BRIEF HISTORY DURING THE SNOW ERA (1813-58)
The Royal Victoria Theater was first built in 1818, then named the Royal Coburg Theater in honor of its chief patrons, Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte. The theater was designed by Rudolph Cabanel and was described as being plain, though well built with a spacious pit, two tiers of boxes, and a remarkably large gallery. In 1816 Charlotte, the only daughter of the future King George IV of Great Britain, had married Leopold, then Prince of Saxe-Coburg. She died in 1817. Some years later Prince Leopold moved from London and become King Leopold I of Belgium. The theater opened in 1818 with a melodrama, "Trial by Battle." Most spectacular in the opening years was the installation in 1822 of a curtain with 63 mirrors, reflecting the audience back to the audience (see Mirror Curtain below) The curtain was 36 feet high and 32 feet wide and weighed so much that it had to be dismantled at the end of the season for fear of bringing down the roof. The owners then used the class to decorate the ceiling and saloon.
In 1833 the name of the theater was changed to Royal Victoria Theater in honor of Princes Victoria, future Queen of England. Over the years, however, it became informally known as the Old Vic. The standards of the theater began gradually to decline, consisting after 1834 of crude melodramas with major income coming from the sale of drinks. A false fire alarm in 1858 caused the death of 16 people, trampled by the fleeing crowd.
In Reynold's 1859 map, the Royal Victoria Theater is a black rectangle on Waterloo Road at the bottom center of cell N 18 and labelled "Vic The."
Roberts H, Godfrey WH. (eds). Survey of London, Vol. 23, 1951.
Weinreb B, Hibbert C (eds). The London Encyclopaedia, 1993.