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Theatres in Chester, Cheshire, England

The Royalty Theatre - The Theatre Royal / Music Hall

The Royalty Theatre, 20 to 24, City Road, Chester

A Google StreetView Image of the site of the former Royalty Theatre, Chester - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the site of the former Royalty Theatre, Chester - Click to Interact.

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The Royalty Theatre was situated on City Road in Chester and opened on Boxing Day, Tuesday the 26th of December 1882, with a two performances of a production of the Christmas Pantomime Aladdin. The Theatre was built for Messrs Walker, Cartar, and Chalton, on the site of a former wooden Circus building, and at the time of its opening it was the only Theatre to be standing in Chester. The Theatre was designed by the Southport Architect B. E. Entwistle, and built by a Bleakley and Son of Birkenhead.

The ERA reported on the new Royalty Theatre in their 30th of December 1882 edition saying:- '...At the outset the management were singularly unfortunate in several of their arrangements, and had to encounter many serious drawbacks. The foundation upon which they had intended to build was found to be unstable, and they had to go deeper - of coarse, at considerably greater expense. Then the contractor who had commenced the work withdrew from it and another one had to be selected, which necessitated, as a matter of course, another delay. These and similar drawbacks have hindered the new management greatly, and it has only been by working night and day for some months past that the New Royalty has been brought at all near completion by the advertised time of opening.

The contractor who has completed the work is Mr Bleakley, of Birkenhead; and the architect is Mr Entwistle, of Southport. The management, as we have before said, is entirely local, and comprises three gentlemen - Mr F. A. Walker, of the Lead Works, a recently elected city councillor; Mr Jas. W. Carter, and Mr C. W. Chalton, to whom we Cestrians owe a deep debt of gratitude for the liberality and enterprise they have displayed in our behalf.

In giving a brief description of the new building we may say at once that all outside show has been discarded. The exterior is singularly plain and business-like in character, and is ornamented only by the well-designed shop fronts which form the boundary on either side of the entrances. In the interior everything that could possibly be done to beautify it has been done, the management having been most lavish in their expenditure, It is of the orthodox horseshoe form, with stalls, pit, and pit stalls on the ground floor; dress circle and a spacious promenade on the second storey; and a large gallery on the highest level.

On either side of the stage are the boxes, which are so constructed that two of them may be formed into one if occasion requires it. The whole auditorium is estimated to hold some 2,000 persons, 800 of whom can be accommodated in the gallery, a like number in the pit, orchestra, and pit stalls, and some 120 in the dress circle, ample accommodation for the remainder being provided in other parts of the house.

To light the building Messrs Strode, of London, have been employed, and also the Midland Brush Company, the latter of whom have supplied their electric light for the entrances, the vestibule, and several of the ante-rooms. The auditorium itself is principally lit by a large central sunlight containing upwards of 200 burners. The furnishing and upholstery have fallen to Mr T. Cavanah, the well-known theatrical-upholsterer of Manchester, who has accomplished his share of the work in his well-known finished style. The pictorial decorations for the interior have been most chastely executed by Messrs Dondy and Goodall, of Liverpool, the prevailing colours being buff and gold, which are made to harmonise most artistically. The stage decorations have been done by Mr John Turner, late of the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, who has been appointed scenic artist to the theatre. This gentleman has not yet finished the regular drop scene; but has supplied one for the pantomime season which is extremely picturesque and appropriate. Its subject is the "Compliments of the Season," which has been worked out on a kind of variegated scroll. It has a most pleasing effect. Bordering this is the very elegant proscenium, which is rich in buff and gold tracery work, and is surmounted by the Royal Arms.

And now we come to the stage itself. This is extremely large, measuring some 56ft. by 44ft., and really appears almost as large as the theatre itself. It is bounded on either side by a number of well-appointed dressing rooms; which, we believe, will be found by the artistes to be much superior to those of most provincial theatres. The stage is itself replete with every modern appliance, and is fit, we should say, to hold any but the very largest spectacles produced. It has been built by Mr R. Crowe (late of the Leicester Opera House), who has been appointed stage carpenter. Above the stage are situated large painting rooms, and below it are the carpenter's-shop, and also a large scene-dock.

We have omitted to mention that large refreshment-bars have been provided on each level, and that there is abundant lavatory accommodation, as well as waiting-rooms, cloak-rooms, a manager's-room, &c. The means of ingress, and egress too, it should be mentioned, have been pronounced by the authorities thoroughly satisfactory.

The opening ceremony was originally fixed to take place on Saturday evening, the 23d inst., but at the last moment it was announced that, owing to some delay in the mechanical arrangements on the stage, the opening would have to be deferred until the morning of Boxing Day. This was of course a great disappointment to the public as well as a considerable pecuniary loss to the management, as the whole of the higher priced seats in the house had been booked long beforehand, and there were enough people waiting to gain admission when the announcement was made to fill the building twice over.

A numerous audience assembled on the Tuesday morning, and the opening was proceeded with as ceremoniously as possible. The National Anthem having been played by the band, under the direction of Mr F. Bogetti, R.A.M., and sung by a select choir, the trio of managers appeared, surrounded by Mr John Bannister, the author of the pantomime, and the principal members of the company... Mr Owen Danoy, who is already well known in Chester, has been appointed acting-manager.'

The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in the ERA, 30th of December 1882.

The cast of the Christmas Pantomime 'Cinderella' on stage at the Royalty Theatre, Chester in December 1934 - From the Cheshire Observer, Saturday 29th of December 1934.

Above - The cast of the Christmas Pantomime 'Cinderella' on stage at the Royalty Theatre, Chester in December 1934 - From the Cheshire Observer, Saturday 29th of December 1934.

An Indenture for the purchase of a building near the Royalty Theatre, in Foregate Street in 1912, for use as offices by Milton Bode and Edward Compton, kindly sent in by Tim Joosten.The Royalty Theatre had first opened on Boxing Day, the 26th of December 1882, under the ownership of Messrs Walker, Cartar, and Chalton, but later on James Carter took over the running of the Theatre on his own, and was instrumental in introducing 'moving pictures' into the Theatre's variety shows by 1898. Annual Pantomimes were also regular features at the Royalty.

In 1904 the Theatre was enlarged and renovated at a cost of around £2,000, to the designs of T. M. Lockwood and Sous Architects. The builders were J. Williams and Sons and W. Freemau. The Theatre reopened on Monday the 1st of August 1904. James Carter sold the Theatre to Milton Bode, Edward Compton, and Lawrence Booth in 1905.

Right - An Indenture for the purchase of a building near the Royalty Theatre, in Foregate Street in 1912, for use as offices by Milton Bode and Edward Compton, kindly sent in by Tim Joosten.

An Indenture for the purchase of a building near the Royalty Theatre, in Foregate Street in 1912, for use as offices by Milton Bode and Edward Compton, kindly sent in by Tim Joosten, can be seen above right and below.

An Indenture for the purchase of a building near the Royalty Theatre, in Foregate Street in 1912, for use as offices by Milton Bode and Edward Compton, kindly sent in by Tim Joosten.

Above - An Indenture for the purchase of a building near the Royalty Theatre, in Foregate Street in 1912, for use as offices by Milton Bode and Edward Compton, kindly sent in by Tim Joosten.

Milton Bode had become the sole owner of the Theatre by 1922. In 1932 however, Bode sold the Theatre to the Chester born Edmund Keyes, who would later become Lord Mayor of Chester. During this period radio broadcasts were often transmitted from the Theatre. His daughter Ursula Keyes took over the running of the Theatre after her father died in 1961.

The Royalty Theatre was substantially altered in 1957, to the designs of Frank White, the Gallery was removed and converted into an Upper Circle with cantilevered supports, allowing the removal of the pillars which had previously marred the sight lines for many people. At the same time the original plasterwork and boxes were removed, and a new heating system was installed along with new seating and carpets. The Theatre was reopened on the 8th July, 1957 by the well known theatre historian W. McQueen Pope, and a touring production of 'Meet Mr. Callaghan' by Peter Cheyney, with a London cast headed by Richard Gatehouse, which originally opened at the Garrick Theatre.

An advertisement for the reopening of the Royalty Theatre, Chester - From The Stage Newspaper, 6th of June 1957.

Above - An advertisement for the reopening of the Royalty Theatre, Chester - From The Stage Newspaper, 6th of June 1957.

A Google StreetView Image of the site of the former Royalty Theatre, Chester - Click to Interact.Sadly, due to falling audiences the Theatre was eventually closed in early 1966 after the final performance of the Christmas Pantomime, Aladdin, which, ironically, had been the first production to open the Theatre way back in 1882.

Right - A Google StreetView Image of the site of the former Royalty Theatre, Chester - Click to Interact.

After this the Theatre went through several changes of use, firstly as a cabaret club called the 'Chicken in a Basket', and then later as a Bingo club, an indoor skateboarding park, and then a nightclub called 'The Warren Club', later the 'Alchemy' nightclub.

The sad end came for the Royalty Theatre when it was finally demolished in February 2001. The site of the Theatre then remained empty until a Premier Inn was constructed in its place, opening in March 2009.

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

The Theatre Royal, St. Weburgh and Northgate Streets, and Music Hall Passage, Chester

Formerly - The Chapel of St. Nicholas - Later - The Music Hall

A Google StreetView Image of the former Theatre Royal, Chester - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Theatre Royal, Chester - Click to Interact.

An early advertisement for the Theatre Royal, Chester - From the Chester Courant, 31st January 1786.The Chester Theatre Royal was first built as a Chapel in the 13th century and was situated on land belonging to the cathedral. The chapel went through a variety of different uses but was eventually converted for theatrical use as the Theatre Royal in 1777. Usually only open for short seasons, the last theatrical performance at the Theatre Royal seems to have been that of a 'Musical Phenomenon' in November 1853, see advertisement below left. After this the building was sometimes used for council and church meetings but theatricals seem to have come to an end.

Right - An advertisement for an early music hall style production at the Theatre Royal, Chester - From the Chester Courant, 31st January 1786.

An advertisement for an 'Extraordinary Musical Phenomenon' at the Theatre Royal, Chester - From the Chester Courant, 3rd November 1853.In 1855 the Theatre Royal was converted into a Concert Room by James Harrison. It opened as the New Music Hall, Chester on the 26th of November 1855 with a 'Grand Evening Concert', see advertisement below right.

The Music Hall had a three sided gallery which was reached from a single stairway from the foyer, and there were entrances in Northgate Street and St. Weburgh Street.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Chester Music Hall on October the 7th 1876 with his 'Two Hours Genuine Fun' Concert production, and is thought to have performed there again in 1879, he had also previously performed in Chester in 1867.

Left - An advertisement for an 'Extraordinary Musical Phenomenon' at the Theatre Royal, Chester - From the Chester Courant, 3rd November 1853.

An advertisement for the Grand Opening Concert of the New Music Hall, Chester - From the Chester Chronical, 27th October 1855.In the autumn of 1921 the Music Hall was converted and modernised for Cinema use, the first advertisement I have found for this was in the Cheshire Observer on Saturday the 24th of June 1922, which was advertising the films 'A Gamble in Lives', 'A Lamp in the Desert', 'The Man who had Everything', 'The Trembling Hour', and Harold Lloyd's 'Now or Never'.

In 1961 the Cinema was closed and that was the end for its entertainment history. The building was subsequently converted for retail use, and is still in use as such today.

Right - An advertisement for the Grand Opening Concert of the New Music Hall, Chester - From the Chester Chronicle, 27th October 1855.

An Advertisement for Arthur Lloyd at the Chester Music Hall on October the 7th 1876 with his 'Two Hours Genuine Fun' Concert production - From the Chester Chronicle, Saturday the 30th of September 1876.The former Theatre Royal / Music Hall is a Grade II Listed Building today although nothing is visible of its theatrical past internally. The exterior however is partly that of the medieval chapel with some windows bricked in, the frontage to St. Weburgh Street is however, from the 1855 conversion by James Harrison. Above the early parts of the building, especially in Music Hall Passage, the red brick stage house extensions can clearly be seen. The frontage to Northgate Street is of modern stone, apparently dating from 1993

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

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