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Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger, No.1770, Sunday, February 28, 1830

Metropolitan Improvements

The neighbourhood of Battle-bridge, at the bottom of Gray's Inn-lane, is undergoing the very greatest change. It has been for many years a filthy and dangerous vicinity, and at one side of it the contents of the dust carts of the town used to be emptied. Mr. Peel gave directions for erecting a rendezvous for the new Police, at the point of junction of the six roads. This is to be called the "St. George's Cross." It will be an octagonal building, with pillars, and will supply all requisite accommodation. A double illuminated clock will show the hour to the Paddington and Pentonville roads. All the roads in the neighbourhood are brilliantly lighted up, and an immense number of old houses are to be immediately levelled. Even within the last month several houses, upon a large and elegant scale, have been raised. A very splendid theatre, called the Panharmo?ion, in which Italian and English Operas are to be performed alternately, has been built by Mr. Geary, the architect of most of the improvements at Battle-bridge, for Mr. Lanza, who, we understand, immediately opens it to the public for the production of what are called "grand rehearsals." The theatre stands upon the spot where the rubbish used to be shot opposite the hackney-coach stand, and is built upon the Chinese plan. There are boxes and a pit, but no gallery. The pit presents a very singular appearance—that of a grotto or cave, cut out of solid rock, from which the rest of the building assumes the appearance of a magnificent temple. The theatre will hold about five hundred persons. Mr. Vining, of Drury-lane Theatre, is appointed manager; and Mr. Lanza's pupils, who have, it is stated, attained to a very high degree of proficiency in music, are to form the principal part of the corps. It is in contemplation to build other places of amusement for the entertainment of the inhabitants of this populous and extensive district, close to the new theatre. It is even confidently stated that a national theatre, for the performance of tragedies and comedies, is to be immediately erected there, upon a most magnificent design.—On Monday afternoon, the above newly-constructed theatre in Gray's Inn-lane-road had been nearly destroyed by fire. Signor Lanza had announced the opening of the theatre on Monday next, and the walls and interior of the house being extremely damp, large chafing dishes or stoves, filled with lighted coal and coke, were placed in various situations to air the establishment. About the time above stated, the company were on the stage rehearsing the Opera of the Siege of Belgrade, when it was found that the effluvia that arose from one of these chafing dishes, which was placed in the pit, near the orchestra, most powerfully effected the voices of the ladies in the rehearsal of their songs; the consequence was that Signor Lanza ordered it to be removed to another station, and the men, in the act of doing so, upset the whole of the burning coal and coke amongst an immense heap of shavings and wood, and in one instant they became ignited; but the flames were soon extinguished without doing much damage.

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