1886 – Leinster Hall, Hawkin’s Street, Dublin

Architect: C.J. Phipps


Constructed by 1886 as the Leinster Hall after a fire in 1879 destroyed the Theatre Royal on this site. By 1897 the Leinster Hall had been renovated internally to a different design by Frank Matchem and renamed as the Theatre Royal. Under Matchem’s redesign the exterior was largely retained but with additions.

According to the Irish Builder, it was finished in red brick from Belfast and old bricks cleaned from the debris of the previous theatre Royal, with about 3,000,000 used. The exterior and interior were both described as of the Italian style.

It seems that the original intent at construction was to use it as public hall for meetings, balls and gatherings rather than a dedicated theatre – the interior hall had six large windows on each side, and as described in the Irish Builder in 1886, Phipps had designed the building for a future conversion.

“The probability of the hall being ultimately converted into a theatre has been taken into consideration by the architect, with the result that the transformation can be effected with comparative ease. Should this here after be deemed advisable, the building is capable of containing a balcony circle 52ft. in diameter; the stage can be readily be brought forward to measure 72ft. deep and with the addition of two extra galleries, for which allowance is made, the capacity of the house should be about 3,500.”

The original description of the proposed new theatre published in The Building News, July 9, 1880, prior to construction. “The old theatre was destroyed by fire in February last. Almost immediately after the fire Mr. Michael Gunn, the proprietor, sent for Mr. C.J. Phipps, F.S.A. (who had some ten years ago successfully constructed for him the Gaiety Theatre at Dublin), and gave him instructions to design a theatre which would be a worthy successor of the National Theatre of Ireland. The drawings and designs are now complete, and, in addition, Mr. Phipps has prepared a large model of the interior of the theatre, exactly as it will appear, completely decorated.

The dress circle holds, with private boxes 400
The upper circle 400
The orchestra and pit stalls, and pit … . 1,300
The gallery 1 300
Making the total number 3,400

Which is about 500 more than the old theatre could contain.

The width of the proscenium opening is 33ft., and the stage is 72ft. wide between the walls, with a depth of 65ft. Extending on either side of the stage walls are scene docks, which will make the available width of the stage for special purposes 10Oft. Running the whole length of either wing, outside the main building, are several floors of rooms for all the multitudinous requirements of the theatre — green-rooms, manager’s and treasury offices, property-making shops, wardrobes, tailors’ and dressmakers’ rooms, and dressing-rooms for actors, actresses, ballet, supers, eto. There is a height above the stage floor to the gridiron from which the scenes are worked of 65ft.

Some other dimensions may be given to show the relative size of the new theatre : —
Curtain line to front of dress circle 51ft.
Ditto ditto upper circle 51ft.
Ditto ditto gallery 57ft.
Ditto ditto back wall inside corridor of pit 7S£t.
Height of ceiling above pit-floor in centre 6Sft.

The style of the exterior elevation is Italian, and the purpose of the building is distinctly shown by the design. No one would mistake it for anything but a grand opera-house — and it has quite a Continental character about it. Estimates for the new building are now in progress of preparation, and in the course of a week or so tenders from builders will be invited. The building will, the architect believes, be ready to open by the early autumn of 1881.”