Jun 20, 2009

The Second Theatre Royal


This is a previously unknown circa 1877 photograph of the second Theatre Royal on the southern side of Gloucester Street East, between Manchester and Colombo Streets. Immediately beyond it is Beatty's Palace Hotel of 1877. Designed by A. W. Simpson and built by John L. Hall of the Canterbury Opera Company, the theatre opened on the 4th of November 1876.

Built by Matthew Allen and Sons, the 1,100 seat theatre replaced an earlier building, which had begun life as the Canterbury Music Hall in 1861. To honour Alexandra, Princess of Denmark and Wales, in 1863 the music hall was renamed as the Princess Theatre, becoming the first Theatre Royal three years later.

The theatre closed in 1908, to be replaced by the extant third Theatre Royal opposite and by 1910 the Palace Hotel had been converted into a cinema and renamed as The King's Theatre. Both buildings were subsequently acquired by The Press, with the street frontages converted into shops and the upper levels renovated as the newspaper's Copy and News Rooms and production departments. Only the upper level facades and the theatre's original roof line survive.

Recently acquired by an Australian construction company as part of an eight building complex, the 1907 Press building in Cathedral Square will be renovated for use as an hotel or offices and a lane precinct created through the property to link Press Lane to the Cathedral Junction vintage tram terminus.

With work projected to commence in October 2009, the company is proposing to construct a new multi-storey building behind the facades of the Palace Hotel and the second Theatre Royal. The artist's rendition below indicates that the pediment's will be restored to their former glory and it is therefore hoped that Queen Victoria's Coat of Arms will once again grace Gloucester Street.

We're greatfully indebted to Steven McLachlan of the Shades Stamp Shop at 108 Hereford Street for the original photograph, which is dated to 1877 by the lack of the stables to the Palace Hotel's Left and there being no Playbills and Posters, which soon began to adorn the theatre's Press Lane side wall (Right).


Canterbury Photography said...

The vacant land next to Beatty's Palace Hotel - "A Poisonous Herb.— Councillor Wilson last night moved, in the City Council a resolution that the owners or agents of the land in front of the Theatre, the Criterion Hotel, land at the end of the Palace Hotel should eradicate from the land in question a poisonous herb known as conium maculatum or hemlock, which is growing there, and which from its resemblance to parsley, has caused the death of many people who have used it in cookery in England. The motion called up historical recollections to Councillor Lezard's mind, and he informed his colleagues that hemlock was a favourite poison amongst the ancients, and that Socrates died by it. It is almost needless to say this "clinched" the matter, and the motion was carried without further discussion." - Star , Issue 3483, 10 June 1879, Page 2

Canterbury Heritage said...

An interesting aside that is most useful in dating early photos; the Hemlock must have been removed before the hotel's stables and holding paddock appear in the visual record.