Rich, John
c. 1682-1761

Theatrical entrepreneur, born in London. He was the son of Christopher Rich, patentee of Drury Lane theatre, which he was forced to leave. John and his brother took over the new theatre his father had built in Lincoln's Inn Fields as a rival to Drury Lane, and then built the first Covent Garden theatre in 1732. He became famous as a dancer and was the originator of English pantomime. In 1735 he founded a dining club called the Sublime Society of Beefstakes. His third wife, Priscilla Stevens, a waitress before going on the stage, was converted under Charles Wesley in 1745 and was one of the first worshippers at West Street Chapel. She threatened to make a public testimony if her husband forced her to return to the stage. Despite considerable opposition and derision from friends and colleagues, Rich eventually became a close friend of the Methodists, especially Charles Wesley and his family, and Mrs. Rich gave encouragement and support to Charles Wesley junior in his musical development. It was at The Richs' home that Wesley met J.F. Lampe. Rich died in Covent Garden, on 26 November 1761; his widow on 28 February 1783.

  • WHS Proceedings 1 pp.55-58
  • John Telford, The Life of the Rev. Charles Wesley MA (revised edition, 1900) pp.151-54
  • Oxford DNB

Entry written by: PLC
Category: Person
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