The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas

1827

Olympic Theatre.

Drury house was suffered to go to decay; and it remained in a dilapidated state till the late P. Astley, esq. of the Royal Amphitheatre, conceiving it a good situation for a minor theatre, took a lease of the ground for years, from Michaelmas, ; and, after considerable delay, produced from his own designs, the

Olympic Pavilion,

which was opened on . The interior exhibited the form of a tent; the accommodations consisted of tier of boxes, and a pit, behind which was the gallery. In this state it cost Astley about In considerable

349

improvements were made; a ride was formed in the pit, and a gallery erected over the boxes; but, notwithstanding every exertion to render it popular, the projector was obliged to dispose of the property, which he did to Mr. Elliston for guineas and a small annuity. The loss to Mr. Astley was upwards of Mr. Elliston expended a considerable sum in decorating it, and opened it under the title of

Little

Drury-lane

Theatre.

But on the patentees of the larger houses interfering, it was closed by order of the lord chamberlain. It was again opened in , as the

Olympic Theatre.

On Mr. Elliston becoming lessee of theatre, he let this house to various persons, who were generally unsuccessful; and, on the bankruptcy of the above gentleman, it was sold by auction on the , to Mr. Scott, (the original proprietor of the ,) for guineas.

The interior of the theatre is handsomely fitted up, and is of the horseshoe form. The proscenium is feel wide, and the extent from the front of the stage to the back of the pit is feet. The receipts of the house, when full, are about and the number of persons it will hold is about .

Adjoining to is , from the well of that name. It is a narrow inconvenient avenue, of old ill-formed houses; but contains a neglected place for law-students, named Lyons' Inn. This is an appendage to the Inner Temple, and is known to be a place of considerable antiquity.

is famous for having had a dramatic theatre, built on the site of a tennis-court, and opened by sir William D'Avenant, who obtained a patent for it in . Out of compliment to James, duke of York, it was called

the Duke's Theatre;

and the performers, in contradistinction to his majesty's servants at , were called

the duke's company.

The building being found inadequate to its intended purpose, a new was erected in Dorset-gardens, and this was deserted. The structure in arose in consequence of some disputes between the managers and actors of and Dorset-gardens, and the latter formed themselves into an association, at the head of which was Mr. Betterton, the Roscius of the day. Their complaints having been made before king William III. a licence was granted to act for themselves in a separate theatre; and a subscription was opened for that purpose, which the nobility very liberally supported. The new theatre was opened on the h of , and continued to afford public entertainment till ; when, complained of as a nuisance, Betterton assigned his patent to sir John Vanbrugh; who, finding these premises too small, erected more spacious in the , and this was abandoned. It was again opened in by Mr. Rich, whose father had been expelled for mismanagement at , and employed the remainder of his life in re-fitting it for performances: the play on this occasion was The Recruiting Officer. The performers, who were under the direction of Mr.

350

 

Rich, were so much inferior to those at , that the latter carried away all the applause and favour of the town. In this distress, the genius of Rich suggested to him a species of entertainment, which, at the same time that it has been deemed contemptible, has been ever followed and encouraged. Harlequin, Pantaloon, and all the host of pantomimic pageantry, were now brought forward; and sound and shew obtained a victory over sense and reason. The fertility of Rich's invention in these exotic entertainments, and the excellence of his own performance must at the same time be acknowledged. By means of these only, he kept the managers of the other house at all times from relaxing their diligence; and, to the disgrace of public taste, frequently obtained more money by ridiculous and paltry performances, than all the sterling merit of the rival theatre was able to acquire.

In , was shut up, in consequence of Mr. Rich and his company removing to the new theatre in Covent-garden. In , Mr. Gifford, who had opened a theatre in , was persuaded to take the vacant edifice, in which he and his company acted for years; when it entirely ceased from being a theatre; and, having had various revolutions, is now occupied as a pottery and china warehouse. It was here that Macklin killed Mr. Hannam, in the year . Opposite is the work-house for the poor of parish; and adjoining is the burial-ground, which was purchased by the inhabitants in the year , as appears by a commission for a rate to wall it in granted to them by Dr. Juxon, bishop of London. In , bishop Henchman gave them licence to build houses and shops on the north side.

On the north side of is the court for the relief of insolvent debtors. It is a neat and commodious brick edifice, erected in from the designs of J. Soane, esq.; and, like all the works of that architect, is full of blemishes and beauties. The court is neal, but there is a great want of light.

 
 
Footnotes:

[] Baker's Biographia Dramatica, Introduction.

[] The shutting up this structure has been whimsically accounted for by vulgar tradition; upon a representation of the pantomime of the Harlequin and Dr. Faustus, when a tribe of demon necessary for the piece was assembled, a supernumerary devil was observed, who, not approving of going out in a complaisant manner at the door, to shew a devils trick, flew up to the ceiling, made his way through the tiling, and tore away one-fourth of the house; which circumstance so affrighted the manager, that the proprietor had not courage to open the house afterwards.

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 Title Page
 Dedication
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda
 Postscript