The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4
as this house was called,
| to distinguish it from the Opera-house, has long possessed an uninterrupted and extensive share of public favour: and the legitimate drama, when almost excluded from every other theatre, here found an asylum. To a speculating mechanic of the name of John Potter, this theatre owes its rise; it was erected in , on the site of the King's-head inn. The expense of the building was and he laid out about more for scenes and decorations, although without any specific object beyond that of letting it to the |
as the foreign actors and singers were then called, be their country what it might. On the in that year it was opened with a comedy, entitled, , and for many years was occupied by foreign adventurers, who gave various entertainments, in which tumbling and rope-dancing were not omitted. It was at this theatre also that Foote revelled in his gay humour and personal satire, under the tolerance rather than the sanction of the lord chamberlain; until, in the year , it was raised to the dignity of a theatre royal, and a patent granted to Mr. Foote, authorising him to build a theatre in the city and liberties of , and to exhibit dramatic performances, &c. from the to the in each year during his life. Mr. Foote immediately had the old theatre taken down and a new built; but whether this was an improvement or not, may be fairly doubted, as a more disagreeable or inconvenient structure can scarcely be conceived than the late theatre, which was opened in . In nothing was the house more disadvantageously constructed than in the entrances, which were extremely narrow; a melancholy proof of this occurred on the d of , when his majesty having bespoken the play, the rush to the pit on the opening the doors was so great, that persons were killed, and more than others dreadfully injured. It has been severally under the management of Foote, the Colmans, and Thomas Dibdin, all gentlemen of such talents, and so intimately acquainted with the detail of a theatre, as to ensure its success.
A ridiculous riot took place at this theatre in the year , when Mr. Dowton announced, as of the pieces for his benefit, a farce called
which had been acted with great success, under Foote, in . No sooner was this announced, than the whole body of tailors arose as man, to resist what they thought an illiberal attack on their trade. Threatening letters were sent to Dowton and the manager, some of which were signed with the name of the individual, and by the secretary to of their clubs. On the night of performance, tailors besieged the doors, and got possession of the gallery, when such symptoms of tumult were manifested, that it was necessary to call in the police; and afterwards a detachment of the guards; when, after of the rioters had been taken into custody, the piece was performed, amidst loud shouts of disapprobation.
In -, the Covent Garden company, after the destruction of
|that theatre by fire in , performed here, and at the Opera-house, during the winter season. In , Mr. Morris became possessed of Mr. Colman's share in this theatre, the latter gentleman retiring entirely from the concern. The property is now vested in Messrs. Morris and Winston (the former possessing -'s and the latter -), they determined upon erecting a more commodious structure in place of the old theatre, which design, soon after the conclusion of the season in , was put into execution.|
The new theatre was designed by John Nash, esq. and built at the distance of a few feet southward from the old house. The cost is said to have been , and the new house was opened to the public on .
The exterior presents a handsome portico of the Corinthian order, consisting of columns supporting an entablature and pediment, beneath which, and at the sides, are entrance doors leading respectively to the boxes, pit, and galleries. The stage door is in at the rear of the house. The auditory is nearly a square, but the front opposite the stage is slightly curved. richly gilt palm-trees decorate the proscenium and support a dome-like ceiling. There are full tier of boxes, besides the slips or side boxes, parallel with the gallery. An elegant saloon is attached to the boxes on the side. The house will hold about
The whole of Pall-mall, and the site of Carlton palace, is in St. James's parish, though the whole of the gardens at the back are in .