Catalogue description Records of the Georgian Theatre, Richmond

This record is held by Georgian Theatre Royal Archives

Details of GTR
Reference: GTR
Title: Records of the Georgian Theatre, Richmond

Letters of application for licences, 1793, 1823, 1824, 1852 (turned down)


Playbills and handbills, 1792-1842


Engravings and prints of artists associated with the Theatre, 18th-19th century


Records of the theatre restoration including minutes of the fund raising trust, photographs, 1959-1963


Programmes, handbills, posters, 1963-2002


Photographs and autographs of royal visitors, 20th century


'Green Books': 7 volumes compiled by the theatre manager containing programmes signed by performers and other papers, 1963-1992

Date: 1792-2002
Held by: Georgian Theatre Royal Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Georgian Theatre 1788-1807, Richmond, North Riding of Yorkshire

Georgian Theatre Royal, 1807-, Richmond, North Yorkshire

Physical description: 30 boxes, 7 volumes
Access conditions:


  • Butler, Samuel, d 1812, theatre actor manager
  • Butler family of Richmond, North Riding of Yorkshire
  • Richmond, North Riding of Yorkshire
  • Theatre
Administrative / biographical background:

The Georgian Theatre Royal is one of the most important theatres in Britain as it is the most authentic public 18th century theatre in existence. Its unique feature is that it has the Georgian proscenium with two side doors surmounted by balconies. The proscenium with its doors and balconies intervening between the stage proper and the audience enabled actors to enter either through the scenery onto the main stage or by the proscenium doors onto the forestage.


The Theatre (formally known as the Theatre Royal from 1807) was built by an excellent actor manager, Samuel Butler, in 1788. He created a circuit of five theatres within a 50 mile radius of Richmond which were all owned and operated by the Butler family. The Theatre prospered and some of our greatest actors, in particular Edmund Kean and Macready, performed here. Samuel Butler died in 1812 but his son and daughter administered the Theatre with the second Mrs Butler as manageress. The family continued to run the theatre until 1830 by which time theatre everywhere was losing its attraction. The Theatre went into decline and performances ceased altogether in 1842. Thereafter it was used as a corn chandler, a furniture store, an auction room and in World War II as a waste paper depot.


In the 1930s little was known of its history and the first person to become interested was Edwin Bush, the history master at Richmond Grammar School. The further researches of theatre historian Dr Richard Southern and Sybil Rosenfeld proved the enormous importance of the building. Much publicity was gained through the work of David Brooks who became Town Clerk of Richmond in 1942. It was he who brought the Theatre to the attention of Lady Dugdale (later Lady Crathorne), who became the driving force behind the efforts, both physical and financial, towards the restoration of the Theatre. It was officially re-opened on 6 May 1963 by the Princess Royal. It closed on 5 January 2002 for a major restoration, partially funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is due to re-open in May 2003. Its president is Dame Judi Dench. The Theatre museum, the first of its kind in the country, was opened by Richard Baker in 1979 and in 1996, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, new premises for the museum were constructed. It houses the oldest surviving complete set of painted scenery in Britain, consisting of eight wing flats and a backdrop from George Rivers Higgins' scene painting workshop in Royston, dating from 1836.

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