Theatre

The first record of a theatre at Stourbridge come's from Aris's Birmingham Gazette of 1752, with the announcement that the playhouse 'would shortly be open by Mr Ward'. This was the grandfather of Sarah Siddons, of the Ward Company of Comedians that played
Dr.Doran in his book "Their Majestie's Servants" or "Annals of the English Stage", traced the rise of the English theatre from one Geoffrey, a monk of Durham, who rented a house and produced a play written around the life of St.Katherine.
In medival times plays were a feature of all cathedral cities, and most certainly, Worcester would have seen many companies of players and mummers performing for the great number of pilgrims visiting the shrines of the two great saints,
Play acting was very popular in Elizabethan days, and travelling companies were paid, surprisingly, from municipal funds. In Worcester, municipal records of theatrical performances exist as far back as 1572, when the 'Low Baylie',
Plays seem to have been performed in the Town Hall, for in 1622, the Corporation ordered that in future, plays should be performed in the lower end only, and not in the upper end, or in the Council Chamber; an ordnance not strictly observed, for it was found
For the twelve years of the Commonwealth lay acting was prohibited, but it revived rapidly with the Restoration, and in 1682 there was a 'Pageant House' in the Cornmarket, but whether this was used as a theatre, or a store for the equipment used in this was
By the early 18th century it is certain that a permanent theatre had been established in Worcester. It was a small wooden building, probably an old barn, in the yard at the rear of the King's Head Inn, which stood almost immediately opposite the Guildhall
The King's Head Theatre was let to travelling companies, and for a number of years it was under the management of John Ward and his son-in-law Roger Kemble, the father of the 'divine Sarah Siddons'.

Twelve children were born to the Kembles in various parts of their circuit, four being boys. Roger educated his children remarkably well; John being intended for the priesthood, had a season at the Worcester Cathedral Grammer School, and Sarah was received
It should be noted that the playbill states that the play is presented gratis. This was an attempt to defeat the magistrates, who were usually against play-acting. The players could only give their plays by interlarding them with musical entertainments.
The strolling players moving from place to place, gradually began to travel in regular circuits. They usually lived a life of vagabondage and degradation, often in terror of the law, and by stress  of circumstances, driven to meannesses and dishonesty.
By the mid-18th century, Worcester had become a centre of social life for a wide area. It was the regular practice of country gentlemen to come to the City for the season of the races and the Assizes; and many owned or rented houses in the Foregate or the
Theatrical companies followed each other around the circuit, and their press announcements give some idea of the preparation that was necessary to begin a season at Worcester. In November 1768, Berrow's Journal announced; 'Mr. Kemble begs to inform the Ladies
Early Years at WorcesterThe King's Head Theatre was traditionally celebrated as the theatre where the greatest tragic actress of the British stage made her first appearance. Sarah Kemble, known later as Mrs. Siddons, was the daughter of Roger Kemble,
Her juvenile beauty brought her much admiration. Her affections were, however, bestowed on William Siddons, a young actor who had joined the company from Birmingham, who was good-looking and able. Her preference led to his discharge from the company.
After her marriage, Sarah's marrvellous tallents began to grow and increase, till her reputation reached even the Metopolis, the goal of every actor. Garrick, then in the zenith of his fame, heard of her and one day at Cheltenham, in the summer of 1775,
At the end of 1775, Mrs . Siddon's made her first appearance on the London stage as Portia, in the Merchant of Venice. It was a disastrous evening. She was overcome by nerves and made the poorest showing, her performance being damned by the critics
The year following Sarah's success brought both Miss Kemble and her brother John to London. They were a success, though it was obvious that Miss. Kemble's voice and person was not so distinguished as her sister's. John Kemble too, was stiff and formal,
After the Kembles moved to the higher realms of the London stage, a Mr. Whiteley from Manchester, became the manager of the King's Head Theatre. He was mean and brutel in his business dealings, but he was a financial success.
In the 1770s the old wooden theatre at the back of the King's Head Inn was almost at the end of its life. A barn theatre in an inn yard was not worthy of the fashionable county capital that Worcester had become.
Valentine Green, the contemporary historian, described the theatres as 'containing an ascending range of twelve benches gently incurving towards the stage. There were twelve larges boxes, three on each side above the same number below.
Miller's company had not met with the success that had fallen to its rival, the Kembles. In 1783, the two companies performed Hamlet. This was unusual,  and it may have been that the Kembles wished to give the Worcester audiences a chance to compare Mr. Penn
At the Worcester Theatre in June 1798, Mrs Jordan, one of the most attractive actresses on the London Stage, played Rosalind in 'As You Like it'
In 1851, Mr.Bennett resigned as lessee of the Theatre Royal and became a member of the City Council. For thirty years he had kept the theatre to a high peak of respectability.
In August 1874, dissatisfaction with the 'uncomfortable and ill-arranged structure' led Mr. W. D. Deighton to form a limited company, with a capital of £5,000 to purchase and rebuild the theatre. Captain Castle was Chairman of Directors
In August 1874, dissatisfaction with the 'uncomfortable and ill-arranged structure' led Mr. W. D.Deighton to form a limited company, with a capital of £5,000 to purchase and rebuild
The new theatre was opened on January 18, 1875, with an amateur performance. Before the play began, the band of the Rifle Corps played God Save the Queen,
The first lessees were Messrs Loome and Windley, and on the evenings following the opening they had engaged a company that performed The Lady of Lyons. The Earl and Countess of Dudley were present, and the Theatre was crowded to excess.
The Angel Street Theatre opened in 1779 with the same itinerant companies of the West Midlands circuit. Though the provincial stage was a valuable training ground, as the Kembles had shown, the companies were often forced by desperate finacial straits,
In 1805, the Angel Street Theatre became the Theatre Royal, and for a period of about sixty years the dramatic amusement of the City was supplied by Stock Companies, no longer vagabonds of the stroller sort.
Prominent in all the events at the Worcester Theatre Royal was Lady Carlton. She was an actress of great charm and beauty, and of some renown when she married Artur Carlton, the Lessee of the Theatre Royal, where she 'once played triumphantly in Shakespeare
At the close of the Theatre Royal in 1955, Mr. Wyatt, who lived at the little tobacconist shop which for 100 years had stood cheek by jowl against the Theatre,
Was the old Theatre Royal, Worcester, a beautiful place or was it youthful imagination ? I lived in Worcester until I was seven years old. My family was very strict. When out with them
Mrs. Teddie Wright, then Teddie Howsen, recalled playing at the old Theatre Royal, Worcester:
In the 1950s, a small company of professional actors, filled with the optimism of the immediate post-war years, converted a warehouse on the South Quay, at Worcester, into a theatre;
There was soon after the War (1947), a theatre group which began an experimental theatre at the rear of the Black Horse Inn, Lowesmoor, persumably in an old stable or outhouse there.
The Music Halls developed in the 1850s from the Tavern Concert Rooms. At some of the better class inns professional singers were engaged and 'entertainers' from the travelling theatre
In 1855, the Railway Bell was listed in the local Directories as a Beer Retailer, but in the 1860s it must have developed into more than just a beer house, for it is the only music hall listed in Worcester in the early Era Almanacks.
The Alhambra Music Hall was a wooden building with an earth floor, situated half-way between Rainbow Hill canal bridge and the gates of the Port of Lowesmoor,
At the gates of the Port of Lowesmoor, on the eastern corner, was the Navigation Inn, kept for over 24 years by John Hill, a very popular resort of the watermen and others using the wharf, where the usual bar entertainment could be enjoyed
The music hall press notices in the late 1960s make an interesting study. It is obvious that considerable rivalry had developed between the Lowesmoor houses that stood so close to each other.
The Alhambra could not, it seems, compete as a music hall with its brash neighbour and its can-can dancers.It had more room however,
The fact that there were two Music Halls in the 1870s, and that Hill called his The Canterbury Music Hall, then the New Concert Music Hall, needs some explanation.
The Era Almanack was published annually by The Era, a weekly theatrical newspaper, one of several appearing in the 19th century.
The Apollo Cinema was converted from the Zion Chapel, which had been rebuilt in 1845 with an imposing frontage. It seated 167, but in 1910, the church closed, and the building became a cinema
For over 50 years, St John's Cinema was the focal point of family entertainment for those living in Worcestet, west of the Severn. An old public house, the King's Head, stood on the site until July 1914, when a cinema was built by the Godsall brothers.
The following squib is in the Prattington Collection in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries:'To the Rt  Worshipful the Mayor of Worcester; occasioned by his having said he would suffer neither Player nor Puppet,
With the closing of the Alhambra as a music hall in December 1869, the New Concert Hall had only the Railway Bell in opposition, and that establishment was not listed in the Era Almanack after 1870, for though it continued as a place of entertainment,


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