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William Terriss: A 19th Century Murder In The West End

Dining on Maiden Lane, Just round the corner from Covent Garden and opposite the stage doors to the Vaudeville and Adelphi theatres, I am surrounded by a wealth of cultural heritage.

Nearby is the former home of actor David Garrick, the house of nineteenth century artist Turner lies round the corner, St Paul’s, the actors church immortalized in the opening scene of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, is a stone throw away but it’s a plaque on the wall of the Adelphi, now home to the newly opened Kinky Boots, which has caught my attention. The small yet intriguing plaque marks the scene of a murder right outside the stage door.

A contemporary of Henry Irving, actor William Terriss was a renowned and respected actor of the late 19th century, the plaque recalls that he was popular in the Adelphi farces. It appears that an out of work actor, by the name of Richard Archer Price, had a minor beef with Terriss due to the latter arranging for Price to be removed from a production. Price had struggled financially and had become more and more dependent on alcohol which affected his ability to work and lead to his dismissal. One evening in 1897, Price was waiting for Terriss to arrive at the theatre where he then proceeded to stab the unfortunate Terriss to death.

It is a story which fits well into its time, akin to that of the pennydreadfuls and the Victorian London of Sherlock Holmes. I discovered this story through the plaque on the wall, simply by wandering around Theatreland looking at what’s about. I wonder what other stories there are to be discovered while having a spot of lunch.

Incidentally, if you happen to visit either the Adelphi Theatre to see the stage on which Terriss performed or you pass through Covent Garden tube station, be sure to look out for the late actor. In both of these locations, the ghost of William Terriss has been sighted.



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