The Shakespearean Threatre, Chapel Lane, Stratford-upon-Avon
The site of The 19th century Shakespearean Theatre, Chapel Lane, built 1827 and demolished 1872 by Halliwell Phillips.
1 The Shakespearean Theatre in Chapel Lane is the only one of the early Stratford theatres with any continuous history. It was built by a company formed in 1826, which included several members of the corporation and of the Shakespeare Club. The site, purchased from the landlord of the Shakespeare Inn, was at the west end of what are now the public gardens of New Place. The foundation stone was laid at the Gala Festival on 23 April 1827, and the theatre was opened, with a performance of As You Like It, on 12 December following. It was leased by the proprietors for seven years to Francis Raymond, who was entitled to use it as a theatre for not more than three months in each year. For the first three years the new venture was a success. Madame de Vestris appeared here in 1828 and Charles Kean during the Gala Festival of 1830, in which Raymond was one of the moving spirits, though it seems to have marked the beginning of his financial misfortunes. In 1831 his lease became forfeit and in the following year he went bankrupt. For the next few years the theatre was let by the season and kept open more or less regularly; the lessee in 1837 being C. W. Elliston, probably a son of the famous manager of Drury Lane. In 1844 the building having become delapidated, it was extensively repaired and reopened as the New Royal Shakespearean Rooms, and the Company of Proprietors was reorganized soon afterwards. After 1846 the County Court sat at the theatre, though it was still used from time to time for its original purpose. Jakeman and Morgan were the lessees between 1849 and 1862, and in 1869 it was refitted for the last time and opened by Alfred Walmisley as the Theatre Royal. Three years later it was bought by Halliwell Phillipps, who demolished it and threw the site into the New Place Gardens. The last performance, of Hamlet, took place on 30 April 1872.
2 Excavations, as part of the ‘Dig for Shakespeare’ Community Excavations, recorded a series of structures on the site of the theatre, in an area now used as gardens following the demolition of the theatre by Halliwell Phillipps. Photographs taken of the theatre before it was demolished reveal it had a basement with outside access, windows on the ground and first floor, and the front of the theatre was graced by a portico (which now stands, relocated, as the entrance to Marks and Spencers, High Street, Stratford-on-Avon. A programme of GPR survey was also undertaken over the site.
3 Theatre, and adjacent cottages (also demolished by Halliwell Phillipps) is shown on Stratford’s Board of Health Map of 1851.