Princess Theatre

Postcard in our collection.

Researched by Alan Hall

The magnificent Princess Theatre on Spring Street, Melbourne showing a cable tram, horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians. c. 1910

Princess Theatre.
Architect: William Pitt
Constructed by Thomas Cockram

Grand Gala Opening: 18 December 1886 with Nellie Stewart Playing in ‘The Mikado’

The following is an excerpt taken from our publication, Victorian Historical Journal, Vol. 66, No. 2, Oct 1995, p.138. – Author Joan Maslen

By the time Melbourne’s fourteenth theatre, the new Princess (or Princess’s) opened on 18 December 1886 in Spring Street, the architectural progress that had been made was evident for all to see in this superb theatre … . Not only Melburnians were impressed as evidenced by Austin Brereton’s report in the London magazine the ‘Theatre’ in 1890, written for English readers:

‘I have never been in a more beautiful or perfect theatre than the Princess. Indeed I will make bold to say that, in respect to the graceful design of its interior and the comfort and cleanliness of its stage and dressing rooms, it has no equal in London. The building, which is practically isolated, has spacious luxurious entrances and every convenience for the public … everywhere there is an air of thoughtfulness, ease, cleanliness and comfort that were foreign to me in the matter of theatres until I visited this one. The stage is wide, deep and kept in lovely condition. The wide marble staircase in front of the house, the sliding roof for use in the summer, the airy balcony outside, the fountains, the flowers and the ferns did not please me so well as did the evident care which has sought to make the life of the actor at this theatre worth living.’

To read more about the significance of the Princess Theatre, please visit the Victorian Heritage Database

The Image collection

The Royal Historical Society of Victoria’s image collection of over 40,000 objects includes items of national significance, such as a painting by the Aboriginal artist William Barak, an engraving by Tom Roberts, drawings by Jane Cannan and lithographs by Eugene von Guerard, Nicholas Chevalier and S.T. Gill. Apart from original artworks, the Images Collection also includes postcards, maps and parish plans, as well as items of museum ephemera.

The Society’s collection of historical photographs dates back to the 1850s and 60s and includes daguerreotypes, albumen prints, silver gelatin prints, glass negatives and glass slides. Major subject areas are portraiture, street scenes – both Melbourne and many Victorian country towns, architectural and occupational.