Sadler's Wells


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Venue Type & Location


Site Name: Sadler's Wells
Location: London
County: London (city-county)
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location


  • Address: St. John’s Street Road & Middleton Place (current Rosebery Ave), Islington. For a current map, Click Here . For historical maps showing the venue (in addition to the one excerpted at right), Click Here and Here.

  • Performance Space Description: Information about this venue has not yet been compiled; however, some sense of the performance space may be gleaned by following the links at right. In particular:

  • See the 'Bibliographic Sources' link for a provisional list of venue-relevant resources (both primary and secondary). Wherever possible (i.e. when the pertinent text is relatively short and/or easily condensed) this material has been transcribed, and appears beneath the appropriate bibliographic citation.

  • See the 'Events at venue' link for a listing of blackface/minstrelsy-related events that took place in this performance space (with attached bibliographic references).

    Beth Marquis

  • Events at Sadler's Wells

    Event Date Venue Location Troupe
    Dramatic 13 November 1843 - 13 November 1843 London, London (city-county) Pelham, Richard
    Dramatic 15 July 1844 - 15 July 1844 London, London (city-county) Phelps
    Minstrel Show 18 May 1846 - 22 May 1846 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48)
    Dramatic 22 March 1847 - 25 March 1847 London, London (city-county) Phelps
    Concert 27 March 1847 - 27 March 1847 London, London (city-county) Lantum Serenaders
    Dramatic 3 May 1847 - 3 May 1847 London, London (city-county) Phelps
    Dramatic 21 May 1847 - 21 May 1847 London, London (city-county) Phelps
    Concert 22 May 1847 - 22 May 1847 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48)
    Minstrel Show 5 July 1847 - 5 July 1847 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47)
    Minstrel Show 27 April 1848 - 29 April 1848 London, London (city-county) Female American Serenaders
    Minstrel Show 1 May 1848 - 3 May 1848 London, London (city-county) Female American Serenaders
    Minstrel Show 4 June 1849 - 8 June 1849 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49)
    Minstrel Show 5 June 1849 - 9 June 1849 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49)
    Minstrel Show 11 June 1849 - 16 June 1849 London, London (city-county) Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49)
    Dramatic 1 October 1849 - 2 October 1849 London, London (city-county) Phelps
    Dramatic 8 October 1849 - 9 October 1849 London, London (city-county) Phelps
    Dramatic 15 October 1849 - 16 October 1849 London, London (city-county) Phelps
    Dramatic 12 December 1849 - 12 December 1849 London, London (city-county) Graham, R.E.
    Dramatic 20 February 1851 - 20 February 1851 London, London (city-county) Phelps
    Dramatic 19 May 1851 - 22 May 1851 London, London (city-county) Phelps

    Bibliographic Sources

    • Black’s New Guide to London and its Environs. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1863.

      “SADLER’S WELLS THEATRE, Islington, derives its name from the fact that one Sadler built a music-house here in the neighbourhood of a mineral spring, in the reign of Charles II. In 1764 the present house was built; it is the oldest theatre in London. The Grimaldis were clowns at this place; and here Belzoni was posture-master before setting out on his travels. The New River, flowing close by, has been employed to fill a tank under the stage, where aquatic performances were exhibited. Mr. Phelps, the actor, is the present manager, and has won a name for this little theatre by the excellent mode in which Shakspere's plays, and other pieces of the classic drama, are represented” (214-15).
    • Cheshire, David F. Music Hall in Britain. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1974.


    • Clarke, Henry Green. London in All Its Glory. London: H.G. Clarke & Co., 1851.

      “SADLER'S WELLS THEATRE, New River Head, Islington. So called from the wells formerly situated here, and from the name of a person by whom a summer theatre was first opened on this spot in 1683. The present building was constructed in 1765, but the interior has been since rebuilt. This theatre was formerly celebrated for the production of nautical pieces, its proximity to the New River enabling the manager to introduce real water into the most striking scenes. It has been for the last three or four seasons equally remarkable as the refuge of the Shakspearian drama, banished from the larger temples, which under the judicious management of Mr. Phelps, have proved eminently successful” (127-8).
    • Cunningham, P. Modern London; or, London as it is. London: John Murray, 1851.

      ”SADLER'S WELLS THEATRE, long a well-known place of public amusement: first a music-house, and so called from a spring of mineral water, discovered by one Sadler, in 1683, in the garden of a house which he had newly opened as a public music-room, and called by his own name as ‘Sadler's Music House.’ The New River flows past the theatre, and on great occasions has been carried under the stage, and the flooring removed, for the exhibition of aquatic performances. Here Grimaldi,the famous clown, achieved his greatest triumphs. This admirable little theatre (for such it now is, under the able management of Mr. Phelps, the actor,) has for some years maintained a well-deserved celebrity for the performance of the plays of Shakspeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, &c. in a way worthy of a larger theatre, and a richer, but not a more crowded or enthusiastic, audience” (178).
    • Davis, Jim & Victor Emeljanow. Reflecting the Audience. London Theatregoing, 1840-1880. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2001.
    • Dictionary of Victorian London Online. 07/27/2008 (

      (Under Entertainment - Theatre & Shows - Theatres & Venues - Sadler's Wells Theatre)

    • Howard, Diana. London Theatres and Music Halls 1850-1950. London: The Library Association, 1970.

      pp. 207-9.

    • London and its Environs. Leipsic: Karl Baedeker, 1885.

      ”NEW SADLER'S WЕLLS THEATRE, St John Street Road, ClerkenwelI. Standard plays” (38-9).
    • London as it is To-day. London: H.G. Clarke & Co., 1851.

      The information provided within this source is similar to that given within London in all its Glory, also published by H.G. Clarke, & Co.

      In addition, this source also contains the following:

      “The chief performers here are the talented lessee himself [Mr. Phelps], Messrs. H. Marston, G. Bennett, Hoskins, H. Mellon, and A. Younge; Miss Glyn, (a pupil of Mr. C. Kemble) Mrs. H. Marston, and Miss S. Lyons. Although the charge for admission is small, the audiences are amongst the most attentive and intellectual in London; the admirable embodiment of the plays of Shakspeare, and those of the elder dramatists, being keenly relished, and highly appreciated. Doors open at half-past six o’clock; performances commence at seven. Admission: boxes, first circle, three shillings; second circle, two shillings; pit, one shilling; gallery, sixpence. Half price to the boxes only, at nine o clock, one shilling” (217-218).
    • The London Stage 1800-1900 (University of Massachusetts). 03/23/2008 (
    • London Theatres Website (Templeman Library, University of Kent at Canterbury). 05/22/2008 (
    • Theatres in Victorian London Website. 05/22/2008 (
    • Thornbury, Walter. Old and New London. London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1881.


    • Timbs, John. Curiosities of London (1868). London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1868.

      “SADLER'S WELLS, the oldest theatre in London, is on the S.W. side of Islington, and named in part from a mineral spring, which was superstitiously dispensed by the monks of the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, probably from the time of Henry I. [illegible] Stephen. In the reign of Charles II., one Sadler built here a music-house, and in 1683 re-discovered in the garden the well of ‘excellent steel waters,’ which in 1684 vas visited and drunk by hundreds of persons every morning. […] [I]n 1764 the old music house […] was taken down, and the present theatre built by Rosoman. King (of Drury-lane) was long a partner and stage-manager; and Charles Dibdin and his sons, Thomas and Charles, were proprietors. […]Wine was sold and drunk on the premises until 1807: under the old regulation, ‘for an additional sixpence, every spectator was allowed a pint of either port, Lisbon, mountain, or punch.’ But the more honourable distinction of Sadler's Wells Theatre is its admirable representations of Elizabethan plays, under the management of Mr. Phelps, who has been succeeded Miss Marriott” (787).

      Also gives the theatre’s capacity (in 1866) as 1300 (789)
    • Timbs, John. Curiosities of London (1855). London: David Bogue, 1855.


      The information provided within this source is much the same as that given within the 1868 edition of the book.
    • "A Tour Among the Theatres". Metropolitan Magazine, The February, 1847: 183-194.