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The Imperial Theatre, Corner of Clyde Street and High Street, Bordesley, Birmingham

Later - The Bordesley Palace Theatre

Birmingham Index

A sketch of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From the ERA, 4th of March 1899 - To see more of these Sketches click here.

Above - A sketch of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From the ERA, 4th of March 1899 - To see more of these Sketches click here.

The Imperial Theatre was constructed on the corner of Clyde Street and the High Street in Birmingham's Bordesley district and was built at a cost of £25,000. The Theatre was designed by the architects Owen and Ward who also designed the Opera House, Kidderminster, the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, the Hippodrome, Poplar, and Her Majesty's Theatre, Walsall. The auditorium was designed in the Renaissance style and painted in cream, blue, and gold, and was constructed on three levels, orchestra and pit stalls, pit, and cantilevered dress circle, balcony, and gallery, and with its six boxes the Theatre could seat 2,500 people. The Theatre opened on the 2nd of October 1899 with a performance of 'Sporting Life.

The Imperial Theatre, Birmingham - From an illustration in the Playgoer of 1901 / 1902 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.The ERA reported on the new Imperial Theatre, along with the sketch of the building shown above, in their 4th of March 1899 edition saying: 'This theatre, which is now rapidly approaching completion, promises to be one of the most perfect of our many provincial theatres, and it is to be hoped that Messrs Machin and Bacon, the enterprising proprietors, will have their undertaking crowned with success.

Messrs Owen and Ward, the eminent theatrical architects of the Midlands, have prepared the plans, and have bestowed great care and ingenuity upon the mangements and design generally. The building has two frontages, one to High-street, of 104ft., and the other to Clyde-street, of 134ft. There are arranged twelve exits from the various parts of the house, communicating directly with the streets, and each section of the building has at least two spacious fire-proof staircases connected therewith.

Left -The Imperial Theatre, Birmingham - From an illustration in the Playgoer of 1901 / 1902 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

A Twice Nightly Variety Poster for the Palace Theatre, Bordesley, formerly the Imperial Theatre, with the Arthur Lloyd Trio on the Bill - Courtesy Colin Maitland.The grand hall leading to circle and stalls is approached through three pairs of handsome mahogany and glass doors, and is 25ft. by 20ft., with wide staircases on both sides leading to the dress-circle. The ceiling of the hall will be domed and decorated with elaborate hand-painted panels illustrative of Shakespeare's works, and the walls will be lined with marble in parti-colours, and the floors paved with marble mosaic.

The interior accommodation is classified into orchestra and pit stalls, pit, dress circle, balcony, and gallery, together with six private boxes, and will seat 2,500 persons. The auditorium is 69ft. by 65f t., and the stage is 69ft. by 40ft. The latter will be of quite modern construction, and capable of mounting the most elaborate productions. The gridiron will be 50ft. above stage level. A convenient green-room has been provided, and ample dressing-rooms for both sexes. Spacious saloons are arranged of easy access to all parts of the house, and also conveniences for both ladies and gentlemen, together with a well-arranged cloak-room. There are also offices, wardrobe-room, ballet-room, &c. Both gas and electricity will be employed for lighting purposes throughout. Heating and ventilation has been adopted on the most approved methods, and, indeed, every consideration has been given to the pleasure and comfort of the audience.

Right - A Twice Nightly Variety Poster for the Palace Theatre, Bordesley, formerly the Imperial Theatre, in March 1906, with the Arthur Lloyd Trio on the Bill - Courtesy Colin Maitland.

The interior decorations will be principally of fibrous plaster in the Renaissance style, the prevailing colours being cream, blue, and gold; whilst the draperies and upholstering will be in old gold silk. A handsome domed ceiling, with a particularly quaint proscenium front, complete the interior embellishments.

The elevation to High-street is of a bold treatment in red Ruabon brick, with buff terra-cotta dressings by Messrs Doulton and Co., the two extreme angles being surmounted by square towers; whilst a gabled pediment adorns the central feature. An ornamental iron and glass verandah, supported on cantilevers, is placed as a shelter over the principal entrances.

In conclusion, we have only to say that the construction of the building is quite up to date, the circle and gallery being supported on steel cantilevers, thus avoiding any obstruction in the shape of iron columns, &c. There will be a fireproof curtain to the proscenium opening, and the fire arrangements, generally, will be carried out under the supervision of Superintendent Tozer, chief of the fire brigade, who has had great experience in this kind of work.

This magnificent theatre will open on Oct. 2nd, and will be worked in conjunction with Mr Chas. E Machin's various other theatres, and all bookings will be made from the London offices, Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham-junction, S.W.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 4th March 1899.

A sketch of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899

Above - A sketch of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899

Plans of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899 The Building News and Engineering Journal also reported on the Imperial Theatre in their May 12th 1899 edition saying:- 'This theatre, which is now rapidly approaching completion, promises to be one of the most completely contrived of our provincial theatres. Messrs. Owen and Ward, architects, of Birmingham, have prepared the plans.

The building has two frontages, one to High-street of 104 ft., and the other to Clyde-street of 134ft. There are arranged twelve exits from the various parts of the house, communicating directly with the streets, and each section of the building has at least two spacious fireproof staircases connected therewith. The grand hall, which is approached from High-street, and is 25ft. by 20ft., will be decorated with parti-coloured marbles, the ceiling being domed and harmoniously decorated in colour. The staircases to circle and stalls lead from this hall.

Right - Plans of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899.

The interior accommodation is classified into orchestra and pit stalls, pit, dress circle, balcony, and gallery, together with six private boxes, and will seat 2,500 persons. The auditorium is 69ft. by 65ft., and the stage 69ft. by 40ft. The latter will be of the latest construction, capable of mounting the most elaborate productions. The grid will be 50ft. above stage level.

A convenient green-room is provided, and ample dressing-rooms for both sexes. Spacious saloons are arranged of easy access to all parts of the house, and also conveniences for both ladies and gentlemen, together with requisite cloak-rooms. Both gas and electricity will be employed for lighting purposes throughout. The heating and ventilation will be carried out on thorough principles. The interior decoration will be principally of fibrous plaster in the Renaissance style, the prevailing colours being cream, blue, and gold, whilst the draperies and upholstering will be in old gold silk.

The elevation to High-street is treated boldly in red Ruabon brick, with buff terracotta dressings. The terracotta work is by Messrs. Doulton and Co., and the general contractor is Mr. E. J. Charles, of Moseley, Birmingham.'

The above text in quotes was first published in The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899.

The Imperial Theatre opened on the 2nd of October 1899 with a performance of 'Sporting Life. But a few years later it was bought by Moss Empires, in 1903, who refurbished the building at a cost of £6,000 and reopened it as a Variety House called the Bordesley Palace, with a much lower seating capacity of around 1,300 people.

A Google StreetView Image of the site of the Imperial Theatre today - Click to Interact.The Theatre was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in October 1928 but closed down as a live Theatre the following year and was then converted for full time Cinema use with a capacity of 1,296 people seated.

During the war the Theatre was requisitioned by the Government and used as a food store, but the final curtain came for this Theatre when it was demolished in 1957. Today the site of the Theatre is in use as a Car Park for a Storage Company.

Right - A Google StreetView Image of the site of the Imperial Theatre today - Click to Interact.

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