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Key dates, names and places in London's Theatreland, 1660-2004

17th Century
18th Century
19th Century
20-21st Century

The 17th Century

At the Restoration of Charles II the theatres, which had been closed by the Puritans, are able to open again. Only one theatre, the Red Bull, is still intact, and this is soon found to be too small for the new tastes in theatre and for the increasing audiences. Two new theatres are hastily built near Lincoln's Inn Fields, both in converted tennis courts.
The Red Bull as it appeared before the Civil War
The Red Bull as it appeared before the Civil War
Charles II issues 'letters patent' to Thomas Killigrew and William Davenant, the managers of the two new theatres, giving them exclusive right to form acting companies. These two, the King's Company and the Duke's Company, will have a monopoly on performing straight drama for the next 33 years, and their theatres will continue to be known as the 'patent theatres', with special rights to stage plays, for well over a century.
The Duke's Company commission their own theatre, the Duke's Theatre in Dorset Garden, possibly by Christopher Wren.
The Duke's Theatre, 1673
The Duke's Theatre, 1673
A new theatre is built by Christopher Wren on the site of an older playhouse on Catherine Street, City of Westminster, as a home for the Kings' Company. This will become the Drury Lane Theatre Royal.
Drury Lane in the 18th century
Drury Lane in the 18th century

Aphra Behn , Britain ’s first professional female playwright, produces The Rover, her best-known work. In her 17-year career as a writer Behn will produce 16 plays, as well as novels, poems and pamphlets.


The Duke's Company takes over the now struggling King's Company, and the amalgamated United Company is formed.


Ten popular actors led by Thomas Betterton break away from the United Company to form their own co-operative. They gain a royal ‘licence to perform’ and open with a premiere of William Congreve’s Love for Love.

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