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The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

The City of London Theatre, 35 and 36 Bishopsgate Street, Norton Folgate, Bishopsgate

Later - The Temperance Music Hall / Great Central Hall

See also in this area: Shoreditch Theatres and Halls - Wilton's Music Hall, Whitechapel - The Garrick Theatre, Whitechapel - Hoxton Varieties, Shoreditch - The Hoxton Hall - The Royalty / Brunswick Theatres, Whitechapel - Britannia Theatre, Hoxton - The Goodman's Fields Theatre, Whitechapel

The City of London Theatre was designed by the architect Samuel Beazley. Construction of the Theatre began in October 1834, although licensing restrictions meant that it wasn't finally opened by its lessee Mr. Cockerton, formerly of the Olympic Theatre, until Easter Monday the 27th of March 1837. It opened with a production by Edward Stirling of Dicken's 'Pickwick', with Mr. Macarthy as Jingle, and Wilkinson and W. H. Williams as Sam Weller and Pickwick. Mrs. Emden, whose husband was the Stage Manager, was also in the company along with Miss Rivers, and Mr. Wrench.

The Theatre's stage was laid by Mr. Stribley who was responsible for same at the English Opera House, now the Lyceum Theatre, also designed by Beazley, in 1834. The Theatre's decorations were by Messrs Grace, its scenery by Charles Marshall, and the Musical Director was J. H. Tully who would later go on to lead the orchestra of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Mr. Emden of the Adelphi Theatre was the Stage manager.

A Programme Cover for the Pantomime 'Love, War and Peace' at the City of London Theatre in December 1848 - Courtesy Claire Pascall.In 1843 the Theatre was renamed the Royal City of London Theater, and the following year, on the 7th of October 1844, the Theatre was reopened, after being redecorated, by its new Lessee Mr. Wilsone.

The Theatre was taken over by Nelson Lee and John Johnson in 1848 and reopened, after being redecorated, this time by William Beaumont of Islington (see images below), on Saturday the 30th of September 1848.

Nelson Lee and John Johnson's Lesseeship of the Theatre was to prove its most successful period, indeed it is said that they were the only managers who ever made the City Theatre Pay. Nelson Lee's first pantomime at the Theatre, under his own management, was entitled, 'Love, War and Peace' (see programme right) which was apparently 'highly successful'.

Right - A Programme Cover for the Pantomime 'Love, War and Peace' at the City of London Theatre in December 1848, under the Direction of Nelson Lee and John Johnson - Courtesy Claire Pascall.

T. C. King, Arthur Lloyd's Father in Law, is known to have performed as Hamlet at the City of London Theatre, in 1860. In the book 'Some London Theatres, Past and Present' by Michael Williams, published in 1883 and available online here, he writes 'Mr. T. C. King made his debut on Monday, the 30th of April, in Hamlet, and during his engagement played also such parts as Claude Melnotte, Othello, and Macbeth. Mr. Nelson Lee's repeated attempts to popularize the highest class of the drama were in the highest degree creditable to him, but his system of puffery was only worthy of Richardson - to whose booth and business, by the bye, he had in former days succeeded. Such paragraphs, moreover, as "the king's name is a tower of strength," at the head of the playbills, were quite inadmissible. On the termination of Mr. T. C. King's engagement, the theatre again reverted to Mr. William Searle... Better things came with the return, early in December, of Mr. T. C. King, whose acting in Othello, Hamlet, and Virginius was much admired for its power and finish. Miss Edith Heraud played for Mr. King's benefit on Tuesday, the 18th of December.'

Plan showing location of Norton Folgate, Bishopsgate, and the Temperance Hall - Courtesy Bishopsgate Institute Reference Library.After the National Standard Theatre was rebuilt, after a fire, and reopened on a much grander scale in December 1867, the City of London Theatre soon found itself unable to compete and it was closed in January 1868, reopening as a Circus under the Direction of Herr Dassie.

Right - A Plan showing the location of Norton Folgate, Bishopsgate, and the Great Eastern Temperance Hall - Courtesy Bishopsgate Institute Reference Library. All the buildings on this plan have since been demolished and the site was completely redeveloped in 2004.

Nelson Lee then put the Theatre up to let but no one was very interested. It did reopen but was not very successful and its reputation was failing.

Sketches at a Temperance Hall - The Great Central Hall, Bishopsgate - From 'The Graphic' October 18, 1879. Caption reads: 1. Upstairs: The Twopenny Seats - 2. Recitation - 3. Signing the Pledge - 4. The Bar - 5. Downstairs: A Comic Song.In August 1868 Lee sold the Theatre to the Great Eastern Railway Company for £6,000, and they let it to a Mr. Harrison who then reopened it as a Music Hall.

Left - Sketches at a Temperance Hall - The Great Central Hall, Bishopsgate - From 'The Graphic' October 18th, 1879. Caption reads: 1. Upstairs: The Twopenny Seats - 2. Recitation - 3. Signing the Pledge - 4. The Bar - 5. Downstairs: A Comic Song.

By 1883 the Theatre's Stage House had been demolished and the land used by the Great Eastern Railway Company, the auditorium however was in use by the East Central Temperance Association who used the building for Sunday and occasional weekday Services, the rest of the time it was in use for concerts and Music Hall as the Great Eastern Temperance Hall.

A history of the City of London Theatre can be read in the book 'Some London Theatres, Past and Present' by Michael Williams, published in 1883, and available online here.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

William Beaumont's Designs for the Redecoration of the City of London Theatre in 1848

A Receipt dated September 1848, from William Beaumont, stating that he had received the sum of £32 and 10 Shillings from John Johnson and Nelson Lee for redecorating the City of London Theatre - Courtesy Claire Pascall.

Above - A Receipt dated September 1848, from William Beaumont, stating that he had received the sum of £32 and 10 Shillings from John Johnson and Nelson Lee for redecorating the City of London Theatre - Courtesy Claire Pascall.

William Beaumont's Designs for the Redecoration of the City of London Theatre in 1848 - Courtesy Claire Pascall.

Above - William Beaumont's Designs for the Redecoration of the City of London Theatre in 1848 - Courtesy Claire Pascall.

William Beaumont's Designs for the Redecoration of the City of London Theatre in 1848 - Courtesy Claire Pascall.

Above - William Beaumont's Designs for the Redecoration of the City of London Theatre in 1848 - Courtesy Claire Pascall.

William Beaumont's Designs for the Redecoration of the City of London Theatre in 1848 - Courtesy Claire Pascall.

Above - William Beaumont's Designs for the Redecoration of the City of London Theatre in 1848 - Courtesy