Coutts Theatre, Park Street, Digbeth, Birmingham
Other Names - The London Museum Concert Hall / Canterbury Music Hall / London Music Hall / Palace of Delight / Bull Ring Cinema
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Coutts Theatre / Canterbury Music Hall, Birmingham - Click to Interact
This Music Hall was built for its proprietor George Biber, and originally opened as the London Museum Concert Hall on the 24th of December 1863. The Hall had a capacity of 900 when it first opened and its License Application stated that it was 75 foot long, 38 foot wide, and 36 foot high. The stage is mentioned elsewhere as being just 10 foot wide by 11 foot deep. The Hall also had a side gallery of 8 foot.
Right - An advertisement in the Birmingham Daily Post, 21st December 1863 on the opening of the London Museum Music Hall.
The ERA printed a report on the new London Museum Music Hall in their 27th of December 1863 edition saying:- 'This Hall opened on Thursday evening for the first time. The decorations are of a most elegant character. The proscenium is panelled in white and gold, with purple margins; in the centre is the Birmingham coat of arms. The walls of the Hall are paneled, and the walls above the galleries have richly illuminated panels with French aerial figures in each. The ceiling is also richly illuminated, the flat portion being of an azure tint, with gold stars. The front of the galleries are of an ogee shape, and are divided into panels, between each of which are small medalion Cupids, bearing vases of flowers. The entrance corridor is also beautifully decorated and the archway to the upper refreshment room is supported by handsome pillars, in imitation of Sienna, and huge royal marbles. The company engaged is admirably selected.' - The ERA, 27th of December 1863.
The Birmingham Daily Post reported on the opening of the London Museum Concert Hall in their 28th of December 1863 edition saying:- 'This new and handsome place of amusement received a full share of the Christmas patronage. Before the doors opened they were besieged by a large but perfectly good humoured crowd of people, in which the Black Country element appeared to predominate, and admission being granted every available space was speedily filled, Mr. Biber has evidently spared no expense, both with regard to his hall - which is one of the most elegantly-arranged ones extant - and with regard, also, to the programme which he sets before his audiences. His band, though not large, is nicely balanced, and performs very fairly the overture to "Zampa." Mr. De 'Lancy, as a sentimental ballad singer, achieved no limited success; Fothergill as a comique, is side-splitting in the extreme; Dugard as a delineator of the horoo-ing shillelagh wielding bull manufacturing son of the Emerald Isle meets with warm plaudits; Miss Laura Summers sings ballads in a very pleasing manner; whilst Wood and Son are by no means despicable delineators of negro life. Last though not least in the list of the vocal performers are Mr. J. King and Miss Kelly Power in their very pleasing entertainment. In addition to this Messrs. Wood and Son exhibit some pretty and effective dissolving views. The house promises to achieve a great success.' - The Birmingham Daily Post, 28th of December 1863.
In 1890 the building was reopened with new scenery and decorations as the Canterbury Music Hall. A murder took place here in April 1890 when William Beard, Alfred Rutter, and Agnes Cullis, members of one of Birmingham's toughest gangs, attacked a barman called Harry (Harry was an alias, his real name was Henry Schenoick) whilst trying to get into the Hall without paying, they then went onto murder the Music Hall's Stage Manager, Arthur Hyde. Details of this event can be found here. A six part series by the BBC called Peaky Blinders dramatised the Gang's adventures for television in 2013. Henry Schenoick's G.G.G. Grandson Steve Godwin is looking for more information on a Music Hall song which was written about him, perhaps you can help. Steve has researched this incident and says:- 'It seems that Harry and Arthur were doing quite well until the gang arrived, but Hyde was left for dead while Cullis & Beard went on the run. Harry found Hyde in the alley alone and took him to hospital and after they drained blood from a clot, Hyde was sent home and died 2 days later. The gang went on to terrorise the area leading up to the trial and there are many further incidents listed. These gangs based themselves around the various Music Halls and they blackmailed many of the stars. It seems that many of the gangs were given free tickets in return for their claps and cheers, but when the Halls stopped them the gangs stormed the Halls.' - Steve Godwin.
When William Coutts took over the building in 1896 it was renamed Coutts Theatre, a name often associated with the building even today. The proscenium by this time was 20 foot wide and the stage 44 foot wide. Coutts Theatre was home to many of the most popular plays of the day and was very successful for about two years but by 1900 it had been closed and the building then fell into disuse.
In 1912 the building was rebuilt internally for silent cinema use and reopened under the new name of the Bull Ring Cinema. At the same time a puiblic house called the Royal George Tavern was built in front of the building and the Cinema's address was changed to No 2 Park Street. The Bull Ring Cinema was never wired for sound but continued in use until December 1931.
After this the auditorium was subdivided for use as a Restaurant and Sport's Club, and later this became a pub, a nightclub, and then a Karate Centre. Sadly all these alterations mean that this early Music Hall's original features are all gone and only the exterior remains.
The Building is currently threatened with demolition.
There is more on the Bull Ring Cinema here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share, please Contact me.
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