Scala Theatre

Last updated

Coordinates: 51°31′12.2″N0°8′10.0″W / 51.520056°N 0.136111°W / 51.520056; -0.136111


The Scala in 1917 Interior View of the Scala Theatre, London - 1917 (5327707820).jpg
The Scala in 1917

The Scala Theatre was a theatre in Charlotte Street, London, off Tottenham Court Road. The first theatre on the site opened in 1772, and the theatre was demolished in 1969, after being destroyed by fire. From 1865 to 1882, the theatre was known as the Prince of Wales's Theatre (not to be confused with Prince of Wales Theatre).


The theatre began on this site as The New Rooms where concerts were performed, in Charlotte Street, in 1772, under the management of Francis Pasquali. Popularity, and royal patronage led to the building's enlargement by James Wyatt, and its renaming as the King's Concert Rooms (1780–1786). It then became Rooms for Concerts of Ancient Music and Hyde's Rooms (1786–1802, managed by The Directors of Concerts and Ancient Music).

In 1802, a private theatre club managed by Captain Caulfield, the "Pic-Nics", occupied the building and named it the Cognoscenti Theatre (1802–1808). It became the New Theatre (1808–1815) and was extended and fitted out as a public theatre, with a portico entrance on Tottenham Street. It opened on 23 April 1810 with Love in a Village. [1]

It continued under a succession of managers as the unsuccessful Regency Theatre (1815–1820), falling into decline. The theatre then reopened as the West London Theatre (1820–1831), Queen's Theatre (1831–1833, 1835–1837, and 1839–1865), and Fitzroy Theatre (1833–1835). [1] The lessee of the theatre from 1839 to 1865 was a scenic artist, Charles James James, and the theatre became the home of lurid melodrama, being nicknamed The Dusthole. [2] [3] [4]

Prince of Wales's Royal Theatre 1865–1882

In 1865, the theatre was renovated and named the Prince of Wales's Royal Theatre and this continued until it went dark in 1882. [5] [6] It was demolished in 1903. [4] In 1865, in partnership with Henry Byron, Marie Wilton assumed the management of the theatre, having secured as a leading actor Squire Bancroft. He starred in J. P. Wooler's A Winning Hazard, among other works. Wilton provided the capital, and Byron wrote a number of plays. His first was a burlesque of La sonnambula . However, Wilton wanted to present more sophisticated pieces. She agreed to produce three more burlesques by Byron, while he agreed to write his first prose comedies, War to the Knife (a success in 1865) and A Hundred Thousand Pounds (1866). By 1867, Byron left the partnership. [7] [8]

The house soon became noted for the successful domestic drama-comedies by Thomas William Robertson, including his series of groundbreaking realist plays, Society (1865), Ours (1866), Caste (1867), Play (1868), School (1869), and M.P. (1870). [9] In 1867, Wilton married Squire Bancroft and took his surname as Mrs. Effie Bancroft and regularly took the principal female parts in these pieces opposite her husband. Other plays were W. S. Gilbert's Allow Me To Explain (1867; this ran as a companion piece to Robertson's Caste) [10] and Sweethearts (1874), as well as Tame Cats (1868), Lytton's Money (1872), The School for Scandal (1874), a revival of Boucicault's London Assurance (1877), and Diplomacy (Clement Scott's 1878 adaptation of Sardou's Dora). A number of prominent actors played at the theatre during this period, among them John Hare, Charles Coghlan, the Kendals, and Ellen Terry.

A big success in 1881 was F. C. Burnand's The Colonel , which went on to run for 550 performances, transferring to the Imperial Theatre. In 1882, the theatre went dark, and from 1886 the theatre buildings were used as a Salvation Army Hostel, until it was demolished in 1903. [4] Another theatre near Leicester Square, London, began to use the name Prince of Wales Theatre in 1886. [11]

Scala Theatre 1905–1969

In 1903, Dr. Edmund Distin Maddick bought the property, and adjoining properties, and enlarged the site. The main entrance was now in Charlotte Street, and the old portico in Tottenham Street became the stage door. The new theatre, designed by Frank Verity, opened in 1905, as The Scala Theatre, seating 1,139 and boasting a large stage. The new venture was not particularly successful and became a cinema, from 1911 to 1918, run by Charles Urban. [4] In 1918, F. J. Nettlefold took over and ran the premises as a theatre again.

It became known as the New Scala in 1923, with D. A. Abrahams as licensee for staging plays and showing films; he became owner in 1925. Amateur productions and pantomimes were performed, and for a while the theatre became home to the Gang Show. During World War II, it again housed professional theatre, reverting to the Scala Theatre. After the war, under the management of Prince Littler, amateur productions returned, with Peter Pan being the annual pantomime. This continued until 1969 when, after a fire, it was demolished for the building of offices, known as Scala House (25 Tottenham Street). In 1964, the theatre was used by The Beatles for the concert sequences in the film A Hard Day's Night .

Cinema (1976–1980)

The Other Cinema opened in October 1976 in the basement of Scala House; it showed avant-garde films and closed in February 1977. [12] The premises reopened as Scala Cinema in June 1978. It showed a daily programme of films. In 1980, the Scala House was taken over by Channel 4 television, and in 1981 the former Odeon King’s Cross cinema in Pentonville Road was renamed Scala Cinema. [12]

Related Research Articles

Squire Bancroft

Sir Squire Bancroft, born Squire White Butterfield, was an English actor-manager. He changed his name to Squire Bancroft Bancroft by deed poll just before his marriage. He and his wife Effie Bancroft are considered to have instigated a new form of drama known as 'drawing-room comedy' or 'cup and saucer drama', owing to the realism of their stage sets.

Music hall Type of British theatrical entertainment popular between 1850 and 1960

Music hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment that was popular from the early Victorian era, beginning around 1850. It faded away after 1918 as the halls rebranded their entertainment as variety. Perceptions of a distinction in Britain between bold and scandalous Victorian Music Hall and subsequent, more respectable Variety differ. Music hall involved a mixture of popular songs, comedy, speciality acts, and variety entertainment. The term is derived from a type of theatre or venue in which such entertainment took place. In North America vaudeville was in some ways analogous to British music hall, featuring rousing songs and comic acts.

Fitzrovia Human settlement in England

Fitzrovia is a district of central London, England, near the West End. The eastern part of area is in the London Borough of Camden, and the western in the City of Westminster. It has its roots in the Manor of Tottenham Court, and was urbanised in the 18th century. Its name was coined in the late 1930s by Tom Driberg.

Henry James Byron

Henry James Byron was a prolific English dramatist, as well as an editor, journalist, director, theatre manager, novelist and actor.

T. W. Robertson English dramatist and innovative stage director

Thomas William Robertson was an English dramatist and stage director.

Coventry Street London street, within the City of Westminster

Coventry Street is a short street in the West End of London, connecting Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square. Part of the street is a section of the A4, a major road through London. It is named after the politician Henry Coventry, secretary of state to Charles II.

John Hare (actor) 19th/20th-century English actor

Sir John Hare, born John Joseph Fairs, was an English actor and theatre manager of the later 19th– and early 20th centuries.

Effie Bancroft English actress and theatre manager

Marie Effie Wilton, Lady Bancroft (1839–1921) was an English actress and theatre manager. She appeared onstage as Marie Wilton until after her marriage in December 1867 to Squire Bancroft, when she adopted his last name. Bancroft and her husband were important in the development of Victorian era theatre through their presentation of innovative plays at the London theatres that they managed, first the Prince of Wales's Theatre and later the Haymarket Theatre.

Dalys Theatre

Daly's Theatre was a theatre in the City of Westminster. It was located at 2 Cranbourn Street, just off Leicester Square. It opened on 27 June 1893, and was demolished in 1937.

Royal Strand Theatre Theatre in London

The Royal Strand Theatre was located in the Strand in the City of Westminster. The theatre was built on the site of a panorama in 1832, and in 1882 was rebuilt by the prolific theatre architect Charles J. Phipps. It was demolished in 1905 to make way for Aldwych tube station.

Globe Theatre (Newcastle Street)

The Globe was a Victorian theatre built in 1868 and demolished in 1902. It was the third of five London theatres to bear the name, following Shakespeare’s Bankside house, which closed in 1642, and the former Rotunda Theatre in Blackfriars Road, which for a few years from 1833 was renamed the Globe. The new theatre was also known at various times as the Royal Globe Theatre or Globe Theatre Royal. Its repertoire consisted mainly of comedies and musical shows.

Henry James Montague

Henry James Montague was the stage name of Henry John Mann,, an American actor born in England.

Henrietta Hodson English actress and theatre manager

Henrietta Hodson was an English actress and theatre manager best known for her portrayal of comedy roles in the Victorian era. She had a long affair with the journalist-turned-politician Henry Labouchère, later marrying him.

Queens Theatre, Long Acre Former theatre in London (1847–1878)

The Queen's Theatre in London was established in 1867 as a theatre on the site of St Martin's Hall, a large concert room that had opened in 1850. It stood on the corner of Long Acre and Endell Street, with entrances in Wilson Street and Long Acre. The site is within the modern Camden, part of Covent Garden.

Charlotte Street

Charlotte Street is a street in Fitzrovia, central London. The southern half of the street has many restaurants and cafes, and a lively nightlife; while the northern part of the street is more mixed in character, and includes the large office building of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, and a University College London student hall of residence, Astor College. The street has a significant residential population living above the ground floor. Two conservation areas are contained within the street: Charlotte Street conservation area (Camden) and Charlotte Street West conservation area

Royal Aquarium

The Royal Aquarium and Winter Garden was a place of amusement in Westminster, London. It opened in 1876, and the building was demolished in 1903. The attraction was located northwest of Westminster Abbey on Tothill Street. The building was designed by Alfred Bedborough in an ornamental style faced with Portland stone. The Aquarium Theatre was located in the west end of the building and was renamed the Imperial Theatre in 1879. Methodist Central Hall now occupies the site.

Bella Goodall

Isabella Goodall was an English soubrette of the Victorian theatre. She made her name on the stage in her native city, Liverpool, and later became a star of the London theatre, both in burlesque and comic plays.

<i>Society</i> (play)

Society was an 1865 comedy drama by Thomas William Robertson regarded as a milestone in Victorian drama because of its realism in sets, costume, acting and dialogue. Unusually for that time, Robertson both wrote and directed the play, and his innovative writing and stage direction inspired George Bernard Shaw and W. S. Gilbert.

John Stanley Coombe Beard

John Stanley Coombe Beard FRIBA, known professionally as J. Stanley Beard, was an English architect known for designing many cinemas in and around London.

<i>Caste</i> (play)

Caste is a comedy drama by Thomas William Robertson, first seen in 1867. The play was the third of several successes by Robertson produced in London's West End by Squire Bancroft and his wife Marie Wilton. As its name suggests, Caste concerns distinctions of class and rank. The son of a French nobleman marries a ballet dancer and then goes to war. When word arrives that he has been killed in action, his mother tries to wrest the child from his penniless widow.


  1. 1 2 "Prince of Wales's Theatre". The Era . 23 April 1865. p. 15.
  2. University of Kent, Theatre Collection accessed 12 Mar 2007
  3. University of Massachusetts, Theatre History accessed 12 Mar 2007
  4. 1 2 3 4 University of Kent, Scala Theatre accessed 12 Mar 2007
  5. "Scala Theatre", Theatre Database,, accessed 28 February 2017
  6. Savin, Maynard (1950). Thomas William Robertson: His Plays and Stagecraft. Providence, RI: Brown University Press. p. 8.
  7. Thomson, Peter. "Byron, Henry James (1835–1884)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn, January 2008, accessed 19 December 2008
  8. Lee, Amy Wai Sum. "Henry J. Byron" [ permanent dead link ], Hong Kong Baptist University
  9. Pemberton, T. Edgar. The English Drama from its Beginning to the Present DaySociety and Caste, D. C. Heath & Co., Publishers Boston USA and London (1905)
  10. Robinson, Arthur. "Allow Me To Explain", Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, 27 November 1996, accessed 27 February 2014
  11. Lloyd, Matthew. "The Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry Street, London", Arthur Lloyd's Music Hall and Theatre Website, accessed January 18, 2020
  12. 1 2 Roe, Ken. "Scala Cinema Club". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved 2 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Further reading