The Theatre Royal Haymarket (also known as Haymarket Theatre or the Little Theatre) is a West End theatre in the Haymarket in the City of Westminster which dates back to 1720, making it the third-oldest London playhouse still in use.


Early History.

Samuel Foote acquired the lease in 1747. In 1766 he gained a royal patent to play legitimate drama (meaning spoken drama, as opposed to opera, concerts or plays with music) in the summer months and the theatre became the third Patent Theatre in London. The original building was a little further north in the same street. It has been at its current location since 1821, when it was redesigned by John Nash. It is a Grade I listed building, with a seating capacity of 888. The freehold of the theatre is owned by the Crown Estate.


Dickens and Ellen Ternan.


Ellen Ternan. This image is said to date from 1858, a year after she met Charles Dickens.

In 1857, the young actress Ellen Ternan was spotted by Charles Dickens performing at the Haymarket Theatre. He cast her, along with her mother and one of her sisters, in a performance of The Frozen Deep in Manchester.

Charles Dickens was forty-five when he met Ellen Ternan and she was eighteen, only slightly older than his daughter Katey. Dickens began an affair with Ternan, but the relationship was kept secret from the general public. Dickens had become disillusioned with his wife, who lacked his energy and intellect. Ternan, in contrast, was clever and charming, forceful of character, undomesticated, and interested in literature, the theatre, and politics. Dickens referred to Ternan as his “magic circle of one”. Matters came to a head in 1858 when Catherine Dickens opened a packet delivered by a London jeweller which contained a gold bracelet meant for Ternan with a note written by her husband. The Dickenses separated that May, after 22 years of marriage.




Further Information.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]Haymarket Theatre was listed in 1970 and is currently recorded as a Grade I building by English Heritage (list entry: 1066641).


Further Reading (external sites).

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Click here to visit the web site of the Theatre Royal Haymarket.