Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Savoy Theatre

Savoy Theatre London, December 2003

The Savoy Theatre, which opened on 10 October 1881, was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte (1844 - 1901) on the site of the old Savoy Palace in London as a showcase for the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, which became known as the Savoy Operas as a result. Later, the Savoy Hotel was built next to it.

The House of Savoy was the ruling family of Savoy, Italy, descended from Humbert I, Count of Sabaudia (or "Maurienne") (became count in 1032). Piedmont was later joined with Sabaudia, and the name evolved into "Savoy" (or "Savoie"). Count Peter (or Piers or Piero) of Savoy (d. 1268), was the maternal uncle of Eleanor of Provence , queen-consort of Henry III of England, and came with her to London. King Henry made Peter Earl of Richmond and gave him (in 1246) the land between the Strand and the Thames where Peter built the Savoy Palace in 1263.

The Savoy Palace became the London residence of John of Gaunt, 2nd Duke of Lancaster, until it was burned down by Wat Tyler's followers in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. King Richard II was still a child, and his uncle John of Gaunt was the power behind the throne and so a main target of the rebels.

In about 1505 Henry VII had a hospital built in the palace ruins, and part of the old palace was used for a military prison in the 18th century. In 1864 a fire burned everything except the stone walls, and the property sat empty until D'Oyly Carte bought it in 1880 to build the Savoy Theatre there.