Sadler's Wells Theatre Facade

Sadler's Wells Theatre Facade

Sadler's Wells Theatre  Interior

Sadler's Wells Theatre Interior


Sadler's Wells Theatre is a performing arts venue in Clerkenwell, London, England located on Rosebery Avenue. The present-day theatre is the sixth on the site since 1683. It consists of two performance spaces: a 1,500 seat main auditorium and the Lilian Baylis Studio, with extensive rehearsal rooms and technical facilities also housed within the site. Sadler's Wells is renowned as one of the world's leading dance venues. As well as a stage for visiting companies, the theatre is also a producing house, with a number of associated artists and companies that produce original works for the theatre. Sadler's Wells is also responsible for the management of the Peacock Theatre in the West End.

● First Theatre and Pleasure Gardens. ●

Richard Sadler opened a "Musick House" in 1683, the second public theatre newly opened in London after the Restoration, the first being the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The name Sadler's Wells originates from his name and the rediscovery of monastic springs on his property. The well water being thought to have medicinal properties, Sadler was prompted to claim that drinking the water from the wells would be effective against "dropsy, jaundice, scurvy, green sickness and other distempers to which females are liable – ulcers, fits of the mother, virgin's fever and hypochondriacal distemper."[

In 1698 Thomas Guidott, a doctor of physick who popularised the waters of Bath, wrote what he called "A true and exact account of Sadlers Well, or, The new mineral-waters lately found out at Islington treating of its nature and virtues: together with an enumeration of the chiefest diseases which it is good for, and against which it may be used, and the manner and order of taking of it."

This brought the health-giving properties of the mineral waters to national attention and an aristocratic clientele was soon attracted from round the country. Thus, this still quite rural location became famous for both water and for music, but as more wells were dug and the exclusiveness of Sadler's Wells declined, so did the quality of the entertainment provided – along with the quality of the clientele who were described as "vermin trained up to the gallows" by a contemporary, while, by 1711, Sadler's Wells was characterized as "a nursery of debauchery."

By the mid-18th century, the existence of two "Theatres Royal" – in Covent Garden and Drury Lane – severely limited the ability of other London theatres to perform any drama combined with music, and Sadler's Wells continued its downward spiral.

● Second and Third Theatres.● 

Since the Theatres Royal confined themselves to operating during the autumn and winter, Sadler's Wells filled the gap in the entertainment market with its summer season, traditionally launched on Easter Monday. Thomas Rosoman, manager from 1746 to 1771, established the Wells's pedigree for opera production and oversaw the construction of a new stone theatre, in just seven weeks – at a cost of £4,225; it opened in April 1765.

In the latter half of the 18th century the theatre presented a wide variety of productions. There were patriotic plays and pageants such as "A Fig For The French", which was produced to boost national morale after a heavy British defeat in a sea-battle off Grenada at the hands of the French and Spanish fleets. A stirring spectacle reflecting the Fall of the Bastille won from the previously hostile Public Advertiser newspaper the enthusiastic review: "...finer scenes of greater effect have not been produced at any Theatre for many years".

During the early years of the 19th century, many famous actors appeared at the theatre, including Edmund Kean, as well as popular comedians such as Joseph Grimaldi who for all his gifts as a dramatic actor, is best remembered as the creator of "Joey the Clown" complete with the rouge half-moons on either cheek. However, the period was characterised by much public drunkenness and loutish behaviour, and the rural location prompted the management to provide escorts for patrons after dark to conduct them into central London.

With the construction of a large tank, flooded from the nearby New River, an Aquatic Theatre was used to stage extravagant naval melodramas, such as The Siege of Gibraltar. The theatre also presented successful adaptations of popular novels of the time, such as A Christmas Carol and The Old Curiosity Shop, which ran during January 1841.

Just as Sadler's Wells seemed at its lowest ebb, an unexpected champion arrived in the shape of the actor-manager Samuel Phelps. His advent coincided with the passing of the Theatres Act 1843 which broke the duopoly in drama of the Theatres Royal and so Phelps was able to introduce a programme of Shakespeare to the Wells. His productions (from 1844 to 1862), notably of Macbeth (1844), Antony and Cleopatra (1849) and Pericles (1854), were much admired. The well-known actress Isabella Glyn made her first notable appearance as Lady Macbeth on this stage.

In latter part of the 19th century the pendulum swung back to melodrama by the 1860s. This period of the theatre's history is affectionately depicted in Pinero's play Trelawny of the 'Wells' (1898), which portrays Sadler's Wells as outmoded by the new fashion for realism. The theatre declined until, by 1875, plans to turn it into a bath house were proposed and, for a while, the new craze of roller skating was catered to, as the theatre was converted into a roller-skating rink and later a prize fight arena. The theatre was condemned as a dangerous structure in 1878.

● Fourth Theatre● 

After re-opening as a theatre in 1879, it became a music hall and featured performers including Marie Lloyd and Harry Champion. Roy Redgrave, founder of the theatrical dynasty also appeared there. In 1896, the theatre was converted into a cinema. Patrons were amazed by the moving pictures of the Theatregraph with film of Persimmon winning The Derby and a saucy vignette entitled "The Soldier and His Sweetheart Spooning on a Seat".After a succession of managements in the 20th century, the theatre became increasingly run-down and closed in 1915.

● Fifth Theatre● 

By 1925 the proprietor of the Old Vic theatre, Lilian Baylis felt that her opera and drama productions needed to expand. In that year. she invited the Duke of Devonshire to make a public appeal for funds to set up a charitable foundation to buy Sadler's Wells for the nation. The appeal committee included such diverse and influential figures as Winston Churchill, Stanley Baldwin, G. K. Chesterton, John Galsworthy, Dame Ethel Smyth and Sir Thomas Beecham. It was not long before enough money had been amassed to buy the freehold.

Also in 1925, Baylis began collaborating with the ballet teacher Ninette de Valois, a former dancer with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. At the time, de Valois was teaching in her own dance school, the Academy of Choreographic Art, but had contacted Baylis with a proposal to form a repertory ballet company and school. So in 1931 when Sadler's Wells was reopened, de Valois was allocated rehearsal rooms in the theatre and established the Sadler's Wells Ballet School and the Vic-Wells Ballet. The ballet company performed at both the Sadler's Wells and Old Vic theatres. The company grew as the school trained new dancers to join the company. The first principal dancers of the Vic-Wells ballet were Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin and the founder choreographer was Frederick Ashton, all three having been working with the Ballet Club of Marie Rambert.

Designed by F.G.M. Chancellor of Matcham & Co, the new theatre opened on 6 January 1931 with a production of Twelfth Night and a cast headed by Ralph Richardson as Sir Toby Belch and John Gielgud as Malvolio. At the beginning of Baylis's management of Sadler's Wells, it was intended that the two theatres should each offer alternating programmes of drama and opera. This happened for a short while, but it soon became clear that it was not only impractical, but also made dubious commercial sense: drama flourished at the Old Vic but lagged behind opera and dance in popularity at the Wells. The Vic-Wells Opera Company was the name of the opera company performing at Sadler's Wells. By 1933/34 season the drama company under Tyrone Guthrie included a range of acting talent including Charles Laughton, Peggy Ashcroft, Flora Robson, Athene Seyler, Marius Goring and James Mason.

From 1940, while the theatre was closed during the Second World War, the ballet company toured throughout the country, and on its return changed its name to the Sadler's Wells Ballet. Similarly, the opera company toured to return as Sadler's Wells Opera Company, and it reopened the theatre with the premiere of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes.

In 1946, with the re-opening of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the ballet company was invited to become the resident company there. De Valois decided that a second company was needed to continue ballet performances at Sadler's Wells, and so the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet was formed, with John Field as artistic director. The Sadler's Wells company later relocated to Covent Garden, where it was incorporated into the Royal Ballet's charter in 1956, becoming The Royal Ballet Touring Company. After a number of years as a touring group, it returned to Sadler's Wells in 1976, becoming the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. In 1987, the Birmingham Hippodrome and Birmingham City Council invited Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet to re-locate to Birmingham. It did so in 1990 and changed its name to Birmingham Royal Ballet. Since the departure of the company, there has not been a resident ballet company at Sadler's Wells.

The opera company moved out of Sadler's Wells Theatre to the London Coliseum in 1968 and was later renamed English National Opera. Sadler's Wells Theatre then became a temporary home both for foreign companies and those within the UK looking for a metropolitan shop-window. In addition, Sadler's Wells, strategically near but not in the West End, was seen as the ideal launching-pad for artists at the outset of their careers. Throughout the 1970s a rich diversity of attractions appeared at Sadler's Wells, recapturing something of its former eclecticism. Productions ranged from Handel Opera to the Black Theatre of Prague, to the Netherlands Dance Theatre with its controversial nudity. Also appearing during this period were Merce Cunningham, Marcel Marceau, the Kabuki Theatre, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Kodo Drummers from Japan. A disadvantage of such a diverse programme was that it prevented the theatre from having a consistent public image.

Briefly in the 1980s, the theatre established the New Sadler's Wells Opera company to play Gilbert and Sullivan and other light opera. The company had some success for a few years and made several respected recordings, and then severed its relationship with the theatre around 1986 and became a touring company. It finally went out of business in 1989. The first performances of Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake – which uniquely included an all-male cast of swans – took place in the main house in November 1995, before embarking on a UK tour then playing in the West End. The Lilian Baylis Theatre opened in October 1988 and it appeared that a permanent theatre company might emerge, but this was limited by funding difficulties.

In 1994 Ian Albery became chief executive of Sadler's Wells and presided over the planning and eventual rebuilding of the theatre. On 30 June 1996, the last performance was given at the old theatre before the bulldozers moved in. On St. Valentine's Day the following February a more unusual ceremony took place when Albery buried a time capsule under the centre stalls of the new building.

● Sixth Theatre● 

The current theatre opened on 11 October 1998 with a performance by Rambert Dance Company of Iolanthe with sets designed by Derek Jarman and Laurence Bennett. The £54 million project was one of the first projects to receive funding from the National Lottery – which contributed £42 million. The new design gave a stage which was wider and deeper and able to accommodate much larger companies and productions than the one it replaced. A new layout to the auditorium accommodated more seats. An extension at the side of the building provided a new ticket office and foyers rising to the full height of the theatre, provided easier audience access to all levels and included bars, cafes and exhibition spaces.

As well as the 1,500 seat main auditorium, Sadler's Wells also has a base at the Peacock Theatre near the Aldwych in central London. The rebuilt Sadler's Wells retains the Grade II listing applied to the former theatre in 1950. It also retains access to the remains of the historic wells that still lie beneath the theatre. The architect was Aedas RHWL, the acoustic consultant was Arup Acoustics.

Pete Townshend performed there, on 26th February, 2000, and recorded the concert, for the Lifehouse Chronicles box set. In 2001, Sadler's Wells joined in collaboration with the Random Dance director Wayne McGregor. The 10th anniversary piece Nemesis ran until 2001.

When Ian Albery retired as chief executive in October 2002 he was succeeded by Jean Luc Choplin, who had recently worked for Disneyland in Paris and Los Angeles and at one time worked with Rudolf Nureyev as a managing director of the Paris Opera Ballet. Although his contract ran until 2007, in January 2004 Choplin announced that he would be taking up a post at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris in 2006 and left shortly afterwards.

Under the artistic directorship of Alistair Spalding since 2004, Sadler's Wells has expanded to become a production house as well as a receiving house, hosting performances by visiting companies from the UK and around the world. In 2013, Sadler's Wells Dance House, a book by Sarah Crompton (Arts Editor in Chief of the Daily Telegraph) was published by Oberon Books. It covers the period 2005–2013 in the theatre's history.

To reflect this new ethos, in 2005 Spalding announced five associate artists, creating opportunities for them to work alongside each other and other collaborators in developing new work. The original five artists were BalletBoyz Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, Matthew Bourne's New Adventures, Akram Khan, Jonzi D and Wayne McGregor. A further eleven artists were announced, bringing the total of Associates to sixteen: Russell Maliphant (2005), Sylvie Guillem (2006), Jasmin Vardimon (2006), Christopher Wheeldon (2007), Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (2008), Hofesh Shechter (2008), Michael Hulls (2010), Kate Prince (2010), Nitin Sawhney (2010), Michael Keegan-Dolan (2012) and Crystal Pite (2013).

Breakin' Convention, the International Festival of hip hop dance theatre has been produced annually by Sadler's Wells since 2004. Zero degrees, a collaboration between dance artists Akram Khan and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, visual artist Antony Gormley and composer Nitin Sawhney and PUSH, a programme of work made by Russell Maliphant for himself and Sylvie Guillem, are two of the award-winning productions to emerge from the new Sadler's Wells.

In March 2009, Sadler's Wells launched the Global Dance Contest – an online competition to find new dance talent from around the world. The competition will run for four years, with a winner receiving a cash prize and the chance to perform at Sadler's Wells Sampled, the taster weekend which each January showcases the huge range of dance to be seen throughout the year at the theatre. The first winner was Shu-Yi Chou, a 26-year-old choreographer from Taiwan. His work '[1875] Ravel and Bolero' was performed at Sadler's Wells on 30 and 31 January 2010. UK based James Wilton won the competition in 2011 with The Shortest Day. In 2012 the Swiss-based British choreographer Ihsan Rustem was the winner with State of Matter. In 2015, Sadler's Wells coproduced the show Triptyque with the Montreal based collective The 7 Fingers.

Peacock Theatre.


The Peacock Theatre (previously the Royalty Theatre) is a theatre in the City of Westminster, located in Portugal Street, near Aldwych. The 999-seat house is owned by, and comprises part of the London School of Economics and Political Science campus, who use the theatre for lectures, public talks, conferences, political speeches and open days. The university has a long lease with London's principal centre for contemporary dance, Sadler's Wells, with whom it has negotiated a deal to bring in dance companies under the banner 'Sadler's Wells in the West End'. The venue often plays host to dance performances, conferences, ballet, pop concerts and award ceremonies. The stage is approximately 36 feet (11 m) by 33 feet (10 m).

Gibbon's Tennis Court became used as a theatre on this site in the 17th century. In 1911, the London Opera House opened on this site, becoming the National Theatre of England, three years later. Neither theatre was successful and the venture was sold, becoming the Stoll Theatre, in 1916.

A theatre has stood on the site since the 17th century. Known as Gibbon's Tennis Court, or the Vere Street Theatre. Mrs Hughes became the first (identified) woman to tread the boards of a London theatre, on 8 December 1660, in a performance of Othello. The company left the theatre in 1663 and there is no record of further plays at the theatre. The building was finally destroyed by fire in 1809.

The Holman Opera Troupe were lessees of the London Opera House. Mr George Holman, his wife, his daughter Sallie Holman (soprano/principal singer) and another daughter, and two sons, with some others, including William H. Crane and Sallie`s husband Mr J. T. Dalton, which toured throughout Canada for many years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the creation of Aldwych and Kingsway, linking High Holborn and Aldwych, destroyed a number of established London playhouses and the site between Portugal Street and Sardinia Street became available. New York-based theatre impresario Oscar Hammerstein I (the grandfather of Oscar Hammerstein II) commissioned Bertie Crewe to build a new theatre in the Beaux-Arts style. The theatre opened on 13 November 1911 as the London Opera House. It had an approximately 45 feet (13.7 m) by 78 feet (23.8 m) stage, and a capacity of 2,660. As an opera house, it found it difficult to attract audiences from the Royal Opera House, and from 1914–15 the house became the National Theatre of England.

In May 1915 the theatre hosted Vladimir Rosing's Allied Opera Season. Rosing presented the English premiere of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades and introduced Tamaki Miura as Madama Butterfly, the first Japanese singer to be cast in that role. The theatre was purchased by Oswald Stoll in 1916 and renamed the Stoll Theatre and, for a time, as the Stoll Picture Theatre, housing cine variety until the 1950s. Rose Marie played at the Stoll Theatre in 1942, followed by Kismet and Stars on Ice in 1947. The London transfer of a version of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess that restored it to an operatic form, took place here on 9 October 1952. Joan of Arc at the Stake was produced in 1954, starring Ingrid Bergman. The theatre closed on 4 August 1957, and was demolished for the construction of an office block.

The present, smaller theatre was built and christened The Royalty Theatre in 1960, located on the ground level of an office building. It was the first West End theatre to be built since the Saville Theatre in 1931. The first production was of a Friedrich Dürrenmatt play, The Visit, with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. In March 1961 it hosted the William Gibson play about Helen Keller, The Miracle Worker.

Later in 1961, MGM leased the theatre to continue the run of the film Ben Hur following closure of the Empire, Leicester Square for rebuilding. This ran from 29 May 1961 to 6 May 1962, after which the theatre was closed until 19 November 1962 when Mutiny on the Bounty opened. This ran until 10 July 1963, and following a few weeks of revivals (Quo Vadis and Gigi) MGM closed the theatre on 3 August.

The lease was taken over by the Cinerama Corporation and the theatre was then equipped for screening three-strip Cinerama films becoming London's third Cinerama theatre (the others being the Casino Cinerama and the Coliseum Cinerama). The first presentation was The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm which transferred from the Coliseum on 27 November 1963. A compilation film entitled The Best of Cinerama ran for eleven weeks from 22 March 1964, after which the theatre was converted to 70mm single lens Cinerama to take over the run of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World from the Coliseum on 16 July. The theatre only premièred one Cinerama film, The Golden Head, which opened on 8 April 1965 and ran until July 29. From July 30 The Greatest Story Ever Told transferred from the Casino Cinerama and ran until 27 October. From the 29th, The Royalty commenced a run of My Fair Lady which was still showing at the Warner Leicester Square. This ended on 29 June 1966 to be followed by a revival of Mediterranean Holiday until 7 August when Cinerama pulled out and the theatre closed.

The lease was picked up by Gala Film Distributors and the Royalty reopened on 1 December with the X-rated Swedish film Night Games. Gala continued with a combination of foreign films and mainstream revivals until 19 December 1969 when the theatre closed as a cinema for the last time and returned to live theatre use. The Royalty Theatre's only successes were a run of the hit Oh! Calcutta! and a hit production of Bubbling Brown Sugar in the late 1970s. It was also the venue for the first and last concerts on what turned out to be the final tour of the English folk-rock singer Sandy Denny with her band in November 1977, and the venue features on the 1998 posthumous release Gold Dust which was produced over 20 years later from the original tapes. Spectacular 'follies' style shows and 'drag' shows didn't find an audience, and the theatre became used as a TV studio for This is Your Life, but was later bought by the London School of Economics and renamed the Peacock Theatre.

When Sadler's Wells determined to build its new theatre in 1996, the company moved to the Peacock Theatre. After the new Sadler's Wells Theatre opened in 1998, the Peacock became a dance venue for the company. The Rat Pack played at the theatre in 2002, and Doldrum Bay premièred here in 2003. The house is now shared between the London School of Economics (during the day) and Sadler's Wells evening dance productions.

The Peacock Theatre is most noted as the home of one of the West End's most unusual ghosts, a dolphin commonly known as 'Flipper'. An urban myth has grown up that, during one of Paul Raymond's revues at the theatre in the 1970s, a dolphin was kept in a tank beneath the stage, where it lived permanently and later died from neglect. In fact, this is not true. Two dolphins called 'Pennie' and 'Pixie' were indeed kept in a tank at the theatre for three months for a show called 'The Royalty Folies', which was later renamed 'The Great International Nude Show'. However, neither of these animals died while at the theatre and at the close of the show the animals were moved to a dolphinarium in the Far East.

The remnants of the tank and its lifting equipment still remain below the stage and numerous visitors to the theatre claim to have heard in the vicinity a spectral squeaking, not unlike a crying baby. One possible explanation is that the London Underground Piccadilly line Aldwych spur used to pass very close to the sub-stage areas of the theatre and it is noise from the tunnels that created the sound.


● The London Opera House. ●

The London Opera House was designed by the well known Theatre Architect Bertie Crewe for Oscar Hammerstein who envisaged it as a rival to the Covent Garden Opera House. The Theatre was enormous and consisted of an entire block on the recently constructed Kingsway, covering an area of over 24,000 square feet with a facade stretching 272 feet along the street and a height of 80 foot. The stage of the Theatre was 44'8" by 78' and it had an auditorium capable of accommodating some 2,660 people.

The Theatre cost over £200,000 to build and was designed in the French Renaissance style with a Portland stone frontage. Along the roof of the Theatre were twelve statues by the sculptor Thomas Rudge and at either end were statues representing Melody and Harmony. The lavish auditorium was in the French Renaissance style, built on four levels, Stalls and three Balconies, with 22 boxes, 18 on three rows flanking either side of the proscenium and 4 at stalls level. There were also private boxes around the rear stalls and the front of the first circle. Thirteen dressing rooms provided accommodation for up to 76 artistes.

The Stage Newspaper reported on the building in their November the 2nd 1911 edition saying:- 'The magnificent new building which Mr Oscar Hammerstein has erected in Kingsway has been watched in its growth with considerable interest by Londoners generally. Many and wonderful have been the stories relating to its interior, and on Friday a large number of people accepted Mr. Hammerstein's invitation to view the new house. Nor were they disappointed in any particular. The visitor found a finely proportioned house, lavishly yet tastefully decorated, and one withal which in every way is worthy to occupy the position of a home for opera...

...A curious fact of the exterior is that there is nothing in the way of a noble entrance to match the building; indeed, all the exits and entrances seem to be quite miniature affairs. Of course one does not suggest that they are not adequate for the comfort and convenience of the public, because one is well aware that the watchful eyes of the L.C.C. are upon opera house and picture palace alike. But the huge structure dwarfs all its own doorways. The site occupied by the London Opera House has an area of 24,500 feet, with a frontage of 265 feet to Kingsway, and returns of 103 feet and 88 feet in Portugal Street and Sardinia Street respectively.

The exterior facade is of Portland stone, with a granite base, and at each side of the building after the first 50 feet red-brick facings are used. A feature of the facade is the central window, the height of which is 30 feet. The main entrance is at the southern end of the Kingsway front. Here a flight of marble and mosaic steps lead to the vestibule and booking offices. The outer and inner doors and draught screens are of mahogany, as also is most of the joinery in the house.

The entrance hall is a finely appointed apartment flanked by white and gold fluted columns, surmounted by bas-reliefs of famous composers. Opening out of the foyer is the box circle. There are twenty-one boxes, twelve of which are provided with ante-rooms. Two marble staircases lead down to the stalls, where are situated sixteen more boxes...

...The stage is 64 feet wide and 65 feet in depth. The proscenium opening, which is 45 feet wide and 50 feet high, is designed to prevent echoes. The stage is lighted from above by means of eight battens containing 200 lights in each. The footlights have also 200 lights. There are seventy-five lights at each side of the proscenium opening, and there are also twelve hanging lengths of twenty-four lights each at the side of the stage...

...The scene docks, of which there are two, occupy a large space 75 feet by 35 feet, and a total height of 50 feet behind the stage. A large trap-door in the floor of the upper dock and a hand-power goods lift connect the two docks. An artesian well has been sunk in the north-east corner of the building to a depth of 450 feet. A motor pumps the water into two 800 gallon tanks on the roof, one at either end of the building. These in turn feed two 500-gallon tanks at the Portugal Street end - one for the lavatories and the other for the heating installation - and two 200-gallon tanks for the supply to the dressing-rooms...

...The upper and lower galleries and the circle are each built upon heavy girders carried on stanchions, the box floor being suspended from the circle girder and from two wing girders carried from the circle girder into the stalls on either side of the auditorium. The roof trusses are of the lattice type. By means of this construction there are no exposed columns, thus ensuring a clear view of the stage from every seat...

...The seating accommodation has been designed with a generous hand, and seats in the armchair style are used throughout the house. The stall chairs are designed in inlaid mahogany, and the upholstery is in Rose du Barry pilo velvet, and harmonises with the draperies of the private boxes.Here the same tone colour will be employed, the material, however, in this case being silk plush. The whole of the private boxes will be draped in a similar manner, with the exception of the Royal box, which has, in addition, a paneling of rich silk of harmonious texture and pattern. The proscenium curtains, seating, and drapery have been supplied by Messrs. Maple and Co. Mr. Bertie Crewe is the architect of the new house.

TAn Advertisement carried in the Pall Mall Magazine for Oscar Hammerstein's Summer Season of Grand Opera at the London Opera House, Kingsway in April 1912. he "Plenum" system of ventilation has been used, the two main ducts being formed at each side below the level of the stalls floor, from which branches worked in with the concrete partitions or formed with galvinised iron trunks are carried to all parts of the house with four electric fans in the auditorium roof. The London Opera House will hold 2,700.' The above text in quotes was first published in the Stage Newspaper November the 2nd 1911.

The London Opera House opened on the 13th of November 1911 with a production of 'Quo Vadis' which was its first appearance in London, and then continued with a season of operas through to March 1912. However, Oscar Hammerstein hadn't taken into account that the Covent Garden Opera House had all the top names in opera performing in its productions and despite another season at his Theatre, which began on April the 22nd 1912, by July he had to admit defeat. Hammerstein closed his Theatre on the 13th of July 1912 and returned to America with his tail between his legs and losses amounting to £47,000.

The Guardian reported on the closure in their August 19th 1912 edition saying:- 'Mr. Oscar Hammerstein has abandoned his Kingsway Opera House venture. According to a statement published in the newspapers to-day, he declares that he will give no more grand opera in London, but will in future devote his entire attention to his American interests. He says he is still convinced that there is a public for grand opera in England, but that the difficulties with which he has had to contend have proved far greater than he had expected. The loss that he has suffered has been too large to justify a continuation of the experiment just at present. It is understood that Mr. Hammerstein's decision has been largely influenced by the advice of his son, who has long been opposed to "good American dollars" being "wasted on the English public." Mr. Hammerstein has made no statement as to the future of the London Opera House.' - The Guardian, August 19th 1912.

After the closure in July 1912 the Theatre remained dark until December when the French impresario, Ferand Akoun, reopened it with a season of Variety shows and Film showings. Hammerstein then sold the Theatre to a new company, the London Opera House Ltd, which put on a number of Variety shows. Following this they put on a new review called 'Come Over Here' which opened on April 19th 1913 and ran for some 217 performances.

● The Stoll Picture Theatre. ●

After 'Come Over Here' a number of productions were tried at the London Opera House, none of them very successfully, and for a short period between 1914/15 the Theatre even became known as the National Theatre of England, but then it was bought by Oswald Stoll in 1916 and he converted it for Cinema use and reopened it as the Stoll Picture Theatre on the 31st of April 1917.

This proved to be much more of a success for the Theatre which began by showing silent films and would later have its own Jardine tubular pneumatic orchestral organ installed in 1927, and later films were even accompanied by a full orchestra. Later still the Theatre became home to regular Cine Variety shows until it was closed in September 1940. The building reopened on the 1st of September the following year, 1941, as a live Theatre and when it was taken over by Emile Littler in 1942 it was renamed the Stoll Theatre.

The Stoll Theatre soon became home to lavish stage shows and ice spectaculars and was very successful until it was closed at the end of the run of 'Titus and Andronicus' with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh on the 4th of August 1957. The Theatre was demolished the following year in 1958 to make way for a very sorry looking office block, quite why this was allowed is anybody's guess, but it certainly wouldn't have happened today as one can imagine this vast Theatre being the perfect place to stage the large scale musicals favoured by many producers today. As a consolation, after the magnificent Stoll Theatre was demolished, a new smaller Theatre, The Royalty Theatre, was constructed in the basement of the office block which replaced it.

Venue Access Information.

The Peacock is accessible for wheelchair users. There are 5 hand railed steps up to the foyer level and a wheelchair platform lift if required. Baby-changing facilities are available in the toilets on both levels of the theatre. During child-friendly shows, a buggy park is available in the Dress Circle Bar.

When you enter through the main doors, there are 5 hand railed steps up to the foyer level and a wheelchair platform lift to the right side if required. The right hand side main door is automatic and can be opened by pressing a large rectangular button on the right wall outside. If you do not wish to gain access by the steps or lift there is also a ramp entrance from Kingsway. Please speak to a member of staff if you wish to use this entrance.

In the foyer area, the Ticket Office is directly in front of you, and you can collect your tickets from there. The ticket desk has an induction loop system. Headsets for audio described performances can be requested by speaking to a member of staff at the Ticket Office. There is a large print season brochure provided upon request and a large print programme if notice is given when booking your ticket.

There are three levels - Circle, Foyer and Stalls. There is an accessible toilet in the Foyer area and at Stalls level. A Radar key is required to gain access to the toilets and can be requested from a member of Front of House staff. There are stairs leading to all levels and a lift to all floors, specifically available to those that cannot access the stairs. The lift is situated to the right of the main foyer. Please speak to a member of staff is you wish to use this facility. There is also a ramp leading to the back of the Circle seating area from the left side of the main foyer.

From the Stall bar area there are six steps leading up to the back of the auditorium. There is also a shuttle lift for those who cannot use the stairs. Please note this lift is not designed to be used by mobility scooters. There are two bars selling refreshments. These are on the Stalls and Circle levels. There is a cloakroom in the Circle bar with a low counter.

The auditorium and where to sit.

To the right of the Ticket Office, stairs and a lift lead down to the Circle bar and then the Stalls bar. The auditorium is accessed through the bars. This will take you into the back of the auditorium. The auditorium seats approximately 800 people. The seating is raked, and two aisles - one either side of the auditorium - descend in shallow steps towards the stage. There is a handrail on the outside of each aisle, and the number of each row is lit on each step. There are also two aisles which divide both the stalls and circle in to three sections.

For wheelchair users, there are seven spaces at the back of the Circle. Wheelchair access is through the Ticket Office. A member of staff will escort you to your space. There are another two spaces at the back of the Stalls, which can be accessed by using the main foyer lift and the shuttle lift from the Stalls bar area. The auditorium uses an infra red induction system.

Limited metered parking is available on some of the surrounding streets. The closest car parks are:

  • Lincoln's Inn, Lincoln's Inn Fields WC2A 3TL (020 7693 5108)
  • NCP, Covent Garden
  • Location : Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London WC2A

    Transport: Rail : Underground: Holborn (Central Line, Piccadilly Line). London Buses routes : High Holborn: 8, 19, 38, 22B, 25, 188, 501, 521; Kingsway: 1, 68, 91, 168, 171, 188, 501, 505, 521, X68; Aldwych/Strand: 4, 11, 15, 23, 26, 76, 171, 341

    What's On

    Seating Plan.

    Access Line : 020 7863 8015


    Sadler's Wells Theatre - 1803

    Sadler's Wells Theatre - 1803


    Peacock Theatre

    ● Sadler's Wells and the Theatre - From Old & New London 1897 ●

    While we treat of the places of amusement in the north of London near Islington, we must not forget Sadler's Wells (Islington Spa), or New Tunbridge Wells, as it used to be called. The chalybeate spring was discovered in 1683 by a Mr. Sadler, a surveyor of the highways, in the pleasant, retired, and well-wooded garden of a music-house he had just opened. The discovery was trumpeted in a pamphlet, detailing the virtues of the water. It was, the writer asserted, a holy well, famed, before the Reformation, for its healing power, which the priests attributed to their prayers. It had been, in consequence, looked on as a place venerated by superstition, but arched over at the Reformation, it had been since forgotten.

    The Wells soon became famous with hypochondriacs. Burlesque poems (one probably by Ned Ward) were written on the humours of the place, as well as treatises on the cure of invalids by drinking the water; and finally, in 1776, Georg Colman produced a farce, called The Spleen; or, Islington Spa. In the summer of 1700 Sadler's Wells came into high favour with the public. Gout hobbled there; Rheumatism groaned over his ferruginous water; severe coughs went arm-in-arm, chuckling as they hobbled; as for Hypochondria, he cracked jokes, he was in such high spirits at the thought of the new remedy. At this time dancers were admitted during the whole of the day on Mondays and Tuesdays, says Malcolm, provided they did not come in masks.

    In 1733 the Wells were so fashionable that the Princesses Amelia and Caroline frequented the gardens in the June of that year daily, and drank the waters, the nobility coming in such numbers that the proprietor took above £30 a morning. Feathers flaunted, silks rustled, fans fluttered, and lovers sighed, partly with nausea and partly with love, as they sipped the bitter waters of AEsculapius. On the birthday of one of the princesses, the ladies were saluted as they passed through Spa Fields (then full of carriages) by a discharge of twenty-one guns - a compliment always paid to them on their arrival - and in the evening there was a great bonfire, and more powder was burnt in their honour. On ceasing to visit the gardens, the Princess Amelia presented the master with twenty-five guineas, each of the water-servers with three guineas, and the other attendants with one guinea each.

    From 1683 till after 1811 these gardens were famous. Nervous, hypochondriac, hysteric affections, asthmas, indigestions, swellings, and eruptions, all took their doleful pleasure in them, and drank the waters with infinite belief. In 1811 the Wells were still frequented. The subscription for the water was a guinea the season; to non-subscribers, and with capillaire, it cost sixpence a glass. The spring was then enclosed by an artificial grotto of flints and shells, which was entered by a rustic gate; there was a lodging-house, to board invalids, and in the garden a breakfast-room, about forty feet long, with a small orchestra. In the room was hung up a comparative analysis of the water, and there were testimonials of its efficacy from gentlemen who had been ill for quarters of centuries, and had drunk all other mineral waters in vain.

    On the bark of one of the trees (before 1811) were cut the two following lines :—

  • "Obstructum recreat; durum terit; humida siccat;
  • Debile fortificat - si tamen arte bibas."
  • The following lines were written in a room of the lodging-house, just as a votive tablet might have been hung up on the walls of a Greek temple :—

  • " For three times ten years I travell'd the globe,
  • Consulted whole tribes of the physical robe;
  • Drank the waters of Tunbridge, Bath, Harrogate, Dulwich,
  • Spa, Epsom (and all by advice of the College);
  • But in vain, till to Islington waters I came,
  • To try if my cure would add, to their fame.
  • In less than six weeks they produc'd a belief
  • This would be the place of my long-sought relief;
  • Before six weeks more had finished their course,
  • Full of spirits and strength, I mounted my horse,
  • Gave praise to my God, and rode cheerfully home,
  • Overjoy'd with the thoughts of sweet hours to come.
  • May Thou, great Jehovah, give equal success
  • To all who resort to this place for redress!
  • On the death of Sadler, his music-house passed to Francis Forcer, whose son exhibited rope-dancing and tumbling till 1730, when he died. The place was then taken by Mr. Rosoman, a builder, and the wooden house was, about the year 1765, replaced by a brick building: A painting, introducing Rosoman and some of his actors, was in 1811, to be seen in the bar of the "Sir Hugh Myddelton," the inn introduced by Hogarth in his print of " Evening," published in 1738. There was at this time, at the "Sir Hugh Myddelton," a club of actors, who, in 1753, formed a regular company, at what had now become a theatre. The amusements here were originally in the open air, the tickets to spectators including refreshments. The Connoisseur, of 1756, notes the feats of activity exhibited here.

    After that time this suburban theatre became famous for burlettas, musical interludes, and pantomimes. Here Grimaldi cracked his drollest jokes, and here the celebrated Richer exhibited on the tight rope. The New River was also taken advantage of, and introduced into a tank the size of the stage, to represent more effectively naval victories and French defeats. After Rosoman, Mr. Thomas King, the comedian, and Mr. Wroughton, of Drury Lane, became proprietors; and at one time Mr. Charles Dibdin, jun., was stage-manager.

    A most fatal panic took place at this theatre on the 15th of October, 1807. The cry, "A fight!" was mistaken for "A fire!" and a rush took place from the gallery. The manager, shouting to the people through speaking-trumpets, entreated them to keep their seats; but in vain, for many threw themselves down into the pit, and eighteen were crushed to death on the gallery stairs. The proceeds of two benefits were divided among the children and widows, of the sufferers.

    Sadler's Musical House, which, tradition affirms, was a place of public entertainment even as early as the reign of Elizabeth, seems early to have affected a theatrical air. In May, 1698, we find a vocal and instrumental concert advertised here, the instrumental part being "composed of violins, hautboys, trumpets, and kettle-drums." It was to continue from ten to one, every Monday and Thursday, during the drinking of the waters. In 1699 the Wells were called "Miles's Music House;" and in that year Ned Ward, always coarse and always lively, describes going with a crowd of Inns of Court beaux to see a wretch, disguised in a fool's cap, and with a smutty face like a hangman, eat a live fowl, feathers and all.

    "The state of things described by Ned Ward," says Mr. Pinks, "is abundantly confirmed by the reminiscences of Edward Macklin, the actor, who remembered the time when the admission here was but threepence, except to a few places scuttled off at the sides of the stage at sixpence, which were reserved for people of fashion, who occasionally came to see the fun. 'Here we smoked and drank porter and rum-and-water, as much as we could pay for.' Of the audience Macklin says, 'Though we had a mixture of very odd company, there was little or no rioting; there was a public then that kept one another in awe."

    Ned Ward, who was a quick observer, describes the dress-circle gallery here as painted with stories of Apollo and Daphne, Jupiter and Europa, &c. In his poem, "A Walk to Islington," Ned Ward is not complimentary to the Sadler's Wells visitors. In the pit, he says, were butchers, bailiffs, housebreakers, footpads, prizefighters, thief-takers, deer-stealers, and bullies, who drank, and smoked; and lied, and swore. They ate cheesecakes and drank ale, and one of the buffoons was also a waiter. The female vocalist was followed by a fiddler in scarlet. Then came a child, who danced a sword-dance, and after her

  • "A young babe of grace,
  • With mercury in his heels, and a gallows in his face;
  • In dancing a jig lies the chief of whose graces,
  • And making strange music-house, monkey-like faces."
  • About 1711 the Wells seems to have become still more disreputable, and in 1712 a lieutenant of the navy was run through the body there by a Mr. French, of the Temple, in a drunken quarrel. Macklin says there were four or five exhibitions in a day, and that the duration of each performance depended upon circumstances. The proprietors had always a fellow outside to calculate how many persons were collected for a second exhibition, and when he thought there were enough, he came to the back of the upper seats and cried out, "Is Hiram Fisteman here?" This was a cant word between the parties, to know the state of the people without, upon which they concluded the entertainment, and dismissed the audience with a song, and prepared for a second representation.

    In a poem called "The New River," written about 1725, Mr. William Garbott, the author, thus describes the Wells, with advertising enthusiasm:—

  • " There you may sit under the shady trees,
  • And drink and smock fann'd by a gentle breeze;
  • Behold the fish, how wantonly they play,
  • And catch them also, if you please, you may."
  • Forcer, a barrister, the proprietor in the early part of the eighteenth century, improved the pantomimes, rope-dancing, and ladder-dancing, tumbling, and musical interludes. Acrobats threw summersaults from the upper gallery, and Black Scaramouch struggled with Harlequin on the stage. The old well was accidentally discovered in Macklin's time, between the New River and the stage-door. It was encircled with stone, and you descended to it by several steps. Cromwell, writing in 1828, says that it was known that springs existed under the orchestra, and under the stage, and that the old fountain of health might hopefully be sought for there.

    In 1738, in his "Evening," not one of his most successful works, Hogarth introduced a bourgeois holiday-maker and his wife, with Sadler's Wells in the background. In "The Gentlemen's and Ladies' Social Companion," a book of songs published in 1745-6, we find a song on Sadler's Wells, which contained several characteristic verses. Rope-dancing and harlequinade, with scenery, feats of strength, and singing, seem to have been the usual entertainment about this period. In 1744 the place was "presented" by the grand jury of the county as a scene of great extravagance, luxurious idleness, and ill-fame, but it led to no good results. In 1746 any person was admitted to the Wells, "and the diversions of the place," on taking a ticket for a pint of wine. This same year a ballet on the Battle of Culloden, a most undanceable subject, one would think, was very popular; and Hogarth's terrible "Harlot's Progress" was turned into a drama, with songs, by Lampe.

    The Grub Street poets, in the meantime, belauded the Wells, not without reward, and not always inelegantly, as the following verses show:-

  • "Ye cheerful souls, who would regale
  • On honest home-brewed British ale,
  • To Sadler's Wells in troops repair,
  • And find the wished-for cordial there;
  • Strength, colour, elegance of taste,
  • Combine to bless the rich repast;
  • And I assure ye, to my knowledge,
  • 'T has been approved by all the Colledge
  • More efficacious and prevailing
  • Than all the recipes of Galen.
  • Words scarce are able to disclose
  • The various blessings it bestows.
  • It helps the younger sort to think,
  • And wit flows faster as they drink;
  • It puts the ancient a new fleece on,
  • Just as Medea did to Eson;
  • The fair with bloom it does adorn,
  • Fragrant and fresh as April morn.
  • Haste hither, then, and take your fill,
  • Let parsons say whatever they will;
  • The ale that every ale excels
  • Is only found at Sadler's Wells."
  • A writer in the Connoisseur of 1756 praises a dexterous performer at the Wells, who, with bells on his feet, head, and hands, jangled out a variety of tunes, by dint of various nods and jerks. The same year a wonderful balancer named Maddox performed on the slack wire, tossing balls, and kicking straws into a wine-glass which he held in his mouth. Maddox, the equilibrist, entertained the public for several seasons by his "balances on the wire," and his fame was celebrated by a song set to music, entitled "Balance a Straw," which for a time was very popular. A similar feat was afterwards performed at the Wells by a Dutchman, with a peacock's feather, which he blew into the air and caught as it fell, on different parts of a wire, at the same time preserving his due equilibrium. The same performer used to balance a wheel upon his shoulder, his forehead, and chin, and afterwards, to show his skill as an equilibrist, he poised two wheels, with a boy standing on one of them.

    The road home from the Wells seems to have been peculiarly dangerous about 1757, as the manager announces in the Public Advertiser that on the night of a certain charitable performance a horse-patrol would be sent by Mr. Fielding (the blind magistrate, and kinsman of the novelist) for the protection of nobility and gentry who came from the squares. The road to the City was, as he promised, also to be properly guarded. A year later an armed patrol was advertised as stationed on the New Road, between Sadler's Wells and Grosvenor Square. Foote wrote, about the same time:—

  • " If at Sadler's Wells the wine should be thick,
  • The cheesecakes be sour, or Miss Wilkinson sick ;
  • If the fumes of the pipes should prove powerful in June,
  • Or the tumblers be lame, or the bells out of tune,
  • We hope that you'll call at our warehouse at Drury,
  • We've a good assortment of goods, I assure you."
  • In 1765 the old wooden theatre at the Wells was pulled down and a new one built, at an expense of £4,225. A three-shilling ticket for the boxes, in 1773, entitled the bearer to a pint of port, mountain, Lisbon, or punch. A second pint cost one shilling.

    In 1763 Signor Grimaldi, Joe Grimaldi's father, first appeared as chief dancer and ballet-master. He continued there till the close of 1767. In 1775 James Byrne, the famous harlequin of Drury Lane, and the father of Oscar Byrne, was employed at Sadler's Wells as a dancer, and a Signor Rossignol gave imitations of birds, like Herr Joel, and accompanied the orchestra on a fiddle without strings. About this time, too, Charles Dibdin the elder wrote some clever and fanciful pieces for this theatre, entitled "Intelligence from Sadler's Wells."

    In 1772 Rosoman surrendered the management to King, the famous comedian, who held it till 1782, when Sheridan gave him up the sovereignty of Drury Lane. King had been an attorney, but had thrown up his parchments to join theatres and play under Garrick. He excelled in Sir Peter Teazle, Lord Ogleby, Puff, and Dr. Cantwell. His Touchstone and Ranger, says Dr. Doran, were only equalled by Garrick and Elliston. He was arch, easy, and versatile, and the last time he played Sir Peter, in 1802, the fascinating Mrs. Jordan was the young wife. King remained an inveterate gambler to the last, in spite of Garrick's urgent entreaties. King sold the Wells, says Mr. Pinks, for £12,000. Joe Grimaldi appeared at Sadler's Wells first in 1781, in the character of a monkey. In 1783 egg-dancers and performing dogs were the rage, the dogs alone clearing for the managers, in one season, £10,000. The saying at the theatre at that time was, that if the dogs had not come to the theatre, the theatre must have gone to the dogs. Horse-patrols still paraded the roads to the City at night.

    In 1786 Miss Romanzini (afterwards the celebrated ballad vocalist, Mrs. Bland) appeared at the Wells, and also Pietro Bologna, father of the celebrated clown, Jack Bologna. In 1788 Braham, then a boy, who had first appeared in 1787, at the Royalty Theatre, Wells Street, near Goodman's Fields, made his first appearance at the Wells. "Two Frenchmen," says Mr. Pinks, "named Duranie and Bois-Maison, as pantomimists, eclipsed all their predecessors on that stage. Boyce, a distinguished engraver, was the harlequin, and, from all accounts, was the most finished actor of the motley hero, either in his own day or since.

    On the benefit-night of Joseph Dortor, clown to the rope, and Richer, the rope-dancer, Miss Richer made her first appearance on two slack wires, passing through a hoop; with a pyramid of glasses on her head, and Master Richer performed on the tight rope, with a skipping-rope. Joseph Dortor, among other almost incredible feats, drank a glass of wine backwards from the stage floor, beating a drum at the same time. Lawrence threw a somersault over twelve men's heads, and Paul Redige, the 'Little Devil,' on October 1st, threw a somersault over two men on horseback, the riders having each a lighted candle on his head. Dubois, as clown, had no superior in his time, and the troop of voltigeurs were pre-eminent for their agility, skill, and daring."

    After Wroughton's time, Mr. Siddons (husband of the great actress) became one of the proprietors of the Wells, where, in 1801, a young tragedian, Master Carey, the "Pupil of Nature," otherwise known as Edmund Kean, recited Rollo's speech from Pizarro. His great-grandfather, Henry Carey, the illegitimate son of the Marquis of Halifax, and the author of the delightful ballad, "Sally in our Alley," had written and composed many of the ballad operas and ballad farces which were very successful at Sadler's Wells. In 1802, Charles Dibdin junior, and Thomas Dibdin, his brother, were busy at the Wells.

    In 1803 appeared Signor Belzoni, afterwards the great Egyptian traveller, as the "Patagonian Samson," in which character, says Mr. Pinks, "he performed prodigious feats of strength, one of which was to adjust an iron frame to his body, weighing 127 lbs., on which he carried eleven persons. The frame had steps or branches projecting from its sides, on which be placed eleven men in a pyramidical form, the uppermost of whom reached to the border of the proscenium. With this immense weight he walked round the stage, to the astonishment and delight of his audience. On one occasion a seriocomic accident occurred, which might have proved fatal not only to the mighty Hercules, but also to his pyramidical group. As he was walking round the stage with the vast load attached to his body, the, floor gave way, and plunged him and his companions into the water beneath. A group of assistants soon came to the rescue, and the whole party marched to the front of the stage, made their bows, and retired. On Belzoni's benefit-night he attempted to carry thirteen men, but as that number, could not hold on, it was abandoned. His stature, as registered in the books of the Alien Office, was six feet six inches. He was of good figure, gentlemanly manners, and great mind. He was an Italian by birth, but early in life he quitted his native land to seek his fortune."

    In 1804 Sadler's Wells first began to assume the character of an aquatic theatre.- An immense tank was constructed under the stage, and a communication opened with the New River. The first aquatic piece was a Siege of Gibraltar, in which real vessels bombarded the fortress. A variety of pieces were subsequently produced, concluding with a grand scene for the finale, on "real water." Thomas Greenwood, a scene-painter at the Wells, thus records the water successes in his "Rhyming Reminiscences:—

  • "Attraction was needed the town to engage,
  • So Dick emptied the river that year on the stage;
  • The house overflowed, and became quite the ton,
  • And the Wells for some seasons went swimmingly on."
  • "mong the apparently perilous and appalling incidents exhibited," says a writer to whom we have already been much indebted, "were those of a female falling from the rocks into the water, and being rescued by her hero-lover; a naval battle, with sailors escaping by plunging into the sea from a vessel on fire; and a child thrown into the water by a nurse, who was bribed to drown it, being rescued by a Newfoundland dog."

    In 1819 Grimaldi sang for the first time his immortal song of "Hot Codlins," the very night a boy was crushed to death in the rush at entering. "Sadler's Wells was let at Easter, 1821, for the ensuing three seasons, to Mr. Egerton, of Covent Garden Theatre; in which year it was honoured by the presence of Queen Caroline, the wife of George IV., and her Majesty's box and its appointments were exhibited daily to the public for a week afterwards.

    In 1822, in a piece called Tom and Ferry, pony races were introduced, a course having been formed by laying a platform on the stage and pit. Upon the expiration of Egerton's term the Wells were let to Mr. Williams, of the Surrey Theatre, the son of the proprietor of the once-famous boiled beef house in the Old Bailey. He employed one half of his company, in the earlier part of the evening, at Sadler's Wells, and thence transferred them to the Surrey, to finish there; and at that theatre he adopted the same course, the performers being conveyed between the two houses by special carriages. Williams's speculation, however, turned out a complete failure."

    In 1823 the use of water for scenic purposes was discontinued for a time at Sadler's Wells, and in 1825 the old manager's house, next the New River Head, was turned into wine-rooms and a saloon; the season, in consequence of the immense growth of the neighbourhood, was extended from six to twelve months, and Tom Dibdin was engaged as acting manager. The year 1826 being very hot, the manager got up some pony-races in the grounds, which drew large audiences. On March 17, 1828, Grimaldi took his farewell benefit at Sadler's Wells.

    Subsequently Mr. T. Dibdin became manager at the Wells, and produced a variety of ballets, pantomimes, burlettas, and melodramas. In 1832 that best of all stage sailors, Mr. T. P. Cooke, made his first appearance at this theatre as William, in Black-Eyed Susan, a piece which ran one hundred nights. In 1833, during a serio-romantic lyric drama called The Island, and founded on the mutiny of the Bounty, the stage and its scenery was drawn up bodily to the roof of the house, to avoid the tediousness of a "wait." The Russian Mountains was also a great success.

    In 1846 Mr. Samuel Phelps resolved to produce all Shakespeare's plays, and actually did represent thirty of them. These occupied about 4,000 nights, Hamlet alone running for 400.

    Having been closed for some years, the theatre was rebuilt, and opened in 1879 by Miss Bateman. Since that date the theatre has been under the management of Messrs. Chatterton, Robson, Hart, Cave, Roberts, and others. It is now known as New Sadler's Wells.

    Above text from Old & New London, 1897.

    Venue Access Information.

    There is one entrance into the theatre foyer. There are no steps to the main entrance, which has two semi-automatic, push to open door and one push to open door, When you enter through the main doors, you come into the main foyer. The Ticket Office is directly in front of you, and you can collect your tickets from there. Tactile paving from the pavement into the entrance of the theatre leads directly to the ticket office counter, which is low level and accessible to wheelchair users and has an induction loop system.

    Headsets for Audio Described performances can be requested by speaking to a member of staff at the Ticket Office. There is a large print season brochure provided upon request and a large print programme if notice is given when booking your ticket. There are five levels - Basement, Ground Floor, Mezzanine, First Circle and Second Circle. There are toilets on every level and are textured flooring at the entrance.

    There is also a lift to all levels with a voice message and Braille buttons. The lift is situated to the right of the main foyer. Walk past the bar area, which is on the right, and through one doorway - the door will be pinned open. The lift is immediately on your right. Alternatively there are stairs leading to all levels. The stairs are to the left of the foyer as you enter.

    There are three bars with low level counters selling refreshments. These are on the ground floor, first circle and second circle levels. There is a cloakroom on the basement level with a low counter. Please note that the foyer does become crowded prior to the performance.

    The auditorium and where to sit.

    To the right of the ticket office, three steps with handrails lead up to the entrance to the stalls. Once at the top of the stairs, the door leading to seats numbered 1-17 is directly in front of you. To reach seats 18-33 you must follow the corridor on your left. The entrance is at the end of this corridor and to your right. These entrances bring you in at the back of the auditorium.

    The entrances for first and second circles are situated in the same position on the floors above and can be accessed by the main foyer staircase or by the lift. The auditorium is modern and seats approximately 1500 people. The seating is raked, and two aisles - one either side of the auditorium - descend in shallow steps towards the stage. There is a handrail on the outside of each aisle, and the letter of each row is lit on each step.

    For wheelchair users and people with limited mobility there is flat, level access to the stalls. A corridor runs to the right of the three steps in the foyer, and goes past the lift. The entrance is to your left, and brings you in to the auditorium at the side - about half way down. The stage is to your right. There is also flat level access to the entrances of the first circle.

    Seating can be adapted to accommodate wheelchairs in the centre stalls, side gallery stools and first circle. There is no aisle down the middle of the seating. The auditorium has an induction loop system.

    Please be advised that although you are welcome to arrive at Sadler's Wells in a mobility scooter, our auditorium wheelchair seating areas and lifts are not suitable for these vehicles. Patrons may leave their scooters in the foyer areas.

    If you are bringing a guide dog you will probably have informed the ticket office when making your booking. However, if you have not, please let the theatre know by calling the ticket office on 0207 863 8000. Guide and Assistance Dogs are allowed in the auditorium.

    Access scheme.

    The Access Scheme is for people with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities. By joining this free scheme you can keep up to date on offers and information about forthcoming shows at Sadler's Wells and the Peacock Theatre.

    If you are in receipt of disability-related state benefits, as a member of our Access for All register, you may be entitled to a reduction on the cost of your ticket. Reduced price tickets are limited to one booking per production. All Access rate tickets are subject to availability and may be excluded for certain performances. There is also a reduced booking fee of £1.95 on each transaction. Access Discounts cannot be added retrospectively.

    When booking tickets, please specify your access requirement, i.e if you require a wheelchair space, an aisle seat, a seat close to the stage, level access etc. It is not always possible to rectify booking details after a transaction has been completed. There is also a small car park next to Sadler's Wells Theatre, spaces are limited and must be booked in advance. There is no charge for disabled patrons. There is one disabled parking bay in front of Peacock Theatre, which cannot be booked in advance. If you would like to join the Access Scheme, please download a form and complete, sign and return it:

  • Access Scheme form (PDF)
  • Access Scheme form, large print version (PDF)
  • The completed form should be returned to:

  • Access Forms
  • Ticket Office
  • Sadler's Wells Theatre
  • Rosebery Avenue
  • London EC1R 4TN
  • If you are already registered on the scheme tickets can be booked online on this website (please ensure you log in with your Access membership number before selecting your seats). Alternatively please call Sadler's Wells on 020 7863 8000 or the Peacock Theatre on 020 7863 8222. Their ticket office staff will be happy to assist with your booking. Deaf or hard of hearing bookers can book for either venue on Minicom number 020 7863 8015. For further information about the Access For All scheme, Access facilities, workshops, assisted performances and events, please email .


    On-street free parking in Hardwick Street and other streets off Rosebery Avenue after 6.30pm Mon-Fri and from 1.30pm on Saturdays (heavy fines apply to parking in resident's bays). There is a large 24 hour car park in nearby Bowling Green Lane.

    Sadler's Wells Car Park. There are 15 spaces in the Sadler's Wells car park at the rear of the theatre off Arlington Way (postcode: EC1R 1XA) for anyone in your party who is over 65, a member of our Access scheme or a Blue Badge holder. These cost £5.00 for the over 65s and are free of charge to Access members and Blue Badge holders. To reserve a place, please contact the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000.


    Location : Sadler's Wells Theatre & the Lilian Baylis Studio, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4TN

    Transport: Underground : Angel (Northern Line) then 5 minutes. London Buses routes : 19, 38 and 341 stop outside.

    What's On

    Seating Plan.

    Access Line : 020 7863 8000

    Tel: 020 7863 8000