The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre in Covent Garden, in the London borough of Westminster. The building faces Catherine Street (earlier named Bridges or Brydges Street) and backs onto Drury Lane. The current building is the most recent in a line of four theatres which were built at the same location, the earliest of which dates back to 1663, making it the oldest theatre site in London still in use. For its first two centuries, Drury Lane could "reasonably have claimed to be London's leading theatre". For most of that time, it was one of a handful of patent theatres, granted monopoly rights to the production of "legitimate" (meaning spoken plays, rather than opera, dance, concerts, or plays with music) drama in London.
The first theatre on the site was built at the behest of Thomas Killigrew in the early years of the English Restoration. Initially known as "Theatre Royal in Bridges Street", its proprietors hired a number of prominent actors who performed at the theatre on a regular basis, including Nell Gwyn and Charles Hart. In 1672 the theatre caught fire and Killigrew built a larger theatre on the same plot, designed by Sir Christopher Wren; renamed the "Theatre Royal in Drury Lane," it opened in 1674. This building lasted nearly 120 years, under the leaderships of Colley Cibber, David Garrick and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the last of whom employed Joseph Grimaldi as the theatre's resident Clown.