Old Theatre Royal, St. Mary’s Gate

Old Theatre Royal, St. Mary’s Gate

THIS theatre was built in 1760 by a man called Whitely, who was the proprietor of a stock company which made the tour of theatres in the neighbouring towns.

It cannot have been a very pretentious structure, and one can easily reconstruct its appearance by visiting the old theatre which still remains at Southwell and is nowadays occupied by a well-known photographer.

During Whitely’s days some stormy scenes occurred in the Nottingham theatre. In 1763 one of the actors was dragged off to prison for playing the part of " Portius " in the tragedy of "Cato." A rescue was attempted and a general row and unpleasantness ensued.

The theatre was used as a concert hall, and in 1772 a musical festival was held within its walls during which Handel’s oratorios of "The Messiah," "Judas Maccabeus," and "Samson" were introduced to the Nottingham audience. It was here that Edmund Kean appeared in 1861 in the character of ‘‘Hamlet.’’

The theatre was closed in 1837 and almost immediately re-opened as a music hall. The present Theatre Royal was built in 1865.