Spirit Vaults, 17 Smithford Street
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There is an 1861 transfer of license showing a liqour vaults at the bottom of Theatre Yard was transferred from M.A. Wittem to William Morris. Buchanan lists it as BOARD VAULTS in 1868, a license having been granted to John Dell in 1866, but by 1874 the establishment was known as the SPIRIT VAULTS and seven years later in 1881 was called the OLD VAULTS. That remained until 1886 when the name changed again to the THEATRE VAULTS. In 1889 the THEATRE ROYAL became the EMPIRE PALACE OF VARIETIES accesible through the THEATRE VAULTS. Although this was a period of music hall boom, audiences gradually dwindled to the point where the theatre became uneconomic to run. Competition from two pub music halls did not help. Ellen Terry played there in November 1880. Even stars like Charles Coborn and Arthur Lloyd in 1895 could not reverse the financial state and the Empire closed permanently at Christmas 1895 and was demolished in 1903 - but not the THEATRE VAULTS which remained trading until destroyed by enemy action in 1940.
With thanks to Jo Roberts on Facebook for permission to use this wonderful family photograph, taken around 1915. Fred Wootton took over the licence for the pub in December 1914, and his wife's sister (Jo's great-grandmother) can be seen looking through the window.
LICENSEES:1874 William Morris, Wine & Spirit Merchant 1881 J. Wade
Street plan of 1851