The Princess Theatre, or Princess’s Theatre, was located at 73 Oxford Street (later renumbered 150 Oxford Street).
The building originally opened in 1828 as the Royal Bazaar, British Diorama and Exhibition of Works of Art but was destroyed by fire the following year. It was re-built in 1830 as the Queen’s Bazaar and converted into a theatre in 1836, noted for its elegant interiors.
Originally intended to be called the Court Theatre, it became the Princess Theatre in honour of Princess Victoria .
In 1880 the theatre was demolished, rebuilt and opened under same name.
It closed in 1902 and the building was used for warehousing. In 1931 the former theatre, along with the adjoining buildings, was pulled down to make way for a large Woolworth department store.
This is an account of the Princess Theatre written in an 1844 guide-book to London –
‘The Princess’s Theatre, in Oxford Street, recently erected from designs by Mr. T. Marsh Nelson, is an elegant structure. The audience part consists of four tiers of boxes, exclusive of the stage boxes, and a pit. It is constructed upon the plan of the best Italian theatres of the horse-shoe form, is decorated entirely in the renaissance style by French artists, and the ornaments from Paris in carton pierre are richly gilt. It is the only specimen of the Francis the First style of decoration in England. A chandelier, correspondent in style, composed of brass and glass, of Parisian manufacture, depends from the ceiling. The grand Concert Room of this establishment, elegantly decorated, is one of the largest in London, and the saloon, or minor Concert Room, though not so extensive, is nevertheless of noble proportions. The Theatre and Concert Rooms are calculated to contain about 3000 persons’.
Mogg’s New Picture of London and Visitor’s Guide to it Sights, 1844.
Charles Dickens and the Princess Theatre.
In the afternoon of 21 July 1858 there was a well-attended public meeting held at the Princess’s Theatre, chaired by the actor Charles Kean, to discuss the feasibility of providing almshouses for retired actors. Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray were among those present. The stage was used as a debating area whilst members of the public filled the audience seats.
According to a report in The Times, during the event Charles Dickens moved for a report into the construction of the building be adopted and applauded the work of Charles Kean, saying that he had never acted better than on this occasion, where he had ‘displayed the large spirit of an artist, the feeling of a man, and the grace of a gentleman’. As a consequence of the meeting a trust was formed, and a suitable site for the proposed building was found, in Woking. The Royal Dramatic College home for retired actors opened in 1865 but closed because of financial difficulty in 1877.
The former site of the Princess Theatre is now a large sports shop.