Ref noTR
Alt ref noGiven at item level
TitleTheatre Royal, Bristol (Bristol Old Vic)
Date1729 - 2003
DescriptionThis collection concerns the organisational records of the owners of the Theatre Royal, Bristol. The theatre is now more commonly known as the Bristol Old Vic, after the company that have used it since 1946. The building was owned by the Proprietors of the Theatre Royal (1764-1924), Milton Bode and Robert Courtneidge, and their executors (1925-1940) and the Trustees of the Theatre Royal (1942-2010), who let it to a succession of managers and theatre companies. The records therefore are primarily concerned with the legal, administrative and financial affairs of the theatre, although the artistic output of the theatre's tenants is represented in a significant collection of playbills from the late eighteenth to early twentieth century.
Extent4 shelves
Access statusOpen
Access conditionsNone
ArrangementThe collection is based primarily on 21 deposits made by the Trustees of the Theatre Royal between circa 1943 and 1985. These were previously catalogued as individual collections (BRO ref. nos. 8976-8982, 9307-9313, 9727, 12365, 13326, 17558, 17559, 29464, and 39085) and usually by document type. For example, 8982, 9307 and 9727 were three chronologically overlapping collections of playbills. The Trustees' deposits have now been brought together along with several other small deposits, made by other organisations or individuals, of Theatre Royal material. This second group mainly comprises playbills and deeds, where the Theatre Royal/Trustees are record creator and where the items sensibly fit within the new arrangement by document class. Where relevant, information about provenance is provided at group or series level. The previous arrangement - both that of the original Bristol Archives catalogues and the Trustees' own ordering - is given at item level in Alt Ref No.

Original order and provenance, where known, have guided the arrangement of the catalogue into seven groups, which reflect the various functions and output of the Trustees and their predecessors.

TR/Aal Foundation and Proprietors (1764-1963)
This group includes Articles of Agreement and Association as well as licences relating to the foundation and running of the theatre and the governance structure of the theatre's proprietors. Records relating to shareholders are also within this group.

TR/Adm Administration records (1764-1986)
This group contains the minutes of the Proprietors of the Theatre Royal, as well as a discreet sub-group relating to the 1942 appeal to purchase the theatre and the subsequent establishment of a new group of Trustees and the work of their various committees.

TR/Fin Financial records (1764-1954)
This group includes the Proprietors' account books, as well as some financial records of the day to day running of the theatre in the first half of the twentieth century.

TR/Kst Building and property records (1627-1981)
This group concerns the transfer of property to and from the proprietors as well as records relating to maintenance and development of the theatre buildings. Deeds are organised into sub-groups by area (the main theatre site, the Rackhay site, and the houses on King Street) or by function (leases of theatre to managers or touring companies).

TR/Pro Productions and operational management (1774-c.1970)
There are relatively few records within the collection directly related to the staging of productions at the Theatre Royal. This group includes prompt books and seating plans.

TR/Pub Publicity records (1773-2003)
This group includes a large collection of eighteenth to nineteenth century playbills, as well as posters and programmes. They will be described to item level over the course of the Bristol Old Vic project. There is also a discreet sub-group of the publicity records for the Bristol Old Vic Company (1946 onwards), part of which is described to series level.

TR/Sm Trustees' exhibition and Illustrative material (1846-1974)
This group includes photographs, pictures and prints, predominately collected by the Trustees in the 1940s, usually with the intention of display in the theatre foyer. It also includes a small collection of artefacts, such as the silver tokens, some of whose provenance or custodial history is uncertain.
Related materialSee the papers of Wilfrid Leighton (27643/1), which reflect his involvement with the Theatre Royal from the 1940s to the 1960s. Other related material held by Bristol Archives has been referenced in this catalogue at series or item level where relevant. The records of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company (1946-2009) are held at the Theatre Collection, University of Bristol (Ref TC/BOV), which also holds a number of archive collections of individuals or organisations associated with the theatre.
AssocMaterialThe records of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company (1946-2009) are held at the Theatre Collection, University of Bristol (Ref TC/BOV), which also holds a number of archive collections of individuals or organisations associated with the theatre.
Archivist's noteThe Theatre Royal collection was repackaged, conserved and catalogued in 2017 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, held at the University of Bristol's Theatre Collection and related to this theatre, were likewise catalogued and conserved as part of the project.
Custodial historyThe majority of records in this collection were deposited by the Trustees of the Theatre Royal in the 1940s and 1950s, initially at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and then with Bristol Archives. During the 1942 appeal to save the theatre, the Trustees received numerous donations of documents and ephemera from the public and kept inventories of these gifts. From these it is clear that provenance of the pre-1940s records falls into several distinct groups: collections of records received from the public (mainly playbills and ephemera), collections of records received from official sources (deeds and administrative records given by solicitors), and collections of records found within the theatre building (early twentieth century operational and financial records). The Trustees also actively collected exhibition material to display in the foyer, either purchasing items at auction (prompt books) or securing works from their colleagues (prints from Bristol Art Gallery).
Records post-dating 1942, usually created by the Trustees themselves or the tenants of the theatre (from 1946 onwards the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company), appear to have been kept at the theatre until being deposited at Bristol Archives.
The collection also contains some deeds and publicity records donated to Bristol Archives by private individuals or transferred from Bristol Central Library.
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