First Night Design | Sadler’s Wells Theatre by Rowlandson & Pugin


Originally posted on First Night Design.

Although this engraving by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Charles Pugin is available online in the public domain, mine is actually a scan from an original print published as Plate 69 of Microcosm of London (1810) which my parents had bought from a local antique dealer in the 1960s.

I have not been able to discover what’s being performed but it looks something of a spectacular production what with the horse and carriage, the Boadicea-like figure and gigantic pillars! If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

While the following quote is not from the early 19th century, it describes what Sadler’s Wells had become by the 1840s:

‘Without, the theatre, by night, was like the worst part of the worst kind of Fair in the worst kind of town. Within, it was a bear-garden, resounding with foul language, oaths, catcalls, shrieks, yells, blasphemy, obscenity – a truly diabolical clamour. Fights took place anywhere, at any period of the performance… Sickly children in arms were squeezed…

via First Night Design | Sadler’s Wells Theatre by Rowlandson & Pugin | First Night Design.

15 thoughts on “First Night Design | Sadler’s Wells Theatre by Rowlandson & Pugin

  1. Such grand theater productions they held. Boy, did those folks know how to live high on the hog. Or in some cases, just act like it.
    And the production has me seeing Ben Hur–although that wasn’t written until 1880 and didn’t play on a stage until 1899.
    Wonderful portrait though, Sarah.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also have this framed engraving and would like to know more about it. On the top right hand corner, it says Plate 69. If anyone knows the worth or any other information, that would be greatly appreciated. I just uncovered it in a box of framed art work from my mother’s house.

    Liked by 1 person

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