Stop 8: St Mary Le Strand
Latitude: 51.511059 | Longitude: -0.117148
The Stand is home to an amazing number of theatres – many of them now closed – that gives this area its nickname of “theatreland”.
Some were small, like the Olympic Theatre, others much larger, like the Gaiety Thatre, which continued to function into the 1950s and 1960s.
But the most famous of all, partly because of its age, is the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Burnt and rebuilt on several occasions, a theatre has stood on this site for at least 450 years. It was originally one of only two theatres licensed by the monarchy, hence its name.
The current theatre – the 4th on the site – was built in 1811-12 at a huge cost of £150,000. The front was remodelled in the 1820s – at around the same time as King’s College was being built – and the colonnades added in 1831, with the pillars supposedly from Regent’s Street. In the 19th century the theatre was known for its spectacular shows – which sometimes included earthquakes, snowstorms and horse races.
It was lucky to have survived into the 21st century – a bomb scored a direct hit in 1940 and damaged the building, but it was soon rebuilt! Part of the bomb is still preserved as a memory to a narrow escape.
Some of the most famous actors and playwrights have performed here. Richard Brinsley Sheridan ( who wrote School for Scandal) was the manager and owner from 1776 till his death in 1816. David Garrick preceded him – the Garrick Club today in Covent Garden remains the club for actors.