The Georgian Heyday

Georgian Theatre Royal

Public entertainment, including theatre, grew in popularity through the 18th and early 19th century. The story of The Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire illustrates the flourishing of provincial theatre in the Georgian period.

The Theatre's Beginnings
Outside the grand London theatres, touring companies performed in shire halls, inns, barns and warehouses, until, in 1788, an Act of Parliament allowed purpose built theatres in the regions.

Samuel Butler and his wife, Tryphosa, ran a company of travelling players. They applied for permission to open theatres in Richmond and Harrogate and both opened in 1788.

Over the next 20 years Butler's circuit of theatre's grew and his company regularly played in Beverley, Ripon, Northallerton, Kendal, Ulverston and Whitby, as well as Harrogate and Richmond.

The theatre in Richmond is the only one of Butler's circuit of theatres to survive. It is Britain's oldest working theatre in its original form,

The Theatre in Georgian Times
Our archive contains books, prints and playbills that relate to theatrical history in general from the late 18th and early 19th century, as well as a number of playbills specifically for the Theatre Royal in Richmond from the Georgian period.
Butler's Family of Actors
The playbills tell us the names of many actors that regularly performed as part of the Butler company. Some members of the company were related to Samuel Butler and Tryphosa

Samuel Butler's first wife, Tryphosa, had a grand-daughter, Jane Tryphosa Wallis, who became a well-known child star and performed on stage at Covent Garden and Bath during the 1790s.

After Tryphosa died in 1797, Samuel Butler married another member of the company, Francis Maria Jefferson, who bore him a son and a daughter. His son was also called Samuel.

Some other playbills from the archive
We have a number of playbills from The Theatre Royal, Richmond from the year 1818 and so have a good idea of the repertoire of the Butler company for that year.

Inkle and Yarico, a comic opera by George Colman the Younger, was performed in 1818. We know from a local diarist James Tate, the schoolmaster at Richmond School , that the same play had been performed on the opening night of the Richmond Theatre in 1788.

Credits: Story

Images from the archive collection at The Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, North Yorkshire

Credits: All media
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