Bristol Old Vic Company Archive


The Bristol Old Vic Company is based in the Theatre Royal in King Street, which is the oldest continuously working theatre in the country. In 1942, the building was put up for sale and purchased by the Theatre Royal Bristol Trust. In 1946, the trust invited the London Old Vic Company to set up a resident repertory company, which became known as the Bristol Old Vic, which included stars such as Peter O'Toole, John Neville, Timothy West, Barbara Leigh-Hunt and Dorothy Tutin. The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School was set up in the same year.

In 1963, when London Old Vic disbanded, Bristol Old Vic achieved complete independence for the first time, however, its expansion over the years meant that the premises had to be redeveloped. In 1972, the refurbished and extended Theatre Royal re-opened with a second studio theatre, the New Vic. Since then, the Bristol Old Vic has maintained its artistic standards, by providing innovative productions in collaboration with other theatre companies, allowing their work to be seen both locally and nationally.

What the collection holds

The Bristol Old Vic Archive includes the administrative and production records, from its inception in 1946, and for the Little Theatre between 1963-1980. They include production photographs, programmes, posters, press cuttings books, prompt books and administrative records. All pre-1945 Theatre Royal archives are housed at Bristol Archives (formerly Bristol Record Office).

This collection was repackaged, conserved and catalogued as part of Bristol Old Vic's "Protecting and Sharing the Heritage of Britain's Oldest Theatre" project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Several other collections related to the Bristol Old Vic are held at the University of Bristol's Theatre Collection and Bristol Archives. These have also been catalogued as part of the project between 2017 and 2020.

The online catalogue for the extent of the collection that has been catalogued so far can be viewed here:

BOV - Bristol Theatre Royal / Bristol Old Vic Archive.

Further information

We also hold some material related to ActorsWritersDirectors and Designers who have been involved with productions at The Bristol Old Vic. Explore our online catalogue.

Further Reading

  • The Theatre Royal Bristol: the First Seventy Years by Kathleen Barker
  • The Theatre Royal Bristol: Decline and Rebirth 1834-1943 by Kathleen Barker
  • The Theatre Royal Bristol, 1766-1966: Two Centuries of Stage History by Kathleen Barker
  • The Bristol Theatre Royal: the Continuing Story, 1966-1993 by Shirley Brown
  • The Bristol Old Vic: the First Ten Years by Audrey Williamson and Charles Landstone (1957)
  • Not in the Script - anecdotes on stage and off published by Bristol Old Vic (1992)
  • Bristol Old Vic Theatre School: the First Fifty Years, 1946-1996 by Shirley Brown

Other Useful Sites

Bristol Old Vic Theatre
Bristol Archives
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School 

Bristol Old Vic Heritage Experience

In 2018 the Bristol Old Vic unveiled its interactive heritage experience, with exhibitions, interactive sound installations and incorporated augmented reality, all supported by the Theatre Collection and Bristol Archives.

There are many ways you can engage with the heritage of Bristol Old Vic from your own home. Below is a series of links to take you to pages on the theatre’s website which are dedicated to the heritage project and extra resources for all ages.

The Bristol Old Vic Company in rehearsal for the production
The Bristol Old Vic Company in rehearsal for the production "Trelawny" starring Ian Richardson, 1971 Image credit: University of Bristol Theatre Collection
Edit this page