Manchester City Council

Libraries Theatre collection

We hold this unique collection of theatre material in Manchester, the collection aims to cover Manchester's theatres from the mid 18th century to the present day. The collection contains:

  • Programmes and playbills;
  • Posters and handbills;
  • Newspaper cuttings;
  • Scrapbooks, postcards and other memorabilia;
  • Photographs;
  • Books, periodicals and manuscripts; and 
  • Architectural plans.

Material from most theatres past and present is available, with long runs of playbills and programmes for the Theatre Royal, Prince's Theatre, Palace Theatre, Opera House, the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Library Theatre. Music hall is less well represented but material is available on the Broadhead Circuit.

Manchester was also the location of the first English repertory company founded by Annie Horniman at the Gaiety Theatre and there is a substantial collection of material on this including correspondence from Annie Horniman. Amateur theatre groups and theatrical societies such as the Unnamed Society are also included.

Useful publications:

  • Manchester Theatres by Terry Wyke and Nigel Rudyard 1994 - contains a general history of theatre in Manchester, an alphabetical list of theatres and a brief history of each, and a detailed guide to the contents of the collection. (Copies are still available from the Arts Library for £6.95);
  • The Early Manchester Theatre (1750-1807) by J L Hodgkinson and R Pogson 1960;
  • Annie Horniman: a pioneer in the theatre by Sheila Gooddie 1990; and 
  • The Theatre collection is searchable on the library catalogue (use the advanced search, select a keyword and enter "Theatre collection").

Items are available for use in Central Library search room with at least one day's notice - use our secure form request to view books, in the search room.

The Theatre collection card index is held in the Search Room and can be viewed without an appointment. The Theatre index includes information on:

  • Actors, actresses, music hall artistes etc; 
  • Theatre, ballet and opera companies; and 
  • Titles of plays, shows and productions.

    Only actors taking major roles have been indexed (though an attempt has been made to index well known actors in early roles). 

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