From Theatre Royal Drury Lane (1663 - present)
Until 2019, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane had 6 stage lifts, which were protected by English Heritage, and had to be carefully removed whenever an incoming production needed the space, or needed its' own more technologically advanced automated stage. The vintage machinery then had to be replaced at the end of each shows' run.
In 2019, a large refurbishment project meant they were removed permanently, after being extensively documented. This included photography, laser scanning and 3d modelling.
The electric and hydraulic lifts are now in storage, awaiting possible future display or research projects.
Electric Bridges (1898 - 2019 (upstage) and 1931 - 2019 (downstage))
Length: 40 feet / 12.19m
Width: 6 feet / 1.83m
Following the installation of the hydraulic bridges, Edwin Sachs was working on an electrical system to drive stage lifts, and had two of his lifts installed at Drury Lane.
An additional two electric bridges were installed downstage of the hydraulic bridges on the request of Noel Coward's production Cavalcade in 1931.
Hydraulic Bridges (1890s - 2019)
Length: 40 feet / 12.19m
Width: 7 feet / 2.13m
In 1881, following the horrific Ring Theatre Fire in Vienna in which 450 people died, an organisation called the Asphaleia Syndicate was formed, to take a lead on revolutionising safety in theatres. Augustus Harris, the manager at Drury Lane, had long wanted a mechanised stage, to transform the spectacular performances for which the theatre was famous, and jumped at the chance to install a set of hydraulic lifts from Vienna, which took place in the 1890s. Edwin Sachs was a consultant to the theatre, specialising in fire safety, although he was also a mechanical engineer.
Functions: Rise 12 feet above and sink ?11 feet below stage level, and tilting.
Installed in the Theatre Royal in the late 1890s after the Vienna Opera House had removed them, these bridges were kept fully operational (if rarely used) and were protected by English Heritage. They were removed in early 2019, following an extensive period of documenting and recording the function of the bridges.
If a large scale show required the understage area to be cleared (for the installation of automated scenery, trap doors etc), the bridges and associated mechanisms were carefully removed by experts, put into storage, and reinstated (and tested) once the show finished its' run.
The final performance at the theatre left the bridges in situ, but reinforced them with yellow towers.
As both of the hydraulic rams moved vertically, one of the joints with the platform stage was hinged (so it pivoted) and the other had to slide to allow the stage to move side to side relative to the ram.
Video (26 January 2019):