St James's Theatre. Image from 1836, shortly after its opening.

St James’s Theatre. Image from 1836, shortly after its opening.

The St James’s Theatre was a 1,200-seat theatre located in King Street, at the corner of Duke Street, in the St James’s area of  London.


Early History.

The elabourate theatre was designed with a neo-classical exterior and a Louis XIV style interior by Samuel Beazley and built by the partnership of Peto & Grissell for the tenor and theatre director, John Braham. The interior was decorated by the Frederick Crace Company.

St James’s Theatre opened on 14 December 1835 with a mixed programme of an operatic burletta, Agnes Sorel, starring Braham, and two farces by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett.

In 1840, it changed its name to “Prince’s Theatre”, but changed it back in 1841. The theatre was rebuilt several times including in 1869 and 1879-80.

It closed on 27 July 1957. The building was demolished and rebuilt as offices.


Charles Dickens and St James’s Theatre.

In 1836 Charles Dickens’s own play The Strange Gentleman and the ballad-opera The Village Coquettes were first staged at the St James’s Theatre.

The first production of Oliver Twist, Gilbert Abbott à Beckett’s four-act burletta, was performed at St James’s Theatre, on 27 March 1838. Further adaptations were quick to spread nationwide.

In 1846, an amateur performance of Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour at the St James’s Theatre included Charles Dickens playing Captain Bobadil.

In John Forster’sLife of Charles Dickens” he writes that when, in 1846, Charles Dickens first had the idea of giving readings from his published works, he at first proposed to take the St. James’s Theatre for that purpose.




The St James’s Theatre was located in King Street, at the junction with Duke Street, in St James’s, London. The site is now an office block.



Near to the site of St James’s Theatre are the auction rooms of Christie’s. It was here that a collection of modern pictures, water-color drawings, and objects of art belonging to Charles Dickens were sold from his residence at Gad’s Hill, near Rochester, after his death. The prices realised at the sale were said to “have been fabulous”.


Further Reading.

Click here to view the Wikipedia entry for the St James’s Theatre.