Haymarket, London. Now showing – Phantom of the Opera.
November 2008.

‘Her Majesty’s Theatre, opposite the Theatre Royal Haymarket, opened on the 28th of April 1897 with a play called ‘Seats of the Mighty’ by Gilbert Parker. Before the play an Inaugural Address was given by Mrs. Tree, whose husband, Beerbohm Tree, produced the play.

The present Her Majesty’s Theatre is actually the fourth Theatre on the site, the first was the Queen’s Theatre, named in honour of Queen Anne, which was built by Sir John Vanbrugh on land which was a former Stable Yard in the Haymarket. The land was bought at the considerable cost, considering the time, of £2000 and the Theatre opened under the management of William Congreve on the 9th of April 1705 with an opera called ‘The Loves of Ergasto’ by Giacomo Greber. The Theatre was not a success and was described as being better looking than it was functional, apparently the acoustics were terrible. The Theatre was later turned over to Italian Opera in 1709. It was here that Handel produced his first opera in England, ‘Rinaldo’ which was finally a success for this massive Theatre, and Handel went on to produce a number of operas there. After Queen Anne died the Theatre was renamed the King’s Theatre, in 1714, and Handel continued successfully at the Theatre until 1734. The interior was remodeled in 1778 by the infamous Robert Adam, and then again in 1782, but less successfully, by Michael Novosielski. The Theatre burnt to the ground on the 17th of June 1789.

The second Theatre on a now enlarged site retained the former’s name of King’s Theatre. This Theatre was built by Michael Novosielski and opened on the 26th of March 1791 with a song and dance entertainment.

On opening it was the largest Theatre in England and thought of at the time as the most resplendent in the world. For three years until 1794 the Theatre was home to the Drury Lane Company whilst their Theatre was being rebuilt, (a Theatre which would itself burn down only a few years later.) The King’s Theatre was reconstructed by John Nash and George Repton from 1816 to 1818 when the auditorium was remodeled with a new capacity of 2,500, a colonnade was added to the exterior, and the Royal Opera Arcade was added at the rear of the building. Despite the alterations the Theatre was not successful until 1830 when it became known as the Italian Opera House, and also became the place to visit, and to be be seen in, in London and was even mentioned in guide books. Indeed the Theatre became a social magnet for the elite of society. During this time the Theatre was home to Ballet and Opera. In 1837 the name was changed to His Majesty’s Theatre, Italian Opera House, but the Italian Opera House part was dropped in 1847.

On May the 4th of that year the debut of an unknown actress sparked something of a sensation at the Theatre, her name was Jenny Lind and she was so successful that her period at the Theatre was later to become known as ‘Lind Mania.’

The Theatre’s end came in 1867 when it was destroyed by fire in less than an hour, taking with it many of the shops in the adjoining ‘Opera Arcade’.


Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket, London, SW1

Formerly Queen’s Theatre / King’s Theatre / His Majesty’s Theatre / Italian Opera House

Above – Her Majesty’s Theatre during the run of ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ in October 2006.

Her Majesty’s Theatre, opposite the Theatre Royal Haymarket, opened on the 28th of April 1897 with a play called ‘Seats of the Mighty’ by Gilbert Parker. Before the play an Inaugural Address was given by Mrs. Tree, whose husband, Beerbohm Tree, produced the play.

The present Her Majesty’s Theatre is actually the fourth Theatre on the site, the first was the Queen’s Theatre, named in honour of Queen Anne, which was built by Sir John Vanbrugh on land which was a former Stable Yard in the Haymarket. The land was bought at the considerable cost, considering the time, of £2000 and the Theatre opened under the management of William Congreve on the 9th of April 1705 with an opera called ‘The Loves of Ergasto’ by Giacomo Greber. The Theatre was not a success and was described as being better looking than it was functional, apparently the acoustics were terrible. The Theatre was later turned over to Italian Opera in 1709. It was here that Handel produced his first opera in England, ‘Rinaldo’ which was finally a success for this massive Theatre, and Handel went on to produce a number of operas there. After Queen Anne died the Theatre was renamed the King’s Theatre, in 1714, and Handel continued successfully at the Theatre until 1734. The interior was remodeled in 1778 by the infamous Robert Adam, and then again in 1782, but less successfully, by Michael Novosielski. The Theatre burnt to the ground on the 17th of June 1789.

Right – The fourth and present Theatre when it was known as ‘His Majesty’s Theatre’ from a postcard of 1902.

The second Theatre on a now enlarged site retained the former’s name of King’s Theatre. This Theatre was built by Michael Novosielski and opened on the 26th of March 1791 with a song and dance entertainment.

Left – Programme for ‘The Gordian Knot’ at His Majesty’s Theatre during the Reign of Beerbohm Tree.

On opening it was the largest Theatre in England and thought of at the time as the most resplendent in the world. For three years until 1794 the Theatre was home to the Drury Lane Company whilst their Theatre was being rebuilt, (a Theatre which would itself burn down only a few years later.) The King’s Theatre was reconstructed by John Nash and George Repton from 1816 to 1818 when the auditorium was remodeled with a new capacity of 2,500, a colonnade was added to the exterior, and the Royal Opera Arcade was added at the rear of the building. Despite the alterations the Theatre was not successful until 1830 when it became known as the Italian Opera House, and also became the place to visit, and to be be seen in, in London and was even mentioned in guide books. Indeed the Theatre became a social magnet for the elite of society. During this time the Theatre was home to Ballet and Opera. In 1837 the name was changed to His Majesty’s Theatre, Italian Opera House, but the Italian Opera House part was dropped in 1847.

On May the 4th of that year the debut of an unknown actress sparked something of a sensation at the Theatre, her name was Jenny Lind and she was so successful that her period at the Theatre was later to become known as ‘Lind Mania.’

Right – ‘The Illustrated London News’ August 26th 1848 reports on Jenny Lind at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Click for more.

The Theatre’s end came in 1867 when it was destroyed by fire in less than an hour, taking with it many of the shops in the adjoining ‘Opera Arcade’.

Above – Postcard of the Haymarket, London looking up towards Piccadilly and showing Her Majesty’s Theatre on the left and the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on the right.

The third Theatre on the site, and called Her Majesty’s Theatre, was designed by Charles Lee and Sons and Pain, and was built by George Trollope and Sons, within the shell of the previously destroyed Theatre.

Building began in 1868 and was finished in 1869. The new Theatre had a capacity of 1,890 but remained empty until 1874 when it was bought for £31,000 and used for Revivalist Meetings.

The Theatre didn’t finally open as a proper Theatre until the 28th of April 1877 when it opened with the opera ‘Norma’ by Bellini.

This was the Theatre in which the first performance of Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ was staged, on June the 22nd of 1878, and in 1882 the first performance in England of ‘The Ring’ opened there. However even this Theatre was demolished in 1892 leaving the Royal Opera Arcade, designed by John Nash, still standing behind in its remains.

The fourth and present Theatre, also named Her Majesty’s, was built by C. J. Phipps on part of the long vacant site of the third. Its foundation stone was laid on the 16th of July 1896, some four years after the last building was demolished. The rest of the previous Theatre’s site was later to become The Carlton Hotel, a companion to the Theatre, and also designed by Phipps, but only completed after his death by Isaacs and Florence. The Carlton Hotel was eventually demolished to make way for the present and rather obtrusive New Zealand House next door.

The fourth and present Theatre, also named Her Majesty’s, was built by C. J. Phipps on part of the long vacant site of the third. Its foundation stone was laid on the 16th of July 1896, some four years after the last building was demolished. The rest of the previous Theatre’s site was later to become The Carlton Hotel, a companion to the Theatre, and also designed by Phipps, but only completed after his death by Isaacs and Florence. The Carlton Hotel was eventually demolished to make way for the present and rather obtrusive New Zealand House next door.
Her Majesty’s Theatre was run for many years by Herbert Beerbohm Tree and very successfully too, with ‘spectacular revivals of Shakespeare’s plays’ amongst many others. In1902 the Theatre changed its name to His Majesty’s Theatre with the permission of Edward VII and in 1904, the year of Arthur Lloyd’s death, Tree founded a school of dramatic art which was later to become the now famous RADA.

In 1911 a Gala was held at the Theatre in honour of the coronation of George V. In 1916 the Theatre staged the phenomenally successful ‘Chu Chin Chow which opened on the 31st of August. This ’Musical Tale of the East,’ as it was described at the time, ran for 2,238 performances, and became the longest running production in history until it was superseded by ‘The Mousetrap’ in 1958.

(The Mousetrap opened at the Ambassadors Theatre on the 25 November 1952 and transferred to the St. Martin’s Theatre in 1974 where it is still going strong in 2006 despite being in its 54th year.)

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Photography is my passion, I take photos of anything, anywhere, and enjoy processing in Photoshop Elements and Picasa.

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Comments

  • Karen Martin
    Karen Martinover 6 years ago

    Thank you for looking

  • simba
    simbaover 6 years ago

    Fabulous building,great shot Karen

  • Catherine Hamilton-Veal  ©
    Catherine Hami...over 6 years ago

    wonderful Karen.x

  • Hertsman
    Hertsmanover 6 years ago

    Excellent Karen!

  • brirose55
    brirose55about 6 years ago

    awesome shot

  • Jerry Carpenter
    Jerry Carpenterabout 6 years ago

    Great capture of a beautiful theatre. I was just there last June. Thanks for the rekindling the memory!

  • PhotosByG
    PhotosByGabout 6 years ago

    Hi Karen,

    I’m Graham. I host a new group called Movie Palaces of Old

    This great photo would be right at home in our group if you are interested in joining.

    Cheers,
    Graham

  • Colin  Williams Photography
    Colin William...over 4 years ago

    Brilliant work !

  • Many thanks!¬

    – Karen Martin

  • Valerie Rosen
    Valerie Rosenover 4 years ago

    gorgeous night shot! :-) val

  • Thank you very much

    – Karen Martin

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