Royal Surrey Theatre

Venue Type & Location

Theatre

Site Name: Royal Surrey Theatre
Location: London
County: London (city-county)
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location

Overview

  • Address: 124 Blackfriars Road, Lambeth. For a current map,
    Click Here. For historical maps showing the venue (in addition to the one excerpted at right), Click Here, Here, and Here.



  • Alternate Names: Royal Circus (1782-1816), Surrey Theatre, Surrey Vaudeville Theatre, Surrey Theatre of Varieties



  • Capacity: In a memo to the Lord Chamberlain c.1843, the Surrey was said to hold over 3000 people. After the theatre was rebuilt in 1865, however, its capacity dropped to 2161.



  • Audience Composition: Many discussions of the theatre suggest that its audiences were local, and largely drawn from the area’s nautical community. Davis & Emeljanow, though, provide evidence to the contrary, demonstrating that this local, working class audience was just as likely to include individuals employed as servants, tailors, bootmakers, clerks, etc. as it was to include sailors. Furthermore, Davis & Emeljanow also claim that these ‘Surrey Side’ spectators were frequently mixed with a variety of patrons from North of the Thames. Overall, then, it would appear that the Surrey’s audiences were quite diverse, consisting of locals of a variety of occupations (plus youths and families), and various spectators from wealthier backgrounds.



  • Performance Space Description: Images of the Surrey suggest that it was a broad, rectangular construction of three storeys. Five windows lined each of the top two floors, while the ground level was fronted with a roofed arcade supported by six simple pillars. Separate entrances for the gallery, pit and boxes were marked out at the left, right and centre of the arcade, respectively (see images at right, for example).



    The interior of the theatre was redesigned (and the riding ring and stables which adorned the space in its circus days were removed) c. 1810. In 1878, Edward Walford offered the following description of the space between 1810 and 1865: “The auditorium, which was nearly square in form, was exceedingly spacious. The upper part of the proscenium was supported by two gilt, fluted composite columns on each side, with intervening stage-doors and boxes. The pit would seat about 900 persons. The general ornamentation of the boxes, &c., was white and gold. The gallery, as customary in the minor theatres, was remarkably spacious, and would hold above 1,000 persons. It descended to a level with the side boxes in the centre, but from its principal elevation it was continued along both sides over them. The ceiling sprang from the four extremities of the front and of the side galleries. The centre was painted in imitation of a sky, with genii on the verge and in the angles. A handsome chandelier depended from the centre, besides smaller ones suspended from brackets over the stage-doors, which were continued round the boxes" (reproduced at British History Online).



  • Typical Fare: Many discussions of the Surrey focus on its reputation as a home for nautical melodramas, such as Black Ey’d Susan (which had been a hit at the theatre during the 1820s and 30s). In fact, however, entertainments at the venue seem to have been more varied between 1842 and 1852. In 1844, for instance, an author in Mogg’s New Picture of London wrote that performances at the Surrey were “chiefly melodramatic”, but “include[d] also a variety of amusements” (reproduced in the Dictionary of Victorian London Online). Likewise, Davis & Emeljanow discuss a range of entertainments which took place at the theatre during the 1840s and 50s, from legitimate drama and opera to farce, melodrama and burletta.



  • Performance History

  • The first building erected on the site of the Surrey (in 1782) was a circus conceived to compete with the popular Astley’s Amphitheatre. It cost 15,000 pounds to build, and was greatly damaged by fire in 1799. Though the interior was reconstructed in 1800, the building burnt down completely in 1805.



  • A second entertainment facility was built on the grounds (from designs by Cabanall Jr.) during 1805. It cost 12,000 pounds to complete, and opened during the Spring of 1806. This building too was destroyed by fire in 1865.



  • A third version of the theatre was constructed in 1865, at a cost of 25,000 pounds. This edifice was converted into a music hall in 1904 and served as a cinema in the early 1920s. It was finally torn down in 1934.



    Please see the 'Bibliographic Sources' link at right for a complete listing of materials (both primary and secondary) from which the above information was compiled.



    The Howard text (cited above) also contains an extensive listing of relevant contemporary and historical sources pertaining to this venue.




    Additional resources (which have not yet been accessed, include:


  • Baker, Henry Barton. History of the London Stage and its Famous Players (1576-1903). London: Routledge, 1904.


    Beth Marquis

  • Events at Royal Surrey Theatre

    Event Date Venue Location Troupe
    Dramatic 23 March 1843 - 25 March 1843 London, London (city-county) Byrne
    Dramatic 27 April 1846 - 2 May 1846 London, London (city-county) Virginian Harmonists (1848)
    Dramatic 21 September 1846 - 25 September 1846 London, London (city-county) Macready
    Dramatic 19 April 1847 - 24 April 1847 London, London (city-county) Buffalo Gals Troupe (Surrey, 47)
    Dramatic 10 May 1847 - 13 May 1847 London, London (city-county) Buffalo Gals Troupe (Surrey, 47)
    Dramatic 13 September 1847 - 13 September 1847 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders and Ohio Melodists
    Dramatic 13 March 1848 - 18 March 1848 London, London (city-county) Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 20 March 1848 - 25 March 1848 London, London (city-county) Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 27 March 1848 - 1 April 1848 London, London (city-county) Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 3 April 1848 - 8 April 1848 London, London (city-county) Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 15 May 1848 - 20 May 1848 London, London (city-county) Betty, Henry
    Dramatic 20 June 1848 - 24 June 1848 London, London (city-county) Lantum Serenaders
    Dramatic 22 January 1849 - 27 January 1849 London, London (city-county) Matthews, Tom
    Dramatic 26 March 1849 - 29 March 1849 London, London (city-county) Mead, T.
    Minstrel Show 4 April 1849 - 7 April 1849 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49)
    Dramatic 9 April 1849 - 9 April 1849 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49), Mead, T.
    Dramatic 16 April 1849 - 21 April 1849 London, London (city-county) Mead, T., Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49)
    Dramatic 23 April 1849 - 28 April 1849 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49), Mead, T.
    Dramatic 22 May 1849 - 22 May 1849 London, London (city-county) Anderson, James
    Variety 20 May 1850 - 25 May 1850 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1850)
    Variety 27 May 1850 - 1 June 1850 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1850)
    Variety 3 June 1850 - 8 June 1850 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1850)
    Dramatic 12 April 1851 - 12 April 1851 London, London (city-county) Sharp, J.W.
    Dramatic 19 May 1851 - 20 May 1851 London, London (city-county) Creswick

    Bibliographic Sources

    • Arthur Lloyd Website. 05/22/2008 (http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/)

      (Under London's Lost Theatres and Music Halls - Surrey Theatre)

    • Black’s New Guide to London and its Environs. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1863.




      “THE SURREY THEATRE, Blackfriars’ Road, was erected in 1806 oil the site of an older house, which dated from 1782, and was originally used for equestrian performances” (215).
    • Clarke, Henry Green. London in All Its Glory. London: H.G. Clarke & Co., 1851.

      p128.

    • Cunningham, P. Modern London; or, London as it is. London: John Murray, 1851.

      p179.

    • Davis, Jim & Victor Emeljanow. Reflecting the Audience. London Theatregoing, 1840-1880. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2001.
    • Dictionary of Victorian London Online. 07/27/2008 (http://www.victorianlondon.org/)

      (Under Entertainment - Theatre & Shows - Theatres & Venues - Surrey Theatre)

    • Elmes, James. Metropolitan Improvements; or London in the Nineteenth Century. London: Jones & Co., 1828.

      pp134-5.

    • Howard, Diana. London Theatres and Music Halls 1850-1950. London: The Library Association, 1970.
    • Lambeth Museum of Garden History Website – Local History Page. 03/23/2008 (http://www.compulink.co.uk/~museumgh/local%20history%20C)
    • London and its Environs. Leipsic: Karl Baedeker, 1885.

      p40.

    • London as it is To-day. London: H.G. Clarke & Co., 1851.

      pp218-219.

    • The London Stage 1800-1900 (University of Massachusetts). 03/23/2008 (http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~a0fs000/1800/1800.html)
    • Mayhew, Henry. London Labour and the London Poor. Vol. 2. London: Griffin, Bohn & Co, 1861.
    • Theatres in Victorian London Website. 05/22/2008 (http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/theaters/pva234.html)
    • Timbs, John. Curiosities of London (1868). London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1868.

      p788.

    • Walford, Edward. Old and New London Vol. 6 (1878). Reproduced at British History Online. 03/23/2008 (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=344)

      (See 29. 'Blackfriars Road: The Surrey Theatre and Surrey Chapel')