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Theatres and Halls in Bolton, Greater Manchester

The Octagon Theatre - The Theatre / Early Theatres - The Temple Opera House - The Theatre Royal - The Victoria Theatre of Varieties / Star Music hall - The Grand Theatre - The Empire Theatre / The Hippodrome Theatre

See also in this area - Manchester Theatres - Oldham Theatres - Stockport Theatres - Salford Theatres - Theatre Royal, Hyde - Leigh Theatres - Wigan Theatres - Glossop Theatres - Southport Theatres - Rochdale Theatres

The Octagon Theatre, Howell Croft South, Bolton

A Google SttreetView Image of the Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Click to Interact

Above - A Google SttreetView Image of the Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Click to Interact

The Octagon Theatre is situated in Howell Croft South, Bolton, Greater Manchester, and is of Modern design. It was opened on the 27th November 1967 by H.R.H. Princess Margaret, and is owned by the local authority.

The Theatre's architect was Geoffrey H. Brooks (the Borough architect). The building, based on a hexagonal drum, is of brick with a large glass frontage set into the brickwork, with a latticed steel roof covered with grey tiles. The whole building does contrast sharply with the rest of the Streetscape though.

The Theatre cost £95,000, money raised by public donation, and was the first professional Theatre built in the north west after the end of World War Two.

The opening production was 'Annie and Fanny' written by local Bolton Playwright Bill Naughton.

It has an Intimate, flexible auditorium, which can be configured in three different seating designs: 'Thrust stage' which seats 305 people; 'End on', which seats 343 people; and 'In the Round' which seats 401 people. This is achieved by having set tiered seating with shallow balconies, and retractable seating units. All three configurations give a close proximity to the audience who enjoy good sight lines.

The Theatre also has a Café and Bar area, together with Office space.

Backstage there is a large workshop for set construction. A small sound engineering studio, wardrobe and prop department. The rehearsal space known as 'The Lab' is a big asset as many of the productions are 'In House'.

In 1987 the Theatre building was extended to include a Studio Theatre with an end on stage area, seating 100 people which was renamed 'The Bill Naughton Studio Theatre' in 1994.

In 1998 Lottery funding allowed for a lift to be installed, together with better office accommodation and a hospitality suite.

The Theatre has a wide spectrum of productions ranging from Shakespeare, American drama, European plays, and contemporary classics. New work, musicals, and family theatre are also produced, with wide theatre in education work in the local community. Many of the productions are 'in house' based, together with some touring productions.

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

The above article on The Octagon Theatre, Bolton was written for this site by David Garratt in March 2014 is © David Garratt 2014.

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

The Theatre, Bolton

And other early Bolton Theatres

A poster for a Benefit performance for Mr. Snellham of Sheridan's 'Pizarro' or 'The Death of Rolla' at the Bolton Theatre on February the 18th 1822 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond. There is reference to there being a 'Theatre' in Bolton in the 1820's. Various posters of the time circa 1822 refer to performances taking place at the 'Theatre,' and refer to various benefit nights for several actors;- Mr Bonsall, Mr Snellham and Mr Hammond.

Right - A poster for a Benefit performance for Mr. Snellham of Sheridan's 'Pizarro' or 'The Death of Rolla' at the Bolton Theatre on February the 18th 1822 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond. In the cast were Mr. Hammond, Mr. Parker, Mr. Emley, Miss Tyrer, Mr. Smith Mr. Bonsall, Mr. Egerton, Mr. Crawford, Mr. Johnson, Mrs Tyrer, and Mr. Snellham himself.

A poster for a benefit performance for Mr. Hammond of 'Stranger' and 'Broken Sword' at the Bolton Theatre on March 1st, 1822 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond. There is a reference to Parish's travelling fit up Theatre playing the town on Wednesday the 10th of February 1836, performing 'Margaret's Ghost'. The Theatre was positioned adjoining the New Market Place which is now Victoria Square, (this site was later occupied by the California Market adjoining the Grapes Hotel.)

Left - A poster for a benefit performance for Mr. Hammond of 'Stranger' and 'Broken Sword' at the Bolton Theatre on March 1st, 1822 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond. In the cast were Mr. Parker, Mr. Bonsall, Mr. Tyrer, Mr. Egerton, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Emley. With Comic Singing by Mr. Bonsall and Mr. Johnston.

There was also a Theatre in Mawdsley Street and two public houses, the Dog and Partridge in Moor Lane, and the Duke of York in Spring Gardens, both of which had private Theatres.

A poster for a Benefit performance for Mr. Bonsall of Coleman's Comedy 'Poor Gentleman' at the Bolton Theatre on February the 5th 1822 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond. In 1837 another Theatre 'The French Pavilion' was in New Market. 1838 saw Thorne's Immense Establishment in Pot Market which opened with a production of 'Eugene Aram'. This Theatre was the first Theatre in Bolton to be lit by gas, and 500 gas burners were used to illuminate the Theatre together with various fires being lit to keep patrons warm.

Right - A poster for a Benefit performance for Mr. Bonsall of Coleman's Comedy 'Poor Gentleman' at the Bolton Theatre on February the 5th 1822 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond. In the cast were Mr. Hammond, Mr. Snellham, Mr. Tyler, Mr. Crawford, Mr. Parker, Mrs. Emley, Miss Bradbury, Mr. Egerton, Mr. Johnston, Mr. Bonsall, Mr. Emley, Mr. Johnston, and Mrs. Parker. With Seven New Comic Songs sung by Mr. Bonsall.

There were two main places of entertainment in the 1850's. The Theatre Royal (details here soon) which was under the management of Mr James Pitney Weston, and also the Museum and Star Inn under the management of Mr Sharples.

The above article on The Theatre, Bolton, and other early Bolton Theatres was written for this site by David Garratt in December 2013 is © David Garratt 2013.

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

The Temple Opera House, Dawes Street, Bolton

Formerly - The Temple Mill

The Temple Opera House was situated in Dawes Street in central Bolton, and was a conversion of an old cotton mill, formally known as Temple Mill, the conversion taking place approx 1877. The building was 45 yards long by 35 yards wide, and is reported to have been able to pack between 6,000 and 7,000 people inside, stated as having good exits, and being able to completely empty the Theatre within ten minutes.

It opened on the 20th October 1877 under the management of Mr J.P.Weston. It had various managers until eventually becoming the property of Mr George Hemingway of Halifax, who in 1881 leased the Opera House to Mr Charles Majilton, a well known actor specialising in 'grotesque' parts. Charles Majilton spent approximately £700 on alterations and decorations opening the Theatre on Christmas eve 1881 with the pantomime 'Cinderella', which did good business. After the pantomime the Opera House was then occupied by various travelling companies.

After a performance, which ended at about 10.30pm on Saturday night the 16th April 1882, Mr Denton and his company began to strike their play, getting out about 11.30pm. However about three quarters of an hour later flames were noticed emanating from the Theatre. The fire brigade were on the scene within a few minutes, but it was obvious by then that the fire had taken hold, and that there was little hope of saving the Theatre, due to the combustible nature of the contents. Ten water jets were trained on the Theatre but by approximately 1.0am the roof collapsed and was quickly followed by the collapse of the gallery, balcony and circle. The Liverpool Mercury of 17th April 1882 reports:– ''These fell almost simultaneously into the pit whence the flames shot up to the height of 100 feet, illuminating the whole town, and attracting to the scene thousands of people.''

All the Theatre's furniture, properties, and scenery were destroyed. The piano and musical instruments in the orchestra pit were also lost. Mr Majilton was away on tour at the time, in Rochdale with his theatre company. He was not insured and the damage was estimated at £15,000.

The origin of the fire was not known, but the Liverpool Mercury of 17th April 1882 reports:- ''It is supposed, however, to have been caused by some one in the balcony, throwing a lighted match, which falling through a crevice in the floor, had set fire to a quantity of waste which had accumulated during the time the place was worked as a cotton mill.''

Thus ended the entertainment life of this Theatre which only existed for approximately five years.

The above article on the Temple Opera House, Bolton was written for this site by David Garratt in December 2013 is © David Garratt 2013.

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

The Theatre Royal, Churchgate, Bolton

First Theatre - Second Theatre - Third Theatre

There have been three Theatres Royal built on the same site over the years. The first Theatre was built in 1853, continuing until 1888. Unfortunately this Theatre Royal burnt down early on the morning of Wednesday the 4th of January 1888, and in less than one hour the building was completely gutted. Mr J. F. Elliston the lessee, had mounted the Pantomime 'Blue Beard' and the fire broke out after the second performance on the Tuesday evening. After the evening performance the normal inspection was carried out and all seemed O.K. However at 1.0am the next morning the first intimation that the building was on fire was notified to the police. The Theatre was in a thickly populated neighbourhood and great difficulty was experienced in rescuing the inmates of several of the adjoining houses. There was a butchers shop with 'out buildings,' which was completely destroyed by the fire, with four sheep and a cow burned to death. Inmates of the Star hotel were rescued from upper windows, but the firemen did manage to save the Star building. The fire was not helped by the explosion of four hydrogen tanks used in the pantomime, which blew out many windows in the surrounding neighbourhood. Inspection suggested that the fire broke out on the stage. The 'Grinnehill' sprinkler system did not operate. It was discovered later that the cause of the failure was that the water had been turned off and the strap deliberately cut. This was backed up by the discovery that the office had been broken into, having been forced with a pickaxe or chisel to get at the safe. However the safe was later found to be intact.

From local newspaper reports of the incident it appears that Mr Elliston had enemies in the town. The Bolton Daily News of 5th January 1888 stated:- ''In support of the theory of incendiarism, the Central News says that a police constable asserts that a statement was made to him a few days ago to the effect that Mr Elliston, the proprietor of the theatre, who was thrown out of the town Council last November because he had supported the action of the authorities in bringing extra police into the town during the recent disturbances arising from the strike in the iron trade, had enemies who said that things would be made warm for him within a week.''

The damage was estimated in the region of £15,000, of which only £2,000 was covered by insurance. The Pantomime had cost £3,000 to stage and 260 people who worked in the Theatre were put out of work by the fire. A valuable violin belonging to the leader of the band which he had carried home every evening for the previous seventeen years, had been left that night in the Theatre and was consequently destroyed. A fund was started for the benefit of those thrown out of work.

A new Theatre Royal was built on the site of the burnt down previous Theatre, opening on November 19th 1888. It's dimensions were 140 feet by 60 feet. Mr Frank Matcham was employed as architect. The new Theatre Royal was built for Mr Elliston by Messrs Bradley and Co of Nottingham. The grand opening was attended by magistrates, aldermen and councillors of the town, and the Lord Mayor. The Stage Newspaper of 30th November 1888 reported:- ''without a single exception, everybody present was more than charmed with the characteristics of the new building, excellent in size and shape, in acoustic properties and in comfort, most beautifully decorated, and sumptuously furnished.''

The new Theatre was stated as having four exit doors out of the pit, and a similar number on each floor, with wide concrete staircases for safe entrance and exit.

The Stage Newspaper of 30th November 1888 also reported:- "Accommodation is nominally provide for 1800 persons, but if need be, room could be found for nearly another 1000.''

Main entrances to all parts were from the Churchgate frontage, apart from the gallery entrance which was in Oliver lane off Churchgate.

The Statue of Henry Irving at the rear of the National Portrait Gallery on Irving Street, just off Charing Cross Road, London - Photo M.L. November 2009 Immediately inside the entrance of the Crush Room a memorial stone had been laid by Mr Henry Irving some weeks previously. The Crush Room had sumptuous decorations with Marble columns, a mosaic floor, and gold and terra cotta decoration. There was also a retiring room, lavatories, a smoke room and buffet.

Right - The Statue of Henry Irving at the rear of the National Portrait Gallery on Irving Street, just off Charing Cross Road, London - Photo M.L. November 2009 - More information on the statue can be found here.

The Theatre sat 750 people in the Pit, 200 in the stalls, 150 in the dress circle, 250 in the balcony and 450 in the gallery. The balconies were horse shoe shaped. The dress circle had three rows of seats which carried right round the circle until meeting the private boxes each side of the proscenium arch.

The Balcony had 6 rows of seats with a private box each side, and the gallery had ten rows of seats, mainly facing the stage, the horseshoe shape running toward a vanishing point at the stage. This enabled the public in the 'gods' to obtain a clear view without the danger of leaning forwards, and guard rails were in place to prevent any accidents. The ceiling had a dome in the centre from which hung a 'Sunlight.' High pressure hydrants were provided at each floor level both in the auditorium and backstage. Should the public water supply fail, a huge cistern water tank was installed in the roof space which held many thousands of gallons of water.

The Theatre had a brick wall containing the proscenium arch which was built three feet above the auditorium as a fire break, and an asbestos and iron safety curtain fitted.

The stage was 51 feet deep by 60 feet wide and 48 feet high. Below the stage were cellars containing the Carpenters shop and Limelight house, which were divided from the rest of the Theatre by a concrete wall. Behind the stage admirable dressing rooms were provided. An eight foot wide exit passage was provided from the backstage area to the street, and outside a raised exterior balcony provided, with iron staircases as emergency exit in case of fire.

The opening production was ''Hands Across the Sea.'' At the opening performance the Volunteer band played the National Anthem followed by Auld Lang Syne, after which Mr John Glendinning read the prologue which had been written and sent in anonymously by a Bolton Gentleman. The curtain rose on the play. Miss Lanyon, Mr Glendinning (as the hero), Mr Robert Ayrton and Mr Percy Bell were all in the cast. At the end of the First Act, Mr Elliston appeared before the curtain, receiving long and loud applause. He thanked the audience for their attendance and Bolton Playgoers for their sympathy and support, and listed important future bookings, these being, ''The Yeomen of the Guard'', Mr and Mrs Kendal and company, the musical ''Dorothy'', ''The Carl Rosa Opera Company,'' and Mr Henry Irving and his company. Mr Elliston said he proposed to devote at least one week's proceeds in each year solely for the benefit of local charities. (In fact the proceeds of the sales of programmes from this opening performance were to go to the Bolton Infirmary). He read out telegrams of good wishes received from, Miss Minie Palmer (who was booked to appear as far ahead as October 1889.) Augustus Harris, Wilson Barrett, Edward Terry, Osmond Tearle, G. R. Sims and Henry Irving who wired ''Heartiest good wishes tonight for the opening of your splendid Theatre, sure to have a great inauguration! Love and greetings to all Bolton friends. Hope to see them soon.''

Mr Frank Matcham was then introduced, and said '' He had endeavoured to build a Theatre in which all could see well, hear well, and sit well.'' Bradley the builder also spoke, and then the play continued.

The new Theatre Royal continued it's success by continuing to present the top touring productions of plays, Opera, and musicals through its life until the late 1920's, when a new Theatre Royal was felt necessary.

A new Theatre was duly built to replace the former 1888 building. This third and last Theatre Royal was opened on the 5th November 1928. The Forward from the opening brochure for the new Theatre Royal stated the following:- "With the growth of Bolton and the general improvement in the town's principal buildings. It became imperative for the management of the Bolton Theatre Royal and Entertainments Co Limited to consider the better housing of the town's only Theatre. It was the object of providing the necessary accommodation as well as a Theatre worthy of Bolton as Lancashire's most important town that the present structure was erected. The management will do all in its power to bring to Bolton the best dramatic and musical plays and solicit the support of the public of Bolton in order that the best stage and theatrical traditions shall be maintained.''

The new Theatre Royal was built by John Booth and Sons of Hulton Steelworks Bolton. Stanley Porter, joiner and builder of Crofters Saw Mills Bolton, did all the woodwork in the Theatre. Pelmets and curtains in the foyer were supplied by Horrock's of Ridgway Gate Bolton. G & F Seddon Ltd demolished the old Theatre and put in the new drainage, reinforced concrete and brickwork for the construction of the new Theatre.

This Theatre lasted 34 years, presenting entertainment for the public of Bolton and surrounding districts. However, like many of the nation's Theatres, with the advent of television and changing entertainment habits of the populous, the Theatre eventually closed in 1962. The end of a long era of entertainment at the three Theatre Royals of Bolton.

The above article on the three Theatres Royal of Bolton was written for this site by David Garratt in January 2014 is © David Garratt 2014.

The Victoria Theatre of Varieties and Victoria Buffet, Churchgate, Bolton

Formerly - The Star Theatre and Museum / The Museum Music Hall / The Star Music Hall / The Victoria Buffet - Later - The Princess Picture Hall

In 1832 a singing and supper room was established at the Millstones Inn in Deansgate Bolton. This is thought to be one of the first Music Halls in Britain. The Landlord of the Millstones Inn was Tom Sharples and in 1840 he took up residence in the Star Inn close by in Churchgate. There he built onto the pub 'The Star Theatre and Museum'. The Theatre locally became known as the 'Museum Music Hall'. The Museum part had wax work figures on display, together with stuffed animals and birds.

One of the characters at the Music Hall was 'Museum Jack' who lit the footlights and lamps with a taper before the entertainment took place. The manager was Mr Geoghegan who also acted as the Music Hall Chairman, introducing each act by banging his mallet on his table which was situated to the left of the stage. The stage was a plain one, and the curtain was wound up by hand. Performances took place each evening at 7.30pm, with admission being charged at 2 pence and 4 pence. A 'check' or 'token' being issued which was also known as 'wet money' as part of the admission charge was returned in the form of refreshment.

The Star Music Hall later caught fire, but was rebuilt, now being called 'The Victoria Theatre of Varieties opening in January of 1855.

The Theatre was rebuilt yet again in October 1886 and an early report in the ERA newspaper of the 9th October 1886 states the following:- ''This place of amusement, after being rebuilt, opens on Monday evening. It is a splendid house, with every convenience, and will take rank as one of the first of provincial Music Halls. It is the intention of the proprietor to start well, and bring only the best and highest class talent, and to conduct the house in every way so as to deserve the patronage of all classes of the community.''

The new Theatre opened on the evening of Monday 12th October 1886 to a crowded house filled to the utmost capacity. Firstly the National Anthem was sung by the audience accompanied by the Bolton Borough Band. Then Mr Elliston delivered the address written by Mr J. B. Geoghegan the energetic manager of the new 'Varieties.' The ERA of 16th October 1886 stated:- 'Mr R. Hopkins, the oldest Lancashire music Hall singer then gave a ditty recounting the history of the old Theatre and celebrating the new; after which the variety entertainment proceeded amid applause of the crowded audience.'

Measurements of the new Theatre were:- distance from the back of the pit to the front of the proscenium 60 feet. Width of auditorium 44 feet, with a height from the pit floor to the ceiling being 35 feet. Capacity was recorded as being 2,500 persons. The stage measurements were 22 feet by 44 feet. The proscenium opening was 22 feet wide by 27 feet high and fitted up with the most recent improvements. The Pit entrance was 6 feet in width with an extra door of similar width also opening onto the lane. There was a good clear view of the stage from the pit. The ERA of 16th October 1886 stated:- 'Good dressing rooms provided for the artistes, and the comfort of those behind the scenes has been carefully studied.'

Entrance into the Balcony was by a vestibule opening onto a hall 55 feet long by 8 feet wide, at both ends of which were stone staircases, 6 feet wide, communicating with each side of the Balcony. In the centre of the Balcony was the Dress Circle, to the left and right of which were side boxes, with a private box on each side of the stage proscenium. The tip up seats were upholstered in crimson velvet. The Balcony was semi circular, and to the west side had a raised platform upon which the refreshment bar was situated.

The ceiling was a particularly fine one, divided into panelled and moulded compartments, richly decorated in cream and gold. The principal lighting was from four sunlights placed in the ceiling each containing 49 gas jets, with special attention being paid to the ventilation.

The ERA of 16th October 1886 stated, 'The Balcony front and proscenium are gracefully ornamented, the proscenium being surmounted by the Royal Arms; and all is beautifully decorated in gold and colour in harmony with the ceiling.'

Patent automatic sprinklers were fitted both over and under the stage and in each dressing room. Hydrants were also placed in other parts of the auditorium.

The Theatre continued in theatrical use until 1890 when it reverted to public house use again.

The ERA of the 4th July 1896 reported, an 'Extra ordinary meeting of Bolton Theatre and Entertainment Co Ltd held on Thursday decided to enter an arrangement with Mr J. F. Elliston managing Director of the company with Messrs Boardman and Co Ltd to purchase the Victoria Variety Theatre and Buffet. The Purchase includes, a ground rent on the Theatre a way-leave for the gallery staircase, a warehouse in Olive lane and stables and warehouse in Princess street together with the existing licences etc. and a ground rent on the star Inn which is to be created by Messrs Boardman Ltd, and handed over to the theatre Company.'

The ERA of the 18th July 1896 reported the following:- 'The Victoria Theatre of Varieties, Bolton, will close to-night (Saturday) to allow of extensive structural alterations and arrangements from designs by Frank Matcham architect.'

The intention was to transform the Variety premises into a handsome bijou Theatre, reducing the drinking accommodation and correspondingly increasing the size of the auditorium. The aim of the Theatre was to be partly theatrical and partly Variety so as not to clash with the Theatre Royal and Grand Theatres in the town. The property acquired in Princess Street was to be demolished and on its site new premises erected, in the basement of which would be built an electric lighting plant capable of illuminating the whole of the company's places of entertainment, and the use of gas eliminated. The building would also contain a carpenters shop and wardrobe facilities for the companies Theatres.

The Theatre reopened on the 26th October 1896, the proprietors being the Bolton Theatre and Entertainment Company Ltd, with a production of 'Cissy'. The renovations and alterations had taken several weeks but the new Theatre now had electricity installed throughout.

The Theatre's Managing Director was Mr J. F. Elliston, and its Secretary was Mr Frank Davis. The opening production of 'Cissy' starred Mr Lawrence Daly playing Titus Thomas, B. A. Viviane Douglas as Miss Grace Wilson, Miss Laura Dixon as Olive Temple, Miss Connie Meadows as Mary Mopps, with others in the cast being Mr Elwyn Eaton, Mr A. G. Polson Turner, and Mr H. W. Kirwan.

The Theatre soon settled down to presenting weekly Variety programmes which were well supported by the Bolton public. Below is a list of various Variety programmes as listed in the Stage Newspaper of 1897:

Monday 4th January 1897:- The Laurance Company in 'Bitter Cold' with the Brothers Zavenos, Nellie Darrell, Sam Shipley and Mons Edgelo.

Monday 18th January 1897: - Mr Fred Cooke's Company in 'The Diners Luck', with Barry Bawn assisted by Walter Cooke, Martin Faber, Tom Hall, Maurice Wyngater, Helen Wyngate and Lilly Roselle.

Monday 1st March 1897: - Miss Jessie Hunt, and old pantomime favourite, Douglas and Douglas (acrobats), Les Freres Napier (jugglers), The Musical D'Arcys (musical act), Lady Zillah, La Petite Frederic. The Wedburns and Madam Nita Rose.

Monday 15th March 1897: - Miss Amy McNeill's Company in 'The Daughter of Ishmael'.

Monday 3rd May 1897: - Messrs Gray and Stephen's Company in 'Signal Lights', with Miss Minnie Oscar Gray, Anna Warwick, Mr Will W. Evans (Negro comedian), and featuring real Ponies and Donkeys

Monday 10th May 1897; - Mr Fed Jarman's Company in 'Right or Wrong', with Gerald Hutchinson, Mr Kenna Meadows, Geo.H.Asquin, Percy Ballard, and Lucy Vivian.

Monday 17th May 1897: - Mr T. P. Sutherland's staging of 'Dannybrook'. Assisted by several well trained children. Royal Murray, Diamond and Stanley, Greek George, The Lady Wrestlers, A.McManus, George Lustin and Farrell and Willmots.

These shows played the Theatre for a whole week before moving on to another Theatre date after the final performance on Saturday Night.

In 1912 The Victoria Buffet became the 'Princess Picture Hall', a cinema, and the shell of this building was incorporated into the rebuilding of the Theatre Royal in 1928, forming part of the Theatre Royal's grand new foyer.

Thus ended this place of entertainment with its history dating back to one of the Country's earliest Music Halls.

The above article on The Victoria Theatre, Bolton was written for this site by David Garratt in February 2014 is © David Garratt 2014.

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

The Grand Theatre, Churchgate, Bolton

Formerly - The New Grand Circus of Varieties - Later - The Continental Theatre / Grand Bingo Hall

A Twice Nightly Variety programme for the Grand Theatre, Bolton for the week of April 27th 1953 - Kindly Donated by Marguerite Isherwood.The New Grand Circus of Varieties Theatre was built for the Bolton Theatre and Entertainments Company (Limited) on Churchgate Bolton, at a cost of upwards of £16,000, and opened on Monday evening the 27th August 1894.

The Theatre was designed by the famous Victorian Theatre Architect Frank Matcham, and like his Grand Theatre in Hanley was built as a circus, the circus ring being at the stage end of the auditorium and could be converted to a proscenium stage in place of the ring within a few hours.

There had been an objection to the building of the new Theatre due to the loss of daylight from neighbouring properties, which delayed the Theatre build by several months, as the builders had to lower the foundations.

Right - A Twice Nightly Variety programme for the Grand Theatre, Bolton for the week of April 27th 1953 - Kindly Donated by Marguerite Isherwood. On the Bill were Bobby "Buttons" Collins, Rusty the calculating dog, Eddie Arnold, Gerry Brereton and Cyril Baker, Manz & Chico, Max Geldray, Gladys Morgan, Delly Kin, and the Grand Theatre Orchestra under the Direction of Joe Hill.

The Imposing façade of the Theatre was of brick and stone, of Italian design, with the principal entrance to the Theatre in Churchgate. This entrance for Stalls and Circle seats had an ornamental glass and iron verandah to keep patrons dry whilst awaiting admission. This led into a lofty vestibule having ornamental ceilings and floors of encaustic tiles. The walls were lined with high relief anaglypta. A bold staircase of ten steps led upwards to the crush room which was beautifully decorated with Japanese wall paper, and the ceiling painted as a 'sky' with flying birds. At each end of this crush room, doors opened right and left into the Circle which had seats upholstered in Utrecht velvet. To each side of the Circle were wide promenades. Staircases led to retiring and smoking rooms, and there was a wide staircase which led down to the Pit area.

A Page from a Twice Nightly Variety programme for the Grand Theatre, Bolton for the week of April 27th 1953 - Kindly Donated by Marguerite Isherwood.In the Pit, all seats had backs, and were arranged in a curve giving all occupants a direct view of the ring or stage. The Pit also had retiring and smoking rooms.

Above the circle was the gallery or 'Gods', and all parts of the auditorium were said to have been liberally provided with exits.

Left - A Page from a Twice Nightly Variety programme for the Grand Theatre, Bolton for the week of April 27th 1953 - Kindly Donated by Marguerite Isherwood.

The Circus ring had an iron drawbridge at the rear over which processions of horses and animals could enter for spectacular effect.

The backstage area had large scene docks and property rooms together with dressing rooms which were comfortably furnished.

The whole building was heated by a hot water system and attention had also been made to the ventilation of the auditorium.

The ERA of 25th August 1894 reports:- 'The decorations, which are French Renaissance in character, and in deep relief, have been carried out from the designs and under the supervision of the architect, Mr Frank Matcham. To whom warm praise is due for his clever planning and arrangement of the building. The whole of the interior has been lavishly decorated in gold and colours, and the circus, with its rich upholstery and electric light, is a triumph of art, and a credit to everyone concerned.'

The grand opening entertainment was by Mr James Newsome and his Circus Company. The ERA of the 1st of September 1894 reported the event as follows:-

'A capital programme was submitted, the various items of which consisted of bareback riding by Jackoway; a descriptive scene on horseback by Arthur Powell; Miss Corane Virginie Newsome, in an equestrian exhibition on her mare Duchess; Mons Piasquell, with his pyramid chair act; Miss Ella Bertha Newsome, in her graceful flights; Mr James Newsome, with his four highly trained Shetland ponies; Nana and Nano (two children), in a daring trapeze performance; Jackoway, in his jockey act; Professor Etho and his troupe of educated dogs; Mr James Newsome, with his thoroughbred performing mare; ''Miss Mornington;'' Mdlle Nora Godfrey, in a cleverly executed and graceful serpentine dance on horseback, concluding with ethereal flights through space as the phantom butterfly, with limelight effect; evolutions on the flying rings by Nana and Nano; the whole performance concluding nightly with five minutes genuine fun with a couple of mules, Comical Cartland and Little Hurst supply the humorous element as clowns. The Ring Master is Mr J. Pearce Butler.' - The ERA 1st of September 1894.

During this opening performance Mr Elliston the managing director of the Theatre, entered the ring to enthusiastic applause, and made a speech 'promising the public of Bolton a place of entertainment worthy of the town, and asked his hearers if he had kept his word. Loud cries of 'Yes' were heard from all parts of the house, followed by repeated applause.'

He said that he had received 60 to 70 telegrams from proprietors and managers throughout the provinces congratulating him on the successful opening. He went on to explain the difficulties they had had with the delay to the building, and went on to thank Frank Matcham and all concerned with the build. He then promised his patrons that nothing but first class entertainments would be given.

The Circus popularity soon faded and the Theatre was converted permanently to it's proscenium stage, becoming a Variety Theatre. Many of the leading artists of their day appeared there. Below are listed various shows presented at the Grand Theatre in it's early years reported in the Stage Newspaper as follows:-

On the 8th August 1895:- 'Mr Scott has produced an excellent programme for the holidays. On Monday there was not a vacant seat, Miss Flo D'Orville, Miss Eva Johnson, Brothers Edgar, George Elliott, Kenan and Mac, Ellen Eugene and Joe Ives make up a capital Bill. On Friday Mr Joe Smith took his first benefit, many of the patrons having to be turned away. In Addition to the artists there appeared the Sisters Phillips and Brothers Lorenzo, Lonnen Meadows, Tom Wyatt, George Beauford, Nat Ellis, A. Rigby, Young Hott, Young Mollow, Professor Fenton Cross, Miss Leslie, Miss Ruby Lees, M. Artois, Ada Alver, Frank Leyland, Herbert Lisle, Bros Jenkinson, Cusie and Daulton, Joe Barlow, St Maries Brass Band and Piccanniny Band, and J. Whittaker.'

On the 26th August 1896 the programme that week was:- 'The Thompson Trio Company' with Percy Henvis, Mons Vita, The Dwarfs, Mr Harry Thompson, La Tone, Fugis, Will Moynes Royal Troupe of Acrobats, Paveni, Mr A.C.Baker, The Medoras, Major Lenaz, Thompson Trio and the Star Brass Band.

On the 18th March 1897 the Stage reported:- The Rixfords, The Musical Mottramos, Griffin and Brighton (tumbers),Miss F. Stokes (vocalist), Robert William Paul makes a return visit with 'Animatographe', Sandy and Carl (comedians), George Bastow, Alice Ormonde and J.C.Heffron.

On the 6th May 1897 the programme for the week was:- Miss Evelyn Taylor, Ernestine and the three Foys, Lester King, Marion Grahame, Miss Chummie La Mara, George Beauchamp, The Alexandtra Trio, and The Three Castles.

In the 1950's Bolton theatre goers recall seeing artists such as Charlie Kunz, Issy Bonn, Donald Peers, Arthur Tracy the 'Street Singer' as he was billed, Troise and his Mandoliers, Hutch, Joan Regan, Alma Cogan, the Beverly Sisters, and Frank Randall in 'Randalls Scandals', to name but a few. There are also recollections of eating Pasties whilst watching the show, brought in by patrons from the 'Olde Pastieshop' opposite the Grand Theatre. - The Stage Newspaper.

A Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Grand Theatre, Bolton for the week commencing January 13th 1958 - Kindly Donated by Marguerite Isherwood.Eventually like many Theatres up and down the country, the advent of television brought about the demise of the Grand Theatre when it succumbed to poor public attendance and finally closed as a live Theatre in 1960.

Right - A Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Grand Theatre, Bolton for the week commencing January 13th 1958 - Kindly Donated by Marguerite Isherwood, see cast details below.

The Grand Theatre was then converted to a 'Continental Theatre' which involved transforming the auditorium into a cabaret dining Theatre. Alas this did not last. The Stage Newspaper of 1st December 1960 reported:- 'The first night was something of a fiasco, principally because the attendance was overwhelmingly large and the staff was unable to cope with the numbers. However, the attendances from that stage onwards never justified the enterprise or expenditure. Not until near the end did the atmosphere assume it's rightful aspect. By this time, however, the management seemed to have changed hands several times, the financial state was beyond redemption the Grand remains closed.'

The Theatre became a Bingo Hall. This too eventually failed and the Theatre was demolished in 1963. 'The Bolton Evening News' publishing offices were built upon the site.

Thus Bolton's Circus/Variety Theatre ended it's days of providing entertainment for the Bolton public, and another of Frank Matcham's architectural gems was erased.

Cast Details from a programme for 'Cinderella' at the Grand Theatre, Bolton for the week commencing January 13th 1958 - Kindly Donated by Marguerite Isherwood.Cast Details from a programme for 'Cinderella' at the Grand Theatre, Bolton for the week commencing January 13th 1958 - Kindly Donated by Marguerite Isherwood.

 

Above - Cast Details from a programme for 'Cinderella' at the Grand Theatre, Bolton for the week commencing January 13th 1958 - Kindly Donated by Marguerite Isherwood.

The above article on The Grand Theatre, Bolton was written for this site by David Garratt in February 2014 is © David Garratt 2014.

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

The Empire Theatre, Deansgate, Bolton

Later - The Hippodrome Theatre

On the 24th August 1908 a new theatre opened it's doors on Deansgate Bolton. The Bolton Empire Theatre, built for Thomas Hay. It was a large good looking building, built opposite the Post Office on Deansgate. The building's façade had a large central entrance with two floors above featuring large central windows, with a grand pediment high above. At first floor level were two oval ornamental windows each side, and at each corner of the front façade was a domed tower, surmounted by a flag pole. The roof was pitched and does not seem to have had a fly tower over the stage.

It is recorded that within a month of opening part of the variety performance contained a section showing early cinematic film.

Eight years later in 1916 the Empire changed hands and became a full time Cinema, being taken over by the H. D. Moorhouse chain of cinema's, and now renamed 'The Hippodrome', under the Bolton Entertainment Co Ltd. By the late 1920's British Thomson-Houston sound equipment had been installed.

The Hippodrome continued as a cinema up until the early 1940's when it returned to theatrical use, becoming the home of the Bolton Repertory Theatre. Repertory productions continued until 1961 when the Theatre finally closed. The Theatre was later demolished, and a car park made of the Theatre's site.

The above article on The Empire / Hippodrome Theatre, Bolton was written for this site by David Garratt in February 2014 is © David Garratt 2014.

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

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Bolton in 1867, 1871, 1872, and 1873.

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