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Statutory Address:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

The City of Brighton and Hove (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
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The Theatre Royal, Brighton, built in 1807 possibly by Edward Hide or Hides, with 1866 auditorium by C J Phipps, refronted circa 1894 by C E Clayton and with the auditorium re-decorated in 1926-7 by Sprague and Barton.

Reasons for Designation

The Theatre Royal Brighton is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity of type: the Theatre Royal, Brighton, with fabric dating from 1807, is the third oldest surviving purpose-built theatre in England. * Survival of early C19 fabric: despite later additions and alterations there is a c.1807 staircase and Hanoverian coat of arms, the theatre retains early C19 fabric in the front and side walls and has a roof composed of early C19 timbers and the former Theatre Cottage, no. 9 and no. 10 New Road and no. 35 Bond Street also contain substantial early C19 fabric. * Completeness of auditorium: although the 1866 auditorium was redecorated in 1926-7 it retains C J Phipps' stage boxes, the general proportions, the central chandelier and nearly all the iron columns supporting the galleries. * Rare backstage features: these include a late C19 safety curtain counterweight, hemp ropes and C19 scene painting room with wooden drum and shaft machinery. The 1894 vertical scenery slot in no. 35 Bond Street is probably unique. * Historical interest: more than special historic interest for constant performance since 1807, except for one week during the Second World War. All great British actors have performed here and many international artists.


The first theatre on the site was built in 1807 by Hewett Cobb, an attorney, on land formerly owned by the Prince Regent. His manager was John Brunton. The architect is not known but is quite likely to have been Edward Hide (or Hides) a local architect who designed the Worthing theatre in the same year. The Prince Regent approved the designs and elements of this theatre survive. A mid C19 painting by William Delamotte depicts a two storey stuccoed frontage of three bays with balustraded parapet, pilasters, round-headed windows and a Tuscan colonnade. The theatre opened on 27 June 1807 with a performance of 'Hamlet', the title role played by Charles Kemble, his wife playing Ophelia. Sarah Siddons played Lady Macbeth here. The Prince Regent visited the theatre and gave it his Royal Seal of Approval. In October 1818 gaslight was introduced to the interior of the theatre, an early adoption (1815 at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden and the Olympic Theatre were the first) and it was possibly the first theatre outside London to be illuminated by gas. Edmund Kean played here between 1822 and 1835 in the roles of Hamlet, Richard III, Macbeth, Othello and Shylock.

In 1854, after a period of decline and frequent changes of owner, Henry Nye Chart, an actor in the theatre's company, became manager. He removed the Royal Box and added further seats. In 1866 he formed a syndicate to buy the theatre, which was extensively rebuilt over the summer and autumn of that year by the theatre architect C J Phipps. Phipps retained the 1807 front but added a further storey and a triple arched section over the colonnade. He increased the accommodation to 1,900 by changing the auditorium to a horse shoe shape with a further gallery above the Royal Circle and provided further scene dock, painting room and property stores attached to the south-west and north-east of the theatre. A manager's house, Theatre Cottage, on the north-west corner of the site was adapted into dressing rooms and green rooms. The builder was David Bland of London and the Clerk of the Works George Tasker. Photographs of 1876 and 1882 shows Phipps' alterations to the 1807 front. It was at that time that Chart started to lease the adjoining terraced property, No. 9 New Road, as a property and scenery store. His widow, Ellen Nye Chart, inherited the theatre in 1876 and in 1883 she purchased No. 8 New Road for use as her own residence until her death in 1892. The First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch sheet shows the T-shaped Theatre Royal as Phipps had enlarged it. In 1894 the Corporation architect, May, demanded alterations to satisfy safety regulations which included the addition of a safety curtain, additional exits from the auditorium and improved stage door and dressing rooms. At this time the Brighton Theatre Royal Company, as it had been known since 1889, purchased Nos. 35-38 Bond Street, but 36-38 were re-let as shops. In 1894 there was a reconstruction of the exterior frontage by C E Clayton of the firm of North Street, Brighton in red brick with octagonal corner turrets and copper domes and the colonnade was rebuilt in terra cotta. The theatre was also extended into Nos. 8 and 9 New Road to provide a main entrance, box office, staircase and bars and a stage door and scenery door were inserted into 35 Bond Street. Electric lights were installed in the theatre and further small-scale re-decorations were undertaken in 1904, 1909 and 1912 when individual seats replacing benches and a new safety curtain and heating system were installed. The Third Edition Ordnance Survey sheet of 1911 is the first to show the incorporation of 8 and 9 New Road and 33 Bond Street into the Theatre Royal. Clayton remained the theatre architect until 3 years before his death in 1923. In 1926-7 the auditorium was re-decorated by the firm of Sprague and Barton and the back and side walls of the dress circle and upper circle removed to increase the seating capacity. Nos. 36-8 New Road were sold into separate ownership in1934.

Besides Charles Kemble, Edward Kean and Sarah Siddons in the early C19 notable artists appearing here later in the C19 included Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the ballet dancers Taglioni and Cerrito and opera singers Jenny Lind and Frederick Lablache. Sarah Bernhardt sustained her knee injury on stage here. Mrs Nye Chart inaugurated the extraordinary 'flying matinees' by which an entire London production including scenery and costumes travelled down to Brighton by train for a 2 pm matinee and returned to London for the 8pm performance. In the 1920s Ivor Novello, Gracie Fields and Sybil Thorndike appeared here. Between 1935 and 1941 John Baxter Somerville set up the Brighton Repertory Company, which included amongst others Diana Wynyard, Rex Harrison, Jack Hawkins, Flora Robson, John Gielgud, Edith Evans, Peggy Ashcroft, Jack Hawkins and Margaret Rutherford. The theatre closed for only one week during the Second World War and from 1941 the theatre reverted to weekly touring companies which included Robert Morley, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft. In the 1950s and 1960s Noel Coward, Margaret Leighton, Lawrence Olivier, John Gielgud, Paul Schofield, Leo McKern, Michael Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, Albert Finney, Anna Massey, Kenneth Williams, Sheila Hancock, John Hurt and Nicol Williamson appeared here. In December 1971 the theatre was bought by Louis I. Michaels and continued with opera, ballet and pre-London shows including artists as diverse as Elizabeth Soderstrom, Margot Fonteyn, Judi Dench, Peter O'Toole and Spike Milligan.


Theatre, incorporating a public house.

DATE: The core retains much fabric of the original theatre of 1807 built to designs approved by the Prince of Wales, quite possibly by Edward Hide (or Hides) who designed the Worthing Theatre in the same year. The auditorium and stage were rebuilt and the facade heightened and extended in 1866 by C J Phipps, when Henry John Nye Chart purchased the theatre. The builder was David Bland of London, and the Clerk of the Works was George Tasker. In 1894 there was a re-fronting of the exterior of the theatre and the theatre was extended into Nos. 8 and 9 New Road and No. 35 Bond Street by CE Clayton of the firm of Clayton and Black, North Street, Brighton. Clayton remained the theatre architect until 3 years before his death in 1923. The auditorium was re-decorated by Sprague and Barton in 1926/7.

MATERIALS: Theatre frontage of painted brick with painted terra cotta decoration, copper cupolas and hipped pantiled roofs. The sides are of brick in various bonds and some cobbles with slate roofs. Nos. 9 and 10 are of yellow brick in Flemish bond with stuccoed dressings and parapeted roofs, No. 35 Bond Street is of painted brick with tiled roof.

PLAN: Theatre on north-east of the site, including scene dock, painting room, property stores and dressing rooms to the north west. No. 9 includes Colonnade Public House on the ground floor and theatre bars above. No. 8 comprises theatre box office on the ground floor, staircase and bar above. No. 35 Bond Street contains the stage door, scenery entrance and offices.

EXTERIOR: Nos. 8 and 9 are part of an early C19 terrace which includes Nos. 1-7 (consecutive) New Road and Nos. 159-161 (consecutive) North Street and were incorporated into the theatre circa 1894. They are a pair, four storeys over basement and have 3 window openings between the pair with central blanks. The pedimented parapet has a painted inscription 'THEATRE ROYAL'. There are end channelled stuccoed pilasters with anthemion decoration to the capitals. The second floor windows are eight-pane sash windows. The second floor of No. 9 has a 16-pane sash with stuccoed hood on brackets but No. 8 has a late C19 square bay of five lights. The first floor has a central round-headed niche flanked by curved bay windows with marginal glazing. The ground floor has a colonnade with modillion cornice, pierced balustrading above and is supported on paired columns. No. 8 has a late C19 wooden frontage with two paired half-glazed doors with swans neck pediments flanked by fixed light and has elliptical-arched fanlights with stained glass. No. 9 has a late C19 bar front with elliptical arch flanked by pilasters and fine coloured tiles at the sides with floral panels. Behind is a central canted bay with swans neck pediment, side-lights, side entrances, one round-headed entrance and fanlight with glazing bars above. The glass is engraved.

The 1894 theatre front to New Road by Clayton is of four storeys and attics over basement and has a centre projecting range of five windows, while a further window on each side of the third floor are slightly set back and attached to octagonal corner turrets topped by ogee capped metal roofs. The turrets and centre are linked on the second and third floors by arches, the latter enclosed. The first-floor windows in the centre range are set in an elaborate aedicule surmounted by a round-arched tympanum filled with a shell motif; the pair of flanking windows have architraves and are topped by a floral entablature frieze. These and many other details in the elevation are in the Flemish Renaissance style. The central window on the second floor is set in an elaborate aedicule with a scrolled pediment. There is a cill band to the side windows, each of which has a flared lintel. All the third-floor windows are round arched. Those in the central section are treated as an arcade with a section of balustrade filling each spandrel, while each side window has a projecting balcony enclosed by railings. In this stage shallow corbel shafts rise to frame the centre window of the fourth floor, where they support pilaster brackets, each terminating in an obelisk; there are remains of scrolled gables to be found above this upper floor. There are keyed oval windows in the fourth floor of the attached turrets. The attic, framed in wood, and glazed, dates to c1915 and replaced a scrolled parapet. The ground floor has a colonnade of paired Ionic columns with deep cornice incorporating a pierced balustrade. The north-east side elevation of painted brick retains the brackets of Phipps' 1866 heightening of the 1807 theatre and C19 brickwork to the Old Painting room. From the rear the late C19 lead covered roof projection housing the safety curtain is visible.

No. 35 Bond Street is part of an early to mid C19 terrace. It is of two storeys painted brick with a tiled roof. The first floor has a late C19 sash without glazing bars. The ground floor has a recessed stage door entrance, double fire doors and an unusual circa 1894 tall, narrow scenery door stretching partly into the upper floor with two tier ledged and braced doors.

INTERIOR: The ground floor of No. 8 contains the box office and entrance lobby. There are panelled walls with pilasters and cornice above, a large panelled ticket kiosk with elliptical fanlights and central swan's neck pediment, a wooden fireplace with carved, mirrored overmantel engaged columns and tiles and entrances with double doors to the Stalls and Royal Circle. There is an open well staircase with balustrading and flat open arches to the royal circle and a separate entrance with a staircase to the gallery. The stalls bar retains an 1890s panelled mahogany bar counter and mirrored shelving. The Colonnade Public House interior retains original fittings including bar shelves. A further curved staircase from the stalls to the Royal Circle behind the boxes on the south side has a circular newel post, stick balusters and a round-headed niche containing a statue of Bacchus and is considered to date from 1807. On the first floor late C19 double doors with stained glass panels lead into the Dress Circle Lounge Bar which retains the 1890s mahogany panelled counter, mahogany and mirrored shelving with central swans neck pediment and a mahogany fireplace with reeded pilasters. The adjoining Phipps Bar contains a later C19 black marble fireplace with tiled cheeks. The auditorium has a flat proscenium arch with early C19 Royal Arms in the centre. Above the proscenium is a frieze of Jacobean-style strapwork which may date from 1894. In 1866 Phipps altered the 1807 plan to a bell-shaped plan with a central chandelier and a three tier gallery supported on cast-iron columns. The 1866 colour scheme was purple, cream and buff. The first and second level omnibus boxes near the stage with flanking, double giant pilasters remain from Phipps' scheme, also the chandelier, the iron columns supporting the galleries and the general proportions. Clayton in the 1890s appears to have left most of Phipps' scheme in place with the possible exception of the frieze above the proscenium arch. However, Barton and Sprague in 1927 replaced Phipps' decorations by plaster decoration in a late Louis Seize style, strengthened the rear of the galleries with reinforced concrete lintels altered the plan of Phipps' galleries adding a reverse curve near the stage and, in so doing, removed one cast-iron column on each side of the dress and upper circles. The theatre retains some interesting backstage features, including a serving hatch to pass drinks straight through to actors waiting in the wings, a late C19 safety curtain metal counterweight, hemp ropes and the old scene painting room retains a wooden drum and shaft remaining from Victorian machinery. The sub-stage mezzanine area retains the standing members of a fully machined wood stage which could raise scenery and performers to stage level but the moving parts have been removed. The dressing room area retains a staircase, plank panelling and a fireplace with paterae and cast iron firegrate.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Phipps, Charles John, (2004)
Callow, S, Theatre Royal Brighton 200 years, (2007)
Carder, T, Encyclopaedia of Brighton, (1990), 182
Cheshire, D F, Bereton, C, Curtains!97, 98
Dale, A, The Theatre Royal, Brighton, (1980)
Robinson, C, The Theatre Royal, Brighton , (October 1993)
Earl, John, Brighton Theatre Royal. Heritage Statement, February 2011,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 01 Oct 2004
Reference: IOE01/13009/07
Rights: Copyright IoE Ms Emma Skeldon. Source Historic England Archive
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