It’s been a while since the Jack the Ripper Tour blog strayed out of the East End of London and looked at some of the other great London locations that our tours cover.
So, today I thought I’d take you you to one of the most romantic theatres in London Wyndham’s.
Many people will pass a London Theatre and not give it a second glance. Yet many of the theatres in the West End are truly stunning and also have great histories.
Wyndham’s is a beautiful theatre and, to boot, it is also the only West End theatre to have a depiction of William Shakespeare on its exterior. If you happen to be passing it – and FYI it’s on Charing Cross Road, right next to Leicester Square Underground Station – cross to the opposite side of the street, look up, and there, surmounting the theatre, you will see Shakespeare himself.
Wyndham’s is romantic both for its appearance – beautiful on the outside and very feminine on the inside – and also for how it came into existence.
The theatre is named for Sir Charles Wyndham, the great actor and impressario of the late 19th early 20th centuries, who had trained as a doctor but who, more than anything else, wanted to be an actor and so, in 1862, he made his London stage debut performing with Ellen Terry.
However, further roles weren’t forthcoming and so he went to America where he became a brigade surgeon for the Union army in the Civil War.
He resigned his commission in 1864 and appeared on stage in New York alongside, a soon to be notorious, John Wilkes Booth.
Returning to England his acting career flourished and he became hugely popular both as an actor and as a manager.
By 1876 Charles Wyndham had taken control of the Criterion theatre in Piccadilly Circus and, in 1885, he employed the beautiful and talented actress Mary Moore as his leading lady.
Despite the fact that they were both married, Mary to the playwright James Albery, Wyndham and Moore fell in love and soon became a celebrated team both on and off the stage.
Although James Albery died in 1889, they still had to keep their affair secret sp as not to distress Wyndham’s wife.
Wyndham longed to build his own theatre but he didn’t have the money.
Then, in 1887, an entrepreneur by the name of Joseph Pike tried to buy the land on which the theatre now stands from the then Prime Minister the Marrquis of Salisbury. Salisbury, who greatly admired Wyndham, would only agree to sell the land on condition that any theatre built on it was built for Wyndham. Pike, therefore, offered Wyndham a deal. If Wyndham would use his influence to enable Pike to buy the land, he would advance him the money to build a theatre on it.
Mary Moore, however, wanted Wyndham to have the theatre and the land, so she persuaded ten of her friends to act as guarantors to the sum of £1,000 each and she borrowed the money herself.
The theatre was designed by W. Sprague, and it opened on November 16th 1899 with the play David Garrick, starring Wyndham and Moore.
The interior of the theatre is absolutely exquisite and the initials of Charles Wyndham and Mary Moore adorn the interior whilst, above the stage, an allegorical figure that looks down on the audience bears an uncanny resemblance to Mary Moore herself. Indeed, the interior has been described as a love letter from Charles Wyndham to the woman whom he adored and without whom this lovely theatre would not have existed.
Wyndham’s wife died in 1916, and he and Mary Moore were, finally, able to marry. He was 79 she was 55. But, sadly, he was already showing signs of Alzheimer’s and he died three years later.
So, if you happen to be wandering along Shaftesbury Avenue, be sure to pop into the foyer of this lovely theatre and, there on the wall, to the left of the box office, you will see a huge portrait of Sir Charles Wyndham and Mary Moore embracing in a performance of the play David Garrick. Look at their eyes and you will see the passion of a couple who are truly in love.