Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

Globe Theatre (Newcastle Street)

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Designation  Demolished
Capacity  1,800
Closed  1902
Rebuilt  1870
Type  Theatre
Opened  1868
Owner  Sefton Henry Parry
Globe Theatre (Newcastle Street)
Address  Newcastle Street (Aldwych) Westminster, London
Current use  Site occupied by Bush House
Similar  Opera Comique - London, Royal Strand Theatre, Gaiety Theatre - London, Westminster Abbey, Regent's Park

The Globe was a Victorian theatre built in 1868 and demolished in 1902. It was the third of five London theatres to bear the name. It was also known at various times as the Royal Globe Theatre or Globe Theatre Royal. Its repertoire consisted mainly of comedies and musical shows. The theatre's most famous production was Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas, which enjoyed a record-setting run at the theatre, having transferred to it from the Royalty Theatre.


Earlier theatres with the name "Globe Theatre" included Shakespeare’s Bankside house, which closed in 1642, and the former Rotunda Theatre in Blackfriars Road, which opened in 1833 for a few years and was renamed The Globe.

Design and history of the building

The new Globe was built to the commission of its proprietor, Sefton Parry, and stood on the corner of Wych Street and Newcastle Streets, on the site of Lyon's Inn, lately demolished, an old Inn of Chancery, belonging in former days to the Inner Temple. The Globe backed on to another theatre owned by Parry, the even more jerry-built Opera Comique, which opened two years before the Globe. The two theatres were known as 'the rickety twins': both were of such flimsy construction that performers could hear each other through the common wall. Parry built the theatre cheaply, hoping ‘to make handsome profits in compensation when the area was demolished, which was even then in contemplation’. It remained in contemplation for more than thirty years.

The Globe was taken over and partially rebuilt only two years after its opening. The architect was Walter Emden, whose surviving London theatres are The Duke of York’s, and (in collaboration) The Garrick Theatre and Royal Court Theatre. Old and New London described the theatre thus:

The auditorium is effectively decorated in relief, and has a domed ceiling, with a sunlight in the centre. The site having been excavated very considerably for the proposed hotel [an abandoned project], the floor of the pit has been made many feet below the line of the street, and is approached by a steep flight of steps from Wych Street. In Wych Street also are the entrances to the gallery stairs, and that to the "royal box." The ordinary boxes are entered from Newcastle Street, and are on a level with the street, so that stairs are avoided. Here, too, enter the occupants of the stalls. The seats are all fairly commodious, and conveniently placed, so that all that is passing on the stage can be distinctly seen and heard from any part of the house.

The ‘sunlight’ referred to above was a glass roof giving the auditorium natural light, day and night, and allowing ventilation at all times: in an age of gas lighting, the latter would have been a marked advantage. By contrast, at the adjoining Opera Comique audiences ‘perspired and gasped.’ In a print of the 1890s, ‘A visit to the opera’, showing the royal coach on its way to Covent Garden, the dome of the Globe can be seen in the background with its name picked out in electric lights: not a grand enough venue to be favoured with a royal visit, but still an established landmark.

Authorities differ on the size of the house. According to The London Encyclopaedia the capacity was 1,800; Old and New London (1897) puts it at 1,500. In either case it was one of London’s larger theatres. Acknowledging the history of the title ‘Globe Theatre’, the new house featured an act-drop representing a view of Stratford-Upon-Avon. That act-drop was destroyed in a fire, and replaced by another with a view of Anne Hathaway's cottage. The last managers of the theatre were Fred Terry and Julia Neilson.

The theatre closed in 1902 and was then demolished as part of the Strand Improvement Scheme, and construction of Aldwych. Bush House now stands on the site.

Productions at the theatre

The Globe opened with Henry J. Byron's comedy Cyril's Success, which Old and New London described as a great success. Later presentations included:

  • Committed for Trial, a farce by W. S. Gilbert (1874) (translated from Le Reveillon by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy).
  • The Vicar of Bray, a comic opera by Sydney Grundy and Edward Solomon (1882).
  • The Private Secretary, a farce by and starring Sir Charles Hawtrey (transferred from The Prince of Wales's Theatre in 1884.
  • Sir Frank Benson’s production of Hamlet (1890).
  • The Gay Lord Quex by Arthur Wing Pinero (1899), then the most daring play of its time, with John Hare, Gilbert Howe and Irene Vanbrugh in the cast. In this production, which ran for 300 performances, ladies first smoked cigarettes on stage.
  • Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas (transferred from The Royalty in 1893), which ran for 1,466 performances in London, the longest run of any theatre piece in the world at that time. It also had a record-breaking four-year run on Broadway and in Paris and toured extensively.
  • References

    Globe Theatre (Newcastle Street) Wikipedia