The Georgian Theatre Royal, Friars Wynd and Victoria Road, Richmond, Yorkshire
Also known as The Georgian Theatre / The Kings Theatre
Above - The Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, Yorkshire in 2000 - Courtesy David Garratt
The Georgian Theatre Royal was built by Samuel Butler, an actor manager, in 1788. The exterior of the Theatre is a tall, almost windowless, stone barn of a building, measuring only 7.9 metres (26 feet) by 18.6 metres (61 feet), and is situated at Friars Wynd and Victoria Road, in Richmond Yorkshire. The Theatre is the most authentic Georgian Playhouse still in existence in England. It was also known as the Georgian Theatre and the Kings Theatre, in it's history.
Samuel Butler created a circuit of Theatres within a 50 mile radius of Richmond all being owned and operated by the Butler family. The Theatres were situated in Beverley, Harrogate, Kendal, Northallerton , Ripon, Ulverston, Richmond and Whitby. Many famous actors of the day appeared on the Theatre's boards, such as Mrs Siddons, Edmund Kean, Macready, and Kemble. Samuel Butler died in 1812, but his son and daughter continued to administer the Theatre with the second Mrs Butler as manageress. The family continued to run the Theatre until 1830, by which time the Theatre was losing its popularity, and performances stopped altogether by 1842.
Right - The stage of the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, Yorkshire in 2000 - Courtesy David Garratt.
After this period the building became an auction room, to be followed by being a wine vault, later a corn chandlers, and then a furniture repository. At the beginning of world war two it became a salvage depot.
In the 1930's Edwin Bush, a history master at Richmond Grammar School, became interested in the Theatre building. Dr Richard Southern and Sybil Rosenfeld researched the building bringing its importance to the fore. David Brooks, town clerk in 1942, brought the Theatre to the attention of Lady Dugdale (who later became Lady Crathorne). She was a driving force in efforts for restoration.
On the 21st January 1960 an appeal was launched to raise £15,000 so that the Georgian Theatre (Richmond) Trust Ltd could take over the Theatre from the Richmond Corporation. The building was then renovated and restored, being brought back to life as a Georgian Theatre in 1963, with a further major restoration programme in 2005 lasting 18 months. This cost £1.5 million pounds and was paid for by the National Lottery and sponsors. The 1960 Bar and toilets were removed and replaced in a modern block to the left hand side of the Theatre, the auditorium was redecorated in an authentic colour scheme, with lighting being brought up to date to provide a more natural candle light effect.
The auditorium is on three levels being square in shape, having a sunken Pit area which originally had 'knife edge' narrow benches as the seating. Entrances to the Pit area are via two pit passages underneath the rows of boxes on stage left and right. Around the auditorium on three sides are stage boxes, there being four on each side and three at the rear. The names above the pit boxes are of important playwrights from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Lettering over the central box 'Shakespeare' is original, as is the Richmond coat of Arms upon the stage box, actors left. Above these boxes is a rectangular gallery supported upon 11 Tuscan columns.
Left - The stage right boxes at the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, Yorkshire in 2000 - Courtesy David Garratt.
In the 1963 renovations it was discovered that in the late 19th century, brick built vaults had been inserted into the length of the building immediately below the stage area. Therefore the dressing rooms and trap area under the stage are reconstructions, as are the pit and orchestra pit. The stage itself is very large being the same size as the auditorium. Its dimensions are 8.5 metres (28 feet) wide by 7.3 metres (24 feet) deep. The Proscenium arch is 18 feet in width with Georgian Proscenium pass doors onto the stage apron area, and the stage joists show evidence of three trapdoors in the stage, two as corner traps and a grave trap. Under the stage one can see a reconstruction of the candle float mechanism which could be raised to form foot lights. These are based upon a drawing in the Eyre manuscript.
Above - A reconstruction of the candle float mechanism which could be raised to form foot lights in a photograph taken at the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, Yorkshire in 2000 - Courtesy David Garratt.
To stand upon the stage and look out at the auditorium shows how intimate the Theatre is, and what it would have felt like to experience the close proximity of the audience. One can imagine the 'asides' given by actors to the audience. The original seating capacity was approximately 450 people. Later by 1982 this was 238 people, currently 214 capacity.
The Theatre has a Museum attached which opened on May 1st 1979 being housed in two buildings to the rear of the Theatre and has an early nineteenth century woodland painted scene, probably painted between 1818 and 1836. This did not originate in this Theatre but is important in that it is possibly the earliest surviving complete example of scenery in Britain.
The Theatre is of great importance being Grade I Listed and is the only existing Georgian Theatre left in the Butler circuit, and the only authentic Georgian Theatre of such intimate proportions, in Britain. Today this thriving Theatre offers a varied programme of productions to the public of music, comedy and drama, together with pantomime and dance, with workshops and youth Theatre classes.
Right - A Google Streetview image of the Georgian Theatre Royal today - Click to Interact.
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