The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 20 Covent Garden, Kingsway, Lincoln's Inn Fields

Drury Lane

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DRURY LANE begins on the north at the junction of Broad St. and High Holborn and runs south-east to Aldwych. It contains the Winter Garden Theatre (formerly the Middlesex Music Hall) and a small playground, once a cemetery, often erroneously identified as the burial-place of �Nemo� in �Bleak House,� but Drury Lane Theatre turns its back on the lane (corner of Russell St.) and has its main entrance in Catherine St. (parallel, to the west). Drury Lane Theatre is a large colonnaded edifice (3000 seats), the fourth theatre on this site, long famous as the home of Christmas pantomime and of spectacular drama. In the rotunda are statues of Kean as Hamlet (by Carew), Shakespeare, Garrick, and Balfe. On the staircase to the Grand Circle is a plaque with a portrait of Henry Irving (1838-1905), �from the dramatic artists of Italy in homage.� Outside, on the front, is a fountain with a bust of Sir Augustus Harris (1852-96), lessee of the theatre from 1879. The first regular theatre in Drury Lane was the Phoenix (1616), suppressed under the Protectorate, but the first theatre on the present site was Drury Lane Theatre Royal, erected in 1663 by the �King's Company.� Burned down in 1672 it was rebuilt by Wren, and Cibber, Quin, and Macklin were successive managers. Riots in the building were not uncommon, from causes ranging from leakage of rain in the pit (1688) to the inclusion of �Papists and Frenchmen� among the performers (1754). Garrick's management began in 1747 with a prologue by Dr. Johnson, containing the famous line �we that live to please must please to live.� Sheridan, manager in 1776-1816, here produced his brilliant comedies; John Kemble played �Hamlet� in 1783; and his sister Mrs. Siddons triumphed in many Shakespearian parts. The theatre was rebuilt in 1791 and burned down in 1809. The prologue for the opening of the present building in 1812 was written by Lord Byron, a by-product of the occasion being the witty �Rejected Addresses � by James and Horace Smith. Edmund Kean (1787-1833) and William Charles Macready (1793-1873) played in this building. On Twelfth Night the �Baddeley Cake� (provided by bequest of the actor Robert Baddeley; died 1794) is cut and eaten on the stage, a function attended by many privileged guests. Opposite Drury Lane Theatre, at the corner of Kemble St., is Bruce House, a model lodging-house of the London County Council, containing 700 beds (1/1 a night, 7/ a week) and comfortable dining, reading, and smoking rooms. Parker Street House, Drury Lane, is a similar establishment, with 344 cubicles. The largest of the London County Council lodging-houses is Carrington House, Deptford, with 802 beds. The Rowion Houses, in various parts of London, are similar establishments.