|The Alhambra Theatre was situated on King's Road in Brighton and was designed by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham with an auditorium capable of accommodating some 2,000 people. The Theatre opened as the Alhambra Opera House with a Music Hall evening under the Management of William Bailey on Monday the 29th of October 1888. Another popular Manager of the Alhambra in its early years was Mrs. J. L. Graydon, more information on her can be read below.|
The ERA reported on the opening of the Theatre in their 3rd of November 1888 edition saying:- 'The large, handsome, and commodious building, erected from the designs of Mr Frank Matcham, the well-known architect, in King's-road, Brighton, was opened to the public on Monday evening last, and was crowded to overflowing. Those who were fortunate enough to gain early admission soon had their attention occupied by the fine proportions of the hall, its handsome decorations, and the provision that has been made in every section for the comfort of the patrons.
The exterior is so arranged that it can be used as a theatre, for promenade concerts, or as a circus. The ground floor is divided into reserved stalls, stalls, and hall or pit. The first floor contains the balcony seats and twenty private boxes. The gallery is formed over the balcony, and is not returned along the side of the auditorium.
Above - A 1909 Music Hall programme for the Brighton Alhambra - Courtesy Colin Clarke
The elevation towards King's-road and Russell-street is of red brick and stone, and has a very striking appearance. The principal entrance is approached from the King's-road, entering by four pairs of handsome swing doors through a large vestibule and crush-room, laid with encaustic tiles, the walls and ceilings being pannelled out with plaster ribs and enrichments. The door panels are filled in with painted glass, and the openings are draped with very handsome tapestry curtains. An additional approach is obtained to this crush-room from Russell-street, and a wide corridor takes the visitor to the stalls. A stone staircase with bold brass handrails leads to the balcony and private boxes. The pit entrance is from Russell-street.
The stalls are fitted with comfortable tip-up seats and are upholstered in velvet. The pit seats are arranged in a similar manner to stalls, and are divided with brass rails, so that all persons have their allotted space. There is a very wide and commodious promenade at the back of the pit, with refreshment counters and chairs and tables.
Right - The auditorium of the Brighton Alhambra - From a 1909 programme - Courtesy Colin Clarke
The whole of the ground floor is covered with thick carpets, and has a very warm and comfortable appearance. The balcony contains three rows of tip-up seats, upholstered in blue velvet; at the rear is a very fine promenade with buffets and settees and marble-top tables, the floor covered with thick carpets as before. Along the two sides of the balcony, over the side pit promenades, is a series of private boxes with curved fronts; they are tastefully draped with rich peacock blue plush curtains , and rose-coloured pattern lace curtains. Over these boxes are ornamental arches with circular windows filled in with painted glass, the centres of which open for ventilation. From the rear of the balcony is the approach through two richly draped openings to the outer smoking balcony, commanding a good view of the sea. The gallery is approached by a fireproof staircase direct from Russell-street, and from this part of the house a capital view of the stage is obtained. An extra fireproof staircase is provided on the opposite side of the entrance to the dress-circle and gallery leading direct to the King's-road.
The stage is a large one, and contains all the latest improvements. A large scene-dock is formed at the rear, which can be transformed into stables for circus business in a few hours. There is a large paint-room and lime-light house, and the dressing-rooms are all separated by brick walls and concrete floors from the remainder of the building. Outer iron escape balconies are provided, so that in case of fire the artists can make their escape without passing the stage or any portion of the interior of the building.
Above - Details from a 1909 Music Hall programme for the Brighton Alhambra - Courtesy Colin Clarke
The decoration of the theatre is in French renaissance, and is carried out from the architect's designs, the prevailing tints being cream, rose, and gold. The ceiling is coved at the sides, springing from the top of the private boxes, and is divided out into ornamental panels by richly gilded ribs, Between the boxes are ornamental columns starting from the ground floor up to the ceiling, from which spring the main ribs of the ceiling. The boxes are circular-headed, and are filled in with carved heads and ornamental panels. The work over the entrance to the stalls is richly decorated with large shell ornaments, with sea horses starting from same. Around the proscenium opening is a Sienna marble border, and outside of this a massive concrete cove, decorated with a large medallion over the centre, containing the arms of Brighton. The stage opening is fitted with asbestos fireproof curtain, so that with the marble border and concrete cove and the absence of the usual inflammable material, it will he next to impossible for a fire occurring on the stage to reach the auditorium. The building throughout is fitted up with hydrants by Mr Heathman, of London, and everything has been provided for the protection of the public from fire which skill and experience can devise.
The electric light is used in all parts, supplemented with gas, and gives a very fine and brilliant appearance to this handsome building. The ventilation has been thoroughly studied and is perfect in every respect. The appearance of the entrance halls of this magnificent building, it should be mentioned, is certainly rendered more effective by the number of exceptionally fine paintings supplied by the principal of the Fine Art Gallery, No. 80, King's-road.
On Monday evening, as we have said, every portion of the spacious house was crowded. The performance opened with the National Anthem. Mr W. F. Moss followed with three comic songs, and was well received. Miss Lily Ernest's songs and skipping-rope dance elicited the demand for a repetition; the Brothers Young gave a Negro interlude with great success; the Sisters Jonghmanns next appeared, and delighted the audience with their duets and quartets; Chas. Fontaine, in clogs and skates, and on stilts, gave a wonderful wire performance, and gained the heartiest of applause; Mdlle. Grace Lucelle and her troupe of dancers appeared in a ballet divertissement, introducing the objectionable cancan, to which reference is made in another column; Mr G. H. Macdermott, who arrived late, was warmly received, and sang several comic songs; and Messrs Young and Reeves closed the programme with a song and dance. The band conducted by Mr Badger was of very indifferent quality, and the whole entertainment was under the direction of Mr William Bailey.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 3rd of November 1888.
The Alhambra opened on Monday the 29th of October 1888 but would have quite a short life as a variety Theatre and Circus venue. The Theatre closed in 1912 and was then converted into a Cinema and renamed the Palladium Cinema with a capacity of 1,200.
In 1936 The Theatre was bought by the Odeon Circuit and renamed the Odeon Cinema when the Facade was modernised in the Art Deco style. But the Cinema was renamed back to the Palladium Cinema in 1937. The end came for the building when it was closed in 1956 and demolsihed in 1963. The Site today is home to the Brighton Centre. For more information and pictures of the Alhambra in its various guises you may like to visit this website.
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.
Popular Managers, Mrs. J. L. Graydon - The Encore April 19th 1895
Many people look with an envious eye upon the manager of a public place of amusement and think that the life is a bed of roses. Let anyone take the cares of management for a short space, with the worries, anxieties, and the thousand and one intricacies connected therewith, and they will find it is not all milk and honey. Our illustration this week is Mrs. J. L. Graydon, the popular manageress of the Alhambra, Brighton.
Right - Mrs. J. L. Graydon, also known as Miss Lottie Cherry in her Music Hall performing days, helped her husband Mr. J. L. Graydon run the Middlesex Music Hall. She also helped manage Foresters Music Hall with her husband and then went on to manage the Alhambra in Brighton. - From the Encore April 19th 1895 - Courtesy Jean Green, Great Granddaughter of John William Cherry.
Mrs. Graydon belongs to a talented family; her father was Mr. Cherry, a song-writer and composer, and in his time was the most popular song-writer of the day, and he has immortalised himself by being the author and composer of "Will o' the Wisp"; her brother Alfred was a very fine solo pianist and a good all-round athlete.
At an early age Mrs. Graydon took to the variety stage, and as Miss Lottie Cherry was a bright particular star, and she can tell you as a star turn she did nor receive anything like the amounts that are paid to star turns of the present day; amongst her principle songs that she sung and were whistled in the streets we might mention "Under my umbrella," "They call me the merry little Captain of the Guard," "Who'll buy my water-cresses," and "Starlight Nell."
Mrs. Graydon was appointed last year manageress to the Alhambra, Brighton by the directors of the General Purposes Syndicate, Limited, and it was a wise choice, for Mrs. Graydon is a past mistress of the art, having graduated at the Foresters, which hall was owned by her husband, Mr. J. L. Graydon, and which he sold some seven years ago to Mr. Lusby, the present proprietor. Mrs. Graydon was practically the manageress of the Foresters for over three years, and since then the principle that two heads are better than one, has helped her husband materially in the management of the Middlesex.
The Alhambra, Brighton, was opened in December, 1893, and the status of the hall has fallen to a low ebb, but Mrs. Graydon has altered matters, and has removed all traces of anything like failure. (Please note that the date of opening above is at odds with the date I have for the opening of the Theatre in 1888 - M.L.)
Text and images from from the Encore, April 19th 1895 - Courtesy Jean Green, Great Granddaughter of John William Cherry, who writes: 'During my Family history search I came across a cutting from a paper dated April 19th showing Mrs J L Graydon (nee Charlotte Elizabeth Cherry) born 1849. Her father was a professor of music and songwriter, amongst the music he wrote were "Will o' the wisp," "Shells of the ocean," "Trees of the forest," "Beautiful is the sea," "Dear little Shamrock," and "Moonlight on the ocean.' - Courtesy Jean Green.
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