HAYMARKET THEATRECategory: Theatre
The first theatre on this site was built in 1720 by a carpenter named John Potter who erected a small theatre on the site of an inn called “The King’s Head”.
The present Haymarket, designed by Nash, was built in 1820 and opened on 4 July 1821. The Haymarket was the last theatre in London to give up candles and to install gas lightning.
There has been a theatre on this site since 1732 when the first Theatre Royal, Govent Garden, was built on a piece of land which had formerly been part of a convent garden (hence the name).
In 1784 and 1792 the theatre was so extensively altered that it may be said to have been virtually rebuilt.
On 30 September 1808 the theatre was burnt down, twenty- three firemen losing their lives. In this fire perished Hendel’s organ and the manuscript scores of some of his operas, which had been produced at Covent Garden in 1730s and 1750s. A new theatre, designed by Robert Smirke and modelled on the Temple of Minerva on the Acropolis, arose on the site and opened on 18 September 1809.
Between 1809 and 1821 most of the famous actors of the day, and many singers appeared at Covent Garden as did famous panto- mimists.
In 1842 the theatre fell on hard times, and was finally closed to reopen in 1847, after expensive alterations, as the Royal Italian Opera House. From this time the story of Covent Garden is the story of opera in London, and it ceased to be a home of “legitimite” drama. On 5 March 1856 it again burnt down, and the present theatre,- designed by Sir Edward M. Barry, was built in six months.