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At that time all theatre had been banned by order of the Puritan Parliament (1642) and was not legally re-established until the Restoration. Charles II granted two Royal patents for Covent Garden and Drury Lane which became the only legal theatres in the country. Actors were regarded as very low in status; found performing for ‘hire, gain or reward’ they could be heavily fined or imprisoned with hard labour. Undeterred by this, Keregan advertised performances with his company ‘The Duke of Norfolk’s Men’ as music concerts with plays given ‘gratis’ during the interval. Keregan successfully ran his theatre until his death in December 1740, when it was left to his widow Elizabeth Keregan. By this time, the theatre was very popular and a larger space was needed. Mrs Keregan applied to the Corporation to build York’s ‘New Theatre’ in its current location which opened in 1744. Sadly she died shortly afterwards.
1767 - 1769
In 1767, Tate Wilkinson was invited to act as ‘regent’ to Mrs Keregan’s successor Joseph Baker, who had accumulated enormous personal debts and neglected his company, to manage the theatre. He became one of the most popular performers and most successful theatre managers of his day. In 1769 Tate Wilkinson obtained a Royal patent for £500 (an exorbitant sum in those days!) – the third patent to be granted to provincial theatres. This legalised the operation and gave the theatre its new name ‘Theatre Royal’.