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Terry's Theatre, The Strand, London

About Terry's Theatre - Details of the Theatre - Edward Terry - Safety in Theatres - Romance of London Theatres - Terry's

Walter Emden's Terry's Theatre Frontage - From The Builder, October 29th 1887.

Above - Walter Emden's Terry's Theatre Frontage - From The Builder, October 29th 1887.

Theatreshire Books  - Click to View Inventory

A programme for 'Jedbury Junr' at Terry's Theatre February 14th 1896 - Click to see entire programme.A Terry's Theatre seating plan pre 1907 - Click to Enlarge.See Theatreland MapsTerry's Theatre was designed by the architect Walter Emden and built by Holliday and Greenwood, opening on the 17th of October 1887 with a production of the farce 'The Churchwarden.' The Theatre fronted onto the Strand where its main entrances were located, although the Pit and Gallery entrances were in Savoy Buildings and on part of the site of the old Coal Hole Public House in Fountain Court.

Right - A Terry's Theatre seating plan pre 1907 - Click to Enlarge. And A programme for 'Jedbury Junr' at Terry's Theatre February 14th 1896 - Click to see entire programme.

The ERA reported on the new Theatre in their 15th of October 1887 edition saying: 'On Thursday evening Mr Edward Terry's new theatre in the Strand was opened for private inspection. The style is Flemish renaissance, delicately decorated in apple green, old pink, and gold. From every part of the house an uninterrupted view of the stage is to be had; and on the matter of exits and fire precautions great care and thought have been bestowed.

The seats in the pit and stalls - and other places where they are formed in rows - are jointed to be turned up, a convenient arrangement for allowing an easy passage on arrival to the seats engaged, and admirably suited for facilitating escape in case of need. Each row of seats leads to an exit at either end; the passages and stairs have handrails on each side. All the minor exits debouch into eight main exits from the building, each capable of discharging four hundred persons, whilst the total number the house will contain is limited to eight hundred.

Walter Emden's Plans for Terry's Theatre, Strand, London - From 'The Building News' August, 27th, 1886

Above - Walter Emden's Plans for Terry's Theatre, Strand, London - From 'The Building News' August, 27th, 1886.

The stage can be cut off from the auditorium by a thick asbestos drop, which might be made red hot, but which could not be ignited. In the roof of the stage, in the loft, and the flies, are the sprinklers for the extinction of fire; and below the boards similar means, jetting in an upward direction, are also provided. All the woodwork and scenery is painted with pyrolene, a liquid fireproof paint, which is being used also for the Glasgow Exhibition buildings; and the high pressure water service connected with the roses and the various hydrants and hoses throughout the edifice is always turned on, and therefore instantly available at any spot when required. The roses for the stage - forty-five in number - are manipulated from a side passage to the stage, where there will be always a fireman in attendance. Each set of roses is marked on a board, so that any of the valves can be at once turned on.

The house and stage are both beautifully lighted by electricity, Swan incandescent lamps being employed. There is also an entire service of gas light throughout the auditorium, the stage, and the footlights; but these are not intended to be used except in emergency - the electric light, as a rule, being solely trusted to. In the centre of the dome, over the auditorium, is a brilliant sun-light; around the boxes, stalls, and gallery numerous ornamental lights. The dome, in the centre of the house, forms a very large ventilator, always open, There are two other exhausts over the stage, and two smaller ones over the gallery, so that in case of fire the smoke and fumes would be drawn away from the audience.

A Section and Plan at Dress Circle Level for Terry's Theatre - From The Builder, October 29th 1887.

Above - A Section and Plan at Dress Circle Level for Terry's Theatre - From The Builder, October 29th 1887.

The dressing-rooms for the actors and actresses are well protected by an iron door, which entirely isolates them from the stage. As already announced, the theatre has been erected from the designs of Mr Walter Emden, assisted by Mr George Harrison, C. E., as to the hydrants and water arrangements. The contractors were Messrs Holliday and Greenwood. The ironwork is by Messrs Messrs M. T. Shaw, and the water apparatus by Messrs Rose. The carton pierre has been executed by messrs Battiscombe and Harriss, and the furnishing by Messrs Atkinson, while the tile decorations have been executed by Messrs Doulton. Mr E. Bell has executed the painted decorations. All the gas and electric fittings for the theatre have been supplied by Messrs Vaughan and Brown.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 15th October 1887.

In July 1905 the Theatre was closed for alterations by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham. and reopened on the 12th of September the same year. The Times newspaper reported on the work in their September 5th 1905 edition saying: 'This theatre has been closed since July to enable Mr. Edward Terry to carry out the numerous requisitions of the London County Council and to effect certain other alterations. The work has been executed from plans prepared by Messrs. Frank Matcham and Co. Both the upper circle and gallery staircases, entering from the Strand, have been rebuilt. The stage roof is entirely new, and the dressing rooms hare been improved. The small private boxes at the rear of the dress circle have been abolished and the space thrown into the dress circle. The centre, and two ends are provided with swing doors , giving access to the gangways. The side arches of this circle have also been removed. The sides of the upper circle have been taken down and reconstructed, improvements in the sight lines being effected. The whole of the theatre is redecorated in white and gold with a soft shade of green on the stalls, and the new carpets and upholstery correspond in colour. The proscenium and box draperies are in silk brocade. A new system of electric lighting has been installed. The theatre is to reopen on Tuesday Evening, the 12th inst.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Times, 5th September 1905.

As with so many other Theatres of its period Terry's closed as a live Theatre on the 8th of October 1910 and was then reconstructed for conversion into a cinema.

The Theatre was demolished in 1923 to accommodate the widening of the Strand.

Details of Terry's Theatre

From the back of a programme for 'Sweet Lavender' 1887

Details of Terry's Theatre - From the back of a programme for 'Sweet Lavender.THE above Theatre is built with special precautions against fire. It will hold about 800 persons. The Main Entrances to the Dress Circle, Stalls and Boxes, also the Extra Gallery Exit, are in the Strand. The Extra Exit to the Dress Circle is in Savoy Buildings, as are both the Pit Entrances, Extra Exit, and the Gallery Entrance.

There are Three Tiers: Pit and Stalls, Balcony and Dress Circle, and Gallery and Upper Boxes. Each part of the house has two or more exits, fitted with Messrs. Chubb's Patent Panic Door Lock and Apparatus.- The total exit accommodation is, according to the regulations of the Board of Works, equal to 3,500 persons, while, as before stated, the holding capacity of the Theatre is only 800 persons.

The whole, including the roof is constructed of concrete and iron, no wood being used in the Auditorium, except for doors and windows; while all the necessary woodwork, before and behind the curtain, is coated with Sir Seymour BLANE'S Fireproof Paint.

A thorough system of Hydrants, in the best available position, is placed before and behind the scenes, a Hydrant being in each circle, one on each side, while the whole of the Stage and Flies, both above and below, are dominated with a system of Sprinklers, which Sprinklers are commanded by valves at the Stage Door, and are always ready. Thus, while the Auditorium is entirely Fireproof, the Stage can be deluged at a few moments' notice with a perfect sheet of water, entirely preventing the spread of fire. The Stage woodwork is all coated with Fireproof Paint.

Programme for 'The New Boy' and 'The Gentleman Whip' at Terry's Theatre in 1894.The ironwork is so arranged that it stands alone, the whole being tied together with steel anchorages and bars; it is then cased with concrete, this being again topped with the patent Eureka concrete, while the under portion, or any part which still remains exposed, is eased in plaster.

The Auditorium and Stage are both separately ventilated by direct exhausts in the roof of each. The Stage is divided from the Auditorium by the Proscenium wall, which wall passes some twenty feet above the outside of the Auditorium Roof, the opening in the Proscenium being closed by a Fireproof Curtain.

Left -Programme for 'The New Boy' and 'The Gentleman Whip' at Terry's Theatre in 1894.

The whole of the building is lighted by electricity, which is supplied by the SIR COUTTS LINDSAY Co., of Grosvenor Gallery, no Engines, Dynamos, &c., being in the Building.

Programme for ''Artful Miss Dearing' and 'The Willow Pattern Plate' at Terry's Theatre, date unknown.The Theatre, both in exterior or interior is in the Flemish style. The interior colouring being a deep brown pink and apple-green and gold; all the silk curtains and hangings being of the same colours. The seats, which are made with enamelled iron frames are covered in the same colours, plush and brocade.

Right - Programme for ''Artful Miss Dearing' and 'The Willow Pattern Plate' at Terry's Theatre, date unknown.

The Architect is Mr. Walter Emden, who has for many years made a study of the construction of Theatres and Fireproof Public Buildings, assisted by Mr. George Harrison. C.E., as to the Hydrants and Water arrangements. The Contractors are Messrs. Holliday & Greenwood, who have taken especial care in the execution of the work. The Ironwork is by Messrs. M.T. Shaw, and the Water Apparatus by Messrs. ROSE. The Gas and Electric Fittings by Messrs. Vaughan. & Brown. The, Carton Pierre has been executed by Messrs. Battiscombe & Harris, while the Tile Decorations have been executed by Messrs. Doulton. Mr. E. Bell has executed the Painted Decorations.

Above Text is from the back of a programme for 'Sweet Lavender' 1887

Safety in Theatres

The following report, which was printed in the Pall Mall Gazette a week before Terry's Theatre opened on the 11th of October 1887, is about Safety in Theatres, specifically safety at the new Terry's Theatre, and is from an interview with the Theatre's Architect, Walter Emden.

Safety In Theatres'''MR, WALTER EMDEN believes he has designed a theatre which is as proof against fire and panic as it is possible to make a building under existing conditions. Mr. Terry's theatre, in the Strand, certainly marks a decided advance on anything yet attempted in theatre building, and Mr. Emden proposes to follow on the same lines in the construction of the new Court Theatre. In a conversation with our representative Mr. Emden entered fully into the details of his plans.


"No theatre has ever been constructed in the same way either in England or on the Continent," said Mr. Emden. "The materials are iron, concrete, and brickwork. Wood has been used only to a very limited extent, such as in doors and windows and the fixing of blocks, and where other material could be used it was preferred. Every bit of wood that is used has been covered with fireproof paint, so that if it were attacked by fire it would only smoulder, and not flame. Instead of the ordinary lath and plaster in the walls and ceilings, a continuous roll of wire is used, and the plaster affixed to that. The partitions between the boxes and in other parts of the house are either of hollow fire brick or wire and plaster. The iron beams are covered in the same way, so that no iron is exposed to the action of the heat if a fire did occur. Except in the pit, no columns appear in the theatre. The corridors and floors are either formed of mosaic or cement, and there are no carpets except a strip for the feet of the people in the stalls, dress circle, and private boxes. Even the seats are partially constructed of metal. The hangings are of silk brocade and plush, materials which will not flame like cotton. All the ornamental work forming the box fronts and other parts of the building is fixed on iron standards, and is composed of fibrous plaster that is not combustible. The roof of the auditorium is of iron and concrete, and there is no large space between ceiling and roof in which to generate a fire and support it."


"But as fire usually originates on the stage, what have you done there? "

As in the auditorium, so on the stage, we have made everything possible of fireproof materials. The roof of the stage, which is much higher than that of the auditorium, is in concrete and iron. There are two great exhausts to draw off smoke and heat from the stage. Then the stage is cut off from the auditorium by an asbestos fireproof curtain, which will be worked between the pieces in the same way as the ordinary green curtain, so that being in constant use and simple and light to manage, there will be no chance of its not being in order when required in an emergency. Next, the stage is dominated by sprinklers above and below, worked by a valve at the stage door so that they can be instantly turned on, and the fireman will have no fear as to his own safety, as his escape is certain. The whole of the woodwork, flies, gridiron, and all parts are coated with fireproof paint. The dressing rooms are entirely of fireproof materials. Besides all this, electricity is used throughout the building for lighting.''


"You have made some experiments, have you not ?"

"Yes; we made an experiment some time back, when the whole of the interior of the building was full of scaffolding, and the risk was therefore greater; A fire was lighted on the stage and allowed to mount up through the flies to the height of about 40 ft. Within two minutes the fire was put our by the sprinklers. Besides the sprinklers there are hydrants behind the scenes and on each side of each of the circles."

"But what about the chances of asphyxiating the audience by smoke and gases generated by a fire on the stage ?"

"To prevent any smoke from the stage passing into the auditorium, as much as for ventilation, we have placed the two large exhausts I have mentioned over the top of the stage, and as the roof of the stage is some twenty feet or more above the roof of the auditorium the smoke would be drawn to the higher level by the exhausts; Thus in the case of fire on the stage we do not believe any smoke would pass to the front of the house."


"As to exits, what have you done?"

"According to the regulations of the Board of Works, it is necessary that there should be one 4½ ft. stair case for 400 people, with an increase of 6in. for every further hundred. We have provided exit accommodation according to this scale for 3,500 people, while the house will only hold 800. The regulation as to gangways is that they shall be 3 ft., but in no case are they made as small as that. They vary from 3½ ft. to 4 ft. The dress circle is constructed so that each row has two exits into the corridors, and every part of the house is provided with double means of exit to the street. From the gallery there is one staircase to Savoy-buildings and another without any turn to the Strand. From the pit and stall level there are three exits, and from the dress circle, besides the main one, there is another of 4½ ft. into the Savoy. There is a separate exit for the upper boxes, which only accommodate about seventy people, of 4½ ft."


"How does the matter stand as to cost?"

"The new system will cost at least from 20 to 25 per cent more than the ordinary method, but theatrical managers are willing to face even that outlay to secure absolute safety. It is an entire myth to suppose that they are careless on this point; Both architects and managers would welcome the supervision by the Board of Trade or the Home Department, which would be regular, just, and equitable, and whose rules would be applied equally; such a supervision as is given to mines and factories, with regular and constant inspection; and the managers of theatres and music halls would, as stated by their spokesman, Mr. Irving, at the deputation last year to the Home Office, find all the money necessary for such supervision and inspection. Every one concerned would welcome it, not only for the assurance it would give the public, but also the assurance that panic and a want of thorough knowledge of the subject would not subject the managers to constantly changing and possibly useless and costly alterations; while the regular and thorough supervision would make both the public and the property itself safe."'

Above text in quotes is from the Pall Mall Gazette, 11th of October 1887.

The Romance of London Theatres - By Ronald Mayes - No. 119. Terry's

A Line drawing of Terry's Theatre - From 'The Romance of London Theatres' by Ronald Mayes, from a programme for the Lewisham Hippodrome.

Above - A Line drawing of Terry's Theatre - From 'The Romance of London Theatres' by Ronald Mayes, from a programme for the Lewisham Hippodrome.

The Romance of London Theatres By Ronald MayesTerry's Theatre stood in the Strand on the site now occupied by Fountain Court and Woolworth's Stores. In the eighteenth century there stood on the same spot "The Fountain Tavern" and "The Coal Hole," the meeting place of the Wolf Club, of which about 1820, Edmund Kean was a leading member. "The Coal Hole" was one of the places illustrated by Thackeray in his scenes of old-time song and supper rooms, and where the well-known "Baron" Nicholson held "The judge and jury Club."

After this the house was acquired by Charles Wilmot, an Australian, who christened it "The Occidental Tavern," which became a popular resort of actors.

It was Wilmot, in conjunction with Dr. Webb, who built the theatre, which was opened in 1887. It afterwards came under the control of Edward Terry. The first play he produced there was called "The Churchwarden." He liked this kind of play, because he was a very keen parochial worker. It was followed by "The Wornan Hater" -both plays were fairly successful. Terry's Theatre was not a remarkable success until the production of Pinero's play "Sweet Lavender."

Programme for 'Law and Physic' and the very successful 'Sweet Lavender' which opened at Terry's Theatre on the 21st of March 1888 and ran for 684 performances. - Click for details.On the first night there was fiasco over the complimentary seats, and one well known critic was apparently excluded from the invitations. He arrived uninvited, however, but was stopped on his way to the stalls. He cursed the play, the actors and everything connected with it, and raising his hands to heaven he expressed the wish that the theatre would be burnt to the ground. Happily, however, the theatre still stood and his wish for failure did not materialise, for "Sweet Lavender" was an unprecedented success and became the rage of the playgoing public. The sweetness of the play was haunting, the acting unforgettable, and it continued to run for such a length of time that people began to ask "Will there ever be a last perforance of 'Sweet Lavender' ?"

Left - A programme for 'Law and Physic' and the very successful 'Sweet Lavender' which opened at Terry's Theatre on the 21st of March 1888 and ran for 684 performances. - Click for details.

"Sweet Lavender" brought a clear £20,000 profit to the manager and ran for seven hundred nights.. It had an astonishingly good cast, including Terry, Brandon Thomas, Maude Millett and Carlotta Addison. The play cost £66 to produce. The running expenses were very little, the largest salary paid being £18 per week.

Pinero wrote other pieces for this theatre, including "In Chancery," which was produced in 1890 and "The Times" in 1892. Terry's actual contribution to theatrical history was not really remarkable. There were, however, several plays which enjoyed quite long runs, including "The New Boy," Jerome's "Old Lamps for New" and "The Pantomime Rehearsal," the latter play being particularly successful. "My Lady Motly," too, had a record run and proved very popular with the public.

In 1894 there was an endeavour to reassociate Kate Vaughan and Edward Terry in a series of sketches from old Gaiety successes, but it was not successful.

Prior to its demolition in connection with the Strand widening scheme, the theatre was run as a cinema for some years.

The above text is from 'The Romance of London Theatres by Ronald Mayes" - From a programme for the Lewisham Hippodrome.

About Edward Terry

Terry, Edward O'Connor, (1844) English actor, was born in London, and began his stage career in a small and struggling way in the provinces. Between 1868 and 1875 he was the leading comedian at the Strand theatre, London, but it was not till he joined Hollingshead's company at the Gaiety in 1876 that he became a public favourite in the burlesques produced there during the next eight years. With Nellie Farren, Kate Vaughan and Royce, he made the fortune of this house, his eccentric acting and singing creating a style which had many imitators. In 1887 he went into management, opening Terry's theatre, where his production of Pinero's Sweet Lavender was a great success. (See programme below.) But in subsequent years he was only occasionally seen at his own theatre, and made many tours in the provinces and in Australia, America and South Africa. Off the stage he was well known as an ardent Freemason, and an indefatigable member of the councils of many charities and of public bodies. - Encyclopedia Britannica (11th Edition.)

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.

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