Regarded as Glasgow's first “proper” theatre, the original Theatre Royal in Dunlop Street was opened in 1781 by John Jackson, who had obtained the necessary permission from the magistrates. After some initial success the early years of the 19th century were a struggle for survival, with the building often being used for other purposes such as public meetings or circuses.
The theatre was known as the Caledonian for a time in the 1820s while a rival Theatre Royal on Queen Street flourished. Following the demise of this competitor as the result of a fire in 1829, its manager John Henry Alexander took over at Dunlop Street and it became known as the Theatre Royal once more, taking on a new lease of life and becoming Glasgow's premier theatre. Famous names were attracted, such as the comedienne Mrs Nisbett featured in this playbill. In 1849, in Glasgow's worst ever theatre disaster, the building caught fire during a show and sixty-five customers died.
In the 1850s, under the management of Edmund Glover, the traditional range of plays was extended to opera, melodramas and pantomimes. The theatre was rebuilt after yet another fire in 1863, but four years later it was relocated in Hope Street in Cowcaddens. The reconstructed Dunlop Street building was sold to the City of Glasgow Union Railway Co and demolished to make way for St Enoch Station.
Reference: Mitchell Library, Theatre Collection
Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Libraries Information and Learning
Caledonian Theatre, circuses, City of Glasgow Union Railway Co, disasters, drama, fires, melodramas, opera, pantomimes, St Enoch Station, Theatre Royal, theatres