Wilton’s Music Hall stands in a corner of London that you’d never imagine is steeped in theatrical history.
Beside the railway viaduct from Fenchurch Street Station is the site of the very first London Theatre, built in 1577 and twenty years later surreptitiously dismantled by William Shakespeare’s company to be re-erected as the Globe Theatre on the Southwark side of the river.
In Leman Street stood Goodman’s Fields Theatre, opened in 1729 and closed in 1742, where David Garrick (1717-1779) made his London debut as Richard III in 1740. In Wellclose Square, the actor John Palmer (c1742-1798) ill-advisedly built the Royalty Theatre (1787) without a licence: it became the East London Theatre before it burnt down in 1826.
Nearby in Ensign Street there are a series of innocuous-looking Grade II listed bollards inscribed with the monogram RBT. This commemorates the Royal Brunswick Theatre which collapsed in February 1828, shortly after the opening night. Charles Dickens’ account of this disaster can be found at http://anengineersaspect.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/collapse-of-brunswick-theatre-february.html.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Fun Palaces: the history and architecture of the entertainment industry please click here.