Vivien Leigh bought this chairs as a reminder of the theatre she loved and later, it was given to her sister-in-law, Dorothy Holman, for the museum she’d opened in her house in Topsham. This red velvet theatre chair is upstairs in the Museum. Miss Holman, who started the museum in the 1960s, often sat in it, and when the Museum re-opens, you can sit there, too. It came from the St James’s Theatre, in King Street, in London’s West End. But how did It come from the St James’s Theatre, in King Street, in London’s West End. But how did it end up in Topsham?
St James’s Theatre opened in 1835 and The Times re-ported that the interior was like ‘a fairy palace’, with its gilt copper chandelier, marble stairs, Venetian mirrors and painted ceiling. The auditorium was fitted out with well-padded seats covered in red silk, and the dress circle seats were crimson plush.
A young Charles Dickens wrote a play and made a curtain speech there, and later the Marquis of Queens-berry attended the opening night of a play by Oscar Wilde with a horsewhip under his arm.
In 1957, it was announced that the theatre would close to make room for an office building. A huge, nation-wide campaign was fought to try to save it, led by the actress Vivien Leigh. There were street marches and a protest in the House of Lords, but thebuilding was demolished in December 1957.