The Novelty Theatre, Great Queen Street, Holborn,
Seee also in this area: The Theatre Royal, Holborn - The Embassy Theatre, High Holborn - The Holborn Empire / Weston's Music Hall - The Holborn Theatre - The Holborn Restauran - Images of High Holborn - Disappearing London.
Above - The Novelty Theatre, Great Queen Street, Holborn - From a wood engraving in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of 1882, and reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres of London' 1968.
The Novelty Theatre in London's Great Queen Street, (which is now off Kingsway but was originally off Little Queen Street, before Kingsway was constructed in its place, see maps below) was designed by Thomas Verity and opened on the 9th of December 1882 with the comic opera 'Melita or the Parsee's Daughter.'
Right - For more images of Holborn and London's lost Streets see the Disappearing London page here.
The Theatre's main entrance was on Great Queen Street but it's Gallery Entrance and Stage Door were at the rear of the building in Parker Street. A review of the newly opened Theatre by the ERA of 1882 can be seen further down on this page.
Above - The Auditorium of the Novelty Theatre, Great Queen Street, Holborn - From a wood engraving in the Pictorial World of 1882, and reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres of London' 1968.
The following year the Theatre's name was changed to the Folies Dramatique Theatre when it reopened with the comedy 'Ascot' and 'Les Cloches de Corneville' on the 29th of March 1883.
However, the name was changed back to the Novelty Theatre on the 5th of January the following year when it reopened with a production of 'The New Magdalen' and 'The Wilfull Ward' on the 5th of January 1884.
In 1888 the Theatre had another change of name, this time opening as the Jodrell Theatre on the 22nd of October that year with an opera by the Russian National Opera Company entitled 'The Demon'.
The following year the Theatre reverted once again to its original name of the Novelty Theatre when it reopened with a production of Henrik Ibsen's 'The Dolls House' on the 7th of June 1889.
Right - Map of Holborn before Kingsway was constructed over Little Queen Street, showing the position of the Novelty Theatre between Great Queen Street and Parker Street, the The Embassy Theatre on High Holborn, and the future site of the Holborn Restaurant on Little Queen Street, which was to become Kingsway - From 'The Fascination of London / Holborn and Bloomsbury' by Sir Walter Besant 1836-1901.
A year later another change of name, this time to the New Queen's Theatre when it reopened with the drama 'The Corsican Brothers' on the 4th of August 1890, but by the end of the month the name reverted to the Novelty Theatre again when the comedy 'Light O' Day' opened on the 30th of August 1890.
Right - Map of Holborn with the position of Kingsway overlaid, showing the the Novelty Theatre, The Holborn Restaurant and the Embassy Theatre. - From 'The Fascination of London / Holborn and Bloomsbury' by Sir Walter Besant 1836-1901.
Four years later the name was changed yet again, this time to the Eden Palace of Varieties, when the Theatre reopened with 'Twice Nightly' Music Hall on the 26th of March 1894 under the management of Charles Morritt. However, this was not to last long and by August the name reverted once again to its original; The Novelty Theatre. For the next four years the Theatre was only open occasionally and by June 1898 it had closed completely.
Two years later, with a completely reconstructed interior, the Theatre reopened as the Great Queen Street Theatre with 'The Lost Legion' and 'A Little Ray of Sunshine' on the 24th of May 1900.
Seven years after that, the Theatre was partly reconstructed and redecorated and reopened as The Kingsway Theatre with 'A Maker of Men' and Irene Wycherley' on the 9th of October 1907.
Left - A programme for 'Marigold' by L. Allen Harker and F. P. Pryor, which opened at the Kingsway Theatre on the 21st of April 1927 and went on to run for 642 performances, and was revived in 1929. The cast in this production included Agnes Lowson, Mary Barton, Katie Johnson, Jean Cadell, Angela Baddeley, Edmond Beresford, Beatrice Wilson, Hubert Harben, Deering Wells, Anthole Stewart, John Harlow, Alan Stevenson, Laurence Ireland, and Perceval Clark.
The Kingsway Theatre was to be the Theatre's last incarnation as it closed during the run of 'While Parents Sleep' on the 11th of May 1941, and, due to considerable war damage to the stage and auditorium during the blitz, it stayed closed and derelict until it was finally demolished in 1959.
The site of the Theatre became an Office Block and an extension of Newton Street into Great Queen Street.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
"The opening of a new London theatre last Saturday night was an event of considerable interest to playgoers; and although there were many rival attractions, the Novelty Theatre was well filled.
The decorations, which, of course, were displayed to greater advantage when the theatre was fully lighted, have been carried out with great taste by Mr. E. W. Bradwell. The entrances and exists of the Novelty will bear comparison with those of much larger theatres.
A handsome vestibule is the first approach to the theatre, and the visitor passes through rich curtains to the stalls and boxes. It is claimed for this theatre that special precautions have been taken against fire or panic as there are double exits from each part of the building, and the floors are constructed of concrete.
The entrance to the pit is in Great Queen Street, by the side of the stall entrance; the gallery entrance being in Parker Street, at the back of the theatre.
Left - Great Queen Street, Holborn, to the far right of the picture is the site of the Novelty Theatre - Photo M.L. 2008.
The prevailing colours employed in decorating the auditorium are peacock blue and dark crimson plush. The proscenium resembles a picture frame, and, instead of a drop curtain of the old-fashioned type, there are curtains made of embossed silk of the colour of old gold, having a rich yet harmonious effect.
The dress circle projects considerably over the pit, and causes the theatre to look smaller than it really is, the number of seats being a little over one thousand, while an altogether new feature in the arrangements is the numbering of the pit seats, so that they can be secured in advance and reserved for the evening, as in more expensive portions of the house.
The theatre is the property of a company, Mr. Somers Bellamy being the manager, Mr. E. E. Marriott the secretary, and Mr. Harrington Baily acting-manager. The announcement that light comic opera would form the sole entertainment of the opening night was doubtless an attraction to many, as that kind of fare is much in vogue. The opera chosen for the opening was a three-act work entitled Melita; or, the Parsee's Daughter, the composer being Mr. Henry Portet, and the author of the libretto Mr. Juba Kennerley."
Right - Parker Street, Holborn, to the far left of the picture is the site of the rear of the Novelty Theatre and Stage Door - Photo M.L. 2008.
Text in quotes above is edited from the ERA's review of the new Novelty Theatre's opening, printed in their 16th of December 1882 edition, and reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres of London' 1968.
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