The theatre in Bath

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The old theatre in Orchard Street, now the masonic hall
A plaque mentions the famous actors who played there.
[click on the picture to enlarge it].


Bath’s first theatre was built in 1705. It was a small, inadequate building in Trim Street. It was demolished in 1738 to make way for the Mineral Water Hospital.

In 1748, John Palmer, a prosperous brewer, proposed a scheme to build a new playhouse. The Orchard Street theatre opened in 1750, and obtained a Royal Patent in 1768.
John Palmer Junior travelled constantly across the country searching for new talents.

Sarah Siddons was recommended to John Palmer by a fellow actor John Henderson. She was engaged at the Orchard Theatre in 1778. She first appeared on the Bath stage as Lady Townly in Vanbrugh’s The Provoked Wife. They stayed four years in Bath. Her last role was in School for Wives in 1782.

In 1779, John Henderson joined the company on the recommendation of David Garrick and made his first appearance as Hamlet. He became an outstanding actor.


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plaque on old theatre in Orchard Street
[click on the picture to enlarge it]

During the last twenty years of its existence, the Orchard Street Theatre became celebrated. A season at Bath was thought to be essential for even the most successful London actors as Bath audiences were considered to be among the most discriminating in the country.

The curtain fell for the last time at Orchard Street in 1805.

Visitors to Bath mention attending performances.


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Sawclose’s playhouse
[click on the picture to enlarge it]


A new playhouse was built in the Sawclose (West of the city) on the designs of the architect George Dance. It is still in use today - the Theatre Royal.

A metal admission ticket can be seen in the study of Number One.



  • Lowndes, WILLIAM. The Theatre Royal at Bath. Bristol: Radcliff Press, 1982.