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The Chelsea Palace Theatre, 232 - 242 Kings Road, Chelsea

Formerly - The Chelsea Palace of Varieties

The Chelsea Palace Theatre in a sketch from the ERA of the 25th of October 1902.

Above - The Chelsea Palace Theatre in a sketch from the ERA of the 25th of October 1902.

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An early flyer for the Chelsea Palace Theatre with the Arthur Lloyd Trio performing 'Little Charlie and the Twin Sisters in December 1903 - Kindly Donated by Gareth Price.The Chelsea Palace Theatre on the Kings Road in Chelsea was designed by Wylson and Long and built for the Chelsea Palace Syndicate as a variety Theatre by the contractor C. T. Kearly.

Right - An early flyer for the Chelsea Palace Theatre with the Arthur Lloyd Trio performing 'Little Charlie and the Twin Sisters' in December 1903 - Kindly Donated by Gareth Price.

The Theatre originally opened as the Chelsea Palace of Varieties on Easter Monday the 13th of April 1903 with a variety show, and had a seating capacity of 2,524 on two levels, stalls and pit, and one gallery with boxes.

The ERA reported on the new Theatre in their 11th of April 1903 edition saying:- 'The front of the building is designed in free Renaissance style, and depends for its effect upon a bold treatment of details, very little ornament being employed. The main effect of the buff terra-cotta is brought out by a contrasting frieze of deep blue mosaic with the name "Chelsea Palace Theatre" in gold thereon. The centre portion of the front is emphasised by a pediment, supported by Corinthian columns, and behind the pediment rises a generally proportioned metal dome, which, besides being a bold architectural feature, serves to mark the situation of the building at night-time by its brilliant electrical illumination. An ornamental iron and glass shelter extends along the whole frontage of the building and a part of the way along Sydney-street, affording protection from the weather to the public while waiting for the doors to be opened.

An early postcard depicting the Chelsea Palace Theatre.The architects have succeeded in giving a maximum amount of seating accommodation in every part of the house with an uninterrupted view of the stage from every seat. Ample gangways and approaches to the seats are provided, whilst there is a reasonable sufficiency of room for those who prefer, as many do, to stand instead of occupying seats.

Left - An early postcard depicting the Chelsea Palace Theatre.

Every part of the building is fireproof. Even the platforms on which the seating is fixed, the bearers, and the circle fronts are of concrete, and all the internal joinery is of hard wood; so that every possible safeguard is arranged for the protection of the public, including fire appliance, and the steel and asbestos curtain which completely separates the auditorium from the stage. This curtain has really a most effectively painted scene, and has a duplicate lowering apparatus near the stage-door close to the street; in case of fire (an incident of rare occurrence in variety theatre) the curtain can be operated at that point; above the curtain a powerful sprinkler is also fitted, which can be worked from the stage-door by simply turning a lever, when a continuous stream of water at 60lb pressure is thrown down.

Fourteen separate entrances and exits opening into two streets have been arranged, so that crowded audiences can enter and leave with very great readiness and facility. The main entrance - that is, to stalls and balcony - is made through three pairs of swing doors opening from the King's-road into a spacious vestibule with mosaic floor. The walls thereof to a height of 5ft. are lined with Australian oak panelled and moulded dado, above which are fixed handsome French tapestry paintings in carved and moulded oak frames artistically set out in panels.

A variety programme for the Chelsea Palace TheatreA variety programme for the Chelsea Palace TheatreA variety programme for the Chelsea Palace Theatre

 

Above - A variety programme for the Chelsea Palace Theatre for Monday, February the 2nd, 1914, with Albert Chevalier and George Formby on the Bill. See cast details below.

An early postcard depicting the Chelsea Palace TheatreAn elegant and welcome Innovation has been made by the placing over the proscenium a border of deep crimson velvet embroidered most beautifully in gold. The rich simplicity of this design is repeated in the box borders, and the effect is very charming. The idea is due to the suggestion of the well-known firm of Shoolbred, and has been carried out under the direction of its representative, Mr George Ridout, who has had the stalls carpet dyed specially to match the draperies. The contract for the seating has been carried out by the well known firm of Mr J. S. Lyon, of High Holborn.

Right - An early postcard depicting the Chelsea Palace Theatre.

Under the centre tapestry is the Sicilian marble tablet commemorating the laying of the foundation stone by Major W. F. Woods, Mayor of Chelsea, which ceremony, it will be remembered, took place Oct. 22nd, 1902. In the vestibule on the opposite side is fixed the walnut box-office for stalls and private boxes. Facing the entrance doors is a handsome three flight staircase constructed in marble mosaic, each step decorated with a design that gives a wonderfully effective appearance of warm and comfortable carpet. The centre flight leads down to the stalls, and the two side flights lead up to the balcony and the foyer. On the half-landing of this staircase is an oak box-office for the balcony patrons. The oak dado is continued up the wails of this staircase, and the outer edge of the steps is enclosed by a very handsome oak balustrade of bold design. The foyer is treated in a manner similar to the entrance vestibule - with mosaic floor, oak dado, and tapestry panels, and a panelled ceiling over, appropriately painted and decorated. At the end of this foyer is fitted a handsome and striking automatic refreshment buffet, erected and supplied by the company of similar name, where light refreshment can be obtained on the "help yourself " principle.

Details from a variety programme for the Chelsea Palace Theatre for Monday, February the 2nd, 1914

Above - Details from a variety programme for the Chelsea Palace Theatre for Monday, February the 2nd, 1914, featuring Mabel Thorne, Idento Bros, Belle Davis, Albert Chevalier, George Hatton & the Bell- Hattons, Molly Wells, Shirley & Ransome, George Formby, Polly & Day, and the Palace Bioscope.

The auditorium is 64ft. wide, 84ft. from front wall to curtain line, and 46ft. In height from the pit floor to the ceiling. The ground floor is divided into stalls and pit, above which is a balcony circle with four private boxes, and over the balcony a large gallery. The proscenium opening is 28ft., and the stage is fitted in the most complete manner, its dimensions being 80ft. by 31ft. The floor line of the stage has been kept specially low, so as to enable the occupants even of the front rows of stalls to have a better view of the performance than is customary. At the side of stage is ample dressing-room accommodation for the artists, and each room is faced all round with grey glazed bricks from floor to ceiling.

The internal decorations (by the well-known Mr Boekbinder) are in modern Renaissance, the prevailing tints being cream and café-au-lait relieved with gold and lines of light colour. The central portion of the ceiling is painted with allegorical figure subjects, and the sides of the proscenium and the circle fronts have enriched panels painted and relieved with gold, while handsome electric light fittings complete the effect of a refined and graceful scheme. Although chaste and simple, the ceiling decoration is brilliant as well as effective, the paintings being strikingly beautiful, and the central electroller adding to the wonderfully artistic effect.

A clever and unique method of door and doorway has been applied to the private boxes (of which there are four), where, by a slight pressure, the door automatically disappears. The system has been in use on the Belgian State railways, and is being largely adopted in public buildings on the Continent. All the doors throughout the building are fitted with the wonderfully secure and convenient Yale locks.

The ventilation of the auditorium has received special attention, and each part of the house has been separately dealt with, the system adopted being that of electric motors driving exhaust fans on each tier, while a large central fan in the ceiling operates the open part of the theatre. From the thought and care that have been bestowed on this matter it is not too much to hope that the theatre will be one of the most efficiently ventilated in the metropolis.

Similarly the question of heating has received full consideration, and en efficient system of hot-water heating has been installed both in the auditorium and on the stage. The exceptional warming of the latter will, it is expected, prevent the draughts so often noticed whenever the curtain is raised. With a view to reducing these draughts to a minimum radiators have been placed as near as possible to the outside doors so as to heat the air when it passes into the building.

The lighting throughout is electric, two companies bringing separate supplies into the building viz, the London Electric Supply Corporation and the Chelsea Electric Light Company. This duplicate system renders the use of gas quite unnecessary.'

The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in the ERA, 11th of April 1903.

A Bill for 'Jack and the Beanstalk' from the Panto Season at the Chelsea Palace Theatre in 1950/51 - Courtesy Tony Craig

Above - A Bill for 'Jack and the Beanstalk' from the Panto Season at the Chelsea Palace Theatre in 1950/51 - Courtesy Tony Craig whose mother Jessie Jewel is featured on the Bill along with Dan Leno Junior. Tony says ' Dan Leno (Junior) is Dame, Mom (Jessie Jewel) is Principal Boy. Mom played quite a number of Panto Seasons with Dan Jr, he was a truly lovely 'Dame' but he used to regularly lose his voice for the first few days of each Panto run so Mom would cover his lines for him till he re-gained his voice. A lot of the dialogue in Dan's Panto's was in rhyme (the very traditional Pantomime way).'

The Chelsea Palace Theatre had first opened on Easter Monday the 13th of April 1903 with a variety show, and would go on to function as such for many years afterwards. In 1951 it was taken over by Granada Theatres but was not converted for cinema use, instead carrying on with live entertainment.

In August of 1957 however, Granada converted the Theatre into a Television studio producing such productions as 'The Army Game' and the variety show called 'Chelsea at Nine.' The Theatre also became host to several Television concerts including one which featured the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1963.

The Theatre was used in this way for a few more years until Granada moved their operations to Manchester and the Theatre was closed up and remained so until eventually, like so many others at this time, it was sold to developers who demolished the Theatre in 1966 and built a Heals Department store on the site.

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