Theatre Royal Drury Lane collection (1783-1869)

Scope and Content

This collection contains a variety of legal and financial records relating to Drury Lane Theatre from the 1780s to 1860s. This collection includes legal and financial agreements and court papers involving Sheridan and Richardson; documents relating to the Art for Rebuilding Drury Lane (1810 and 1812); debentures; Deeds of Trust; letters and documents 1789-1819, mostly relating to plays submitted for production and to the cost of removing tche Drury Lane company to the King's Theatre; reports relating to the rebuilding of the Theatre in 1812; tally sheets; claims letters; and committee reports and shares.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Theatre Royal Drury Lane was built by Thomas Killigrew under Royal Charter and opened in 1663. It burnt down in 1672, but was rebuilt (the architect was Christopher Wren) and opened in 1674 with John Dryden (1631-1700) as resident playwright. In 1746 David Garrick (1717-1779) became joint manager, and in 1776 he was succeeded by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816). Between 1791 and 1794 the theatre was again rebuilt and Sheridan remained in control until it burnt down in 1809, with assistance (until his death) from Joseph Richardson (1755-1803). The theatre was rebuilt in 1812 and subsequently produced pantomimes, spectaculars and concerts in addition to dramatic seasons, notably those of Edmund Kean (1787-1833) in 1814-20 and William Macready (1793-1873) in 1841-43. From 1880 the theatre was controlled by Augustus Harris (1852-1896) who introduced large scale opera and spectacular melodrama. Harris was succeeded by his assistant Arthur Collins (1863-1932) in 1896. After Collins retired in 1923 the theatre became the home of large scale musicals under successive managements including H.M. Tennant from 1932, Prince Littler from 1946, Stoll Moss in the 1990s and Really Useful Theatre Group from 2000.


The collection is arranged as follows:

  • THM/101/1 - Tally sheets (Box office returns)
  • THM/101/2 - Financial documents
  • THM/101/3 - Correspondence and legal documents

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

  • THM/72 - Drury Lane Theatrical Fund Collection
  • THM/86 - Drury Lane Design Collection
  • THM/102 - Drury Lane Theatre Archive - New Renter's Trustees
  • THM/400 - Drury Lane Theatre Treasury Sheets

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.

Material relating to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, as well as theatre in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in general, may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Please ask for details.