Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parry, Sefton Henry

PARRY, SEFTON HENRY (1822–1887), theatrical manager, born in 1822, was the youngest member of a theatrical family. His versatility was remarkable: he could paint scenery, cut out dresses, and do stage-carpentering. In 1859 he went to Cape Town to conduct dramatic performances, and was practically the first to give professional theatrical entertainments in the colony. His wife and a young female dancer assisted him, but the rest of the cast consisted of members of amateur dramatic clubs. After leaving Cape Town he travelled, with a small company, in various parts of the world, and made some money. On returning to England he engaged in the construction of several London theatres, for which he prepared the plans and undertook the preliminary management. No new theatre had been added to the places of entertainment in central London since the erection of the Princess's in 1840 until Parry built, upon the site of an old coach-house and stables, the first of the new theatres, called, after the thoroughfare in which it was situated, the Holborn. It was opened on 6 Oct. 1866 with Boucicault's drama ‘The Flying Scud,’ which, with a real horse and George Belmore as Nat Gosling the old jockey, was a great success. Parry remained lessee of the house until 1872. It was burnt down on 4 July 1880, and the First Avenue Hotel now stands on the site. In 1868 he built on a portion of the ground of Old Lyon's Inn in Newcastle Street, Strand, a house which he christened the Globe. It was opened on 28 Nov. 1868 with H. J. Byron's comedy, ‘Cyril's Success.’ No other piece of much mark was produced there during Parry's management, which lasted till 1871. The third theatre which he built was the Avenue, at the corner of Craven Street, facing the Thames. This was inaugurated on 11 March 1882, under the management of Mr. Burke, with Offenbach's opera ‘Madame Favart,’ in which Miss Florence St. John took the title-rôle. Parry was connected with the erection of the Greenwich Theatre, and was the proprietor of theatres at Hull and Southampton. He wrote ‘The Bright Future,’ a drama produced at the opening of the Grand Theatre, Islington, on 4 Aug. 1883. He died, after much suffering from a paralytic attack, at Cricklewood Lodge, Middlesex, on 18 Dec. 1887, aged fifty-five, and was buried in Old Willesden churchyard on 23 Dec. He left a widow, son, and daughter.

[Era, 24 Dec. 1887, p. 14; Blanchard's Life, 1891, pp. 283, 327, 364, 552, 613.]

G. C. B.