Prince’s Theatre Oxford Street Manchester
Situated near the junction of Lower Mosley Street and Oxford Street, the theatre was promoted by a group of businessmen intent on broadening competition in a theatrical world dominated by The Theatre Royal and Queen’s Theatre. Charles Calvert, one of Manchester’s most celebrated actor-managers was appointed to operate the theatre. Initial capital £20,000. Doors opened on Saturday 15 October 1864. At first, the theatre was highly successful and profitable. In 1869 the interior of the theatre was extensively remodelled by Alfred Darbyshire including the provision of 300 extra seats in the upper circle. The theatre finally closed in April 1940 and was demolished to make way for a super-cinema. However the Second World War intervened and the cinema was never built. After remaining empty for many years, St Peter’s House was eventually built on the site. The theatre laid claim to two theatrical innovations, the introduction of individual tip-up seats to replace communal benches and “early doors” allowing patrons to enter the theatre early to avoid the crush on purchase of a more expensive ticket.
'In point of histrionic importance, the Prince's Theatre comes next to the Royal. It was erected by a company with a capital of £20,000, from plans by Mr Edward Solomons. It was opened on Saturday, Oct. 15th, 1864, under the management of Mrs Charles Calvert, who had previously been at the Theatre Royal from 1857 to 1862, with The Tempest, in which Mrs Julia St. George took the part of Ariel, with Mr and Mrs Calvert as Prospero and Miranda, and Mr Cathcart as Caliban, concluding with a burlesque by H. J. Byron, entitled Mazourka; or, the Stick, the Pole, and the Tartar. [the ERA, 4th of January 1896.]
A NEW THEATRE IN MANCHESTER - Some time ago it was announced in our columns that a project was in progress for the erection of a new theatre in Manchester. The work was commenced in May, with the demolition of the buildings then occupying the site; and it has proceeded with such celerity that the first performance will be given in the new building about the middle of this month. The site is in Oxford Street, nearly opposite St Peter’s Church, and it extends from that street to Bale Street. The area covered is 840 square yards, with a frontage of 60 feet. The style of the facade is Italian, freely treated. On the ground floor, in the centre, a triple arch gives access to a vestibule, 28 feet by 11 feet, whence a wide stone staircase leads to the dress circle. A door on either side of the arch leads to the pit and amphitheatre stalls (upper circle) respectively, the pit entrance being the one nearest the church. On the first floor are a row of windows, and two niches for statues. Above these are seven circular openings, which give light to the wardrobe, and relieve what otherwise would be a heavy extent of dead wall. These apertures are surmounted by a cornice, supported by caryatides and trusses. The principal dimensions of the interior are: From the front of the dress circle to the curtain line, 39 feet; from the footlights to the back of the stage 56 feet; the greatest breadth of the pit is 54 feet; and the proscenium is 25 feet wide and 24 feet high.
In the centre of the dress circle there will be four rows of cushioned chairs with seats wider than usual. Behind them is a retiring room, which may be separated from the circle on ordinary occasions by a curtain that may be raised so as to afford increased standing accommodation when there is any pressure. A ladies’ room adjoins the retiring room. At each end of the dress circle are one large and two small private boxes. The amphitheatre will have spring-stuffed seats. The seats in the pit will be cushioned, and each seat separated from the next by an iron arm. There will be a promenade behind the pit seats, and on each side two small boxes. The seats in the stalls have been so ingeniously arranged that upon an individual rising the seat will turn up against the back, so as to afford more room when anyone desires to pass. The capacities of the several parts of the building are: Dress circle, 250 seats, with standing room behind for 120; private boxes, 32; pit, 470; pit boxes, 16; stalls, 38; amphitheatre stalls, 130; gallery 600, total 1,656. The style of ornament adopted is the Neo-Grec. The proscenium is framed in gold, relieved with black, and there is a handsome cornice above. The ceiling consists of twelve panels, radiating from a ventilating shaft 8 feet in diameter, from which the sun-light is suspended. Each panel will have a head, painted in white on a maroon ground, and an ornamental design. The fronts of the circles are decorated in a delicate light pink and grey ground, relieved with maroon and festoons in gold, beneath the loops of which are shields adorned with classic heads. The arrangement of the interior is such as to make it appear larger than it is. The front of the upper tier retires, and the building thus seems to widen from the floor of the pit upwards.
The business of the stage will be carried on without grooves. The height from the stage floor to the carpenters’ floor is 50 feet; and this enables all the scenery to be drawn up. The wings will be moved upon a small railroad beneath the stage. On either side of the stage are three recesses (such as the Lord Chamberlain has advised for the London theatres), where water buckets and wet blankets will be kept. At the back of the stage are the manager’s room, the painting room, the green room and the dressing room for the artistes. The entrance for these rooms is from Bale Street, where also is the gallery entrance. A fire-proof arched passage extends the length of the building, from the entrance to the gallery staircase at the front. This passage is well-lighted,, and will constitute a promenade in wet weather and between the acts. The wardrobe is under the gallery, and a passage conducts from it to the back of the stage. Beneath the stage is a lower floor, where the wings and some other portions of the machinery are worked. The heaviest machinery will be worked in the cellar, 22 feet below the stage. The dressing rooms for the gentlemen of the company are under the pit; they are well ventilated, abundantly lighted with gas and supplied with every convenience.
All the entrances are very wide, and all the staircases are fireproof. At the top of the staircase which communicates with the door in Bale Street is a large cistern capable of holding about 1,400 gallons of water. This will afford the means of producing some peculiar scenic effects, and from the cistern hose will be laid to all parts of the house in case a sterner necessity should arise. The building is the property of the Manchester Public Amusements Company Limited, with a capital of £10,000, which may be increased. It has been erected from the designs and under the personal superintendence of Mr E Salomons, who has availed himself of the talent of the following firms: As contractors, Messrs Metcalfe and Waterson, Strangeways; for the gas fittings, Mr R Heyworth, Faulkner Street; for the ornament in relief, Mr Parlby, Rathbone Place, London; for the painting, including the decorative work, Messrs Ward and Harwood, Strangeways; for the gilding, Mr Heap, Kay Street, Ardwick; for the seats and the upholstery, Nr Lyon, King Street, Holborn, London. Mr Drummond is the head carpenter; and Mr Purvis the head property man. The details of the stage have been made under the superintendence of Mr Breckell. The act drop and proscenium are the work of Mr Beverley of London; and the scenery for the opening play has been painted by Messrs Grieve and Son of London, F Holding and M Buckley of Manchester. ......
The name of the building is "The Prince’s Theatre." The application for a licence for this theatre was made at the City Police Court, yesterday, by Mr F Robinson on behalf of Mr Henry Barry Peacock. [Manchester Guardian, Saturday 1 October 1864 Page 7]
Reference Builder 23 April 1864
Reference Manchester Guardian, Saturday 1 October 1864 Page 7
Reference Manchester Courier Saturday 1 October 1864 Page 5 with extensive note
Reference Manchester Guardian, Saturday 1 October 1864 Page 7
Reference Manchester Guardian 17 October 1864 page 3
Reference The Times (London, England), Tuesday, 18 October 1864; page 12
Reference Manchester City News Saturday 22 October1864 Page 3 – opening