Not currently on display at the V&A

The New Theatre at Stratford

Architectural Drawing
1896 (Drawn)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Titled 'The New Theatre at Stratford', this detailed pen and ink drawing may have been intended for reproduction in an illustrated magazine to celebrate the opening of the new theatre in London's Stratford, designed by the prolific theatre architect Frank Matcham. It shows the exterior from the High Street as well as a meticulous view of the gloriously decorated proscenium arch, its swagged curtains and cherub-topped theatre boxes, and of the celebrated actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917) as Falstaff. The existence of this drawing of the auditorium is especially valuable since the interior was stripped in 1933 when the building was refitted for use as a cinema, and no other drawings of the original auditorium appear to exist.

The Borough Theatre Stratford opened on Monday 31 August 1896 with Tree's production of Henry lV Part 1 from the Haymarket Theatre where it had opened the previous May. On Wednesday 2nd September Tree and his company presented their production of Trilby, and the appearance of a star company from the west end in this theatre emphasises its aspirations as a grand theatre. Seating over 3,000 people, it soon became a popular venue, nicknamed 'The Drury Lane of the East' attracting many more celebrity performers.

Born in Devon in 1854, Frank Matcham was apprenticed to a local architect and to a quantity surveyor in London. In the 1870s he joined the firm of Jethro Thomas Robinson, theatre architectural adviser to the Lord Chamberlain, and subsequently married his employer's daughter. In 1878 he took over the practice on Robinson's death. From 1879 to 1912 Matcham built or rebuilt over 150 theatres across Britain, and introduced innovations such as cantilevered galleries. His emphasis was on practical aspects such as maximising audiences and ensuring good sightlines. but he also created rich interiors in a variety of styles. Examples of his theatre work include the Grand Opera House Belfast, the Grand Theatre Blackpool, the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, Richmond Theatre Surrey, the Gaiety Theatre Douglas (Isle of Man), the Hackney Empire, the Shepherd's Bush Empire, the London Palladium and, perhaps most famously, the London Coliseum. He also designed pubs, cinemas, hotels, the County Arcade in Leeds, and the Tower Ballroom and Circus in Blackpool.



object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Pen and ink on Bristol board paper
Brief Description
Drawing showing exterior and interior views of the Borough Theatre Stratford designed by Frank Matcham (1854-1920), and of Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Falstaff in Henry lV part 1. Pen & ink. Signed with a monogram in ink: SS. Undated but presumably 1896.
Physical Description
Pen and ink drawing on Bristol board paper depicting a view of the exterior of the Borough Theatre Stratford from the High Street, set within a rectangular frame in front of a view of proscenium arch of the auditorium, and of the stage left boxes showing occupants in the circle and upper circle boxes. An ornate cartouche top left contains an image of Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Falstaff. Signed with monogram SS and inscribed verse: Drawing of the Boro Theatre Stratford.
Dimensions
  • Height: 31.6cm
  • Width: 89.8cm
Credit line
Purchase from Marlborough Rare Books
Object history
This drawing was acquired with an architectural plan of the upper circle and a programme for a concert at the Borough Theatre, 28 March 1902.
Summary
Titled 'The New Theatre at Stratford', this detailed pen and ink drawing may have been intended for reproduction in an illustrated magazine to celebrate the opening of the new theatre in London's Stratford, designed by the prolific theatre architect Frank Matcham. It shows the exterior from the High Street as well as a meticulous view of the gloriously decorated proscenium arch, its swagged curtains and cherub-topped theatre boxes, and of the celebrated actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917) as Falstaff. The existence of this drawing of the auditorium is especially valuable since the interior was stripped in 1933 when the building was refitted for use as a cinema, and no other drawings of the original auditorium appear to exist.



The Borough Theatre Stratford opened on Monday 31 August 1896 with Tree's production of Henry lV Part 1 from the Haymarket Theatre where it had opened the previous May. On Wednesday 2nd September Tree and his company presented their production of Trilby, and the appearance of a star company from the west end in this theatre emphasises its aspirations as a grand theatre. Seating over 3,000 people, it soon became a popular venue, nicknamed 'The Drury Lane of the East' attracting many more celebrity performers.



Born in Devon in 1854, Frank Matcham was apprenticed to a local architect and to a quantity surveyor in London. In the 1870s he joined the firm of Jethro Thomas Robinson, theatre architectural adviser to the Lord Chamberlain, and subsequently married his employer's daughter. In 1878 he took over the practice on Robinson's death. From 1879 to 1912 Matcham built or rebuilt over 150 theatres across Britain, and introduced innovations such as cantilevered galleries. His emphasis was on practical aspects such as maximising audiences and ensuring good sightlines. but he also created rich interiors in a variety of styles. Examples of his theatre work include the Grand Opera House Belfast, the Grand Theatre Blackpool, the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, Richmond Theatre Surrey, the Gaiety Theatre Douglas (Isle of Man), the Hackney Empire, the Shepherd's Bush Empire, the London Palladium and, perhaps most famously, the London Coliseum. He also designed pubs, cinemas, hotels, the County Arcade in Leeds, and the Tower Ballroom and Circus in Blackpool.



Associated Objects
Collection
Accession Number
S.1177-2014

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record createdMay 13, 2014
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