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The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

Theatres in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England

The Pomegranate Theatre - The Theatre Royal - Gaiety Theatre of Varieties - The Theatre Royal / Hippodrome Theatre - The Palace Theatre

The Pomegranate Theatre, Corporation Street, Chesterfield

Formerly - The Stephenson Memorial Hall / The Corporation Theatre / The Civic Theatre

A Google StreetView Image of the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield - Click to Interact.

Right - A Google StreetView Image of the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield - Click to Interact.

The Pomegranate Theatre is situated in Corporation Street, Chesterfield, and was originally built as the Stephenson Memorial Hall in 1879. The architects being Smith and Woodhouse of Manchester. The exterior is of Gothic architecture consisting of brick and stonework.

The Stephenson Memorial Hall was enlarged in 1898 at the eastern end, by the architect W. H. Wagstaff, with a large stage extension, complete with dressing rooms, and the addition of a low fly tower. It was intended for public concerts and municipal use, but was poorly equipped for theatrical presentations.

The building was renamed 'The Corporation Theatre' approx 1904.

In 1949 the Hall received further improvements by Chesterfield Corporation, to the designs of the architect E. Bonsall, and has operated as a Theatre ever since, first known as the Civic Theatre, but today known as the Pomegranate Theatre. The auditorium features the original Stevenson Memorial Hall trusses, supported on corbels, supporting the roof. The walls of the auditorium are plain, with a straight balcony, the front of which has some decorative ornamentation. The proscenium has square columns either side of the opening, supporting a low arched tympanum. The auditorium floor is raked with an apron fore-stage above the orchestra pit, capable of holding 16 musicians.

In 1990 Chesterfield Corporation carried out major repairs to the roof and trusses with the help of the architect David Botton.

Technical details today are: Proscenium arch width 7.67 metres, with a stage depth of 11.82 metres. Each wing space measures 3.24 metres. The fly tower has 24 hemp flying sets and the grid height is 13.2 metres above the stage. The safety curtain ascends to 5.22 metres. The stage has a 1 in 24 rake. Prompt side is stage right, and there are 6 dressing rooms. The Theatre's 'get in' doors are via Station Back Lane, at the rear of the building.

The Grade II Listed Pomegranate Theatre today operates a mixed programme of entertainment consisting of Drama, Ballet, Comedy, Musicals, One night stands, Cinema screenings, and Christmas Pantomime. Something for all tastes serving the public of Chesterfield.

You may like to visit the Theatre's own Website here.

The above article was kindly written for this site by David Garratt.

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

The Theatre Royal and Concert Hall, Theatre Yard, Chesterfield

Formerly - The New Theatre

A Google StreetView Image of Theatre Yard, Chesterfield, the site of the former Theatre Royal - Click to Interact.

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

There is mention in the records that a 'New Theatre' was opened in 1786, situated in Theatre Yard. The Theatre opened on the 29th August 1786 with a farce entitled 'I'll tell you What' written by Elizabeth Inchbald, followed by 'The Romp, Or A Cure for the Spleen,' which was an Opera comedy written by Isaac Bickerstaff.

During the mid 1800's audiences declined due in some part to poor standards of acting and production. The Theatre's reputation also declined, experiencing raucous behaviour. The Theatre also found itself in a non- salubrious part of town, by the Kennels, and tried to regain favour by changing it's name in 1842 to the 'Theatre Royal' and again later in 1863 to 'Theatre Royal and Concert Hall'. However it still declined. No longer able to find Theatre managers who would run it, Chesterfield turned to the local Amateurs Dramatic Society, but this did not work either and the Theatre became disused. In 1879 an article in the Derbyshire Times stated 'The corporation possess a ramshackle dirty old barn, misnamed a theatre; it is down a yard inaccessible to carriages, and it has become so lost in reputation and in dirt that no efforts can induce the Chesterfield public to visit it, and all the theatrical managers who try it, leave the town in despair and generally in debt also.'

Thus in 1879 the corporation transferred the Theatre's entertainment licence to the Circus in Corporation street. A building which would eventually be renamed and used as a Music Hall called the Gaiety Theatre of Varieties.

According to the Theatres Trust the Theatre Royal building was later converted into a warehouse, then a fire station, the site later becoming part of Theatre Yard Shopping Precinct in 1982.

The above article was kindly written for this site by David Garratt.

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

The Gaiety Theatre of Varieties, Corporation street, Chesterfield

Formerly - A Circus

The Gaiety Theatre of Varieties, formally a Circus, situated on Corporation Street, Chesterfield, presented Music Hall entertainment. It's first night presented acts which included Nemo the Japanese Juggler, comic vocalists, Irish character's, and clog dancing. The next week's attraction was billed as Zazel the Female Gymnast. The Music Hall changed hands a couple of times, but by 1896 was superseded by a new Theatre.

The above article was kindly written for this site by David Garratt.

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

The Theatre Royal, Corporation Street, Chesterfield

Later - The Hippodrome Theatre

Mr Darbey of Rotherham, who owned other Theatres, built a new Theatre in Corporation Street which was a good location in Chesterfield leading from the Midland and M. S. and L Railway stations. The new Theatre was designed by Rollinson and Sons. The front of the Theatre had a stone base, the upper portion being pressed brick with stone dressings, pediment and balustrade with windows of tinted glass. The auditorium was fitted with all the latest improvements and arrangements, seating over 1,600 people, all with a good view of the stage, enabled by the stage having a rake and the Gallery having a suitable slope. The seating was comprised of tip up seats all covered in crimson plush supplied by A. R. Dean, Limited, of Birmingham. The decoration was chiefly terra-cotta, the front of the Gallery being relieved with white and gold. The stage was fitted with a fireproof curtain and a new drop scene, a view of Chatsworth House the Palace of the Peaks, specially painted by the artist Mr W. S. Todd. The Theatre had ample exits and hydrants in case of fire. Backstage the dressing rooms were spacious and well ventilated with the latest sanitary arrangements. The Theatre was granted a full licence for it's refreshment bars, and the whole building had been built with comfort and convenience both for the audience and artists. The builder was Messrs Charles Green and Co, contractors, of Wellgate, Rotherham, under the superintendence of manager Mr Grantham. The Theatre manager being Mr E Miall.

The Theatre Royal opened on Monday the 19th of October 1896. A crowded house eagerly awaited the orchestra under the leadership of John Holman to strike up. First the National Anthem was played and then Mr and Mrs Harry Battersby's Juvenile Company performed 'Les Cloches de Corneville,' (a very early musical comedy).

The ERA newspaper of the 24th of October 1896 stated:- 'The opening attraction here last Monday was Mr and Mrs Harry Battersby's Juvenile Comic Opera Company, the opera chosen for representation being 'Les Cloches de Corneville', in which Master Victor Gouiet essays the part of Gaspard, the miser, with telling effect. Miss Kitty Jones is a pleasing Germaine, and Miss Tilley Stewart a sprightly Serpolette. Miss Madge Douglas sings sweetly as Grenicheux. Master Harwood Roberts as the Bailie and Master Willie Garvey as Gobo, the Baiilli's shadow, are most successful. The dresses and scenery good.'

A Poster for the Chesterfield Hippodrome - Courtesy David Garratt.By October 1899 the Theatre was owned by Mr Frank McNaughton who made it part of the McNaughton Theatre circuit, renaming it 'The Hippodrome Theatre.' The Acting Manager was Mr P. Murray. The week of 28th October 1899 was Mr Henry Dundas's Company in 'Human Nature'.

On the 17th of November 1902 the weeks entertainment was provided by 'Aloie's Circus and Variety.'

On the 16th of March 1903 the entertainment was a weeks engagement of Variety starring J. W. Rowley and Lockhart's Elephants.

Right - A Poster for the Chesterfield Hippodrome - Courtesy David Garratt.

The week commencing the 6th of April 1903 consisted of a week's Variety with Hackenschnim (the famous wrestler) and the four Empire Bells appearing.

In 1916, on the week commencing 21st of April, Will Murray's one and only 'Casey's Court' appeared for the week.

Early on films were projected by the Bioscope, advertised as the 'ever popular Hipposcope,' as part of the Variety programme. It is thought that the projection box was at the rear of the stage.

In 1922 the Theatre Architect Bertie Crewe designed a new auditorium interior, however the rather plain exterior was retained. The Theatre now had a 30 foot wide proscenium with a stage depth of 28 feet, and had eight dressing rooms. It re-opened on the 3rd September 1923 with the Revue 'The Pin Wheel.'

On the week commencing the 20th of February 1928 the Revue 'What'll I do' was staged, followed on the 16th of July by Jen Latona in 'Vaudeville Follies.'

In August 1930, the theatre was equipped with B.T.H. sound equipment and became a full time cinema opening on the 8th September 1930 with the film 'The Hollywood Revue,' starring Jack Benny, Buster Keaton and Joan Crawford. There were however, the occasional live stage presentations during this period. October 24/25/26th 1932 saw the play 'The Chinese Puzzle' performed on its stage.

In 1938 the cinema was taken over by new management who reverted the building back to live theatrical use. Records show that the week commencing 27th January 1941 the Revue 'Don't Blush Girls' was performed on the stage, and on the 17th of February the same year another stage Revue entitled 'Silk Stocking Scandals of 1941' played for the week. This featured Burton Lester (a popular American entertainer with his gang of comedians) Mark Rivers, Tommy Seymor, Danny Keen, Gladys Neville and the Six Hiawatha Hotshots.

In the Summer of 1950 Frank H. Fortesque's Famous Players presented a ten week season of plays. And on the 4th August 1950 the Stage Newspaper announced that the Theatre had been sold to Terence Byron Ltd, (the lessee).

At Christmas 1952 the Pantomime was 'Mother Goose' featuring Ethel Manners, Chris King and Joyce, Joan and Betty Morton, Jimmy Thorpet, Joe Bentley, Frank Alcock, June Cobill, the Balmoral Four, Mollie McCullens Ballet girls, and Kirby's Flying Ballet.

Christmas 1953's pantomime was 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears', featuring Trevor Williams as the Baron, Lorna Eckersley as Fairy Sunshine, Jack Sherwood, and Zena Foster.

However, in 1954 the Hippodrome Theatre closed for good, and it was then left standing empty and derelict, and subject to vandalism, and was eventually demolished. An underpass was constructed on the site. Thus years of variety, plays, repertory, films and pantomime came to an end, just leaving Chesterfield's entertainment in the hands of the Civic Theatre, later renamed the Pomegranate Theatre.

The above article was kindly written for this site by David Garratt.

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

The Palace Theatre, Burlington Street and Church Street, Chesterfield

Later - The Cinema House

The Chesterfield Palace Theatre - From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1911.Situated at the junction of Burlington Street and Church Street, Chesterfield, the Palace Theatre was a Cine-Variety Theatre constructed from premises formally occupied by the Derbyshire Courier. The proprietors were H. H. Broomhead, W. N. Broomhead, and A. J. Hopkins, and the Theatre opened on the 12th September 1910.

Right - The Chesterfield Palace Theatre - From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1911.

The Derbyshire Courier of the 10th September 1910 carried the following report:- 'Chesterfield will soon rank as one of the best amusement catered towns in the country. The latest acquisition is the Palace Theatre in Burlington Street, premises which were formally occupied by the offices of the 'Derbyshire Courier.' The management have made a splendid transformation of the building, which has been most tastefully decorated and painted whilst most of the seats are nicely upholstered. A capital view of the stage can be had from any part of the building, and all precautions have been made to secure the safety of the public. Several special exits have been made, and leading outside from the balcony is an iron staircase. There have been several rehearsals this week, with the machine working the animated pictures, and everything has been satisfactory. The films are wonderfully clear, and the latest pictures will be shown on the opening night (next Monday) and during the week. In addition, the programme will be rendered all the more interesting by piano selections by Mr Bertram Bennan – who is well known in Chesterfield and the district as one of the foremost pianists in the county – and the 'Bohemians' instrumentalists. There are to be two houses each night, with matinees on Saturdays. Further particulars as to prices of admission etc., will be found in our advertising columns. Today (Saturday) the Palace will be thrown open to the inspection of the public. Those who desire to see how the building has been decorated and the comfort of patrons secured, will be personally welcomed by the Directors.' - The Derbyshire Courier of the 10th September 1910.

Performances were twice nightly at 7pm and 9pm with continuous Picture entertainment every Saturday from 2pm till 6.0pm. Prices were 3d, (one and a half pence in today's currency) 6d, (two and a half pence) and 1/- (5 pence). Opening adverts boasted an 'Effects Machine' Whereby Animated Pictures with noise and bustle attendant on real life will be faithfully produced. 'Good High-Class Artistes' promised. Tip-up seats throughout. A special children's entertainment every Friday at 4.30pm priced at 1d, 2d, and 3d. (one and a half pence in today's currency).

Week commencing 26th December 1910. Special Christmas appearance of the Sisters Volka (Comedy Acrobats).

A tragic accident happened at the Palace Theatre a little more than a year after it had first opened, on the 27th December 1911. A Christmas entertainment was to take place at 7.15pm that evening featuring several local children. The children arrived at about 5.15pm and were appearing as Eskimos and Penguins. There were costumed and made ready for the performance and were split into two groups and housed in two dressing rooms. One in the Theatre itself and a dozen of the girls in a dressing room in a next door cottage with access to the Theatre via a spiral staircase. Their costumes were flimsy costumes featuring cotton wool. A fire was alight in the cottage dressing room with a spark guard fitted but with a gap at the top between the top of the guard and the top of the fireplace opening. Their chaperone Mrs Elliot was absent having gone to the stage dressing room to tell the girls to be quiet as they were noisy. There are two theories as to what then took place. The first theory is that one of the girls threw a piece of paper, or a piece of the loose cotton wool into the fire which flared and set fire to the back of the Eskimo costume worn by Elizabeth Bell, standing with her back to the fireplace. In her panic she rushed about amongst the other girls, trying to extinguish the flames, thus setting fire to some of the other girls costumes in the room. Mrs Elliot heard the commotion when returning and tried to extinguish the flames, but the girls in their panic rushed out of the room carrying Mrs Elliot with them and descended the spiral staircase to the stage below, some falling down the stairs and falling over a box at the base of the stairs. Other Adults rushed to their aid extinguishing the flames, but 6 girls were badly burned, and died next day in hospital. The second theory was that one of the girls was smoking and dropped the cigarette onto her costume causing the accident.

An article with pictures on the tragic fire at the Chesterfield Palace Theatre in December 1911 - From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1911.

Above - An article with pictures on the tragic fire at the Chesterfield Palace Theatre in December 1911 - From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1911.

The victims of the Palace Theatre fire were Mabel Swaine (13), Lydia Smith (12), Winnie Wood (14), Ada Tidball (13) Elizabeth Bell (13) and Roberta Yard. All were buried together in a paupers grave in Spital Cemetery.

The Jury at the Coroners Inquest recorded the following verdict:- 'that death was caused by shock arising from burns accidentally received. We also believe that reasonable care was exercised by the manager.'

The following riders added:- a) We suggest that all dressing rooms connected with Theatres shall be part of the licensed premises and frequently inspected - b) We suggest that something be done to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to prohibit inflammable cotton wool or any other inflammable material being used as fancy dress in any entertainment whatsoever.'

Despite the tragedy of the fire at the Palace Theatre in December 1911 the Theatre reopened soon afterwards and continued as one of Chesterfield's early cine-variety Theatres until its eventual closure in 1923 under the name of the Cinema House, a name which had been given to the Theatre in 1914 after its refurbishment and reopening under the management of The Hippodrome Ltd. Succeeding Managements had kept the Cinema House name and had tried various different levels of programming for the Theatre but the writing was on the wall for this building for many years and operations ceased completely under the management of A. B. Taylor in February 1923 due to 'poor business'. The building was subsequently demolished for the enlargement of a Woolworth store on the site.

The above article was kindly written for this site by David Garratt.

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

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