Portsmouth music scene

The Portsmouth Music Scene

The Theatre Royal

Known performances
Even more posters
Advert Post Cards

The building was constructed in 1854 as Landport Hall. It was converted to a theatre two years later.
It was rebuilt in 1884 by Charles J. Phipps and again in 1900 by Frank Matcham. The theatre has been designated a Grade 1 building.

theatre royal 1860.jpg

The Theatre Royal in 1860

new_theatre_royal_circle royal

Henry Rutley was born about 1816 in Newcastle. His father was a Sergeant in the army who fought throughout the Peninsular War. His mother accompanied her husband for the duration and, being an excellent linguist, was of great assistance to the troops in their communications with the Spaniards.
He was passionate about horses and this may have influenced his early choice of career as Agent in Advance for many large touring circuses. After a tour of Holland, Henry came to Portsmouth in 1854 with a large equestrian establishment. He purchased a building called the Landport Hall which was a racquet court attached to the Swan Tavern. Within a short space of time he sold his share in the circus business and converted the equestrian ring into an auditorium. At that time there were no dramatic or lyrical theatres remaining in Portsmouth there were, however, many music halls of a dubious nature and Henry's application for a licence was viewed cautiously by the Magistrates. He reassured them that the theatre was to be a place of entertainment for the middle classes and went on to make a success of his new enterprise opening The Theatre Royal in 1856.
Henry died 3rd March 1874 aged 59 years of dropsy from which he had suffered for many weeks. His ghost is said to have been felt around the theatre for many years. His young widow sold business to John Broughton who built the Kings Theatre.

Grave Inscription Highland Road Cemetery HENRY RUTLEY DIED 3RD MARCH 1874 AGED 59 YEARS

PORTSMOUTH. THETRE ROYAL (Lessee and Manager, Mr H Rutley June 1872.)
--This place was reopened on Monday Mr Felix Rogers having been engaged to reproduce his drama entitled Rip Van Winkle. The character of Rip which he essays , has been made his own , and almost stands inimitable. He brings with him a very fair company, who support him throughout very creditably.
Among the names we may mention Massrs Henry Chippendale, E H. Lynham J.B1ossom, D Ernest the Misses Marie Duval E. W. Page, Reynolds, and Madame Dupont. Thu burlesque of Aladdin terminates this evening.

11th August 1900 Refurbished Opening

fetch 6-1-1900 3-2-1900
10-3-1900 17-3-1900

The six cuttings above date from 6th January 1900 to 17th March 1900


Ali Baba at the Theatre Royal circa 1923

royal2 royal3 royal4 royal5 royal6 royal7x royal8 royal9 1982844317

Theatre Royal staff outside the building about 1922.
Published on Monday 28 January 2013 Portsmouth NEWS

A historic picture from the archives of the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth. Unearthed by trustee Colin Bradey and a colleague who have undertaken the mammoth task of scanning and cataloguing the theatre’s archives. It comprises posters, programmes, photographs and other material, some of it dating back to the 1880s. This picture feature staff from the theatre which was then in the section of Commercial Road which has now renamed Guildhall Walk. But they would also have worked at The Kings Theatre, Southsea, and The Prince’s Theatre, Lake Road, Landport, as they were all owned by Portsmouth Theatres Ltd at the time. The picture above shows staff outside the Theatre Royal with the unmistakeable colonnade behind them. The significance of what looks like a football in not known. The theatre is a grade 2* listed Victorian building and one of the few remaining Phipps/Matcham working theatres in the world. In 1972 a fire destroyed the back of house but the beautiful auditorium was saved.

debut royal11953

Filming in 1971 of The Boyfriend shows the end of the first act. Brian Murphy, Barbara Windsor and Twiggy

theatreroyal1 troyal1

royal12-12-1972 922353986

The day in 1972 that the Theatre Royal died again.
Published on Wednesday 30 January 2013 Portsmouth NEWS By Chris Owen

It was 1972 when children got into the New Theatre Royal and lit fireworks setting the Victorian building alight. Only now, 41 years later, is the devastating damage about to be put right. Photographs from the theatre’s archives catch the drama of that dark day in Portsmouth’s theatrical history. But, as we report today, work is finally about to start to regenerate the theatre.
On the day of the fire a member of the public alerted a patrolling policeman to the smoke. But by the time the fire brigade arrived the rear of the theatre was ablaze. Early in the fire the ropes of the safety curtain burned through, causing it to fall into place saving the auditorium.
Ironically, the curtain had been faulty and temperamental for many years and regularly refused to operate. The stage, fly tower and the entire building behind the proscenium arch was destroyed. The building had already been earmarked for demolition, provoking outrage and a huge campaign to save it. After the fire the bulldozers were threatened again but the Theatre Royal Society was there to oppose the plan and began a long campaign to restore it.


The new, New Theatre Royal in 2014

Return to the previous page