The Garrick Theatre, Leman Street, Whitechapel, London
Later - The Albert and Garrick Ampitheatre / Royal Albert Theatre / Leman Street police Station
See also in this area: The City of London Theatre, Bishopsgate - Wilton's Music Hall, Whitechapel - The Royalty Theatre, Whitechapel - Hoxton Varieties, Shoreditch - The Hoxton Hall - Britannia Theatre, Hoxton - Shoreditch Theatres and Halls - The Goodman's Fields Theatre, Whitechapel
The Garrick Theatre was situated on Leman Street in Whitechapel and first opened on Monday the 27th of December 1830. The Theatre was named after the Actor David Garrick, who made his debut at the Goodman's Fields Theatre nearby in 1741. An entrance Token for the newly built Garrick Theatre can be seen below. This Theatre should not be confused with the much later Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road.
The Theatre was destroyed by fire on the 3rd of November 1846 whilst under the management of Messrs Conquest and Gomersall, but was later rebuilt, and in 1854 it was reopened as the Albert and Garrick Ampitheatre. The ERA reported on the opening in their 31st of December 1854 edition saying:- 'The taste for entertainment in densely-populated neighbourhoods and more especially at this time of the year, is certainly proverbial, and it appears that, to meet the wants of the Whitechapel followers of amusement, Mr. Lawrence Levi has opened the above-mentioned establishment in Leman-street.
The curtain was drawn at the new, theatre on Boxing-night anniversary, and a thronging mass of pleasure-seekers flocked to the unfurling of the standard then raised by the proprietor. There has also been a recurrence of goodly-numbered audiences during the week. The building may scarcely be called finished, although quite enough may be seen to judge of the appearance when all artistic execution is completed.
The new act drop is a circular or medallion representation, by Mr. Gibbs, of "Nature introducing the Infant Shakespeare to the Muses." The upper drapery thereof is surmounted by the national insignia and inscriptions, while the Latin motto of "Sanaper Fioreat" fills up the allotted space just above the bottom pole of the drop. The new scenery is by Messrs. Henry, Tyall, Wright, and assistants.
The front of the boxes is ornamented by a white and gold enamelled ground, interspersed with mirror glass, and groups of "the winged horses" of classic history, well brought out with gold mouldings and floral designs. The decorations of the ceiling are in the arabesque style, by Mr. Aglio.
The building was formed to hold above two thousand spectators. "God save the Queen" was sang on the rising of the curtain; then followed the tragedy of The Noble Shepherd; and this was succeeded by the Pantomime. It is one of fair average merit, and is entitled Alfred the Great of England; or, Harlequin and the Magic Banjo, and its introduction is of a light and amusing character, one of those which never fail to delight a Christmas audience.
We have not space to enter into detail respecting the plot, the stage doings of the host of Fairies, and the unearthly-looking personages of the goblin species, who snake their appearances in enchanted glades, fairy forests, and the like, in the midst of blue lights and other pantomimic requisites. The introductory part is followed, of course, by the usual metamorphoses, and then comes a succession of comicalities, which cannot but excite the laughter of the dullest mortal who witnesses them. There are one or two excellent hits at passing events, and an abundance of fun and frolic in the piece. Mr. Lewis Le Vito, the ballet-master of the house, was the Harlequin; Mr. W. Morgan and another, the two Clowns; Miss Annie Meriton, Columbine; Mr. Griffiths, Pantaloon; and there was an attendant Sprite to assist in carrying on the Christmas festivity in Leman-street. Each part was personated with spirit, and the whole affair was much applauded.'
In 1873 the Theatre was renamed the Royal Albert Theatre and the ERA reported on the opening in their 10th of August 1873 edition saying:- 'If Mr J. B. Howe, who last Saturday opened the old Garrick Theatre in Leman-street, Whitechapel, under the above name, has not exactly transformed a wilderness into a garden, he has at least succeeded in turning a pig-stye into a palace. Ichabod has, or ought to have been, written over the doors of the Garrick during recent years. Its glory, truly, had departed, and apparently never more to return.
Mr Howe has now put his shoulder to the wheel, and with change of name, hopes to bring change of fortune to the establishment. The first thing, of course, was to put the house in order, and now Whitechapel boasts of another very pretty and very comfortable Temple of the Drama, and the boards trod in times long since gone by some of the brightest ornaments of the histrionic art, seem likely again to be devoted to their legitimate purpose. The last time we sat in the house we occupied what was called a private box, and we had a plank to sit upon. Last Saturday we found a marvellous change. The private boxes now have seats which may be fairly called luxurious, and are fitted with handsome curtains.
The prominent decorations are in white and gold, Round the front of the boxes are placed a number of well-executed and gilded effigies of men in armour, &c. The ceiling presents us with a series of well-painted pictures. In the centre is a brilliant sunlight, and the illumination of the house is further completed by a number of remarkably handsome chandeliers.
On the stage we found things as satisfactory as in front. The act-drop elicited general admiration; the scenery reflects credit on the artist to whom it has been entrusted, and the furniture and general accessories would not do discredit to a much more fashionable house. And now let us say that the opening night gave promise of success for Mr Howe's speculation. Every seat had at least two occupants ; standing room even was not to be had when the curtain went up for either love or money, and the good feeling entertained for the new Proprietor was shown during the delivery of the opening Address.'
In 1879 the Theatre was once again refurbished and the ERA were on hand to report on it in their 8th of June 1879 edition saying:- '"How many thousands of us have lived for years - for a third part of our lives, probably - in London, and have never been down the Whitechapel-road?" said Mr Augusta Sala twenty years ago, in au amusing article in Household Words. Most likely the speculation hazarded by Mr Sala then still holds good, and very few, especially playgoers, of the dwellers in the North, South, and West of London ever find their way down to Whitechapel. But that is no reason why they should not begin to explore the locality, particularly as there is now a new motive to induce them. Practically, London has a new Theatre, for the gloomy abode of the Drama known as the Garrick Theatre, Leman-street, Whitechapel, no longer exists. There is the name still, but the place has changed. For darkness there is light; for gloom, cheerfulness. In place of grimy, dingy, smoke-stained passages, reeking with abominable odours, we have brightness and colour.
It is true something yet remains to be done respecting exits and entrances, for the visitor who goes to the New Garrick for the first time will be puzzled how to find his way to the stalls. The old entrances in Leman-street for pit and gallery remain; but a new entrance for the stalls has been made in Tenter-street, which we may inform the novice leads out of Alie-street, and Alie-street leads out of Leman-street. "When found make a note of it," says Captain Cattle. We have done so, and shall find no difficulty in future; but it would not be amiss to print a line on the bills to guide the playgoing stranger.
When we reached the new Garrick, and glanced round the house, we must confess to a feeling of surprise at the change for the better which had been effected in the little dramatic den where Garrick strutted and fretted before he became the most celebrated actor of his time, and where many a dramatic celebrity since has won experience, if not fame and fortune. (Note: Garrick never performed at this Theatre but did make his debut at the nearby Goodman's Fields Theatre in 1741. M.L.)
The Garrick now is a compact, bright, comfortable Theatre, about the size of the Royalty, perhaps. a little larger. There is a convenient pit, with stalls next the orchestra, in the customary West-end fashion, and above there is a dress circle, with private boxes at each side, with a capacious gallery above that. The roof is flat, and the Theatre is illuminated with a sunlight; while pendant burners round the boxes add to the light, and the decorations of cream colour and gold enhance the brightness of the auditorium, and making the Theatre very cheerful in appearance. The stage is large enough for all practical purposes, and the arrangements for performance appear to be complete in every way.
The establishment was opened on Thursday last, under the management of Miss May Bulmer, and a large audience was present to witness the performance of an English version of Basin's opera bouffe Le Voyage en Chine, the title in the present instance being A Cruise to China. Although it was the first complete adaptation in English of this whimsical work, it had been given by a French company at the Royalty, and also served as the foundation for a piece performed at the St. James's Theatre...
...We have probably said enough to show that the efforts of the management deserve the consideration and encouragement of the public, for all must admit it was decidedly plucky to transform such a den as the old Garrick used to be into a commodious modern Theatre, while it showed equal energy to place upon the stage a light, sparkling entertainment so different in style from what we generally associate with East-end dramatic performances, where, for many years, audiences have been accustomed to "something strong" in the way of dramatic art.'
Above - The Proposed New Leman Street Police Station which was built on the site of the Garrick Theatre, Whitechapel - From the Building News and Engineering Journal, April 4th 1890.
Right - A Google StreetView Image of the Oliver Conquest Public House, formally the Garrick Public House, and next door, the site of the Garrick Theatre which was demolished for the construction of the Leman Street Police Station in 1891 - Click to Interact.
The Building News and Engineering Journal reported on the proposed new Police Station along with an accompanying sketch (shown above) in their April 4th 1890 edition saying:- 'Leman-Street New Police Station. This building, of which an elevation and block-plan is given, is now in course of erection on the site of the old police-station and the old Garrick Theatre. Ample accommodation has been provided for the public service, and for quarters for married and single constables. The building will be faced with red gault bricks, red Mansfield stone being used for the entrances and dressings. The roof will be formed of steel troughing and concrete covered with asphalte, to be available for a drying ground in connection with the laundry. Mr. John Butler, F. R.I.B. A., surveyor to the Metropolitan Police, is the architect and the work is being carried out by Messrs. Garlick and Horton, who are under contract to complete the work in twelve months.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the Building News and Engineering Journal, April 4th 1890.
The Leman Street Police Station was associated
with the Jack
the Ripper murders and also the Cable
Street riots, but today, having been rebuilt again, see the Google
StreetView image above right, is no longer a Police Station but is used
instead for special operations.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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