Oulton, Walley Chamberlain (c.1765–c.1820), dramatist and theatre historian, was born in Dublin, son of Walley Oulton, a merchant, and his wife Catherine (née Walker). Very little is known of his life outside his work. Educated locally by Dr Thomas Ball (1718?–1787), he discovered a keen interest in the theatre, but was discouraged from developing this by his grandfather, Dr John Walker. Nevertheless during his summer holidays he wrote numerous pieces for the stage, which he submitted to the various Dublin theatre companies. He first came to prominence on 18 December 1783, when his interlude ‘The haunted castle’ was produced at the Capel St. theatre; it ran for thirty-six nights. Following this success he abandoned his schooling and moved to London, where he alienated theatre managers with his wickedly satirical burletta ‘Hobson's choice, or Thespis in distress’ (1787), performed at the Royalty Theatre, Wellclose Square. Fearing he would be banned from London theatres, he used a ruse to continue with his career, submitting the drama ‘As it should be’ under the name of a female friend. This manoeuvre was successful and the play was performed at the Haymarket Theatre (1789). Having befriended the theatre manager's son, Oulton was able to resume presenting works under his own name and he had a hit with the farce ‘All in good humour’ in 1792. Oulton's work as an actor has largely been forgotten. He played Pierre in ‘Venice preserv'd’ in Richmond, Surrey, in 1792 and also acted in a number of other companies. His last dramatic work was ‘The middle dish, or The Irishman in Turkey’ (1804), but it was only produced once and was then discarded.
Among Oulton's writings are many important non-dramatic pieces. He produced twenty-five numbers of The Busy Body, a periodical essay, between 2 January and 26 February 1787. There were also occasional interventions in polemical debates. In 1795 he used the pseudonym ‘George Horne’ to attack the insane prophet Richard Brothers and his principal defender, Nathaniel Brassey Halhead. However, he was on the wrong side of the debate in 1796 when he wrote in support of Samuel Ireland's claim of having discovered a lost Shakespearean play. Without doubt, Oulton's greatest legacy was his work chronicling the recent history of his profession. The first of these, The history of the theatres of London from 1771 to 1795, was published in two volumes in 1796. In 1799 he published his Authentic memoirs of the green room, and this was expanded to two volumes the following year. Reviewing the work, the Monthly Mirror declared that there was little that was truthful to be found in it as it was ‘manufactured by a needy and malignant scribbler, of the name of Oulton’ (A biographical dictionary . . . , xi, 125). This assessment was neither fair nor accurate, and his descriptions of theatre life and theatrical history have generally been regarded with favour. Oulton also brought Barker's continuation of Egerton's theatrical reminiscences up from 1787 to 1801 (1802). His final contribution to theatre history was A history of the theatres of London from 1795 to 1817 (3 vols, 1818). By no means a dramatic genius, Oulton was a successful playwright with wide-ranging talents. He wrote twenty-five productions in all genres, including comedies, ballets, farces, pantomimes, burlettas, operas, and preludes. After producing a biography of Queen Charlotte (1819) he turned his attentions to a Picture of Margate and its vicinity, with a map and twenty views (1820). After this date there are no records for his activities and he disappears without trace.
Early in his London career he married (5 November 1787) Ann Elizabeth Churchill; they had two sons and at least two daughters.