It looks like an unassuming building at 12 Old Orchard Street, now one of Bath’s quietest cobbled streets, but step through the door to discover over 260 years of unique history.
The Orchard Street Theatre in Bath opened in 1750 and, upon receiving a Royal Patent in 1768, became the first Theatre Royal to open in England outside of London. Following the Theatre Royal’s move to Beaufort Square in 1805 the Orchard Street Theatre was converted into a Catholic Chapel, where Bishops were ordained. Since 1865 the building has been the home to one of England’s oldest provincial Masonic Lodges, and it is still used regularly as a Masonic Hall today.
Since 2009 the Orchard Street Theatre has become a popular tourist attraction in Bath, open for guided tours every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday at 11 am and 2.30 pm, and on Saturdays at 2.30 pm only. During the one hour tour visitors will stand on the stage once graced by Sarah Siddons, said to be the finest tragic actress of all time and go backstage to see the original 18th century scenery loft. They will visit the chapel where Bishop Baines would prepare fiery sermons and enter the vaults below, the burial site of exiled French nobility. Finally visitors will experience one of the grandest Masonic Halls in the country and view what is possibly one of the finest collections of rare Masonic Artefacts in the world. Tours cost £6 for adults, with concessions and family tickets available. They are available at the Bath Tourist Information Office in Abbey Churchyard, just a five-minute walk away from the Old Orchard Street Theatre.
On the 26th, 27th and 28th February the Old Orchard Street Theatre will be the venue for a series of exciting talks, reading and performances, as part of Bath LitFest. Visit the events page at www.oldtheatreroyal.com for details and to book tickets online; details are also available on the Bath LitFest website at www.bathlitfest.org.uk .
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