The King's Head Theatre

  • 26 Oct 2020
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During the 18th century few places had a theatre that was not a barn or improved building. At Worcester, the theatre was a wooden building in the yard of the King's Head Inn, opposite the Guildhall in High Street. The first report we have of it is in the Worcester Postman of January 4th 1717, when 'Oedipus, King of the Thebes' was preformed.

The King's Head Theatre was let to travelling companies, and for a number of years it was managed by John Ward and his son-in-law, Roger Kemble, the father of the 'divine Sarah Siddon's'. Sarah Kemble, as she was then, made her first appearance there in 1767. After years of drudgery and failure, she played at Drury Lane, and made an overwhelming sensation. London was infatuated, and the public talked of little else. Hazlitt wrote: 'To have seen Mrs. Siddons was an event in everyone's life. She reigned for years as the very Queen of Tragedy. Sir Josuah Reynolds, George Romney and Sir Thomas Lawrence painted her, and so did John Opie, who had earlier painted Mrs. Siddons and her fellow actors at the back of the King's Head, in Worcester.

Though Worcester's was not an important theatre, yet it was the home of some of the greatest stars of the 18th century stage, for besides Sarah, her brother and sister, John Kemble and Miss Kemble were for many years at the peak of their profession.

In 1783, the old wooden theatre in the inn yard was regarded as not worthy of the fashionable provincial capital Worcester had become; and when the new theatre in Angel Street was built, there is no further record of the old theatre being used.