The famous Grimaldi narrowly avoids falling foul of planning legislation


There are few more famous clowns in history than Joseph Grimaldi. By 1827 he had retired from his stage performances but was still closely involved in the theatre, as this case from Hatton Garden Police Court shows.

Grimaldi and the Principal Proprietor at the Sadler’s Wells theatre (Richard Dixon) were summoned to appear before the sitting magistrate at Hatton Garden by Charles Beazley. Beazley was the district surveyor.

It appeared that the theatre proprietor had erected a wooden structure to host pony races at Sadler’s Wells. This must have been an impressive sight and very entertaining but Beazley, as the voice of reason, was unimpressed. Dixon’s erection was of wood when it should – in line with recent changes to fire regulations (as he pointed out) have been constructed from ‘bricks or stone’.

However, he told that court that prior to his bringing his suit he had spoken to  Dixon and had extracted a promise that the theatre proprietor would remove the building in November.

As he ‘had no wish to put Mr Dixon…to any expence [sic] or annoyance, he should agree to the building standing till that time’ so long as Dixon entered into recognizances* to that effect. Dixon agreed and he and his ‘veteran’ companion thanked the court and departed.

Health and safety was presumably not that much of a concern if a building that broke the rules was allowed to serve its intended purpose despite not meeting the regulations.

[from The Morning Chronicle, Thursday, July 26, 1827]

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