Letters Patent for the Theatre Royal Dublin, 1957

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Theatre RoyalManuscript of the Month, June 2017. 
Dublin’s famous Theatre Royal went through three incarnations before finally succumbing to the developers’ wrecking ball.  The first version was founded in 1820 as the Albany Theatre – based in Hawkins Street, it boasted a 2,000 seater auditorium.  During his visit to Dublin in 1821, King George IV visited the Albany and subsequently issued it with letters patent, conferring the title of Theatre Royal.  This first Theatre Royal was burned to the ground on 9 February 1880 and was replaced on the same site by the second Theatre Royal in 1897.  This was designed by Frank Matcham and seated 2,011 people. But these numbers was not enough for all the people who wanted to enjoy an evening at ‘The Royal’ so in 1935 it was replaced by a behemoth, with room for 3,700 seated and 300 standing.   This third ‘Royal’ survived until 1962 when it was demolished and replaced with an office block, Hawkins House.

Image above: Theatre Royal Programme dated 1907 (see larger version)

The Theatre Royal PatentLetters patent constituted a document issued by a monarch, president or head of state giving an office, rights or a title to a person or institution.  The third Theatre Royal had its title and its premises confirmed by letters patent, issued for a term of 21 years from 3 September 1935 to John Edward Pearce and Eileen May Pearce, in trust for the Dublin Theatre Company Limited.  When the term expired, the Government of Ireland issued letters patent to Louis Elliman and Abraham Elliman for 21 years from 3 September 1956 ‘to enable them to carry on in the premises now known as the Theatre Royal a well-regulated theatre in the City of Dublin’. 

Image right: Letters Patent issued to Theatre Royal Dublin 1957 (click to enlarge)

The document went on to describe the type of entertainments held in the Theatre Royal: ‘interludes, tragedies, comedies, preludes, operas, burlettas, plays, farces or pantomimes’.    But there was a qualifying clause: ‘provided that all..performances shall be in every respect decent and becoming and not profane, blasphemous, indecent, obscene, seditious or otherwise obnoxious.’  Additionally the Theatre Royal was forbidden from performances ‘whereby the Christian Religion or any other Religion recognized by the State…may in any degree tend to expose religion or bring it into contempt.’   The document concluded with a schedule of works to be maintained for the Theatre Royal building.

This is very much a legal document – it is printed into two columns onto vellum parchment.  There is also space for the Government seal and for the signature of Taoiseach Eamon de Valera.   The Letters Patent were issued on 5 April 1957 and the document now forms part of the Theatre Archive at Dublin City Library & Archive.

Theatre Royal patent

Letters Patent with signature of An Taoiseach Eamon De Valera (Click to enlarge)


Manuscript of the Month

Each month, Dublin City Archives will be showcasing a manuscript from their collections on our blog. Check back next month for the next instalment!


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