The Georgian Theatre Royal - History and Facts | History Hit

The Georgian Theatre Royal

Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom

Celeste Neill

28 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Alamy

About The Georgian Theatre Royal

Built in 1788, The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire, is the oldest working theatre in Britain which is still in its original form. As a result, it is Britain’s most complete Georgian playhouse. It is a Grade I listed building due to it being ‘a building of special architectural or historical interest’, and is an important existing work of English theatre architecture.

History of The Georgian Theatre Royal

Built by actor Samuel Butler in 1788, the theatre is a typical 18th century country playhouse and an important example of English theatre architecture. In 1830, the theatre became less popular, and by 1848 was mainly used as an auction room with additional wine vaults constructed in the theatre pit.

In 1960 a public appeal was successfully launched to restore the theatre and it was subsequently reopened in 1963. With a capacity for around 200 people, the theatre allows theatregoers get unusually close to the performers, with the furthest seat being only 10.7m from the stage.

In 1979 a small theatre museum – a first for England – was opened behind the stage. The museum includes a unique collection of original playbills and hand bills from 1792 to the 1840s which illustrate the changing themes of entertainment at the time. The theatre also owns Britain’s oldest set of scenery, ‘The Woodland Scene’, painted between 1818 and 1836, which is also on display to the public.

The Georgian Theatre Royal today

The Georgian Theatre Royal underwent a second extensive restoration in 2002 and reopened in September 2003. The theatre also regularly runs Georgian Theatre Experience tours during which the public can discover the theatre’s history, explore backstage, and try on vintage costumes.

Getting to The Georgian Theatre Royal

The nearest railway station is 12 miles away at Darlington. By car it is 4 miles from Scotch Corner where the north/south trunk road (A1) and east west trunk road (A66) converge.

Featured In