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Theatres in Barrow in Furness, Cumbria

The Forum / Forum 28 - The Theatre Royal / Empire Theatre / Her Majesty's Theatre - The Alhambra Theatre / Royalty Theatre and Opera House / Roxy Cinema / Odeon/ Classic / Champers Nightclub / Manhattan Nightclub - The Palace Theatre - The Hippodrome Theatre/ Coliseum Theatre

The Forum, 28 Duke Street, Barrow in Furness

Formerly - The Civic Hall / Forum 28

A Google StreetView Image of the Forum, Barrow in Furness - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Forum, Barrow in Furness - Click to Interact.

Originally built in 1971 as the Civic Hall, the building was reconstructed in 1990 when it reopened as 'Forum 28', an Arts Centre on two floors with a large proscenium staged theatre space, and several conference and function rooms. Today the building is known as The Forum and its Theatre is home to touring productions, concerts, and home grown amateur productions including plays and pantomimes.

You may like to visit the Forum's own website here.

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The Royalty Theatre, Cavendish Street and Dalkeith Street, Barrow in Furness

Formerly - The AlhambraTheatre/ The Royalty Theatre and Opera House - Later - The Roxy Cinema / Odeon / Classic / Champers Nightclub / Manhattan Nightclub

A Google StreetView Image of the former Roxy Cinema, Barrow in Furness, formerly the Alhambra Theatre / Royalty Theatre - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Roxy Cinema, Barrow in Furness, formerly the Alhambra Theatre / Royalty Theatre - Click to Interact.

The Royalty Theatre was situated on the corner of Cavendish Street and Dalkeith Street, in Barrow in Furness, and originally opened as the Alhambra Theatre in 1872. Some years later the Theatre was rebuilt to the designs of an architect called Mackintosh and reopened as the Royalty Theatre and Opera House on the 19th of November 1894, the same year as the rebuilt Empire Theatre, which had itself opened some months earlier than the Royalty, in May 1894.

The ERA reported on the rebuilt Theatre in their 13th of October 1894 edition saying:- 'The alterations which are being carried out at the Alhambra Theatre, Barrow-in-Furness, are approaching completion. The building has been entirely gutted with the exception of the outer walls. The stage has been extended 10ft. in depth, and fitted with star traps, dive, bridges, &c., and can accommodate any piece travelling. With the extra height of l5ft. to the building the rolling process can be dispensed with, as there is facility to fly the cloths. By the addition of an extra gallery the seating accommodation in the auditorium is greatly augmented. The decorations are to be on an elaborate scale. The dressing-rooms are commodious, and the sanitary arrangements complete.' - The ERA, 13th of October 1894.

The Theatre was run from its reopening as the Royalty Theatre and Opera House in November 1894 by its Lessee and Manager Hugh Robertson, but unlike the new Empire Theatre, which was a variety Theatre, the Royalty was mostly functioning as a Playhouse. The ERA said of the Theatre in their 8th of December 1894 edition, that the Theatre was 'one of the prettiest and most comfortable Theatres in the Provinces'.

In 1909 the Stage Year Book listed the Theatre's details as:- 'Royalty Theatre and Opera House - Lessee and Manager, Mr. Hugh Robertson; Resident Manager, Mr. George Stone; Musical Director, Mr. W. Armer. Full dramatic license. Holding capacity: Number of persons, 1,500; amount, £90. Stage measurements: 35ft. deep, 40ft. wide; proscenium, 21ft. 6in. Lighted by gas, electric if required. Amount of printing required: 650 sheets walls, 650 lithos, circulars, etc. Usual matinee day, Thursday or Saturday. Time of band rehearsal, 1.30 p.m.'

In 1937 the Theatre was remodelled by its then owners the James Brennan Chain to the designs of the architectural Company Drury & Gomersall in a much more modern style. It reopened as a so called 'Super Cinema' called the Roxy Cinema on the 9th of August 1937 with a showing of the 1936 film 'Charge of the Light Brigade'.

The Theatre was later taken over by the Oscar Deutsch chain in 1943 who renamed it the Odeon in 1945. Classic Cinemas later took it over in 1967 and renamed it the Classic Cinema. Classic closed the Theatre in 1978 and it was then converted into a Nightclub under the name of Champers.

Champers was eventually closed in 1984 and the building then remained empty and unused for many years until it was finally reopened for club use again as the Manhattan Nightclub in 1991, but this too closed in 2004 and the Theatre's former auditorium space has remained empty ever since, although the foyer spaces have sometimes been in use as a restaurant. At the time of writing in November 2017 the Theatre's future prospects look rather unpromising.

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Her Majesty's Theatre, Albert Street, Barrow in Furness

Formerly - The Theatre Royal / Empire Theatre / His Majesty's Theatre

Her Majesty's Theatre was situated on Albert Street in Barrow in Furness and had a long history of rebuilds and name changes over the years. The Theatre was first built and opened as the Theatre Royal in 1864 and was situated at the rear of an Hotel called the Royal Hotel. The Theatre however, collapsed during a violent storm a few years later but was subsequently rebuilt and reopened as the Theatre royal again in 1868.

In 1894 the Theatre Royal was rebuilt again, this time reopening as a variety Theatre under the new name of the Empire Theatre on Monday the 21st of May 1894 , which was said at the time to have been 'a masterpiece of delicate plasterwork'. It had an auditorium consisting of Pit Stalls, Dress Circle and Gallery, and two Private Boxes.

The ERA reported on the opening of the Empire Theatre in their 26th of May 1894 edition saying:- 'The old Theatre Royal, Barrow-in-Furness, was reopened on Monday under the title of the Empire Theatre. The building was acquired by Mr J. A. Johnstone a few months ago from Mr Councillor Thompson, who bought it for a "mere song." Since taking possession Mr Johnstone has had the building transformed from a dilapidated pile into a substantial and imposing-looking edifice. The interior has been furnished and redecorated throughout in an elegant style, and the appearance upon entering is at once bright and cosy.

On the ground floor is the pit, with seating accommodation for about three hundred persons. Over the pit is the dress-circle on either side, are the reserved seats in the centre, with promenade at the back. This portion of the house is upholstered in crimson plush velvet, the reserved stalls being fitted with swivel chairs. There are two private boxes, one on each side next to the stage. The commodious gallery commands a good view of the stage from any part.

New spacious staircases have been added for safety in case of fire. The ceiling and proscenium are tastefully designed, and the tinted glass before the footlights has a happy effect. All the scenery is new, and Mr A. Noon, the artist, has succeeded in producing a charmingly picturesque act-drop and three capital sets.

The alterations are from the designs of Mr J. Y M'Intosh, architect, Barrow, who has personally superintended the execution of the work. The painting and decorations are elaborate and harmonious throughout, and reflect great credit upon Mr Wm. Ramsay, of Duke-street, Barrow, for the excellent general effect. The upholstering is by Messrs Townson and Ward, Barrow.

Owing to the many counter-attractions the house was not so well filled as was expected. The dress circle and reserved stalls were, however, well patronised. An attractive programme was gone through, and each turn appreciated. Cyclops, the strong man, gave an interesting exhibition of his astonishing strength. Mr Albert Johnstone and his troupe of lady characteristic dancers were enthusiastically received. The other artists engaged are Miss Bessie Tyne, ballad vocalist; the Four Sisters Lizette; Miss Elise Rubella, queen of the light telephone wire; the Daltons, Irish knockabouts; Little Lottie Ross, child actress and vocalist; Phil Gaylord, character comedian; and the Rowland combination. An efficient band, under the directorship of Mr Wilfrid Ball, were deservedly applauded.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 26th of May 1894.

The Empire Theatre opened as a Variety Theatre on May the 21st 1894, and was then home to Music Hall, Variety, and Concert Parties for many years, and would become the first Theatre in Barrow in Furness to show animated pictures in 1896.

In August 1905 the Theatre was renamed His Majesty's Theatre, a name which would change to Her Majesty's Theatre after Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1953.

In 1909 the Stage Yearbook listed the Theatre's details as:- 'His Majesty's Theatre - Lessees and Managers, Mr. and Mrs. Calvert Routledge; Scenic Artist, Mr. D. Edwardes. Full dramatic license. Holding capacity: Number of persons, 1,500; amount, £80. Stage measurements: Depth 30ft., width 60ft.; proscenium, 24ft. Electric light and gas throughout. Amount of printing required: 700 sheets for walls, 600 window bills. Usual matine'e day, Saturday. Time of band rehearsal, 1.30 p.m.' - The Stage Yearbook, 1909. - Calvert Routledge had also been running the nearby Hippodrome Theatre at the time of this report.

In 1911 a report in the Stage Yearbook told of a court action of 'Slander' by the Theatre's then Stage Manager, Denis Lyndon, who had been working at the Theatre since 1909, against the Theatre's Lesee and Manager Calvert Routledge. The action involved Rotledge's allegations of Lyndon's incompetence as a Stage manager during the run of 'The Lady Slavey' at the Theatre when he had delayed the ringing up of the curtain after the interval. The final judgment was that Routledge was correct in his assumption that Lyndon was incompetent but shouldn't have told him so in public. Lyndon received 1 farthing as reparation for damages but he was awarded no costs. These sort of altercations happened in Theatre all the time but rarely had things got so out of hand that they were taken to court. There must have been pretty bad blood between the Manager and Stage Manager to have resulted in court action. What happened to Denis Lyndon after this though went unreported.

By the 1940s the Theatre was being used as a repertory and Variety Theatre, but it was eventually closed some years later in 1955 and then fell into disrepair. However, the Theatre was reopened again on the 20th of January 1958 by its new Director, Donald Sartain, who put on the show 'Hippo Dancing'. The Theatre would then continue in live theatre use, still under the Her Majesty's Theatre name, and later part funded by the local Council, until it was eventually closed for the final time on the 14th of January 1964 after a last performance of 'Charley's Aunt'.

The Theatre, which had got into an almost derelict state, had been sold to a builder called Tommy Quinn, who hoped to refurbish the Theatre and reopen it again, but sadly the plans were never realised and it was eventually demolished in August 1972.

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The Palace Theatre, Duke Street, Barrow in Furness

Formerly - A Salvation Army Temple

The Palace Theatre was situated on Duke Street in Barrow in Furness and was originally built as a Salvation Army Temple. It was converted into a Cine-Variety Theatre in 1915 for its then owner Fred Newman by the architect George Walker. The Theatre had no fly tower so would have been limited in the kind of shows it could put on, but it did have a large stage and an auditorium consisting of stalls and one balcony, seating nearly 2,000 people.

In 1931 the Theatre was modernised and reopened as a full time Cinema in August that year with a showing of the 1930 film 'Whoopee'. The Bioscope Cinema Magazine reported on the changes to the Theatre in their August the 19th 1931 edition saying:- 'The Palace, Barrow-in-Furness, which has been reopened after extensive structural alterations by the Three Theatres, Ltd., can claim to be one of the most luxuriously furnished and best equipped in the North- West of England. Those who have flocked to the cinema since its reopening are loud in their praises of the comfortable seating arrangements, the remarkably clear projection and the perfection of the "talkie" apparatus installed by Western Electric. The cinema has accommodation for 836 people in the stalls and 520 in the circle. There are no supports either in the auditorium or balcony, so that the screen is visible from all points. The contract was carried out by Rainey Bros., Barrow, and the decorations by G. F. Holding, Ltd., of Manchester.' - The Bioscope, 19th of August 1931.

The Theatre was taken over by Union Cinemas in 1936 who were taken over themselves by ABC the following year. Then in October 1948 the Theatre was taken over by the Essoldo Chain who eventually closed the Theatre for conversion to Bingo use in 1963, but even this was eventually closed and it was then demolished for the construction of retail outlets on the site.

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The Hippodrome Theatre, Abbey Road and Rawlinson Road, Barrow in Furness

Later - The Coliseum Cinema

The Hippodrome Theatre was a wooden Theatre constructed on the corner of Abbey Road and Rawlinson Road in Barrow in Furness. The Theatre was listed in the Stage Yearbook in 1909 saying:- 'Proprietors and Managers, Mr. and Mrs. Calvert Routledge; Musical Director, Mr. Storey. License, music and dancing. Holding capacity, 2,500. Bookings, animated pictures and varieties. Early closing day, Thursday; market days, Wednesday and Saturday. Agent. M.H.A.R.A.: Mrs. Tyson, Majestic Hotel. V.A.F. : The same.' - The Stage Yearbook 1909. - The Hippodrome's Proprietor at the time of this report, Calvert Routledge, was also running the nearby Empire Theatre, and had been since it opened in 1894.

Sadly, and probably because it was an entirely wooden building, the Hippodrome Theatre was eventually destroyed by fire, however, it was then rebuilt and reopened as the Coliseum Theatre on the 8th of September 1914. Although built primarily as a Cinema the Theatre also had a large stage and was often in use for Cine/Variety productions, showing both live shows and films right up to the late 1940s.

The Theatre had been taken over by James Brennan Chain in 1918, and then Union Cinemas in 1936, who would themselves be taken over by ABC in 1937. Finally taken over by Essoldo in 1948 the Theatre was run as a Cinema until they eventually closed it in 1964 and the Theatre was left empty until it was eventually demolished in 1977.

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Archive newspaper reports on this page were kindly collated and sent in by B.F.

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