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Lost Adelaide: West End: Walking tour: Theatre Royal

Looks at some of the sites in Adelaide's West End and traces the history of the buildings on those sites and their uses.

About the Theatre Royal

A car park now occupies the site of the Theatre Royal. The image shows the second Theatre Royal to be built on this site in 1878 to the design of Melbourne architect George R Johnson. Seen here in 1890 it was a simple but well proportioned building with careful detailing, Corinthian pilasters, and was topped by a balustrade with urns and the royal coat of arms.

The interior was on three levels with three entrances for the different sections of the audience. The pit and gallery were reached by a laneway, the stalls by a narrow front door, and the dress circle by the wide main entrance.

The Theatre Royal became Adelaide's best known and most loved theatre. Famous performers included Sarah Bernhardt and the Oliviers. The building was modified in 1884 and again in 1913. In 1962 it was demolished by department store Miller Anderson and Co to make way for a multi-level car park. 

Theatre Royal in 1881. Photograph by Samuel Sweet
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Theatre Royal on the map


Theatre Royal surveyed on 6 June 1911 for the Fire Underwriters' Association of SA. C 112/16

Theatre Royal in 1878

From the South Australian Register 23 March 1878 page 12

'BUILDING IMPROVEMENTS FOR 1878.

Under this heading we give an account of some new buildings which are projected, completed, or in progress in the present year; —

A casual visitor to the busy precincts of the Theatre Royal in Hindley street, looking at the bewildering labyrinth of scaffold poles, building material, and etceteras, and deafened by the clamour of artisans busily hammering, sawing, and working energetically throughout the place, would be inclined to take odds that the structure would not be finished in time for the opening on the 25th ; but as well directed intelligence, skill, and judgment can work wonders, there is no doubt that Mr. Johnson will be able to fulfil his promise. At present it is difficult to form a clear idea of what the interior will be like when fully completed, but there are sufficient indications amidst the chaos of mechanical appliances and progressing decorations to show that the architect has left nothing unthought of in the design by which the comfort of the public and the convenience of all connected with the Theatre will be secured.'

Read the complete articles below.

Front bar of the Theatre Royal

The front bar of the Theatre Royal. A sketch from the 13 October issue of the South Australian figaro