It’s hard to imagine that in a time when ships were propelled by sail, a trip to the England would take between 2 to 4 months, when there were no power tools, steam was still in its infancy . . . → that an entire 2 storey, pre-fabricated Theatre could be cast in iron on the other side of the World, and be transported all the way to Melbourne !!!
This is exactly what George Coppin, once referred to the ‘Father of Theatre’, managed to achieve in the year of 1854 – only 19 years after John Batman stumbled across the site of the future Melbourne and proclaimed that “This will be the Place for a Village“.
” . . . the foundation stone of the Olympic Theatre (the Iron Pot) was laid by Mr G. V. Brooke on the 18th of April, 1855. It was opened early in June by the Wizard Jacobs, who was engaged in England by Mr Coppin. The dramatic season commenced, on 30th of July, 1855, with the ‘Lady of Lyons’ and ‘To Oblige Benson.’ . . . “
Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas. : 1881 – 1895), ‘Mr George Coppin’ – published 3 Dec 1881
” . . . The great Theatre Royal was not open when we were in Melbourne, but Coppin’s Olympic was a favourite place of amusement with M——, and I also enjoyed the excellent manner in which comedies, vaudevilles, and farces were acted there, with tolerably good scenery, music, and gaslights. We saw ‘Speed the Plough’ delightfully represented, and some amusing little afterpieces, at different times . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Over The Straits: A Visit To Victoria’ – by Louisa Anne Meredith – published 1861
” . . . In 1852, after realizing a fortune at Geelong, he visited Adelaide. After paying off his creditors, he proceeded to England in January, 1854, and fulfilled several successful engagements there. When in England Mr. Coppin arranged for the construction of an Iron Theatre to bring with him to Melbourne, the contract for which he actually signed one night whilst playing “Paul Pry” at the Theatre Royal, Manchester. This was “The Olympic,” better known as “The Iron Pot,” erected at the south-east corner of Lonsdale and Stephen [now Exhibition Street] Streets, the foundation of which was laid by G. V. Brooke on the 18th April, 1855. In six weeks it was completed, and opened by Professor Jacobs, a wonderful Wizard imported by Coppin. A corps dramaticque, scarcely since excelled in the colony, was transported hither with “The Pot,” in which the, dramatic season commenced on the 30th of July, the opening pieces being ” The Lady of Lyons” and “To Oblige Benson,” the company consisting of Messrs. G. V Brooke, R. Younge, R. Heir, Harry Jackson, Leslie, Ryan, Webster, Robins, Perry, Wheeler, Lester, Sefton, M’Gowan; the Misses Fanny Cathcarf, Herbert, Glyndon, Graham, St. Clair, Julia Matthews; Mesdames Brougham, McGowan, Avins, the Chambers Family, and though last, by no means the least, Coppin himself . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘The Chronicles of Melbourne 1835 to 1851 – Vol. I’ – by Garryowen – published 1888
This theatre, once situate on the south-east corner of Lonsdale & Exhibition Streets, opened in June 1855 on a site previously home to ‘Rowe’s American Circus’. Affectionately known as the ‘Iron Pot’, the ‘Olympic Theatre’ was a prefabricated iron building built in Manchester in England and transported to Melbourne by George Coppin as his first Melbourne theatre. The Olympic’s first drama season opened on 30 July 1855 with the great Irish actor Gustavus Vaughan Brooke in Bulwer Lytton’s ‘The Lady of Lyons’. Unfortunately for Coppin, the Theatre Royal (which, unbeknownst to Coppin at the time, would soon taken over by him in the June of 1856) had opened one week prior to his ‘Olympic Theatre’. The ‘Theatre Royal’ proved to be more centrally located, and cooler for patrons and staff alike during the summer months. The ‘Olympic Theatre’ lasted only five years as a theatre, before being converted into Melbourne’s first Turkish baths in the July of 1860. Partially destroyed by fire in 1866, the building was converted into a furniture warehouse in 1870.
Sadly, this historic masterpiece was demolished in 1894.
Ironically, the original purpose of this Melbourne site prevails, as this site remains an entertainment venue until this very day. The ‘Comedy Theatre’ c 1924 continues occupies this locale . . .
– Located within the Melbourne Town Centre – obtain Directions here
– Facilities available at Melbourne
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