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Important events

(detail)1683 | construction
A wooden 'musick house' was erected on the site in 1683.
(detail)8.4.1765 | opening
First theatre opened to the design by builder Thomas Rosoman.
(detail)1802 | alteration
Auditorium reconstructed to the design by Rudolphe Cabanel.
(detail)1838 | alteration

(detail)1879 | Construction
Constructed to the design by C. J. Phipps.
(detail)1901 | alteration
Partly remodelled to the design by Bertie Crewe.
(detail)1915 | closure

(detail)6.1.1931 | opening
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.
(detail)11.10.1998 | opening
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.


(detail)Thomas Rosoman |builder
He was the manager of the Sadlers Wells Theatre from 1746 to 1771. He established the Wells' pedigree for opera production and oversaw the construction of a new theatre - at a cost of £4,225 - which opened in April 1765. IN: http://www.ourhampton.org.uk/residents.html


On 3 June 1683 a Mr. Sadler opened a popular pleasure-garden, which became known as Sadler's Wells, on the site of a medicinal spring in open country near London, and erected there a wooden 'Musick House' with a stage. This, later known as Miles's Musick House, was used mainly for musical interludes until in 1753 Rosoman, a local builder who had taken over the Wells in 1746, engaged a company of actors and the Musick Room became a minor theatre. The Tempest, probably in Dryden's version, was performed there in 1764. Early in 1765 Rosoman replaced the old wooden building by a stone one which opened with a mixed bill on 8 Apr. He continued to run the theatre successfully until his retirement in 1772, when he was succeeded by the actor Tom King , under whom the clown Grimaldi appeared in 1781 as a three-year-old 'sprite', making his farewell appearance at the same theatre on 17 Mar. 1828. For several years there was a vogue for AQUATIC DRAMA, for which a large tank was installed on the stage, filled with water from the New River, in which sea fights and naval bombardments took place. The building was then known as the Aquatic Theatre. In 1844, after the breaking of the Patent Theatres' monopolyby the Theatres Act of 1843, it was again known as Sadler's Wells and was taken over as a home for Shakespeare's plays by Phelps, who opened it on 27 May with Macbeth and remained there until 1862. It then declined, and in 1878, after being used as a skating-rink and a boxing-ring, it was closed as a dangerous structure. In 1879 Mrs. Bateman, leaving the Lyceum to the management of Henry Irving , took over Sadler's Wells, restored and redecorated it, and opened it on 9 Oct., hoping to revive its past glories. After her death in 1881 her daughter Isabel carried on for a time, but without success, and the theatre became derelict. It closed for the last time in 1906. In 1927 Lilian Baylis built a new theatre on the site, hoping to make it the North London equivalent of the South London Old Vic. It opened on 6 Jan. 1931 with Twelfth Night and was intended to house alternately its own productions and those from the Old Vic. This proved impracticable and in 1934 Sadler's Wells was given over entirely to ballet and opera, Shakespeare remaining at the Old Vic. It closed in 1940 and suffered minor damage from bombs. On 7 June 1945 it reopened with the world premiere of Benjamin Britten's first opera, 'Peter Grimes'. After the departure of the Sadler's Wells ballet company to Covent Garden in Feb. 1946, to become later the Royal Ballet, the opera company remained in sole possession until in 1968 it too moved, to the Coliseum, and Sadler's Wells was used only by visiting companies.


In: Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The concise Oxford companion to the theatre. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.   ISBN 0-19-281102-9. p. 472



Author: Hartnoll Phyllis

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