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. He prospered so much that in 1779, he left the King's Head Yard and errected a theatre at a cost of £1,000 in Angel Street, by means of £50 shares, which were subscribed by twenty persons, each of whom was entitled to a perpetual ' silver ticket' of admission.
A Brutal Manger
Two stories have come to us from this event; one concerning the manager, and the other of the intrigue surrounding the choice of a site for the new theatre.
Mr.Whiteley had the reputation of being a brute of a manager, and an incident in 1760 gives good reason for it. He was then manager of a strolling company in Doncaster which he conducted on a sharing basis. The shares had been very small, until on a bespoke night, the house was filled, and 18 shillings fell to the lot of each player. To one man named Andrews however, Whiteley gave only nine shillings. Andrews very naturally protested that this was not right as he owed Whiteley nothing. 'True, my dear' replied the manager, 'but you will very soon. You are in a bad state of health. Look at him, gentlemen. He wants to leave us without warning. He is in a bad state of consumption. Where did you get it sir ? Not in my healthy company, but in that skin and bone troupe you came from. You will die in a fortnight, my dear, and as we will have to bury you, I have stopped nine shillings towards your funeral!.
Change of Site
The site of the new theatre should have been that where the Angel Street Congrgational Church was built. The trustees of the church held the site from the Corporation on a renewable lease.
In those days there was no love lost between the 'Dissenters' and the Orthodox Church of England city fathers, and there had been a move some time to get rid of the chapel. When the lease was up the Orthodox party declined to re-let it alleging that the site was needed for a new theatre.
Alderman Johnson was a leading member of the Corporation, and when the lease was nearing termination, chaffingly asked an elder of the church what they were doing. ' Oh we are all right', was the surprising reply, and further enquiries found that the chapel trustees had acquired land next to the alderman's house in Mealcheapen Street. The thought of a chapel next door appalled the alderman. 'I can't have that', he said, and soon the trustees were told they could have the site they occupied in Angel Street for good; and the theatre went to a site nearby.