Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In the year 1730, a company of players performed in the old Moot-hall, in the Castle Garth. In 1743, it appears that the opposition of the "rigidly righteous" to this kind of amusement had become so inveterate, that a comedian published a farce, entitled "Methodism displayed," which was intended for representation. After this, another theatre was opened in Usher's Raff-yard, Queen Street, called the "Great Booth." In 1781, Mr. Alexander Cuthell (fn. 1) (who died at Greenock, February 11, 1824, aged 78) performed at the "New Theatre in the Castle-yard," with Mrs. Best, who afterwards shone in the London theatres. This company separated in 1786, and part opened a theatre in the Tolbooth, Gateshead. There was another theatre erected in 1748, by Mr. William Parker, master of the Turk's Head Inn, in which concerts and other public assemblies are now held. The late Mr. Stephen Johnson, of the Scotch Arms Inn, and some other native comedians, flourished in this house. Thus there appears to have been three theatres in Newcastle at one time. In 1785, it was resolved by the principal gentlemen of the town to erect a new theatre, on a commodious and elegant plan, and which was opened by authority of an act of parliament, January 21, 1788. Messrs. Austin and Whitlock were the first managers of the Theatre Royal. In the following year, Austin was succeeded by Munden; but, in 1792, Whitlock and Munden resigned to the late Mr. Stephen Kemble, (fn. 2) whose managerial reign lasted until the year 1806. Mr. W. Macready, (fn. 3) his successor, continued in the management to the year 1818; when the merry, laughter-loving Mr. Vincent De Camp succeeded. Mr. W. Nicholson, the present manager, commenced his career in Newcastle on December 3, 1824, with the comedy of the School for Scandal, and the farce of Of Age To-morrow. His economical habits, punctuality, and unassuming manners, combined with the spirited and generous policy of his management, have gained him general esteem; and it is said that, notwithstanding the pressure of the times, the present is the first year that the theatre has been clear of debt since its first erection. Newcastle can boast of having been a famous nursery for dramatic genius. W. C. Macready, when a boy, ventured upon the Newcastle stage. Liston first tried both his tragic and comic powers here; Emery was disciplined on our boards; Munden acquired much of his theatric education in this town; Terry is an old favourite; Egerton first shone a star in our theatrical horizon; here, too, H. Siddons made his debut; and here Charles Kemble came for improvement. Our theatrical corps also possessed Faulkner of the Hay market, and Lee of the Adelphi. Here likewise Mr. Pearman was first elevated to the station of a leading vocalist. Many females of merit have also been suckled in our dramatic nursery, whose histrionic talents will be recorded in the history of the stage. (fn. 4)
A Circus, or Amphitheatre, was erected at the Forth in 1789, under the direction of Mr. D. Stephenson, architect. It was opened on the 29th of October that year, by Messrs. Jones and Parker, equestrians, from London. This speculation in a short time was abandoned, and the building has since been used for a variety of purposes. During late years, it has been mostly used as a riding-school, and occasionally for the exhibition of horsemanship and pantomimes.