new star theatre

new star theatre

Victorian Travelling Theatre Company


The travelling theatre companies of Victorian times were descended from the 'strolling players' of Tudor England and the later Elizabethan theatre groups who traditionally performed in the courtyards of inns. At the time actresses were not allowed and women's parts had to be played by boys. By the nineteenth century performances given by travelling companies were usually given in large tented accommodation - and ladies were allowed to perform.


This advertisement, from the 21 July 1800 edition of the Sherborne Mercury, is the earliest I have found for an (un-named) theatre at Yeovil.


From at least 1885 and as late as the time George Hoare was licensee (c1901-c1923) the large yard at the rear of the Railway Inn in Lower Middle Street, known at the time as Hoare's Yard, was the site used for small circuses and fairs or for travelling performers to put on popular entertainments - 'Penny Pops' or 'Penny Gaff' as they were commonly called locally. The site is now covered by Central Road as far as the bus station.

The New Star Theatre was a travelling theatre, apparently Yeovil-based, that is known from the notice below to have been operating in 1885. The proprietor was Mr W Haggar who sang and performed along with his theatre company.

The performance advertised below took place in the evening of Friday 29 October 1885 in the presence of the Mayor of Yeovil, Edwin Helliar. Although a price is not given in the notice, admission was probably one penny or, perhaps, more if you wanted a seat. Tickets were available from the Railway Inn or from the theatre itself.




A notice of the New Star Theatre, the original being printed on silk, for a performance in 1885.


This report from the 23 January 1886 edition of The Era magazine highlights the attractions offered by the theatre.