If anyone has any theatre snippets, theatre photos, old programmes or newspaper notices they would like to contribute
please contact me and your name will be added as a contributor
I started these pages on June 20th 2005 so this will grow as I add more and it is still 'under construction'. Lots more to add yet
In most cases images can be clicked to reveal larger image
Painting of the Theatre Royal by James Winston early 1800's
The Theatre Royal opened on the 5th of June 1772 in 8 Williamson Square with the 'Tragedy of Mahomet' . In 1768 Mr Gibson of the Drury lane theatre lobbied for a Theatre Royal in Liverpool. The House of Lords at first refused his request but later changed their minds and he was granted Letters patent in 1771 for twenty one years. Mr Gibson died not long afterwards and his mistress Mrs Bennett inherited it. She rented the theatre to two Liverpool theatre managers, Joseph Younger and George Mattocks. Sir William Chambers designed the theatre. After the death of Joseph Younger in 1784 and Mattocks retirement, George Case took up the lease and Frances Aitkin became the manager. There were serious riots at the Theatre Royal in 1820 & 1824. In the Gore's Directory of Liverpool 1827 Francis Banks is listed as manager of the Theatre, John Kenrick is box book keeper. Peter Lloyd is listed as 'Prompter'
From 'Picture of Liverpool: Strangers Guide 1834'
The Theatre Royal.....This edifice is situate in Williamson's square, and was erected in the year 1772, by private subscription, at an expense of £6000, which sum was raised by thirty individuals. The front is semicircular, and of stone, decorated with the king's arms and several emblematic figures exectuted in bas relief. The interior is well constructed for hearing, is commodiously fitted up, and tastefully ornamented. A superb glass chandelier is suspended from the centre of the ceiling, and brilliantly illuminated by a great number of gas burners. The theatre was enlarged in the year 1803. It is usually open from May until December, and has in general an able company of perfomers
From Smith's Stranger's Guide 1843 "THE THEATRE ROYAL, in Williamson-square, is the only patent theatre in Liverpool, and therefore the only one in which the legitimate drama can be performed. It has a semi - circular stone front, with a rusticated basement, and the upper story is ornamented by coupled Ionic pilasters, bas-reliefs, &c. It was erected in 1772, at an expense of £6000, and has had additions subsequently made to it. The interior is very commodious, ele- gantly finished, and well adapted to the purpose for which it is intended. The present conductors are Messrs. J. H. Anderson, (the " Wizard of the North,") and J. Hammond, by whom the Metropolitan system of half -'price has been adopted. Connected with the early history of this theatre is an incident, which, at the period of its occurrence, produced a great impression on the public mind. On the 2nd August, 1798, during the play of " The Stranger," Mr. John Palmer, of the London stage, suddenly dropped down and expired after having uttered the words; " There is another- and a better world. The spectators thinking that it was an incident in the play felt no alarm. The body was removed from the stage, but all attempts to restore animation were fruitless. When the announcement was made, an intense sensation, which it is impossible to describe, prevaded the audience, who slowly and silently re- tired. A few days after the interment a benefit was given for the widow and family, the prologue of the play having been written for the occasion by Mr. Roscoe. By this means upwards of £400 was collected in a single evening. "
The theatre became notorious for the rowdy and bad behaviour of it's audiences although many famous actors and actresses and notable people made appearances there including Charles Dickens in 1847 and later in 1869
Many of the actors and actresses were from London theatres such as Drury lane and the Theatre Royal's of Covent Garden and Haymarket including Edmund Kean, McReady, the famous Sarah Siddons, George Frederick Cooke who berated the assembled Liverpool gentry at the theatre for their involvement with the slave trade; most of the Kemble family performed at the Theatre Royal Liverpool. John Palmer died on stage while performing in 'The Stranger' in 1798. Julius Brutus Booth another actor and local favourite sailed from Liverpool to America in 1821 and his younger son John Wilkes assassinated Abraham Lincoln
Local newspapers and theatrical periodicals were openly critical of the theatre and it's management (see Porcupine article below on this page)and by 1884 the theatre was struggling and became a circus for a short period but a year later the theatre went out of commission. Used as a cold storage depot. Demolished in 1965.
Click to see: Theatre Royal Newspaper Notices
Click to see: Theatre Royal Newspaper snippets, reviews etc
The Royal Colosseum Theatre later renamed the Grand Theatre of varities was a building of brick and stone front in Paradise street, first erected in 1791 as a Unitarian Chapel and re-opened as a theatre in 1856 seating approx 3,000 people
The Beatles also performed at the Empire theatre in 1963 in front of the Queen in a Royal Command performance. On the 5th of December 1965 the Beatles gave their final performance in Liverpool in the Empire Theatre.
Liverpool Empire today
Photo by Dave Woods
Sam Wannamaker the Film director was appointed director of the New Shakespeare Theatre in 1957, Fraser Street Liverpool, and Served as artistic director till 1959.
By the late 19thc Liverpool had approx 26 theatres and many more Music Halls.