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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Covent Garden Theatre

Captain John Forbes gave some evidence to the Oil Gas Enquiry about this gas making installation. It had been installed by Taylor and Martineau and, therefore, used oil. The theatre was of course the predecessor of the present Royal Opera House. It had been built in 1809, in 1820 the management had passed to Henry Harris. The Theatre had been supplied with coal gas by the Chartered Company, but, following a dispute about non-payment of bills an oil gas works was built. It was clearly an important point in publicity of this time that a theatre should be well lit and there was some competition in this.

The theatre had several fires and in 1828, perhaps because of the incident at the East London Theatre, they were told by the Lord Chamberlain that such in house installations were unsafe.

In ‘New Flame’ Hugh Barty King quotes a statement about this: “When the brilliancy of gas attracted public admiration the proprietors of the Theatre anxious to adopt any improvement which would give brilliancy to the scenery .... and to prevent the accidents which the best street illumination is liable to ... they, at great expense, constructed gasometers, finding however that with the utmost care and skill in the introduction of gas in the audience part of the Theatre produced an offensive odour and the Public suffering inconvenience and disappointment in their amusements by the mischeveious agency of some malignant and interested persons .. the Proprietors have determined to remove the gas.

Covent Garden Theatre in 1811- showing the brilliancy of the lighting Once the work had been done and the theatre reopened in December 1828 a certificate was produced by John Evans of the Chartered Company - perhaps the same Mr. Evans who had caused the accident at the East London Theatre - and Thomas Edge, the gas equipment manufacturer, to say that any apparatus which had been used for gas manufacture on site had been destroyed. The management entirely ceased using gas and went back to oil and candles.

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