Portrait of Sara Lane

Portrait of Sara Lane

From 1871 until her death in 1899, Sara Lane was the manageress of the Britannia Theatre in Hoxton in the deprived East End of London. She was adored by her staff, and known as 'the Queen of Hoxton' by the local costermen. Lane had started her career on the stage at 17 as a singer and dancer. She married Sam Lane, the proprietor of the Britannia, and after her husband's death in 1871, took over the management. The Britannia re-staged melodramas that had been seen at Drury Lane and other West End theatres, as well as new plays and adaptations including Sara Lane's own. Its low ticket prices meant that the local East Enders could afford to come, and they filled the theatre every night. Best loved was the Britannia's Christmas pantomime which was one of the last to preserve the harlequinade. Lane made her final appearance in the Britannia's 1898 Christmas show, aged 76, a farewell to the theatre where she had spent practically half her life. At her funeral the following year, the crowds along Hoxton Street made it almost impossible for the horse-drawn cortège to get down the street.