Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
|Theatre Royal Bath
Written by JulieW
(4/10/2006 1:05 p.m.)
The theatre in Bath was probably the most important theatre in England outside London. As Bath was a very fashionable centre for the marriage market and for people taking the “cure” there was a ready audience waiting to watch the biggest star perform the latest plays.
If we take 1798 was begin the year in which NA is set( or at least agree that the book has a late 18th century time frame) the theatre Henry Tilney and Catherine patronised would have been the Orchard Street Theatre
In 1805 the theatre company moved to new larger and grander premises in Beauford Square.
The old theatre ceased to act as a Theatre but became first:
A Roman Catholic chapel in 1809 and later the Freemasons Hall .Damaged by blast during the German Air raids it has been saved from impending demolition and restored.
See:Walter Ison: The Georgian Buildings of Bath from 1700- 1830( revised edition 1969)
The link below is to an interesting article about the building, which is still in operation as the Freemasons Hall.
The Theatre Royal in Orchard Street by this time,was run in tandem with the theatre in Bristol. It did not follow the London seasons. It played nearly all year round.
The construction of the theatre in Orchard Street was begun in 1747, and opened for business in October 1750. Eventually stable management for the theatre was established under the control of John Arthur, a low comedian and pantomime clown. He began the process of building up the company and securing a good reputation.
A Royal Patent was granted in 1768- as, since 1737, it was technically operating outside the rule of law. This was the first theatre to gain a patent outside London, which indicates its importance.
It was used as a starting ground for many of the great actors of the period, letting them “cut their teeth “ on a sophisticated audience before taking to the London stage.
In Retrospectives of the Stage John Bernard a member of the company of actors at Bath wrote that the Bath theatre;
“...boasted the best company out of London-Henderson, Dibdin, Dimond, Diddear, Blisset etc .The Bath Audience had long maintained the character of being the most elegant and judicious in the kingdom; and the “school” which gradually formed under their influence and the exertions of Mr Palmer obtained the pre- eminence in the eyes of the Dramatic Tyro and the London critic. It is well know that, for many years, the very name of Bath was a guarantee for a mans good taste in his profession; whilst on the score of genius, it is acknowledged to have contributed more largely to the metropolitan boards than Dublin and York put together,
The arrangement with the Bristol theatre in Kings Street was to the advantage of both theatres. They were only 13 miles apart and so it was easy to work out a modus operandi, which benefited both theatres and actors.
A working pattern soon became established and from 1799 till 1817 during September and October of any year the company played three nights in Bristol and Saturdays in Bath, with the exception of Race Week in Bath and Christmas and Easter when a full week was played there.
From November to May there would be three nights in Bath with Mondays in Bristol. Benefit performances in Bath were taken in spring and early summer: in Bristol in June and July.
The company was transported between the two towns by coaches or “caterpillars “ as they were termed. John Palmer the theatre manager of both theatres had constructed three special long coaches, which carried 12 actors and their luggage between the theatres. A pleasant journey in summer but probably due to the size of the coach and the state of the roads, a dangerous one in winter.
Because of the stability that being in this company gave, places in the Bath company were very desirable and considered a considerable professional achievement. Here is a list of some of the migrations that took place from Bath to London ;
Mrs Siddons, Miss Kemble, Mrs Goodall to the Dury lane Company .
Miss Sacre, Mr and Mrs Knight, Mrs Glover, Incedon Elliston, Murray, a Miss Wallis and Miss Smith to Covent Garden
John Edwin and Julia Grimaldi to the Haymarket.
A lot of actors choose to stay with the Bath company...and frankly who could blame them. It was a less precarious life than the season in London.
The theatre at Bath was quite small compared to the massive London theatres. The picture above shows the theatre as it was in 1775,and, despite small alterations, this is how lit looked till 1805 when it was rebuilt.
And this is how it would have looked in the main when Henry Tilney was ignoring Catherine Morland in Chapter 12.
It has been calculated they were a mere 33 feet apart….MHmmmmmmm
|The Freemasons Hall, Orchard Street|
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.