Monday, 20 July 2009

The Old Vic and the caterer

Visitors to the Old Vic these days are used to entering the theatre through the red-carpetted foyer at the front of house. However from 1891 to 1927, the foyer was occupied by a caterer. Why?

In 1888, Emma Cons, with the help of a fundraising camapign purchased the freehold of the theatre for £16,000 and handed it over to the theatre's Trustees. She then sought the formation of a new trust to operate the theatre, which received royal approval in 1891.

One of the conditions stipulated in the order establishing the new trust was that the Old Vic should be a temperance house...

No intoxicating liqours shall be introduced into any part of the building.

...and that the foyer area should be handed to Mr John Pearce to run a temperance restaurant, 'Peace and Plenty'.

Much to the relief of the theatre's management, Mr Pearce's contract expired in 1927 and the public areas of the theatre underwent renovation, opening the foyer to the public for the first time in nearly four decades.

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