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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 20-21st Century


The Hippodrome is built on Cranbourne Street; architect Frank Matcham. It is opened as a circus, with a large water tank for aquatic shows, but later adapted as a theatre.


21 st February: The Apollo Theatre is opened on Shaftesbury Avenue, designed by Lewin Sharp.

The Adelphi Theatre is completely reconstructed and re-opened as The Century Theatre, but after popular protest it returns to its original name the following year.

The Hackney Empire is built by Frank Matcham. Acclaimed as one of Matcham’s finest works, the Empire will go on to host household names including Marie Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Louis Armstrong.

Plan for the Adelphi theatre
Plan for the Adelphi theatre

The Globe, Opera Comique, Gaiety and Olympic theatres, all in the Strand area, are demolished to make way for the new Aldwych-Kingsway development.

Projected view of the Strand development, 1903
Projected view of the Strand development, 1903

12 th March: The New Theatre opens on St Martin’s Lane, backing onto the Wyndham’s. Both theatres were commissioned by Sir Charles Wyndham and designed by W. G. R. Sprague. The New Theatre will be renamed the Albery in 1973.

26 th October: a new Gaiety Theatre is built as close as possible to the old site (now the corner of Aldwych), partly paid for by the LCC.

Design for the replacement Gaiety Theatre
Design for the replacement Gaiety Theatre

Frank Matcham produces the London Coliseum for Oswald Stoll. The theatre, considered by many to be Matcham’s masterpiece, survives today as the home of the English National Opera.

The interior of the Lyceum Theatre is rebuilt by Bertie Crewe.

The Coliseum, interior
The Coliseum, interior

The Strand theatre is demolished to make way for the Strand underground station serving the new Aldwych development.

The Waldorf Theatre, Aldwych is opened, built by W.G.R. Sprague. This theatre will later become the present-day Strand Theatre.

In December, the Aldwych Theatre opens, also designed by Sprague as a twin to the Waldorf.

The Playhouse on Northumberland Avenue is badly damaged when part of Charing Cross Station collapses onto the front of the theatre during alterations, killing six workmen.

Sprague's design for the 'New theatre' (the current Strand) in 1903
Sprague’s design for the ‘New theatre’ (the current Strand) in 1903

The Hicks Theatre is opened on Shaftesbury Avenue, designed by W.G.R. Sprague. The theatre is briefly renamed the Globe, and is still standing today as the Gielgud.

The Gielgud, as The Globe in 1972
Interior of the Gielgud, as The Globe in 1972

The Queen’s Theatre is opened on Shaftesbury Avenue next to the Hicks, also designed by W.G.R. Sprague.


Frank Matcham is called in to enlarge the stage and auditorium of the Hippodrome after the popularity of circus and water shows dwindles.


London Palladium is built on Argyle street by Frank Matcham as a variety theatre. The building had previously been a circus, ice-skating rink and panorama.

The first UK performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake takes place at the Hippodrome

Terry’s Theatre is converted to a cinema.


The Middlesex Music Hall is completely rebuilt by Frank Matcham and renamed The New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties.

The Prince’s Theatre is opened at the top of Shaftesbury Avenue, designed by Bertie Crewe. This theatre will become the present-day Shaftesbury, given the name twenty years after the old Shaftesbury, further down the road, is destroyed in WWII.

Programme from the Princes Theatre
Programme from the Princes Theatre

The New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties is renamed The Winter Garden Theatre, re-decorated and re-opened under the management of George Grossmith and Edward Laudrillard.


The Grand Casino Cinema, site of the former Terry’s Theatre, is demolished.


The Vaudeville Theatre is rebuilt by Robert Atkinson, leaving intact the earlier frontage by C. J. Phipps which still stands today.

The Vaudeville
The Vaudeville

The Adelphi Theatre is once more completely rebuilt, this time in ‘Art Deco’ style by Ernest Schaufelberg.


The London Pavilion is demolished and converted into a cinema. It has since become an extension of Madame Tussaud’s.


The Alhambra Theatre is demolished. The site is now occupied by the Leicester Square Odeon.

The Alhambra in the 30s
The Alhambra in the 30s

The Royalty Theatre is closed. The building is later destroyed in the Blitz.


Some of the stalls and much of the front of the Queens Theatre are destroyed by a direct hit. Instead of reopening immediately, the theatre is used as a rehearsal venue.


The Kingsway theatre is badly damaged by a bomb and forced to close.

The old Shaftesbury theatre is destroyed by bombing.

Notice on the back of theatre programme, 1940
Notice on the back of theatre programme, 1940

The Duke of York’s Theatre is redecorated by Cecil Beaton.

Laurence Olivier takes over the management of the St James’s Theatre.


The Playhouse closes as a theatre and is taken over by the BBC as a recording studio.

The Lyceum Theatre is converted to a Mecca Ballroom.


St James’s Theatre is demolished to make way for an office block, despite a fiercely-fought campaign led by Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

The Hippodrome is converted to a cabaret venue, renamed Talk of the Town.

The renamed Hippodrome
The renamed Hippodrome

The Winter Garden Theatre is sold to the Rank Organisation.

The Queen’s theatre is reopened with a new façade designed by Brian Westwood and Sir Hugh Casson .

The Winter Garden, 1956
The Winter Garden, 1956

The Princes Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue is sold to EMI, restored and reopened as the Shaftesbury.


The Winter Garden Theatre is demolished. The New London Theatre is built on the site.


The Shaftesbury theatre is forced to close when part of the auditorium roof falls in just as the musical Hair is about to celebrate its 2000th performance. A concerted campaign saves the theatre from conversion into an office block, and it is now a Grade II listed building.

The Shaftesbury in 1972
The Shaftesbury in 1972

The BBC leaves the Playhouse.


The Talk of the Town is sold to Peter Stringfellow who turns it into a nightclub and disco.


The Playhouse undergoes alterations to allow it to operate as a theatre again.


The Lyceum Theatre is extensively refurbished and re-opens as a theatre. It is now a Grade II listed building and home to large-scale musicals.

Box in the Lyceum
Box in the Lyceum

The Hippodrome (previously Talk of the Town) is refurbished and re-opened as a venue for cabaret under its original name

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