Account of a visit to a Newcastle Theatre (most likely the Theatre Royal) and the 'uproar' that follows, possibly due to overcrowding.
Indoor entertainment in Newcastle during the nineteenth century would have been focused on theatres and music-halls. Theatres had become increasingly popular in Newcastle and the surrounding area throughout the eighteenth century, spurred on by those such as the Kemble family, who managed theatres at North and South Shields, along with the Theatre Royal in Newcastle.
The nature of theatres and theatre audiences in the early nineteenth century was dramatically different than that of today. Until the Theatres Act of 1843, only a small handful of theatres were licensed to perform 'straight' drama. Most theatres therefore made concessions to popular taste. It was extremely rowdy and unruly (as described in the song), and performances usually consisted of a mixture of drama and music, with the emphasis almost always on comedy and farce.
Similar to the cheap press of today these poorly printed books and broadsides catered for popular tastes, being sold by chapmen in the country and booksellers in the town. Usually sold for no more than a penny, the production of these little books and broadsides were extremely profitable for most printers. Sold in bulk the material required little proof-reading, was widely plagiarised, and badly printed.
Newcastle was the second largest producer of chapbooks in the country at the time of this book's publication. 'The Newcastle Songster' was printed by J. Marshall, one of the most prominent chapbook printers in Newcastle during the early nineteenth century. This book forms part IV of the 'Songster' series and is perhaps easier to date than the preceding parts. Although it is not clear whether parts I and II of the 'Songster' were published before or after John Bell's 'Rhymes of the Northern Bards, 1812, the appearance of the 'Newcastle swineherds' proclamation' in part IV indicate the publication date to be no earlier than 1821.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'Newcastle Noodles' to 'Famed Filly Fair', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as James Morrison and would have been extremely popular among the local population.