Garrick Club

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers of Garrick Club comprise one volume containing playbills for the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden between 28 September 1825 and 23 June 1826 with occasional notices of cast changes.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Garrick Club was founded in 1831 ". . . for the general patronage of the Drama; for the purpose of combining the use of a club, on economical principles, with the advantages of a Literary society; for bringing together the supporters of the Drama; and for the formation of a Theatrical Library, with works on costume". Its first proper meeting took place on 15 October 1831 and its first permanent premises were Probatt's Hotel, 35 King Street, Covent Garden. In 1864, in need of further space, the Club moved to new purpose-built premises, just 200 yards away, in what came to be called Garrick Street.

Famous members connected with the theatre and literary world have included Thackeray, Dickens, Irving, J.M. Barrie and Kenneth Grahame. Today, its list of members continues to include actors, writers, publishers and media professionals as well as businessmen. The Garrick Club Library is an important source for the study of British theatre history and houses a large collection of play-texts, playbills and programmes. It also has a significant collection of theatrical paintings and drawings. For further information about the club, see Richard Hough, 'The Ace of Clubs, A History of the Garrick'.

The first theatre on the site of what is now the Royal Opera House was opened in 1732 by John Rich ([1682]-1761), the founder of modern pantomime. The auditorium was gutted and rebuilt in 1782, and again in 1792. The actor John Philip Kemble (1757-1823), became a shareholder in 1803 and acted there with his sister, Sarah Siddons (1755-1831). The child performer Master Betty (1791-1874), was a huge hit at Covent Garden after Kemble engaged him, and the great clown Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) made his name there. In 1808 the theatre burnt down, but re-opened in 1809. Kemble, by now the manager, increased ticket prices which provoked the 'O.P.' (Old Price) riots. During the first half of the 19th century, most of the famous actors of the day appeared there, including Edmund Kean and his son Charles. In 1856 the theatre was again destroyed by fire, and when it reopened in 1858, it became a home for opera, and seasonal pantomimes. In 1892, it became known as the Royal Opera House. In 1946, it became London's most prestigious ballet, as well as opera venue. Following a controversial grant of lottery funding in the mid-1990s, the theatre was rebuilt with vastly improved stage, technical and operating facilities, yet retaining and restoring the 1856 auditorium. It reopened in 1999 as one of the most up-to date opera houses in the world.

Arrangement

1 volume

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research

Acquisition Information

See above.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Richard Temple.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original, which must be assessed by a conservator. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Custodial History

A bookplate and label indicate that the item was presented to the Garrick Club by Alfred Lane Crauford in 1934. The item was purchased by the University of London Library on 3 August 1965 and placed in the Durning-Lawrence Library collection .