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The Prince's Theatre, Manchester Road and Victoria Square, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Bradford Index

The Prince's Theatre, Bradford - From an early postcard of Victoria Square - Courtesy Maurice Friedman British Music hall Society.

Above - The Prince's Theatre, Bradford - From an early postcard of Victoria Square (shown below) - Courtesy Maurice Friedman British Music hall Society.

 

Two 1940s Programmes for the Prince's Theatre, Bradford; 'The Guinea Pig' 1948 and 'A Cuckoo In The Nest' 1949 - Click for details.The Prince's Theatre, Bradford was built by Jackson and Langley and was situated above the Star Theatre and Music Hall, later the Palace Theatre, which had opened the year before. It was also situated opposite the future site of the Alhambra Theatre, built in 1914.

The Prince's Theatre opened on the 15th of April 1876 and the ERA printed a short report on the Theatre a month earlier in their 19th of March 1876 edition saying: - 'More than thirty years ago Bradford had a Theatre - the old Theatre Royal in Duke Street. But in the days when that establishment was built and opened Bradford was not the important and populous town it has since become. There are twice as many playgoers in Bradford now, and, as in most other manufacturing towns the demand for intellectual amusement has greatly increased. Bradford will shortly have a second temple of the Drama, a theatrical experiment due to the enterprise of Mr Morgan.

Right - Two 1940s Programmes for the Prince's Theatre, Bradford; 'The Guinea Pig' 1948 and 'A Cuckoo In The Nest' 1949 - Click for details.

The site of the new Theatre is a novel one, the establishment being erected over a Music Hall. The Star Music Hall in the Manchester road may be said to be the foundation of the Theatre, but a thorough separation is made between the two places of entertainment. Between the ceiling of the Music Hall and the floor of the Theatre there is such a solid and compact barrier of iron, sawdust, and concrete, that it is impossible for the sound of what is going on in one place to penetrate to the other. The entire thickness of the united layers constituting this formidable bed is about 4 feet. Upon this sub-structure the new Theatre has been erected.

The extreme height of the building from the floor of the pit to the ceiling is 46 feet; the length of the auditorium, from the footlights to the back of the pit, is 66 feet; and the extreme width of the house is 76 feet. The space between the floor of the pit and the bottom of the boxes is 9 feet, and between the bottom of the boxes and the bottom of the gallery is 9 feet eight inches. The distance from the footlights to the front of the boxes is 44 feet, and there is a space of 34 feet between the front row of side boxes and the opposite its front.

The entire Theatre is estimated to hold 2,880 persons. The pit will be fitted up with backed benches. The auditorium is horseshoe shape and from every part of the house a good view of the stage is obtained. The chairs for the boxes and stalls will be blue. The ceiling will be of iron, and unusually strong. Such being the arrangements of the auditorium, we now turn to the stage, which will be five feet above the floor of the pit. The total width is 68 feet, the opening of the proscenium 30 feet by 27 feet, the distance of the stage to the "grid" is 51 feet.

The new building will be called the Prince'sTheatre, and it will open on Easter Monday, April 17th, with Mr Carl Rossa's Opera Company. Mr and Mrs Bandmann will also have a four week's engagement, and Mr Charles Calvert wilt pi:produce his great Manchester success Sardanapalus. Mr Johnson Towers will be Stage-Manager'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 15th of April 1876.

 

The Prince's Theatre and Victoria Square, Bradford - Courtesy Maurice Friedman British Music hall Society.

Above - The Prince's Theatre and Victoria Square, Bradford - Courtesy Maurice Friedman British Music hall Society.

In July 1878 a fire destroyed the Prince’s Theatre and badly water damaged the Star Music Hall beneath it but they were both restored to use again and reopened by December the same year. The Star reopened on Monday the 23rd of December, and the Prince’s reopened on the 24th of December 1878. The ERA reported on the fire, along with some details of both venues, in their 21st of July 1878 edition saying:- 'A very alarming fire took place in Bradford last Tuesday night, which ended in the almost total destruction of the Prince's Theatre and Star Music Hall, situated between Manchester-road and Little Horton-lane.

Fortunately, the fire did not break out until the performances in both places had been over for some time. The Theatre and Music Hall buildings are the property of a limited liability company, known as the St. John's Theatre and Concert Hall Company, and they were leased to Mr Wm. Morgan and Mr Ellis Cowgill. We believe, however, that that tenancy would have ceased at the end of this month, and arrangements had been made for Mr Charles Rice, of the Theatre Royal, to take the Management.

On Tuesday evening the Theatre had been occupied by a company under the Management of Mr James Taylor, the engagement having commenced on Monday night, and at the Star Music Hall there had been the usual performance. The construction of the building was peculiar, the Music Hall being underneath the Theatre, and having entrances from the lower level in Manchester-road, while the Theatre was approached from the higher level by St. John-street, Horton-lane.

About 10.33 a young woman named Emmett, in passing down Manchester-road, saw a flame through a window near the stage of the Theatre, and she went down to the police-office and reported the circumstance to Superintendent Laycock, who was in charge there. He satisfied himself that her story was correct, and then ordered the fire-bell at the Town Hall to be rung. Several vigorous pulls were made at the lever, but the bell did not give forth the usual alarm, and there was no other resource but to send police-officers round to arouse members of the fire brigade. It subsequently transpired that in the course of alterations at the Town Hall the lever had been disconnected from the bell. This caused considerable delay in collecting the fire brigade, and some minutes elapsed before the apparatus was got ready for action. In the meantime the fire had advanced with amazing rapidity.

An entrance was obtained to the Music Hall, and some of the artists, who were about at the time, succeeded in saving their stage wardrobes and other property. The fire had obtained, however, such a hold on the Theatre part of the building above that the upper part of the wall began to give way. Stones fell at intervals, and it was dangerous to approach the Music Hall. The Theatre artistes were not so fortunate, for with the exception of one member (Mr Estcourt), who had had his property destroyed by a fire at Cardiff Theatre, and has since taken the precaution to take his property home with him, the company lost all their stage dresses and properties.

The fire was not long in getting through the roof, and the Fire Brigade had scarcely arrived when a portion of the roof fell in. The flames blazed to a great height above the building, which was itself of considerable elevation; the heavens were so brilliantly illuminated that the fire could be seen for miles round, and although the alarm bell had not been rung people collected from all quarters of the borough, and before midnight the lower parts of Manchester-road and Little Horton-lane were crowded.

On the arrival of the Fire Brigade both steam fire engines were placed at the bottom of Great Horton-road, and several jets of water were at once thrown on to the building. The fire was burning most fiercely at the stage end of the building, as in this portion the scenery and combustible materials were kept. It was utterly impossible, however, to prevent the flames from spreading to all parts of the Theatre. Some care was therefore bestowed on the adjoining property. About half-past twelve o'clock the fire began to subside. One of the "steamers" took up a position at the bottom of Manchester-road, and the firemen were better able to reach the fire from the adjoining buildings. A portion of the wall fell shortly before this, but luckily the stones fell singly, and caused no injury. About one o'clock the fire began cooling down, and soon afterwards it was successfully extinguished.

A part of the Theatre nearest St. John-street entrance escaped destruction, but there is no doubt it will have to be removed before any use can be made of the walls of the building. As to the cause of the fire no one has any information, but it is believed to have originated near the stage of the Theatre. We understand that during this week Mr Taylor, the Manager of the company, had changed the stage hands, and that he put the stage management into the hands of workmen engaged by himself. The Theatre was left apparently safe about half-past ten o'clock, the performance having concluded about twenty minutes past ten. The performances in the Star had finished about ten o'clock, and in neither of the places when they were closed had anything been noticed to cause apprehension. The company for the week had been Dick Schofield, Marie Leslie, Alex Staunton, Torn Maclean, St. George Hussey, Lilian Robina, Hughson and Malley, Ricardo and Madame Oski.

The Theatre and Concert Hall buildings were of a most substantial character, being of stone neatly dressed. Every accommodation was provided in each department of the place, and every care was taken to prevent the sound of what was going on in one place being heard in the other. Underneath the floor of the Theatre and above the roof of the Music Hall there was a bed of concrete and sawdust 4½ feet thick, laid between the beams and joists. The extreme length of the building was 108 feet, and it covered an area of 1,100 square yards. The height from St. John-street was 52 feet, and the width of the frontage 92 feet. From the Manchester-road level the height of the building from the street was 76 feet.

The Theatre contained thirteen dressing-rooms, as well as a spacious green room and prompter's box, besides numerous store rooms and offices near the entrance. The Theatre would accomniodate in all parts of the house a total number of 2,880 persons, and the Star Music Hall provided accommodation for 2,100. The first portion, the Star, was opened on Monday evening, August 23rd, 1875, under favourable circumstances. The upper part of the building was not then quite finished, so that the Theatre was not opened until Monday, April 17th, 1876, by Carl Rosa's opera company.

The Hall, though saved from the ravages of the flames, has been flooded with water, and the scenery and fittings considerably damaged, though in the course of a week or two it might be again fit for use. The orchestral instruments and other property were rescued from this portion of the building. It is believed that the walls are sound, with the exception of a corner at the stage end near Manchester-road, though it has been found necessary to prop up the front in St. John's-street. If they can be made to support another roof the damages will be, of course, considerably lessened. One of the most serious items of loss is that to Mr Taylor's company, whose dresses, properties, &c., have all been consumed. The only relic that has escaped the flames is the gold watch and chain of the Manager, which had been left on the table of the dressing-room, and was recovered from the midst of the debris on Wednesday forenoon.

A subscription list has been opened in the town for the relief of Mr Taylor's company, Mr C. L. Atkinson, solicitor, and Mr J. F. Nunn, of Sydenham-place, having been appointed receivers.

The total loss sustained by the destruction of the Theatre and the damage to the Music Hall has been variously estimated, but we believe the architects of the building are of opinion that the place can be rebuilt at a cost of from £6,000 to £8,000. If the outer walls were to give way to any considerable extent of course this estimate would have to be increased, but, although it has been thought best to prop the St. John-street front, we do not imagine that there will be any very serious defection in the outer walls. The Theatre building was insured for £5,000 with the Lancashire Insurance Company, and the Theatre furniture and fittings for £1,000 in the Scottish Provincial.

The Music Hall building was insured for £5,775, apportioned as follows:- £3,850 in the Lancashire and £1,925 in the Scottish Provincial; and the Music Hall furniture and fittings for ,£'225, also apportioned between the Scottish Provincial and the Lancashire. In addition to these insurances, the Company have the rent of the building insured for a year for £1,800 - £1,000 with the Great Britain Insurance Office and £800 with the Lancashire. Mr Morgan, the tenant, held an insurance on his scenery and effects to the extent of £1,000 altogether, £600 on the property in the Theatre and the remaining £400 on the effects in the Music Hall. Mr Cowgill, who held the refreshment bars, was insured for £300.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 21st of July 1878.

 

Victoria Square, Bradford from a Postcard. To the right is the Prince's Theatre, below which was the Palace Theatre. And to the left is the Alhambra Theatre.

Above - Victoria Square, Bradford from a Postcard. To the right is the Prince's Theatre, below which was the Palace Theatre. And to the left is the Alhambra Theatre.

A Song Sheet for 'Silver Star' sung by Miss Ethel Gordon in Francis Laidler's 'Cinderella' at the Prince's Theatre, Bradford - Courtesy Irene FullartonDespite the fire both venues were rapidly restored to use again and reopened by December the same year. The Star Music Hall reopened on Monday the 23rd of December, and the Prince’s Theatre reopened on the 24th of December 1878.

Henry Pullan, who had run his nearby Pullan's Music Hall since it was built in 1869, left to take over the running of the Prince's Theatre, and the Star Music Hall beneath it, in 1887. And by 1892 Henry's sons Charles Pullan and James Pullan, had taken over the running of both Theatres, but with Henry Pullan still as owner.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Prince's Theatre, Bradford in: 1890 with his play Ballyvogan (See review below).

Right - A Song Sheet for 'Silver Star' sung by Miss Ethel Gordon in Francis Laidler's 'Cinderella' at the Prince's Theatre, Bradford - Courtesy Irene Fullarton - If you have any more information about this song or the singer, or a date for the production please Contact me.

There was a pass door just inside the stage door of the Prince's Theatre, which was at street level, and this led into the back of the circle of the Palace, formerly the Star Music Hall beneath.

The Palace Theatre closed in 1938, many years before the Prince's Theatre but a lot of old equipment was still left inside including the dimmer mechanism. All the seats in the auditorium had gone however, and there was just the occasional safety light to see by.

The Prince's Theatre was restructured in 1900, again by Jackson and Langley.

The Prince's Theatre closed on Saturday the 27th of May 1961 and then remained empty, along with the Palace Theatre beneath it, until in 1964 when both Theatres were demolished and a garden was created on the site which is now in front of the National Media Museum.

A Google StreetView Image showing the site of the former Prince's Theatre and Star Music Hall / Palace Theatre to the left, the Queen Victoria War Memorial to the right, and the National Media Museum in the centre. To the right of this image and out of shot is the Alhambra Theatre - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image showing the site of the former Prince's Theatre and Star Music Hall / Palace Theatre to the left, the Queen Victoria War Memorial to the right, and the National Media Museum in the centre. To the right of this image and out of shot is the Alhambra Theatre - Click to Interact.

 

A Review in Bradford's Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 30 Sept 1890

"Mr Arthur Lloyd's Company are paying a return visit to the Prince's Theatre this week and are producing the piece "Ballyvogan" with which Mr Lloyd's name is so well identified. This drama has a genuine smack of Hibernian taste and humour, is well mounted and well presented and well portrayed by a capable company.

Miss Katty King sustains her original character of Norah O'Sullivan in the most charming fashion, and her rendering of the two songs was much appreciated by a very good house. Mr Arthur Lloyd was as versatile as ever in his impersonation
of the naughty and humorous Mr McCrindle, and the other characters were well filled."

Review and dates information above kindly sent in by Colin Sutton.

If you have any more information or images of this Theatre 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.

 

You may find the following pages from this site of interest: