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University of Bristol Theatre Collection
Cantocks Close
Bristol, UK

Phone: (0117) 3315086

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Theatre Collection Bristol Theatre

Bristol is a city with a rich theatrical heritage and this is reflected in the collections that have been deposited with us by local companies and individuals who have been involved in local theatre.

Most of Bristol's early theatrical history can be traced through playbills and programmes, which highlight the range and style of entertainers that were resident or passed through the city. This is well documented in the Kathleen Barker Collection which is a comprehensive chronology of Bristol entertainment from 1766 until the 1990's.

During the nineteenth century the Theatre Royal in King Street and the New Theatre Royal in Park Row (later renamed the Prince's Theatre) were managed by members of the Macready/Chute family. A collection of letters written between 1797 and 1937 to this family by the leading theatrical personalities of the day have been catalogued and digitised and can be viewed via the online catalogue.

The Theatre Royal in King Street, built in 1766, is the oldest working theatre in Britain. Since 1946 it has been the home of Bristol Old Vic, which was originally managed by London Old Vic. We hold a selection of their administrative and production records, which are supported by personal collections of individuals directly involved with the theatre, such as John Moody (director) and John Elvery (designer). The pre-1945 Theatre Royal archives are housed at Bristol Record Office.

Although some of Bristol's theatres no longer exist, their history is well documented in our collections. Peggy Ann Wood's Collection documents her involvement with the Rapier Players at the Little Theatre, and the Adrian Varcoe Collection has information on the Chute family and the Prince's Theatre in Park Row.

Bristol Reference Library
A wealth of material relating to the history of Bristol's theatres is also held by the Bristol Central Library's Reference Library. View a list of their theatre-related holdings, or visit their web page for more information.

Bristol Record Office
Archives relating to Bristol Theatre Royal, the Rapier Players Ltd, the New Theatre Royal, and private collections of theatre programmes are held by the Bristol Record Office. View a list of their theatre-related holdings, or visit their web page for more information.

Further Reading
Bristol at Play: Five Centuries of Live Entertainment by Kathleen Barker
The Theatre Royal Bristol 1766-1966 by Kathleen Barker
The Prince's of Park Row by Don Carleton
Bristol's Forgotten Empire by Terry Hallett
Bristol's Lost Empires: the Decline and Fall of Music Hall in Bristol by Kathleen Barker
Early Music Hall in Bristol by Kathleen Barker

Other Useful Sites
For more information about theatre and entertainment in Bristol today, visit our Bristol and Bath Links page.
Further information about the history of theatres in Bristol can be found on the website.

For further information about the Theatre Collection please tel. 0117 331 5086 (daytime) or email