Brighton's first theatre opened in 1764

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

Brighton’s first theatre was a barn on the northern side of Castle Square which was used by Charles Johnson’s company from 7 November 1764; they returned each year until August 1770, but the seasons were necessarily short because the barn was required for the harvest.

The first permanent theatre was built by Samuel Paine in North Street with an entrance at what is now no.53, and opened on 30 August 1774 under the management of Roger Johnstone. In 1777 it was let to Joseph Fox of Covent Garden who redecorated and re-equipped it for the season. High quality productions were presented and were often attended by royalty, including the Prince of Wales, but the theatre was never a financial success and, despite a refit in 1786, closed before the end of the 1787 season owing to poor attendances. In 1789 half-price admission was introduced, but it proved to be the last season and the theatre then became Lee’s printing works and later Wallis’s wine and spirit vaults.

The licence was transferred to a new theatre, built by Stephen Pound in partnership with Henry Stiles, which stood in the vicinity of 32-33 Duke Street; it had a rusticated, weather-boarded exterior with a pedimented Tuscan portico. The first performances were given on 13 July 1790 under manager Joseph Fox, the former lessee of the North Street theatre, and productions were again of a high quality with the Prince of Wales a regular visitor. Fox died in 1792, but in 1794 Mrs Fox sold the freehold to Hewitt Cobb who had the theatre remodelled in the winter of 1795-6 with a new royal box. In 1804 John Brunton became manager, and after an official visit by the Prince of Wales on 12 July 1805 the name ‘Theatre Royal’ was adopted. After the 1806 season though, Cobb and Brunton decided to invest in a new theatre at New Road and the last performance at Duke Street was given on 1 November 1806. The building was sold the following April, but parts of the interior may still remain in Duke Street {3}.

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

The following resource(s) is quoted as a general source for the information above: 3,15,234

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *