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Palace Theatre

Thomas Edward Collcutt

alias The Palace Theatre of Varieties, Royal English Opera House
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1888 | construction
The foundation stone of a new opera house was laid in 1888. It was designed by T. E. Collcutt and G. H Holloway.
(detail)31.1.1891 | opening
Opened with Ivanhoe, a romantic opera by Arthur Sullivan, words by Julian Sturgess with a capacity of 1400 spectators.
(detail)1892 | Conversion
It was converted to a variety theatre to the design by Walter Emden.
(detail)1908 | alteration
The amphitheatre was reconstructed to designs by F. Emblin-Walker.
(detail)1989 | Alteration
The exterior was restored.

People

History

The Royal English Opera House (now the Palace Theatre) is best known for its decoration by T. E. Colcutt, who had clothed the building in an intricate fenestrated screen of brick and terracotta tiles, 'the climax of the Reign of Terracotta', as Sir Albert Richardson called it (log!). Their ornament is Plateresque, the style of the early Spanish Renaissance.

The building was designed structurally by G. H. Holloway and his engineers Neade and Riley, to whom credit must go for their pioneering use of cantilevering. The deeply projecting galleries were unparalleled at that time by any theatre in Europe. They pose complex, problems by having a double curve (in plan and elevation) and having to be built sloping steeply downwards.

 

A contemporary description states:

"For the facades of this beautiful theatre in Cambridge Circus, Mr. Collcutt chose red Ellistown brick and Doulton terra-cotta, and with its grouping of arcaded windows, its deep balconies, its loggias, designed to be thrown open in summer, and its frieze and cornice, sur¬mounting the second tier of windows, this front elevation will, doubt¬less, be regarded as a most attractive example of balance and com¬position. The observant and critical visitor will not fail to notice the Grand Staircase, to the left of the vestibule; this staircase descends to the stalls and ascends to the Royal Circle. The whole structure is supported on columned arches, the columns being of rich green marble, with gilded capitals and bases. The hand rail and plinth are in grand antique, the balusters in alabaster, and the steps in veined marble. It is lighted by upwards of 2000 electric lamps and the requisite power is generated on the premises. The proscenium arch is of costly Italian marbles, the smaller panels being of Mexican onyx."

In:   Mander, Raymond a Mitcheson, Joe. The theatres of London.London, 1963 p. 123

 

 

Authors: Raymond Mander, Joe Mitcheson

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