The End of the King's Head Theatre

  • 16 Jan 2012
  • Theatre
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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. The audiences on the special occasions of the Assize Week and of the season of the Races were very sophisticated. The visiting nobility and gentry, and the critics of the Worcester Writer's Circle, a very intellectual body, demanded a high standard of performance.

The City of Worcester changed rapidly during the 18th century and many improvements were made. The Guildhall and almost all the churches were rebuilt. The streets were paved and lighted. The old medival Foregate was removed and a fine wide street, lined with new town houses for the country gentry stretched to St. Oswald's Hospital, almost to the fashionable hamlet of Barbourne with its Raradise Row, the Mall, and Little London, and more large houses. The changes greatly impressed Arthur Young when he visited the city in 1776. He noted:

I found the City of Worcester so improved since 1768 when I was here before that I hardly knew it again. The bridge over the Severn with its wharfs and quays and the approach roads broad and regular, with the new pavement of the streets altogether have rendered it quite another place'.

Theatre productions had also changed. The building that had been used by Garrick, Sarah Siddons, the Kembles, and generations of players was no longer suitable for the more dramatic, built-up stage settings, which were replacing the formal cloth and wings, nor was the auditorium convenient or large enough.