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The Alhambra Theatre, Corporation Street, Birmingham - (Not Constructed)

Formerly - The Royal English Circus

Birmingham Index

The Alhambra was a Theatre which was planed to be built on the site of the Royal English Circus on Corporation Street, Birmingham, but for some unknown reason was never actually constructed. The Theatre, which was to be designed by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham, was proposed to be built in 1898.

The ERA enthusiastically reported on the new Theatre's imminent construction in their 12th of March 1898 edition, saying:- 'Mr Thomas Sergenson, the proprietor of the Grand Theatre and Opera House, Blackpool, intends to proceed with his scheme for building a new theatre in Birmingham on the most modern lines. Mr Frank Matcham, the well-known theatrical architect, is preparing the plans.

In December last the Birmingham Corporation granted to Mr Sergenson a seventy-five years' lease of the plot of land - now occupied by the Royal English Circus - opposite the Victoria Courts, Birmingham, having a frontage to Corporation-street of 225ft., to Ryder-street of 113ft., and to Dalton-street of 283ft., on which he proposed to erect a theatre adaptable for a circus or any other high-class entertainment. The total area of the site is 2,800 square yards, and it is let at a yearly rental of £1,050, Mr Sergenson's offer being conditional upon his obtaining a licence for the sale of intoxicants in his theatre. On this matter Mr Sergenson is sanguine enough of success.

The building will be arranged on the most approved lines, both in regard to the auditorium, stage equipment, and other respects, and the elevation will be of handsome and imposing design. The stage - at the John Watt-street end of the site - will be of large dimensions, 70ft wide by 45ft. deep, with the necessary dressing-rooms, scene-dock, dynamo-room, &c. The pit, which will be on the floor level, will provide accommodation for 800 persons, with 150 stalls immediately in front, the incline here, as in the case of the floors above, together with the sweep of the circles and gallery, being so arranged as to command and uninterrupted view of the stage from all parts of the house.

The entrance to the pit will be in Ryder-street, a sort of crush-room, or covered recess, being provided, which should be particularly welcome to "early-door" patrons in inclement weather, besides facilitating the adoption of the queue system. The dress-circle and stalls will be reached by means of a spacious vestibule and staircase in marble and mosaic, opening out at the center of Corporation-street and Ryder-street, and the main circle will be built on elegant lines.

A decided novelty will be the placing of the private boxes - five of them - at the extreme back of the circle, instead of at the sides nearest the stage, as has been the practice for many years, though there will almost of necessity be a couple of stage-boxes in the accepted position. The dress-circle will seat 275 persons, which, with the twenty-five provided for in the boxes at the rear, will bring up the accommodation in this part of the house to 300. In addition to this, a capital view of the stage may be obtained from a commodious lounge and promenade extending from the ends of the circle to the stage-boxes on either side, fronted with richly-decorated Moorish alcoves, which, in themselves, will greatly add to the architectural beauties of the interior.

The refreshment buffet will be reached through an elegantly fitted foyer, and beyond this will be erected a large conservatory, arranged as a winter garden. In the upper circle, and in the gallery above, the accommodation will be on proportionate lines, and it may be added that suitable and separate refreshment-rooms, cloak-rooms, &c., will be provided for each section of the audience. The scheme of decoration will be Moresque throughout, and the whole of the fittings and upholstery will be on a most sumptuous and elaborate scale. The total cost of the buildings is estimated at something like £50,000 or £60,000.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 12th of March 1898.

The Building News and Engineering Journal also reported briefly on the proposed new Theatre in their March the 25th 1898 edition saying:- 'A new theatre is about to be provided for Birmingham, on the site now occupied by the circus in Corporation-street, from plans by Mr. Frank Matcham, of London. The Corporation-street frontage will be devoted to eight shops, with either residential chambers or offices above. The property on the Dalton-street side will be utilised as warehouses and business premises. The stage, at the James Watt-street end of the site, will be 70ft. wide by 45ft. deep, with dressing-rooms, scene-dock, dynamo-room, &c. The pit, which will be on the floor level, will provide accommodation for 800 persons, with 150 stalls in front. The dress-circle and stalls will be reached by a vestibule and staircase in marble and mosaic, opening out at the corner of Corporation-street and Ryder-street. A novelty will be noted in the placing of the five private boxes at the extreme back of the circle, though there will almost of necessity be a couple of stage boxes in the accepted position. The dress-circle will seat 275 persons. A lounge and promenade will extend from the ends of the circle to the stage boxes on either side, fronted with alcoves. The refreshment buffet will be reached through a foyer, and beyond will be erected a conservatory, arranged as a winter garden. In the upper circle, and in the gallery above, the accommodation will be on proportionate lines, and refreshment rooms and cloak-rooms will be provided for each section of the audience. The scheme of decoration will be Moorish throughout. The cost of the buildings is estimated at £50,000 or £60,000.' - The Building News and Engineering Journal, March the 25th 1898.

The Alhambra Theatre was never built but the site it was proposed to be constructed on was that of George Arundale's Royal English Circus, which was managed by Henry Bertrand for its final season of 1897 / 98. Bertrand had previously been the Manager of Sanger's National Amphitheatre in London in 1875, and the Ringmaster at Hengler's Circus between 1885 and 1888, amongst numerous other engagements in the Circus profession.

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

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