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The Royal Victoria Coffee Hall on Waterloo Road opened in 1818. It was initially known as the Royal Coburg Theatre, but was renamed in honour of the future queen in 1833. For many years it was a small minor theatre and therefore usually unable to stage so-called legitimate plays. For the same reason, however, it was largely able to evade the notice of the state censor, Lord Chamberlain, on the rare occasions when it staged risky or daring entertainment.
By the 1870s the theatre's reputation was in decline and it was sold at auction to Emma Cons. She was a social reformer and a strong advocate for temperance, remodelling the venue as a place for respectable, affordable and morally improving entertainment. The theatre still stands, and is affectionately known as 'The Old Vic'.