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Drury Lane Theatre (Established c1660)



  • Existence: Established c1660


The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre and Grade I listed building in Covent Garden, London and the oldest theatre still in use in the city.

Drury Lane was first built in the early 1660s, when theatres were allowed to reopen during the English Restoration as Theatre Royal in Bridges Street. Between its inception and modern times, Drury Lane Theatre has been reconstructed several times including in the 1670s, 1790s and finally in 1812 either to enlarge the building or because fire had destroyed it. The Building build in 1812 is the same that still stands today.

In the span of its long history, Drury Lane has presented some of the biggest British names in music-hall entertainment including Nell Gwyn, Charles Hart, Joseph Grimaldi and Dan Leno. It has also hosted some of the most prominent British personalities including Charles II, Samuel Pepys and George III, who was shot while in the royal box.

Drury Lane was closed for eighteen months when the Great Plague of London struck the city on 5 June 1665.

In 1747 Drury Lane purchased by actor David Garrick. Garrick served as manager and lead actor of the theatre until circa 1766, and as manager for the following ten years after that.

Through most of the nineteenth century, Drury Lane passed quickly from one proprietor to another.

The theatre was closed during World War Two to serve as the headquarters for the Entertainments National Service Association.

The theatre is currently owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s management company LW Theatres, which invested £4 million in its restoration to mark the theatre’s 350th anniversary in 2013.

Found in 9 Collections and/or Records:

Bill Barnes Collection

Reference code: NFA0172
Scope and Contents

Programmes, posters and photographs mainly related to the Poole family's travelling Myriorama show.

Dates: 1881 - 2017

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Drury Lane Attraction Poster, 1838

Reference code: 178R47.2
Scope and Contents

Madame Albertazzi, Mdlle. H. Elsler, Mr. Ducrow, Double stud of horses, Mr. Van Amburgh animal trainer, Grieve's New Scenery, Charlemagne or the Fete of the Forest. Black type on off white backgound. Printed by W. Wright Printer, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Dates: 1838

Newspaper Cuttings and Scapbooks, 1838 - 2007

Reference code: 178G21
Scope and Contents

A collection of newspaper cuttings on circus, circus proprietors and performers and scrapbooks containing newspaper cuttings, posters, programmes and other items of ephemera, covering mainly British circuses and venues such as Belle Vue and also some international circuses.

Dates: 1838 - 2007

Newspaper Cuttings Related to Circus and Performers, 1838 - 1947

Reference code: 178G21.2
Scope and Contents

Newspaper cuttings relating to circus and performers, including Barnum, The American Circus, The Alhambra Palace, Drury Lane Theatre, Pawnee Bill Wild West, Imre Kiralfy, Cirque Imperial de France, Zazel, The Theatrical Observer, The Graphic, The Illustrated London News and The Performer.

Dates: 1838 - 1947

Posters, c1800 - 2011

Reference code: 178R47
Scope and Contents

A wide range of British and international circus and menagerie posters ranging from the 19th to the 21st century including Astley's Amphitheatre, Pablo Fanque, Polito, Bostock and Wombwell, Ducrow, Cooke, Hengler, Sanger, Smart, Gerry Cottle, Bertram Mills, Chipperfield's, Robert Brothers, Fossett, Blackpool Tower, Billy Russell, Belle Vue, Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, Austen Brothers and many more.

Dates: c1800 - 2011

Sunday Chronicle Pantomime Annual, 1911

Reference code: 178Z64.12
Scope and Contents Drury Lane's Principal Boy, Violet Loraine. Black and white photograph of a woman in medieval costume on a white background on the front cover, inside black and white photographs of performers on different pantomimes including Jack and the Beanstalk, Babes in the Wood, Forty Thieves, Little Bo-Beep, Puss in Boots and Dick Whittington in venues around the country, performers talking about how to dress some of the characters in the pantomimes, some charicatures of performers and commercial...
Dates: 1911

Various Items of Ephemera, c1800 - 2016

Reference code: 178Z64
Scope and Contents

Various items related to George Walter Poole, Wilton's Music Hall, Henry James Mayer, Alexander Billington, James Upton Printers, Gompertz's panorama show, Poole's Myriorama and Diorama shows and Messrs Strange and Wilson Ghost show. Also includes a theatrical clock with two figures on the sides attracting customers.

Dates: c1800 - 2016

Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian Circus Posters, c1800 - 1930

Reference code: 178R47.1-51
Scope and Contents

Early circus and menagerie posters including Polito's menagerie, Astley's Amphitheatre and Pablo Fanque's, Sanger's, Powell's, Ducrow's, Cooke's and Hengler's circuses among others.

Dates: c1800 - 1930