Theatre Royal Haymarket

1754 – Samuel Foote

Samuel Foote : the Royal Patent

1754 saw a change of administration for the Hay Market, as the flamboyant Samuel Foote, a celebrated mimic, stepped into John Potter’s shoes. Foote’s name was to become somewhat ironic as, handed a rather frisky horse at a Royal Hunting Party as a prank, Foote was thrown from his steed, breaking his leg severely and requiring amputation.

Although he feared his career was over, the Hay Market was to benefit strangely from his misfortune. Horrified that the joke had so misfired, the Duke of York, a close personal friend and fellow guest at the hunt, asked if anything could be done for Foote. Immediately, Foote replied that all he wanted from life was a Royal Warrant and Patent for his ‘Little Theatre in the Hay’.

Despite some reluctance from King George III, the Royal Patent was granted, with a proviso: it was to last only the summer months, and only until Foote’s death. The restriction was designed to avoid the now obvious competition with the two patent theatres.

Victorious at his achievement, Foote agreed and, having refurbished and enlarged the building, the theatre reopened in 1767 as the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Meanwhile Foote, not done with his own theatrical career, launched into writing plays for one-legged roles, most notably ‘The Devil on Two Sticks’ and ‘The Lame Lover’.

Did you know? The Theatre Royal Haymarket Archive documents the fascinating history of the theatre. To find out more, click here

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