of which is 30 feet. The main entrance is at the southern end of the Kingsway front. Here a flight of marble and mosaic steps lead to the vestibule and booking offices. The outer and inner doors and draught screens are of mahogany, as also is most of the joinery in the house.

Right - The Entrance Vestibule of the London Opera House - From the Academy Architecture and Architectural review of 1912.

The entrance hall is a finely appointed apartment flanked by white and gold fluted columns, surmounted by bas-reliefs of famous composers. Opening out of the foyer is the box circle. There are twenty-one boxes, twelve of which are provided with ante-rooms. Two marble staircases lead down to the stalls, where are situated sixteen more boxes.

 

The Auditorium of the London Opera House - From the Academy Architecture and Architectural review of 1912.

Above - The Auditorium of the London Opera House - From the Academy Architecture and Architectural review of 1912.

The stage is 64 feet wide and 65 feet in depth. The proscenium opening, which is 45 feet wide and 50 feet high, is designed to prevent echoes. The stage is lighted from above by means of eight battens containing 200 lights in each. The footlights have also 200 lights. There are seventy-five lights at each side of the proscenium opening, and there are also twelve hanging lengths of twenty-four lights each at the side of the stage.

The Lounge Hall of the London Opera House - From the Academy Architecture and Architectural review of 1912.

Above - The Lounge Hall of the London Opera House - From the Academy Architecture and Architectural review of 1912.

The scene docks, of which there are two, occupy a large space 75 feet by 35 feet, and a total height of 50 feet behind the stage. A large trap-door in the floor of the upper dock and a hand-power goods lift connect the two docks. An artesian well has been sunk in the north-east corner of the building to a depth of 450 feet. A motor pumps the water into two 800 gallon tanks on the roof, one at either end of the building. These in turn feed two 500-gallon tanks at the Portugal Street end - one for the lavatories and the other for the heating installation - and two 200-gallon tanks for the supply to the dressing-rooms.

The upper and lower galleries and the circle are each built upon heavy girders carried on stanchions, the box floor being suspended from the circle girder and from two wing girders carried from the circle girder into the stalls on either side of the auditorium. The roof trusses are of the lattice type. By means of this construction there are no exposed columns, thus ensuring a clear view of the stage from every seat.

The Circle Foyer of the London Opera House - From the Academy Architecture and Architectural review of 1912.

Above - The Circle Foyer of the London Opera House - From the Academy Architecture and Architectural review of 1912.

The seating accommodation has been designed with a generous hand, and seats in the armchair style are used throughout the house. The stall chairs are designed in inlaid mahogany, and the upholstery is in Rose du Barry pilo velvet, and harmonises with the draperies of the private boxes. Here the same tone colour will be employed, the material, however, in this case being silk plush. The whole of the private boxes will be draped in a similar manner, with the exception of the Royal box, which has, in addition, a paneling of rich silk of harmonious texture and pattern. The proscenium curtains, seating, and drapery have been supplied by Messrs. Maple and Co. Mr. Bertie Crewe is the architect of the new house.

An advertisement for A. R. Dean Ltd who had the contract for Fibrous Plaster and Decorations of the London Opera House - From the Stage Newspaper, June 29th, 1911.

Above - An advertisement for A. R. Dean Ltd who had the contract for Fibrous Plaster and Decorations of the London Opera House - From the Stage Newspaper, June 29th, 1911.

The "Plenum" system of ventilation has been used, the two main ducts being formed at each side below the level of the stalls floor, from which branches worked in with the concrete partitions or formed with galvinised iron trunks are carried to all parts of the house with four electric fans in the auditorium roof. The London Opera House will hold 2,700.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Stage Newspaper November the 2nd 1911.

The London Opera House opened on the 13th of November 1911 with a production of 'Quo Vadis' which was its first appearance in London, and then continued with a season of operas through to March 1912. However Oscar Hammerstein hadn't taken into account that the Covent Garden Opera House had all the top names in opera performing in its productions and despite another season at his Theatre, which began in April, by July 1912 he had to admit defeat. Hammerstein closed his Theatre on the 13th of July and returned to America with his tail between his legs and loses amounting to £47,000.

The Theatre then remained closed until December 1912 when the French impresario, Ferand Akoun, reopened it with a season of Variety shows and Film showings.

Oscar Hammerstein then sold the Theatre to a new company, the London Opera House Ltd, who put on a number of Variety shows. Following this they put on a new review called 'Come Over Here' which opened on April 19th 1913 and ran for some 217 performances (See Glass Jar bleow).

 

A glass jar which commemorated the show 'Come Over Here' at the London Opera House in April 1913 - Kindly donated by Angela Kirk.A glass jar which commemorated the show 'Come Over Here' at the London Opera House in April 1913 - Kindly donated by Angela Kirk.Right - A glass jar which commemorated the 200th performance of the review 'Come Over Here' at the London Opera House in September 1913 and was issued to every member of the audience - Kindly donated by Angela Kirk. On the rim of the jar top it has the maker's stamp of 'WJM & Co' and also the anchor stamp for Birmingham, the Lion stamp signifying pure silver and the stamped date letter 'O' for 1913. - Stamp Information courtesy Peter Long.

 

The Stoll Picture Theatre

Later - The Stoll Theatre

The Stoll Picture Theatre in 1924 - From a brochure for The Bulman Cinema Screen Company

Above - The Stoll Picture Theatre in 1924 - From a brochure for The Bulman Cinema Screen Company

After 'Come Over Here' a number of productions were tried at the London Opera House, none of them very successfully, and for a short period between 1914/15 the Theatre even became known as the National Theatre of England, but then it was bought by Oswald Stoll in 1916 and he converted it for Cinema use and reopened it as the Stoll Picture Theatre on the 31st of April 1917.

Stoll Picture Theatre,'These Three' in 1936 Stoll Picture Theatre, 'The Gorgeous Hussy' in 1937 Stoll Picture Theatre, Cine Variety production including an Ice spectacular in 1938.

Above - Three programmes for the Stoll Picture Theatre,'These Three' in 1936, 'The Gorgeous Hussy' in 1937, and a Cine Variety production including an Ice spectacular in 1938.

The London Opera House, Kingsway, later to be renamed the Stoll Theatre.This proved to be much more of a success for the Theatre which began by showing silent films and would later have its own Jardine tubular pneumatic orchestral organ installed in 1927, and later films were even accompanied by a full orchestra. Later still the Theatre became home to regular Cine Variety shows until it was closed in September 1940.

The building reopened on the 1st of September the following year, 1941, as a live Theatre and when it was taken over by Emile Littler in 1942 it was renamed the Stoll Theatre.

Right - The London Opera House, Kingsway, later to be renamed the Stoll Picture Theatre and then the Stoll Theatre.

The Stoll Theatre soon became home to lavish stage shows and ice spectaculars and was very successful until it was closed at the end of the run of 'Titus and Andronicus' with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh on the 4th of August 1957.

The Theatre was demolished the following year in 1958 to make way for a very sorry looking office block, quite why this was allowed is anybody's guess, but it certainly wouldn't have happened today as one can imagine this vast Theatre being the perfect place to stage the large scale musicals favoured by many producers today.

As a consolation, after the magnificent Stoll Theatre was demolished, a new smaller Theatre, The Royalty Theatre, was constructed in the basement of the office block which replaced it. More on this below.

 

The Stoll Theatre in 1958, shortly before its demolition - Courtesy Gerry Atkins.

Above - The Stoll Theatre in 1958, shortly before its demolition - Courtesy Gerry Atkins.

 

A selection of programmes for the Stoll Theatre, Kingsway from 1942 to 1954

Programme for Rose Marie at the Stoll Theatre 1942 Ticket Stub for Rose Marie at the Stoll Theatre August 7th 1942 Ticket Stub for Rose Marie at the Stoll Theatre August 7th 1942

Above - A Programme and Ticket Stubs for 'Rose Marie' at the Stoll Theatre for August the 7th 1942.

Programme for Kismet at the Stoll Theatre Programme for Porgy and Bess at the Stoll TheatreProgramme for Stars on Ice at the Stoll Theatre 1947

Above - Programme for 'Kismet', 'Porgy and Bess', 'Stars on Ice' at the Stoll Theatre in 1947

 

A programme for 'Songs and Dances of Spain' at the Stoll Theatre in 1952. Programme for Joan of Arc at the Stake at the Stoll Theatre 1954 A Programme for the Vienna Operetta in 1954 - Courtesy Maurice Norman.

Above - A programme for 'Songs and Dances of Spain' at the Stoll Theatre in 1952. A Programme for 'Joan of Arc at the Stake' at the Stoll Theatre in 1954. And a Programme for the Vienna Operetta season in 1954 - Courtesy Maurice Norman.

 

The Royalty Theatre

Later - The Peacock Theatre

The Peacock Theatre in 2005, originally built as the Royalty Theatre in 1960, on the site of the former London Opera House / Stoll Theatre - Photo M.L. 05.

Above - The Peacock Theatre in 2005, originally built as the Royalty Theatre in 1960, on the site of the former London Opera House / Stoll Theatre - Photo M.L. 05.

The Portugal Street Entrance to the Peacock Theatre in October 2006 - Photo M.L.As a consolation, after the magnificent Stoll Theatre was demolished, a new smaller Theatre, The Royalty Theatre, was constructed in the basement of the office block which replaced it. This new Theatre opened in 1960 with a capacity of 1,000. This Theatre should not be confused with the Royalty Theatre in Dean Street.

Never a very successful Theatre, the Royalty eventually found a use as a TV studio for ITV's 'This is Your Life,' but was later bought by the London School of Economics and renamed the Peacock Theatre. Here Sadler's Wells' also found a home whilst its own Theatre was being rebuilt.

Right - The Portugal Street Entrance to the Peacock Theatre in October 2006 - Photo M.L.

The Peacock is now in use as a lecture Theatre by day and puts on various productions at night including occasional Sadler's Wells' productions. The Theatre is also home to regular Christmas pantomimes such as 'The Snowman' a perennial favourite at this Theatre. You may like to visit Sadler's Wells' own website for the Peacock Theatre here.

In February 2015 the Theatre was sold by its Landlord Derwent London to LaSalle Investment Management, which bought the whole building for a reported £64.5 million.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

A Seating Plan for the Royalty Theatre, Kingsway

Above - A Seating Plan for the Royalty Theatre, Kingsway

 

London's West End Theatres

Adelphi Aldwych Ambassadors Apollo Apollo Victoria Arts Cambridge Criterion Dominion Drury Lane Duchess Duke Of Yorks Fortune Garrick Gielgud Harold Pinter Haymarket Her Majesty's London Coliseum London Palladium Lyceum Lyric New London Noel Coward / Albery Novello Old Vic Palace Peacock Phoenix Piccadilly Playhouse Prince Edward Prince of Wales Queen's Royal Opera House Savoy Shaftesbury St. Martin's Trafalgar Studios / Whitehall Vaudeville Victoria Palace Wyndham's