The Other National Theatre Sample Chapter
Jacob Tonson

The London Theatres 1704 to 1728

Titles in bold are first performances

Drury Lane (DL)

Lincoln’s Inn Fields (LIF)

Queen’s (King’s) Theatre, Haymarket


7 December: The Careless Husband by Colley Cibber.

John Vanbrugh, supported by the Kit-Cats, raises subscriptions of 3,000 guineas to build a new theatre in the Haymarket. November: Queen Anne attends inaugural concert. 14 December: LIF licence rewritten and transferred to Vanbrugh and William Congreve.


William Betterton and his company move to the Queen’s. February: LIF advertised for sale. Used again in July by Vanbrugh’s company when Queen’s needs building work.

9 April: Queen’s Theatre opens with the opera The Loves of Ergasto by Giacomo Greber in Italian, a flop; run of stock plays loses money; July: Vanbrugh petitions for union with DL. 30 October: Season opens with The Confederacy by John Vanbrugh. December: Congreve buys himself out of the management.


8 April: The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar. Following the departure of most of the actors, DL concentrates on opera. Rich cares little for the loss of actors as he depends on opera and ‘exotic’ shows. However he still has some actors and can present plays.

14 August: Owen Swiney, Rich’s deputy at DL, is appointed by Vanbrugh as manager and the season opens under him on 15 October. Wilks, Mrs Rogers, Mrs Oldfield et al. move to Queen’s by agreement with Rich, under the terms of which the Queen’s can only present plays with no music at all. DL can present plays and operas.


October: Sir Thomas Skipwith gives Henry Brett his share in DL. Brett and Vanbrugh persuade the Lord Chamberlain to decree DL for plays and Queen’s for opera. 31 December: Lord Chamberlain orders actors at Haymarket to return to DL under Rich and Brett.

January/ February: Kit-Cats organise subscription ‘for reviving three plays of the best authors’. 8 March: The Beaux’ Stratagem by George Farquhar. 31 December: Lord Chamberlain, decrees DL for plays, Queen’s for opera.


Brett active in management of company.

Vanbrugh loses so much money with operas that he closes the theatre in May and leases it to Swiney. No performances 20 May–14 December.


DL now flourishing, largely owing to Brett. Rich wants him out. February: Sir Thomas Skipwith demands his share back. Brett gives it to him. Rich then reduces actors’ benefits; they complain to Lord Chamberlain who issues an order to Rich on 30 April. Rich ignores it. Swiney is given permission to approach actors at DL. When this arrangement is completed, Lord Chamberlain silences Rich on 6 June. In November a licence is issued to Tory MP William Collier, who also obtains a lease for DL. On 22 November he storms the theatre, only to find it stripped.

Swiney’s opera season is successful. In June, Wilks, Doggett and Cibber join Owen Swiney in management of Queen’s. Before opening the season on 15 September, they rebuild the auditorium, narrowing it and lowering the ceiling. Although there is no other theatre open, business is not good and the opera (which they are running in parallel with plays) is losing money.


Collier has delegated management to Aaron Hill who is unable to control the actors. Hill has to leave in June after an actors’ revolt. Collier uses his influence at court to swap with Swiney, Cibber, Doggett and Wilks. They take over DL for drama, Collier takes Haymarket for opera. They have to pay him £200 per annum and not put on a play on any Wednesday against an opera. Agreement 6 November.

By the agreement of 6 November, Collier becomes sole director of the opera at Queen’s. Aaron Hill goes with him to direct the operas. First opera 22 November. Operas given only twice a week owing to small audience.


24 February: Rinaldo by Handel. 3 March, after third performance, Collier forcibly takes possession of the theatre and ejects Hill.


Collier, not making money at Queen’s, decides to swap again. 17 April: Queen Anne grants a licence to Collier, Wilks, Cibber and Doggett to operate an acting company at DL. Collier intends to be a sleeping partner. The other three have to pay him £700 a year.

17 April: Queen Anne grants a licence to Owen Swiney for opera and other musical entertainments. Owen Swiney moved to Haymarket against his will to run the opera. 22 November: Il Pastor Fido by Handel.


14 April: Cato by Joseph Addison. Barton Booth admitted as shareholder as result of Cato. Doggett leaves in protest.

10 January: Teseo by Handel. After the second performance, Swiney flees to Europe to escape creditors. John Jacob Heidegger takes over as manager.


August: George I ascends the throne. 18 October: Steele acquires new licence and replaces Collier. Musical entertainments not included.

Christopher Rich dies six weeks before re-opening of the rebuilt theatre on 18 December with The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar.


19 January: Richard Steele becomes patentee for his lifetime plus three years. Opera now included. The sharers take the view that they are exempt from the authority of the Lord Chamberlain or Master of Revels. Charles Killigrew, Master of Revels, gives in.

25 May: Amadigi by Handel.


March: The Drummer by Joseph Addison is only new play this season. Flops.

Heidegger takes theatre on lease from John Vanbrugh.


16 January: Three Hours After Marriage by John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot. 2 March: The Loves of Mars and Venus by John Weaver is first show to be described as a pantomime. 2 April: The Shipwreck, or Perseus and Andromeda by John Weaver. 13 April: Duke of Newcastle becomes Lord Chamberlain.

22 April: The Cheats or the Tavern Bilkers with Lun mentioned for first time.

Heidegger’s company closes.



19 December: Newcastle suspends Cibber from any part in the management of DL.

Patent granted to the Royal Academy of Music, founded by aristocratic subscription as a joint stock company, to perform opera. Heidegger is one of the directors and manager. Lord Chamberlain is ex officio Governor. Handel is Master of the Orchestra.


23 January: A proclamation is read from the stage suspending further performances. 25 January: Order of silence issued. Licence issued in October 1714 revoked. 27 January: Lord Chamberlain issues new licence to Wilks, Cibber and Booth.

February: pamphlet alleges that LIF is playing to poor houses, even when there is no play at DL. 6 August: Applebee’s Weekly reports LIF closed and company dissolved until executions for debt have been discharged.

April: First season of Royal Academy of Music opens. 27 April: Radamisto by Handel.


2 May: Steele’s governorship reinstated by Sir Robert Walpole and he is awarded past profits due to him.

9 December: Floridante by Handel.


7 November: The Conscious Lovers by Richard Steele.


26 November: Harlequin Doctor Faustus.

20 December: The Necromancer, or Harlequin Dr Faustus.

12 January: Ottone by Handel. 4 May: Flavio by Handel.


20 February: Giulio Cesare in Egitto by Handel. 31 October: Tamerlano by Handel.


13 February: Rodelinda by Handel.


12 March: Scipione by Handel. 5 May: Alessandro by Handel.


31 January: Admeto by Handel. 6 June: Fights break out during a performance of Astyanax in the presence of the Prince of Wales between supporters of the feuding sopranos Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni.


16 February: Love in Several Masques by Henry Fielding. Booth retires for health reasons.

29 January: The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay.

Financial collapse of Royal Academy of Music. Heidegger and Handel continue to run the theatre, using costumes and scenery belonging to the Academy.