Theatres Act 1843

The Theatres Act 1843 (6 & 7 Vict., c. 68) (also known as the Theatre Regulation Act) is a defunct Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom. It amended the regime established under the Licensing Act 1737 for the licensing of the theatre in Great Britain, implementing the proposals made by a select committee of the House of Commons in 1832.

Theatres Act 1843[1][2]
Long titleAn Act for regulating Theatres
Citation6&7 Vic., c.68
Territorial extent Great Britain
Royal assent22 August 1843
Other legislation
Repealed byTheatres Act 1968
Status: Repealed
Text of statute as originally enacted

Under the Licensing Act 1737 (10 Geo.II, c. 28), the Lord Chamberlain was granted the ability to vet the performance of any new plays: he could prevent any new play, or any modification to an existing play, from being performed for any reason, and was not required to justify his decision. New plays were required to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for a licence before they could be performed, and theatre owners could be prosecuted for staging a play (or part of a play) that had not received prior approval. A licence, once granted, could be also withdrawn. The Licensing Act 1737 also limited spoken drama to the patent theatres, originally only the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in London. The regime was relaxed slightly by the Theatrical Representations Act 1788, under which local magistrates were permitted to license occasional performances for periods of up to 60 days.

The Theatres Act 1843 restricted the powers of the Lord Chamberlain, so that he could only prohibit the performance of plays where he was of the opinion that "it is fitting for the preservation of good manners, decorum or of the public peace so to do". It also gave additional powers to local authorities to license theatres, breaking the monopoly of the patent theatres and encouraging the development of popular theatrical entertainments, such as saloon theatres attached to public houses and music halls.

The regime established by the 1843 Act was considered by a select committee of the House of Commons in 1866, and two Parliamentary Joint Select committees, in 1909 and then in 1966, and various reforms were proposed, but no changes were implemented until the Act was finally repealed by the Theatres Act 1968.


The Act in general was restricted to Great Britain, and more specifically to the vicinities of London, Oxbridge, and royal residences.[3] When George Bernard Shaw's 1909 play The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet was refused a licence by the Lord Chamberlain, it was staged in Liverpool and Dublin by the Abbey Theatre players.[4][5]

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  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title was authorised by the Short Titles Act 1896, section 1 and the first schedule. Due to the repeal of those provisions it is now authorised by section 19(2) of the Interpretation Act 1978.
  2. ^ "Short Titles Act, 1896, Schedule 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  3. ^ Dean 2010 pp.13–15
  4. ^ Dean 2010 pp.88–96
  5. ^ Gibbs, A. (14 February 2001). A Bernard Shaw Chronology. Palgrave Macmillan UK. p. 218. ISBN 9780230599581. Retrieved 20 November 2017.


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