The People's Palace Theatre, Baldwin Street, Bristol
Later - The Palace Theatre / New Palace Cinema / Gaumont Cinema / Ritzy / Creation
The People's Palace Theatre was built for Messrs Horace and L. C. J. Livermore and constructed by C. A. Hayes, of Bristol to the designs of the architect James Hutton of Dundee. The Theatre, which was in the Italian Renaissance style, and could accommodate 3,000 people, opened on Boxing Night, the 26th of December 1892 with a Music Hall production under the management of the Livermore Brothers.
The ERA printed a report on the building and its opening night production in their 31st of December 1892 edition saying: 'This palatial building opened on Boxing Night, but the internal decorations are not yet completed. Everything connected with the Palace is on the grandest possible scale, and the proprietors, Messrs Horace and L. C. J. Livermore, must be complimented for adding such a noble building to our ancient city.
Right - An early twice nightly Variety programme for the Palace Theatre, Bristol, under the management of Horace Livermore - Courtesy Peter Charlton.
The contractor, Mr C. A. Hayes, of Bristol, has very successfully worked on the plans of the architect, Mr J. Hutton, of Dundee. The upholstery is by Mr A. R. Dean, of Birmingham; and Messrs Rogers and Davies, of Blackburn, have painted very pretty and suitable scenery.
Situated in Baldwin-street, with convenient access from all parts, the palace has a frontage of 90ft. The style is Italian Renaissance, and the building will comfortably seat three thousand persons. It is built on similar lines to the People's Palace, Dundee. Three entrances lead to the auditorium, which consists of stalls, pit, grand circle, private boxes, and gallery; and the exits are so arranged that the building could, if need be, be emptied in two minutes.
The chief features of the interior are a circle of Corinthian columns, surmounted by arches and an entabalature; the ceiling is dome form, decorated and enriched in plaster work, the colouring being picked out in gold. A fine sunlight of four thousand candlepower is fixed in the dome, and lights the building admirably. The stage is commodious, with convenient dressing-rooms and other necessary offices, and there is a subway for the performers. All parts of the house communicate with the three entrances, and a four-inch water-main has been laid on, with hydrants, hose, and all modern appliances, in case of fire.
At half-past seven, the time advertised for the commencement of the entertainment, there was not standing room in any part of the house, and money had been turned away. The proceedings commenced with the National Anthem, which was well received, and well played by the excellent band under the direction of Mr Alfred Chapman. Messrs Livermore Brothers then appeared upon the stage, and the senior partner in a neat speech, welcomed the audience, and paid a graceful compliment to Mr Hayes for the excellence of his work, and the energy he had displayed to enable the Palace to open as advertised; and he also referred in similar terms to the other gentlemen whose names have been previously mentioned. Mr Livermore then went on to explain that it was the intention of the management to supply a pure and wholesome entertainment, and he asked for the co-operation of the public in suppressing anything objectionable. The Brothers then retired, amid tumultuous applause.
A good entertainment followed. The Two Farrells, song and knockabout artistes, had the first turn, and caused much amusement; Wallis and Langton, the London boys, were appreciated for their songs and patter; Brady and Johnson, comedy sketch artists, were very entertaining; Miss Winifred Yates, R.A.M., and Mr Robert Emslie, L.A.M., have fine voices, and sang several ballads and duets artistically; Miss Marion Johnson, song and dance artist, pleased the audience; Herr Grais gave a clever juggling performance, and his blindfolded monkey on the tightrope provided a treat. Mr T. W. Newton gave an excellent ventriloquial entertainment; and the concluding turn was Albini, with his clever mystical entertainment "The Sailor and his Lass," in which the trick of the vanishing lady was neatly done, and loudly applauded. The acoustic properties of the palace seem to be excellent, and the large audience appeared to be highly pleased with the entertainment.'
The Theatre was converted to a Cinema in 1912 but this closed on the 30th of June 1927 and was then altered by Frank Verity who reconstructed the auditorium whilst leaving the original facade intact. The Theatre reopened on the 14th of February 1928 as the New Palace Cinema.
The name was changed under new ownership to the Gaumont Theatre in 1952 and some alterations to modernise the auditorium were done in the early 1960s.
In 1974 the Theatre was very nearly demolished and the site rebuilt but thankfully the plans were eventually refused. However by 1980 the Rank organisation, who then owned the Theatre, decided the building had had its day and closed it down on the 15th of March 1980.
The building was subsequently converted into a nightclub called the Ritzy, later becoming Creation Nightclub in 2003. In 2006 the building became the Sports Cafe for a short while but this closed in 2007. Since this time the Theatre has remained vacant and future use is uncertain despite the building's exterior being Grade II Listed.
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Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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