RepositorySpecial Collections Archives (GB 0029)
Ref NoEUL MS 202
Extent2,383 posters
TitleTheatre Royal (Exeter) playbills collection
DescriptionThe playbills contained in this collection relate to the (New) Theatre Royal, Exeter, with the exception of one item that relates to St Luke's Theatre, and one item that relates to Folkstone Pleasure Gardens Theatre. Nearly 2,400 playbills are held, relating to all types of production at the theatre over a fifty year period. Included are bills for ballets, plays, variety and revue performances, musicals, operas, pantomimes and film showings.
Admin HistoryThe first Theatre Royal in Exeter opened in 1821 as a successor of the New Theatre which was gutted by fire in 1820. The Theatre Royal had its home at West Southernhay/Bedford Circus, but was likewise destroyed by fire in 1885. The Exeter Theatre Company was formed, and the second Theatre Royal opened in Longbrook Street in 1886. This theatre also burned to the ground in 1887 in tragic circumstances, with the (New) Theatre Royal opening on the same site in 1889. The theatre went into decline in the 1950s and was demolished in 1962, to be replaced by an office block. The present Northcott Theatre (situated on the University of Exeter main campus) opened to all intents and purposes as its successor in 1967.

The theatre ran productions of all kinds, ranging from plays, musicals, variety and pantomimes, with occasional ballets, operas and film showings. The theatre closed regularly every summer, and staged a huge pantomime each Christmas. These ran for one or two months and were very popular. As well as the home repertory company, touring companies also visited, including the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company with the great comic actor Sir Henry Lytton. Many other famous theatre names guested, including Harold Neilson, Mrs Patrick Campbell, local-born Violet Vanbrugh and Charles Hawtrey. Early appearances by Harry Secombe and Morecambe and Wise were also made.
Access StatusOpen
Related MaterialSee also EUL MS 348 Northcott Theatre Archive (considered the Theatre Royal's successor), particularly EUL MS 348/MISC/TR for a small collection of posters, playbills and a printing plate from the Theatre Royal, Exeter.
Some playbills (1756-c 1890) relating to Devon theatres are held at the Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter.
A small collection of playbills of the Theatre Royal, Exeter, is also held at the University of Kent at Canterbury (Templeman Library). See the Margaret Toms Collection at the Theatre Museum, London, which contains copy playbills relating to Exeter theatres and numerous research materials concerning the history of Exeter's theatres.
Access ConditionsUsual EUL arrangements apply.
ArrangementThe playbills have been arranged chronologically, with a running numerical sequence within each year.
Finding_AidsAn access database of item-level descriptions for the collection was created by Caroline Gale in 2001-2002 during the Backstage cataloguing project funded by RSLP. Also included in the database are indexes of the following: authors, actors, composers, designers, directors, plays and seasons. This database is no longer useable
Creator_NameTheatre Royal (1821-1962); Exeter
Mgt_GroupPerforming arts papers
DS/UK/245Theatre Royal; 1821-19621821-1962
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