London's Oldest Theatres

London's Oldest Theatres

Today's walk visited London's ten oldest theatres. Most of them have been rebuilt several times in their history, but they are still operating on their original sites. For the eagle eyed I actually visited 11 theatres as I chose to include the Lyceum which has a history to match the others but was not originally licensed as a theatre.

Distance: around 4.5 miles.

The Old Vic
Established in 1818 as the Royal Coburg Theatre, it was renamed as the Royal Victoria Theatre in 1833. In 1871 it was rebuilt and reopened at the Royal Victoria Palace, formally named the Royal Victoria Hall in 1880, but by that time it was already commonly known as the "Old Vic". The building was damaged in the 1940 during the raids and when it reopened in 1951 it became a Grade II* listed building.

Theatre Royal, Haymarket
Also known as The Haymarket or the Little Theatre, the theatre dates back to 1720, making it the third oldest London playhouse still in use. It has been at its current location since 1821, when it was redesigned by John Nash. It is a Grade 1 listed building, and its freehold is owned by the Crown Estate.

Harold Pinter
Established in 1881 as the Royal Comedy Theatre, it was known as just the Comedy Theatre by 1884. The theatre was designed by Thomas Verity and built in just six months. It as been known as the Harold Pinter Theatre since 2011.

Criterion
The Criterion was designed by Thomas Verity and opened in 1874. It was fitted into an already existing block and is remarkable that almost the entire building is underground. It originally had been intended to be a Concert Hall but it was decided that a theatre would be better. It is considered this to be the best surviving example of Verity's work and is Grade II* listed.

Adelphi
The first building opened its doors in 1806 and was called the Sans Pareil (Without Compare). In 1819 it changed its name to the Adelphi and the Theatre Royal, Adelphi in 1829. A second building in 1858 took the name Theatre Royal, New Adelphi which became the Royal Adelphi Theatre from 1867. A third building opened in 1901 and was named the Century Theatre but reverted back to the Royal Adelphi. The current building opened in 1930 and in 1940 it became known as just the Adelphi. The theatre is Grade II listed.

Vaudeville
As the name suggests, the theatre held mostly vaudeville shows and musical revues in its early days. It opened in 1870 and was rebuilt twice, although each new building retained elements of the previous structure. The current building opened in 1926. Rare thunder drum and lightning sheets, together with other early stage mechanisms survive to this day in the theatre.

Savoy
The theatre opened in 1881 and was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte on the site of the old Savoy Palace as a showcase for Gilbert & Sullivan comic operas. The theatre was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity. In 1889, Richard D'Oyly Carte built the Savoy Hotel next to the theatre. Richard's son Rupert rebuilt and modernised the theatre in 1929, and it was rebuilt again in 1993 following a fire. It is a Grade II* listed building.

Lyceum
The first theatre on the site was built in 1771 and was designed by James Payne. It opened in 1772 as a place of entertainment and was used for a variety of activities such as boxing, fencing and public debates. It wasn't until 1809 that it obtained a licence for the presentation of plays when a neighbouring theatre The Drury Lane burnt down and its company transferred to there whilst it was being rebuilt. However when they moved back to their theatre it lost the licence. Between 1816 and 1830 it house The English Opera House. It was in use as a theatre until 1939 when it closed and was nearly demolished but was saved and converted into ballroom in 1951 where many well-known bands played such as The Clash, Led Zeppelin and The Who. It closed again in 1986 but was restored to theatrical use in 1996.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
The current building, built in 1812, is the most recent building in a line of four theatres which were built in the same location, the earliest of which dates back to 1663 when a patent was granted by King Charles II. It the oldest theatre site in London still in use. The building is Grade I listed.

Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, but for its first hundred years it was primarily a playhouse. Originally built in 1732, the current building is the third theatre on the site following disastrous fires in 1808 and 1856. The façade, foyer, and auditorium date from 1858, but almost every other element of the present complex dates from an extensive reconstruction in the 1990s. The main auditorium is a Grade I listed building.

Sadler's Wells
The present day theatre is the sixth on the site since 1683. It consists of two performance spaces: a 1,500 seat main auditorium and the Lilian Baylis Studio, with extensive rehearsal rooms and technical facilities also housed within the site. Sadler's Wells is renowned as one of the world's leading dance venues. The building is Grade II listed.

1200 miles walked

1200 miles walked

An Angry Rabbit With Sunburn...

An Angry Rabbit With Sunburn...