Henry Rutley was born about 1816 in Newcastle. His father was a Sergeant in the army who fought throughout the Peninsular War. His mother accompanied her husband for the duration and, being an excellent linguist, was of great assistance to the troops in their communications with the Spaniards.
He was passionate about horses and this may have influenced his early choice of career as Agent in Advance for many large touring circuses. After a tour of Holland, Henry came to Portsmouth in 1854 with a large equestrian establishment. He purchased a building called the Landport Hall which was a racquet court attached to the Swan Tavern. Within a short space of time he sold his share in the circus business and converted the equestrian ring into an auditorium. At that time there were no dramatic or lyrical theatres remaining in Portsmouth there were, however, many music halls of a dubious nature and Henry's application for a licence was viewed cautiously by the Magistrates. He reassured them that the theatre was to be a place of entertainment for the middle classes and went on to make a success of his new enterprise opening The Theatre Royal in 1856.
Henry died 3rd March 1874 aged 59 years of dropsy from which he had suffered for many weeks. His ghost is said to have been felt around the theatre for many years. His young widow sold business to John Broughton who built the Kings Theatre.