The History and Hauntings of The Bristol Old Vic

Even though the Theatre Royal is one of the most haunted locations in Bristol, it was built as a symbol of Bristol’s pride and remains a place of discovery, joy, and adventure.

If you’re hearing about the haunted Bristol Old Vic for the first time, you’ve come to the right pace as we’ll tell you more about its history and why it’s presumed to be haunted.

The History of the Bristol Old Vic

The Bristol Old Vic is one of the oldest continually-operating theatres in the world. This historic theatre has had different faces and names throughout its history and has been known at different times as King Street Theatre, the Bristol Theatre, and the Theatre Royal, and it has interesting stories and figures to explore.

The construction of the Bristol Old Vic began on 30th November 1764 and was completed in 1766. The structure was funded by 50 local citizens who were rewarded with a silver ticket that granted them the right to see all the performances in the theatre for the rest of their lives for free.

The theatre opened its doors to the public on May 30th, 1766 but it had some issues. First things first, to minimize public attention, it didn’t have any doors to open and instead, people had to knock on Mr. Foote’s door to be ushered to the theatre through his home.

Secondly, it was hidden from the public view simply because it lacked the required royal patent for the public performances of plays, and hence any production had to be disguised as a concert.

In 1977, the haunted Bristol Old Vic was awarded a royal patent and reopened on November 30th 1778, as the Theatre Royal. As a legal playhouse, actors could freely perform without any fear of arrest. Also, improvements to the building began and in the early nineteenth century, the theatre had a new angled gallery, raised auditorium’s roof, and its capacity increased to 1620.

In the 1980s, the theatre was famous for its artistic work, but unfortunately, it failed financially and became threatened by closure.

In 2007, the public concern for the survival of the theatre led to the formation of a new board of trustees who oversaw an extensive £19.26 million redevelopment of the theatre, of which the first phase was completed in 2012.

Besides the modernization and refurbishment of the theatre auditorium, new office spaces, rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, and backstage areas were created, and new lighting and flying systems were put in place.

How The Bristol Old Vic is Haunted

The haunted Bristol Old Vic is linked with a lot of paranormal activities such as unexplained smells of something sweet, sudden cold spots and the feeling of a person walking behind you.

There are said to be at least three ghosts haunting the Bristol Old Vic.

One of the most beautiful theatres in England is haunted by a lady in black who’s believed to be Sarah Macready. Originally an actress, Sarah fell in love with William Charles Macready who once ran Bristol Old Vic, and as fate would have it, they got married.

When William died, Sarah became a pillar to the theatre and kept it going through difficult times to the extent of paying actors from her own pocket. Its now said to be common to see her ghost keeping an eye on the theatre she once saved from bankruptcy.

Architect Andrzej Blonski said that Sarah’s ghost appeared to him as he climbed the back stairs one afternoon. She wore a white, long, crinoline dress with black hair and pretty face and as soon as he tried talking to her, she vanished.

In the 1980s, a patrol guard smelled a strong perfume in the air and shortly after, the Alsatian dog beside him started barking. Also, the guard heard a woman’s voice telling him to ‘get out’ and also felt her breath on his face.

Sarah was an incredible lady who worked in the Bristol Old Vic seven days a week, and her ghost shows that she holds the theatre dearly in her heart and wants nothing for it but the best.

But, Sarah Macready is not the only spectre haunting Bristol Old Vic. It is believed to be haunted by yet another actress by the name Sarah Siddons. According to research, Siddons’ boyfriend hanged himself in Bristol Old Vic, and therefore, her ghost continues to mourn his death.

The theatre is also believed to be haunted by the spirit of Richard, a young man who died in an accident in the line of duty in the theatre. He is said to turn lights on and off and move items backstage.

The Grade 1 Listed Old Vic Theatre in the U.K is the oldest continuously operating theatre with ongoing rehearsals, performances, and other technical work.

The theatre has a strong spirit of the people who passed through it. Most importantly, it has some eerie secrets to spill, and if you don’t know why it’s regarded as the haunted Bristol Old Vic, a simple explanation is that this historic playhouse is alive with its past as it’s constantly haunted by the spirits of Sarah Macready, Sarah Siddons, and Richard.