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WrenPlanDruryL3.gif(507 × 390 pixels, file size: 85 KB, MIME type: image/gif)

Longitudinal sectional drawing with a single pencil inscription: "Play house". Anonymous. Held at All Soul's College Library University of Oxford. Wrongly supposed to show Wren's drawing for the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1674. Image downloaded from 21 July 2005.

It is inaccurate to describe this drawing as a "Plan" of Drury Lane" for the following reasons:

1. It is not a plan: it is a longitudinal section.

2. It cannot show Drury Lane, because the Drury Lane site measured 112ft long. According to Hamilton Bell, the man who first published this sectional drawing as possibly showing the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (Hamilton Bell, 'Contributions to the History of the English Playhouse', The Architectural Record, New York, vol. 33 (1913), pp. 359–68), the scale on this drawing shows a theatre measuring 112ft long.

3. Professor Robert D. Hume (2007) and Dr. Tim Keenan, and Mark A. Howell (1995) have now agreed that any attempt to assign this sectional drawing to Drury Lane is a supposition or a presumption. There is simply no evidence to assign it to any theatre that was ever built.

The property deed for the Theatre Royal Drury Lane describes the site as measuring 112ft long and 58ft wide. F. H. Sheppard, ed., Survey of London 35: The Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the Theatre Royal Opera House Covent Garden. (GLC, London: Athlone Press, University of London, 1970), 31, notes that "The first theatre did not occupy the whole site; in front of the west end there was a small yard (B on fig. 1) which measured 10 feet by 58 feet." In fact, two other yards, also measuring between 5 and 10ft wide, extended along the theatre's south and east ends, as Edward A. Langhans ("Pictorial Material on the Bridges Street and Drury Lane Theatres [Royal]," Theatre Survey 7 (May 1966), 80–100), shows in maps, plans and surveys from the period. These yards or passageways meant the Theatre Royal Drury Lane measured measured between 90ft and 100ft long and 40 to 50ft wide - exactly the same exterior dimensions as the surviving Theatre Royal, Bristol (1766).

The Theatre Royal Bristol (1766) has been known as the "Bristol Old Vic" since the Arts Council of Great Britain (then known as the "Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts") saved it from closure and destruction, when they created the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic Theatre in South London). Its carpenter-architect was James Saunders, David Garrick's carpenter at Drury Lane. In the same year he the Bristol Proprietors were in contact with him, Saunders had also designed a new theatre at Richmond, Surrey, which opened in 1765. Two surviving plans (Richmond Surrey Reference Library, one dated 1842), a longitudinal sectional drawing (Harvard University Theatre Collection), and two photographs taken in 1884 by a photographer named Hilditch, together show the Richmond Surrey Theatre Royal compared well with Bristol and that the two were probably modelled on the theatre where their architect, James Saunders, knew best: Garrick's Drury Lane. Today, the surviving Theatre Royal Bristol (or "Bristol Old Vic") shows us what the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane looked like during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Bristol Old Vic feels very like the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, of Garrick, Dryden, Farquhar, Colman, Macklin, Centlivre, Cibber, and others. Not till 1775, when the Adams brothers were commissioned to rebuild its interior, did the Theatre Royal Drury Lane change.

At the time of writing (2011-12), the Bristol Theatre Royal is closed for refurbishment. The refurbishment has restored the 1766 position of the stage front, providing a small, intimate space, with a stage front surrounded by spectators on three sides, albeit with the great majority to the front. As Mark Howell, "Acting Spaces and Carpenter Tools," Around the Globe (Dec. 2010), 34-35, showed, this stage front matches, almost exactly, the stage of the Rose Theatre built 1587 in London. Despite the fact that the Rose was 87ft diameter, circular (or polygonal) open-air amphitheatre, and Bristol is a narrower indoor playhouse, the perfectly circular shape of the wooden Bristol theatre means that the performer-spectator relationship in both theatres is more comparable than one would expect.

The following pages on Schools Wikipedia link to this image (list may be incomplete):

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