As we mentioned in a recent posting, when the building of a new theatre on King Street was proposed in the 1760s, 50 supporters pledged £50 towards the construction. As a return on their investment, they were each presented with an individually numbered silver token, entitling them to “the sight of every performance to be exhibited in this house”, a promise which we honour to this day. In fact, as part of our current refurbishment, we are issuing a further 50 silver tokens. Contact our Development Team for more information.
So it was great to read in Bristol Evening Post recently that token number 28 has recently resurfaced. Here’s the letter which was printed in the paper:
“I own a Theatre Royal silver ticket No. 28, which I was fortunate enough to buy via eBay after a tip-off from a friend.
I had a meeting at King Street with Vicki Carver and Peter Leppard, who is researching these tickets.
They confirmed it was genuine, which was a relief as copies exist, even to within a few years of the theatre opening in 1766.
Peter then told me that my ticket had been owned by Sir Hugh Smyth, of Ashton Court, in 1816. It was loaned/ let by an F. Beeson in 1856 but from 1861 was held by Sir John Smyth and three of his relatives – Edward Gore Langton, Edward Sampson and the Rev. Henry Hugh Way. One of these three, I assume, may have kept the token. It was not shown as registered to anyone in 1922/3 but turned up again in 1947, when it was photographed in a booklet.
Anton Bantock, the Smyth family historian, provided me with some useful information. Sir Hugh, he says, was one of the main proposers for the building of the theatre, despite violent opposition from the Quakers who considered them to be the haunt of “rogues and vagabonds”
Each share cost £50 with 50 “city gentlemen” paying their share to raise the capital required for the theatre to be built.
A document reads “2 Nov (17)64 – Paid in part of my subscription for a share in the New Theatre to be built in Bristol 1st payment – £10.0.0.”
Sir Hugh had to pay for his own silver ticket. On January 8, 1767, it says, he, “paid for a silver admittance ticket 6/- (6 shillings)”
I have tried to get in touch with someone at the Old Vic, as I am considering selling the token, but without any luck. For me it’s a great feeling knowing that the token has “come home” and will hopefully remain in Bristol.