The Prince’s Theatre, Oxford Street, Manchester

I have finished cataloguing the theatre programmes from The Prince’s Theatre, which was on Oxford Street, Manchester and practically opposite St Peter’s Square as you will see from the picture below.  It is the building with the yellow facade  in its main area and green coloured at the street level

princes theatre

prince's theatre , now Peter House

Today the site of where the Prince’s theatre was in now ‘Peter House’ which was built in 1958

When it opened in 1864 it was managed by Charles Calvert who was a famous actor of his time and both he and his wife appeared in ‘The Tempest’ there.  It was the opening production and he  played the part of Prospero and his wife the part of Miranda.


Over the years very many famous artists of the era appeared here including Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.  Sarah Bernhardt and her French company performed in the theatre several times but I have not come across them in other Manchester Theatre programmes

An amusing programme I found was for an Italian Theatre group who came and performed Shakespeare in Italian, presumably they didn’t sell many tickets for their productions.

The Carl Rosa Opera Company made lots of appearances also.  In the early programmes there would two or three plays or operetta’s performed per evening, so everyone got good value for money!!  One of their most popular tenor’s was the famous Barton McGuckin

In 1865 there was a performance of The Tempest’ which starred an famous actress of her day Julia St George, who ended up in a workhouse and was a drunkard as well!!

On 21 Dec 1868  a play called ‘Uncle Zachary’ was performed at this theatre, but the most interesting fact about it was that it was  written by a FreeMason and John Oxenford and was under the patronage of the Grand Lodge Officers in aid of the friends of the Masonic Boys Orphan School, West Lancashire Lodge with the cast comprising of Masons as they were named as ‘Brother’  which is as most of you will know is a term used for members in Freemasonry.

In 1883 there were several interesting shows on; one was Atkinson Jollities appeared in the Electric Spark; The Gymnase Company from France appeared and it starred only Parisian artistes. Both Lilly Langtrey and J L Shine who incidentaly was born in Manchester appeared in plays.

In 1884 The Mastodon Minstrels appeared, they were one of the first American Black Minstrel Groups, they were managed by J H Haverley, who was entrepreneur and never appeared in any of their shows


Below is a movie of J H Haveley’s grandson appearing doing a sand dance in a show in 1951 showing how it was done!!

In the 1894 the Christmas Panto was Cinderella which in the interval had a special Tableaux show, which I presume meant that the actresses were either nude or scantily dressed and had to stand still to depict the picture.  So risqué!!

Also in about 1892 the theatre were pleased to announce that they now had boxes under the seats so that the ladies and gentlemen could place their hats in during the performances so that everyone could see the show.


In 1900 a young girl called CECILY COURTNEIDGE started her acting career as a 7 year old girl, definitely nepotism as her father Robert Courtneidge was the manager of the Prince’s Theatre at that time but not was he the Manager but  he wrote all the pantomimes during his period as manager there.   Above is a lovely picture of her with her husband the famous actor Jack Hulbert.

Finally here is a picture of the interior of the theatre


I hope you have enjoyed this blog and if you want to see the programmes please go along to Manchester City Library in St Peter’s Square where the collection of all the programmes are available.

Marilyn Shalks

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