7. Theatre Royal
Scarborough can claim one of the longest theatrical traditions of any town in the country outside London. When the old Theatre Royal on Tanner (now St. Thomas) Street closed in 1924, it marked the end of approaching 200 years of theatrical performances on that site. A guide book of 1734 refers to the theatre (then no more than a tented booth) as an already established feature, with a Mr. Kerregan bringing a theatrical company from York ‘every season’. After taking the Spa waters in the morning, the nobility and gentry liked to while away the afternoon at the theatre. Later, they took a leisurely stroll back down Long Room (St. Nicholas) Street to dine, dance and gamble the night away at the Assembly Rooms (see page 5). One of the several owner-managers was Stephen George Kemble, brother of the celebrated Mrs. Siddons, who performed at the Theatre Royal, with all the other theatrical ‘greats’ of the 19th century. Visitors could expect to see famous names like Charles Kemble, Edmund Kean, William Charles MacReady and Ellen Terry topping the bill. Earlier, in 1781, the playwright Sheridan had written a comedy entitled ‘A Trip to Scarborough’. As the number of visitors increased during the 19th century, the compact 18th century theatre became too small to cope. Henry Mayhew, the enterprising owner-manager between 1886 and 1919, enlarged the building considerably in the 1880s to accommodate audiences of over 1,000. The theatre survived somewhat precariously until 1924. Later, the building was purchased by Scarborough Corporation and was demolished under a roadwidening scheme. Nothing remains today to remind the passer-byof this 200 year old Thespian tradition, and only a dwindling band of older Scarborians can now recall the final years of the old Theatre Royal. Retrace your steps to Newborough, and turn left
down this hilly road leading to the Old Town area. The second road on your right is Bland’s Cliff. Walk a few yards down this steep and narrow cobbled street until you reach the Bell Hotel, set back on the right of Bland’s Cliff.