As we described in our post about the first Sadler’s Wells, the theatre was notable only for its poor reputation by the mid 18th century. As a result, it seems that the grand jury of Middlesex closed it down in 1745 amid concerns about immorality.
Sadler’s Wells was restored by Thomas Rosoman, who previously managed the New Wells, another local spa and theatre. He took over the lease with his business partner, a tumbler named Peter Hough, and reopened the theatre in April 1746.
Rosoman continued Sadler’s Wells’ tradition of variety acts, regularly featuring ropewalkers, tumblers, dancers and musicians. However, he also introduced more serious performances. Most theatres were still prohibited from staging spoken drama but Rosoman staged operas, such as 'The Fate of Narcissus' and 'Tithnous and Aurora'. The archive illustrates this broad range of entertainment and we’ll feature some examples on the blog soon.
Rosoman attracted star performers and bigger, more respectable audiences. With the theatre prospering, a newspaper reported that "Sadler's Wells is to be pulled down at the close of the season and to be rebuilt in a most elegant manner against the next summer: - Mr Rosomond, the spirited proprietor, resolving to spare no expense for the accommodation of the public".
He tore down the original wooden building in October that year. Within seven weeks, he had constructed a larger theatre a cost of £4,225 (about £300,000). The drawing below shows the new brick building, with its iron gate and railings (click to enlarge).
The new theatre opened on Easter Monday, 8 April 1765. Rosoman continued to bring a wide variety of popular productions and performers to the stage until he sold the theatre and retired in 1771.
He died in 1782 but his name survives Islington’s Rosoman Street, a small road close to Sadler’s Wells, on the site of the former New Wells.