Squire Bancroft
Sir is an honorific used as a title , or as a courtesy title to address a man without using his given or family name in many English speaking cultures...

 Squire Bancroft (14 May 1841 – 19 April 1926), born Squire White Butterfield, was an English actor-manager
An actor-manager is a leading actor who sets up their own permanent theatrical company and manages the company's business and financial arrangements, sometimes taking over the management of a theatre, to perform plays of their own choice and in which they will usually star...

. He and his wife Effie Bancroft
Effie Bancroft
Marie Effie Wilton, Lady Bancroft was an English actress and theatre manager. She appeared onstage as Marie Wilton until after her marriage in December 1867 to Squire Bancroft, when she usually appeared under the name Lady Bancroft...

 are considered to have instigated a new form of drama known as 'drawing-room comedy' or 'cup and saucer drama', owing to the realism of their stage sets.

Early life and career

Bancroft was born in Rotherhithe
Rotherhithe is a residential district in inner southeast London, England and part of the London Borough of Southwark. It is located on a peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, facing Wapping and the Isle of Dogs on the north bank, and is a part of the Docklands area...

, London. His first appearance on the stage was in 1861 at Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, and he played in the provinces with success for several years. His first London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 appearance was in 1865 in J. P. Wooler's A Winning Hazard at the Prince of Wales's Theatre
Scala Theatre
The Scala Theatre was a theatre in London, sited on Charlotte Street, off Tottenham Court Road, in the London Borough of Camden. The first theatre on the site opened in 1772, and the theatre was demolished in 1969, after being destroyed by fire...

 off Tottenham Court Road
Tottenham Court Road
Tottenham Court Road is a major road in central London, United Kingdom, running from St Giles Circus north to Euston Road, near the border of the City of Westminster and the London Borough of Camden, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile...

. This theatre was managed by Henry Byron
Henry James Byron
Henry James Byron was a prolific English dramatist, as well as an editor, journalist, director, theatre manager, novelist and actor....

 and Effie Marie Wilton
Effie Bancroft
Marie Effie Wilton, Lady Bancroft was an English actress and theatre manager. She appeared onstage as Marie Wilton until after her marriage in December 1867 to Squire Bancroft, when she usually appeared under the name Lady Bancroft...

, whom Bancroft married in December 1867. After their marriage the couple became joint managers of the theatre.

Mr and Mrs Bancroft produced and starred in all the Thomas William Robertson
Thomas William Robertson
Thomas William Robertson , usually known professionally as T. W. Robertson, was an Anglo-Irish dramatist and innovative stage director best known for a series of realistic or naturalistic plays produced in London in the 1860s that broke new ground and inspired playwrights such as W.S...

 comedies beginning in 1865: Society
Society (play)
Society was an 1865 comedy drama by Thomas William Robertson regarded as a milestone in Victorian drama because of its realism in sets, costume, acting and dialogue. Unusually for that time, Robertson both wrote and directed the play, and his innovative writing and stage direction inspired George...

(1865), Ours (1866), Caste (1867), Play (1868), School (1869) and M.P. (1870), and, after Robertson's death, in revivals of the old comedies, for which they surrounded themselves with an admirable company. Together, Robertson and the Bancrofts are considered to have instigated a new form of drama known as 'drawing-room comedy' or 'cup and saucer drama'. The Bancrofts gave Robertson an unprecedented amount of directorial control over the plays, which was a key step to institutionalizing the power that directors wield in the theatre today.

The Bancroft management at the Prince of Wales's Theatre constituted a new era in the development of the English stage and had the effect of reviving the London interest in modern drama. They were also responsible for making fashionable the 'box set', which Lucia Elizabeth Vestris
Lucia Elizabeth Vestris
Lucia Elizabeth Vestris was an English actress and a contralto opera singer, appearing in Mozart and Rossini works. While popular in her time, she was more notable as a theatre producer and manager...

 had first used at the Olympic Theatre
Olympic Theatre
The Olympic Theatre, sometimes known as the Royal Olympic Theatre, was a 19th-century London theatre, opened in 1806 and located at the junction of Drury Lane, Wych Street, and Newcastle Street. The theatre specialised in comedies throughout much of its existence...

 in the 1830s – this consisted of rooms on stage which were dressed with sofas, curtains, chairs, and carpets on the stage floor. They also provided their actors with salaries and wardrobes. Also, the Bancrofts redesigned their theatre to suit the increasingly upscale audience: "The cheap benches near the stage, where the rowdiest elements of the audience used to sit were replaced by comfortable padded seats, carpets were laid in the aisles, and the pit was renamed the stalls."

Other plays they premiered or produced there were W. S. Gilbert
W. S. Gilbert
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, of which the most famous include H.M.S...

's Allow Me To Explain (1867) and his romantic comedy tribute to Robertson, Sweethearts
Sweethearts (play)
Sweethearts is a comic play billed as a "dramatic contrast" in two acts by W. S. Gilbert. The play tells a sentimental and ironic story of the differing recollections of a man and a woman about their last meeting together before being separated and reunited after 30 years.It was first produced on...

(1874), as well as Tame Cats (1868), Lytton's
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton PC , was an English politician, poet, playwright, and novelist. He was immensely popular with the reading public and wrote a stream of bestselling dime-novels which earned him a considerable fortune...

 Money (1872), The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal is a play written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was first performed in London at Drury Lane Theatre on May 8, 1777.The prologue, written by David Garrick, commends the play, its subject, and its author to the audience...

(1874), Boucicault's
Dion Boucicault
Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot , commonly known as Dion Boucicault, was an Irish actor and playwright famed for his melodramas. By the later part of the 19th century, Boucicault had become known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful actor-playwright-managers then in the...

 London Assurance (1877), and Diplomacy (1878), an adaptation of Sardou
Victorien Sardou
Victorien Sardou was a French dramatist. He is best remembered today for his development, along with Eugène Scribe, of the well-made play...

's Dora by Clement Scott
Clement Scott
Clement Scott was an influential English theatre critic for the Daily Telegraph, and a playwright and travel writer, in the final decades of the 19th century...

 and B. C. Stephenson
B. C. Stephenson
Benjamin Charles Stephenson or B. C. Stephenson was an English dramatist, lyricist and librettist. After beginning a career in the civil service, he started to write for the theatre, using the pen name "Bolton Rowe". He was author or co-author of several long-running shows of the Victorian theatre...


Later life and career

In 1879, the Bancrofts moved to the Haymarket Theatre
Haymarket Theatre
The Theatre Royal Haymarket is a West End theatre in the Haymarket in the City of Westminster which dates back to 1720, making it the third-oldest London playhouse still in use...

, where they produced or starred in a revival of Money, and in Sardou's Odette (for which they engaged Madame Helena Modjeska
Helena Modjeska
Helena Modjeska Helena Modjeska Helena Modjeska (October 12, 1840 – April 8, 1909, whose actual Polish surname was Modrzejewska , was a renowned actress who specialized in Shakespearean and tragic roles.Modjeska was the mother of Polish-American bridge engineer Ralph Modjeski....

) and Fedora, and Pinero’s Lords and Commons, with revivals of previous successes.

Having made a considerable fortune, they retired in 1885. Bancroft was knighted
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

 in 1897. Between 1917, and his death in 1926, Bancroft maintained rooms at the fashionable Albany, in Piccadilly
Piccadilly is a major street in central London, running from Hyde Park Corner in the west to Piccadilly Circus in the east. It is completely within the city of Westminster. The street is part of the A4 road, London's second most important western artery. St...

. Both he and his wife are buried in Brompton Cemetery
Brompton Cemetery
Brompton Cemetery is located near Earl's Court in South West London, England . It is managed by The Royal Parks and is one of the Magnificent Seven...



The Bancrofts collaborated in the production of two volumes of reminiscences called Mr. and Mrs. Bancroft On and Off the Stage, Written by Themselves (London, 1888) and The Bancrofts: Recollections of Sixty Years (Dutton and Co.: London, 1909).

External links

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