Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre



  • A former London theater, the first English venue to have aproscenium arch. Built in 1656 as Lisle's Tennis Court, itwas converted into a home for the Duke's Company by William Davenantin 1661. A year later it became one of London's two patent theaters.The theater opened with a revival of Davenant's The Siege of Rhodesstarring Thomas Betterton. Known informally as the Duke'sHouse, the theater was equipped with movable scenery and staged thefirst scenic performance of Hamlet in 1661 with Betterton inthe title role. Dryden's Sir Martin Mar-All (1667), writtenfor the company's comedian James Nokes (d. 1696), was also an outstandingsuccess. After Davenant's death in 1668, the company continued atthe venue until 1671, when they moved to Dorset Garden Theatre.Lincoln's Inn Fields subsequently reverted to being a tennis court,except for the period 1672 - 74 when Thomas Killigrew's companyplayed there after fire destroyed the first Drury Lane theater.

    In 1695 Lincoln's Inn Fields was refitted for Betterton'scompany, which began a decade of performances there with Congreve'sLove for Love. The company moved in 1705 to Vanbrugh's newQueen's Theatre in the Haymarket (see acoustics).After a period of disuse, Christopher Rich (see the Riches)began to restore Lincoln's Inn Fields shortly before his death; itwas reopened by his son John Rich in 1714. Highlights of his managementincluded the first English pantomime (1716) and the firstproduction of Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728).

    In 1732 Rich transferred to his new theater in CoventGarden and Lincoln's Inn became a venue for operas, concerts,and balls, as well as some plays. After the theater closed in 1744,the building served as a barracks, an auction room, and a china warehouse,before being demolished in 1848.