The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

Theatres in Barnsley, SouthYorkshire

Barnsley's Early Theatres - The Theatre Royal - The Empire Palace of Varieties - The Alhambra Theatre

The Theatre Royal, Wellington Street, Barnsley

Later - The Royal Opera House / Bingo Club / Rio's Nightclub / Purism Nightclub

A Google StreetView Image of the former Theatre Royal, Barnsley - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Theatre Royal, Barnsley - Click to Interact.

A 1947 Variety Poster for the Theatre Royal, Barnsley - Courtesy David Garratt.The Theatre Royal is situated in Wellington Street, Barnsley. The architects being Walter Emden, of London, who prepared the plans, and local architect Herbert Crawshaw, as executant, who oversaw the whole construction and execution of the building. The Theatre opened on the 19th December 1898.

The corner stone had been laid earlier in June 1898, by Councillor Wilkinson (Mayor of the Borough), although the construction work was well in progress by then. The new theatre stood on the site of a previous Theatre Royal, (1816 to 1897), but was twice the size in area of the old one.

Right - A 1947 Variety Poster for the Theatre Royal, Barnsley - Courtesy David Garratt.

The exterior frontage is of local stone being three stories high, divided into five bays. Over the central three bays is a central triangular pediment with the words 'Theatre Royal' carved on a scroll in the tympanum. Internal walls of staircases, pit and gallery were lined with best glazed bricks and all lavatories with white enamelled glazed bricks.

The Theatre's three tier auditorium consisted of Pit, Circle, and Gallery on its opening and was built to the latest standards of safety. It had separate entrances and exits and was reckoned, in an emergency, to be able to completely clear its audience in 4 minutes. Seating Capacity was for 1,200 people.

The building's external dimensions were:- length 106 feet, and width 55 feet. It's internal dimensions were:- Pit, 55 feet (length) by 51 feet (width). Circle, from front curtain line to front of tier 33 feet, and to the back of the tier, 55 feet. Gallery, from front curtain line 36 feet, and to back of tier 61 feet 6 inches. Height of the auditorium from floor to the ceiling lantern, 45 feet.

There were separate refreshment rooms and lavatories for ladies and gentlemen at each level of Pit, Circle, and Gallery.

The Entrance Foyer was large and handsome with entrance doors and box office. Internally American walnut and brass furnishing were used. The floor was a slightly polished ornamental coloured concrete. Walls were lined and glaze with suitable designed tiles. Access to the Circle and Boxes was by a split flight (left and right) of Greenmoor steps of ample width with lacquered hand rails. The Pit and Gallery had separate entrances, with exits fitted with panic bolt doors.

The Pit was 8 feet below ground level, and was sloped down to the front of the stage line, thus giving all a good view of the stage.

The Stage itself was 30 feet 6 inches deep by 50 feet 6 inches wide, having scene docks, measuring 27 feet by 12 feet 9 inches, and a second dock measuring 28 feet wide by 28 feet high. Height to the grid from stage floor was 58 feet. Under the stage was a cellar 7 feet 6 inches headroom and the same size as the stage above.

There were 8 dressing room in a separate block to the side of the stage, accessed by a stone staircase, 2 dressing room each on successive floors. Each dressing Room being 14 feet by 16 feet with 8 feet 6 inches headroom. Each room had good light and ventilation with a lavatory basin with hot and cold running water. All dressing rooms were fitted with an electric 'call bell,' connected to the stage. The orchestra, pay office, and Manager's rooms were all fitted with a speaking tube connected to the stage.

The Circle and Gallery floors were constructed of fire-proof material of English steel and Breize concrete construction. (No woodwork being present at all). The Theatre was heated throughout by a hot water system of pipes and radiators. Lighting was by Gas protected by wire globes. Fire plugs and hose pipes were fitted on every floor, also to the stage, flies, and entrance foyer.

The Builders were local tradesman, Mr Walter Dunk being the mason and bricklayer in charge. Carpenters, Joiners and Slaters were provided by Messrs Robinson & Sons. Lighting and Sanitary engineers provided by Messrs Hutchinson Brothers. Plastering by Mr T Lindley. All Iron and Steel work by Messrs Wright and Son of Hull. Concreting by Mr J. Cooke, of Huddersfield. Painters, supplied by Messrs Stephenson & Son of Barnsley. Seating and Upholstery by Messrs Wright & Son of Hull. Fibrous Plaster work by Messrs S. Johnson & Son of Mirfield. Decorators – Messrs Jonas Binns & Son of Halifax. Carpets and Curtains etc., by Whaley Brothers of Barnsley.

The Grand opening of the Theatre Royal was on 19th December 1898 with a production of the musical 'The Geisha' by Messrs Morell & Mouillots Number One Company. Future Production dates were:-

1898 - week commencing December 26th - Mr William Greets Number 1 company production of 'Lady Slavey.'

1899 - week commencing January 2nd - Messrs Polin & Melfords Number 1 company's production of 'The Silver King.'
January 9th - Mr Ben Greets's number 1 company production of 'The Sign of the Cross.'
January 16th - The Moody Manners English Opera Company, with various Opera's over the week.
January 23rd - Mr J. A. Atkins Number 1 company in 'Grip of Iron.'
January 30th - Mr Milton Bode's Pantomime 'Cinderella.'
February 6th - Mr Howard Watson's company in 'Days of Cromwell.'
February 13th - 'The Three Musketeers.'
February 26th - Mr Milton Bodes Pantomime 'Jack the Giant Killer.'
February 27th - Mr Lester Collingwood's 'When London Sleeps.'
March 6th - Messrs Brown and Hearns Pantomime 'Red Riding Hood.'

The Theatre continued with similar productions, eventually presenting Variety productions.

In 1907 Messrs A. G. Mitchel, architects, were brought back to do some re-modelling. At this time the Theatre was renamed the 'Royal Opera House,' but by 1912 it had reverted back to its original name of the 'Theatre Royal.'

In April 1942 the Theatre caught fire, damaging the proscenium area, which removed the decorative fibrous plaster work from the Box fronts and timber panelling around the Proscenium arch. There was a rebuild and remodelling carried out to the architectural plans of Dyson, Cawthorne and Coles. A new Safety curtain was also installed at this time.

Variety shows continued until the Theatre closed completely on the 18th of May 1957. In 1961 however, the Theatre was converted into a Bingo Club, and then later into a Night Club, firstly going by the name Rio's, and later, in 2017, 'Purism'. The Theatre is still in existence. Restoration is possible, as a medium sized Theatre it lies as a Sleeping beauty awaiting a reawakening.

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt in March 2020.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Empire Palace of Varieties, 62-68 Eldon Street, Barnsley

Later - The Empire Super Cinema / Gaumont / Odeon Parkway CinemaAn Early Postcard showing the Empire Palace Theatre, Barnsley.

Above - An Early Postcard showing the Empire Palace Theatre, Barnsley.

The Empire Palace of Varieties opened on the 8th June 1908. The architect was North & Robins, and the Theatre was built for the Barnsley Empire Palace Company, at a cost of £17,500. The Theatre stood at 62-68 Eldon Street, Barnsley and had a seating capacity of 2,500 people when it first opened, spread over three tiers of, Stalls, Circle and Gallery. Backstage there were 12 dressing rooms.

One of its early managers was Will Smithson, the father of the famous musical comedy actress Florence Smithson. Its main fare was Music Hall / Variety which played there until 7th February1920 when the Theatre was closed for conversion into an early cinema.

Upon re-opening, on the 22nd of March 1920, it was re-named the Empire Super Cinema, its opening film being 'The Cambric Man.' The new owners were New Century Pictures, and the seating capacity was now reduced to 1,160 seats.

The next owners were Provincial Cinematograph Theatres, later taken over by Denman / Gaumont in March 1928. The Cinema was wired for sound in 1929 with the first talkie shown being 'Movietone Follies of 1929' commencing on 25th November 1929. It was later taken over by J. Arthur Rank's Circuits Management Association and renamed the Gaumont Cinema on the 13th May 1950. In 1953 it closed for modernisation.

A serious fire on the 2nd January 1954 totally gutted the whole interior of the cinema, but a new Gaumont opened on the same site in 1956 which today is Listed. The Cinema was later renamed the Odeon and Parkway Cinema, and is still in operation at the time of writing.

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt in March 2020.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Alhambra Theatre, Doncaster Road and New Street, Barnsley

An Early Postcard Image of the Alhambra Theatre, Barnsley.

Above - An Early Postcard Image of the Alhambra Theatre, Barnsley.

The Alhambra Theatre stood at the junction of Doncaster Road and New Street in Barnsley. The architect was Percy Archibald Hinchcliffe. The owners of the Theatre were Alhambra Theatre (Barnsley) Ltd. When built the Alhambra was Barnsley's third Theatre. It opened with a concert on the 1st of October 1915 by Countess Fitzwilliam, of the Fitzwilliam Estate at Wentworth Woodhouse, close to Barnsley.

The exterior of the building was of brick and stone, with columns. Between each Column were windows with a large central curved pediment over containing a plaque with 'Alhambra' carved into the stone. Either side of the central pediment were two round windows in the upper storey.

The Theatre had a large seating capacity of 2,362 spread over the Stalls, Circle, Upper Circle, and Gallery. This capacity was later reduced in 1939 by closing the top balcony or Gallery. There were 826 seats in the stalls, 325 in the first Circle, and 449 in the Upper Circle. The Stage was shallow, being only 20 feet deep.

The Alhambra was in a Variety use for the first 10 years, but closed on the 6th of June 1925 for conversion to a Cinema. It's first film was 'Koeningsmark'.

In 1930 the Cinema was taken over by Federated Estates of Regent Street, London who installed Western Electric sound. The cinema changed ownership again on the 5th June 1938, this time by Oscar Deutch who owned Odeon Theatres Ltd. There was however, a clause in the sale that it never be renamed 'Odeon' and so it remained the Alhambra.

Another change of ownership was to the Rank Organisation who eventually closed the Cinema on the 26th November 1960 with the film 'The Entertainer' starring Lawrence Olivier, together with a support film 'A Hill in Korea'. It then stood empty for two years before re-opening as a Top Rank Bingo Club. The Bingo Club changed hands to another operator, and it was re-named 'The Vale Bingo Club.'

The old Alhambra Theatre closed completely in 1979 with plans to establish a Repertory theatre but this failed and the building was eventually demolished in 1982. It was replaced by a shopping centre named the Alhambra Centre.

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt in March 2020.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

Barnsley's Early Theatres, Shambles Street, Barnsley

Touring Players

Records show that In 1798 the first touring players of 12 actors performed for 21 nights outdoor performances at the' Old White Bear' in the yard on Shambles Street. Messrs William Collier and William Huggins securing the initial licence to perform for financial reward.

Georgian Theatre Royal, Wellington Street, Barnsley

The first purpose built Theatre in Barnsley was in 1816, and was a Georgian Playhouse Called the 'Theatre' situated in Wellington Street, which cost £1,400 to erect, a lot of money in those days. It did not stage many productions being mainly used for meetings by the Rotherham Theological students. In 1878 its use changed to be the Salvation Army Barracks, but in 1883 it was refurbished back into a Theatre again, and named the Theatre Royal. Unfortunately this was short lived and in 1897 there was a fire and the Theatre closed. The following year a new Theatre was constructed on the site, opening on the 19th December 1898.

The Surrey Music Hall, Magistrates Court, Barnsley

In 1862 in Westgate opposite the Magistrates Court the Surrey Music Hall was erected, holding 300 people. It had two bars, with the price of a pint of beer being a half pence. Its motto was 'Cleanliness, Respectability, Refinement and Brilliance.' In 1874 it was renamed the Empire Palace. It's life was short however, and in 1908 it was closed, later becoming a club, then a paper warehouse, but was demolished in 1955. In it's day it hosted popular Music Hall artists, such as Little Tich and George Formby Senior.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Barnsley in October 1879.

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt in March 2020.

If you have any more information or Images for these Theatres that you are willing to share please Contact me.

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