Sadler’s Wells Theatre - History and Facts | History Hit

Sadler’s Wells Theatre

London, England, United Kingdom

Image Credit: Chris Lawrence Travel / Shutterstock

About Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Sadler’s Wells Theatre has its origins in the Restoration period and today is viewed as one of the leading dance venues in the world. It is located in Clerkenwell, London and named after monastic springs that were rediscovered nearby.

History of Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Sadler’s Wells was first opened by Richard Sadler in 1683 – London’s second public theatre to open following the restoration of King Charles II in 1660. It was originally a ‘musick house’, and the name stemmed from a spring found near by. Sadler claimed its iron-rich water could cure all manner of ills and as such, Sadler’s Wells began drawing a variety of clientele who wanted both the healing water and the music that the theatre offered.

The opening of Theatre Royals in Covent Garden and Drury Lane damaged Sadler’s Wells income – they picked up in the shoulder seasons when these two theatres did not have performances on, but being slightly further out of town meant that it struggled for clientele for a period of time.

An 18th century rebuild added innovative water features and saw an increase in live interpretations of major battles, both of which audiences enjoyed and buoyed numbers – the theatre eventually became known as a place which staged naval melodramas primarily.

After several closures and re-openings, the theatre was revived following an appeal by Lilian Baylis – proprietor of the Old Vic – and the Duke of Devonshire, who wanted to buy the theatre for the nation. When the theatre did re-open, it did so with two new ballet schools: the Vic-Wells Ballet and the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School. Whilst there is no longer a ballet school resident at Sadler’s Wells, it remains a world-renowned venue for dance today.

Sadler’s Wells Theatre today

The now 6th incarnation of the theatre remains an extremely popular venue, and hosts a wide variety of dance shows regularly – from contemporary fusion to traditional ballet. Tickets are sought after so it’s worth booking ahead if you’d like to catch a performance. Unfortunately there are no regular theatre tours but the excellent café and bar is available for non-ticket holders too.

Getting to Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Sadler’s Wells Theatre is in Clerkenwell – it’s a 3 minute walk to Angel tube station or a 15 minute walk to Farringdon if you’re looking for National Rail services. Multiple buses stop outside the theatre, including routes to Hackney, Finsbury Park, Battersea, London Waterloo and London Victoria.

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