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The Chiswick Empire, 414 Chiswick High Road

 

The Chiswick Empire from a Postcard - Courtesy Dave Gregory of 'Postcards of the Past.'

Above - The Chiswick Empire from a Postcard - Courtesy Dave Gregory of 'Postcards of the Past.'

 

The auditorium of the Chiswick Empire - From a newspaper cutting which was framed and hung in the Pack Horse Inn, a Public House situated next door to the Theatre - Courtesy John West.The Chiswick Empire was designed by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham and built for Oswald Stoll with an exterior designed in the Neo-Classical Style. The Theatre opened on the 2nd September 1912 with a Variety show including many of the biggest names of the period. The Theatre's auditorium had a capacity of 1,950 with 890 in the Stalls, 454 in the Dress Circle, and 596 in the Balcony. It's stage had a proscenium width of 44 feet and an orchestra pit capable of housing 15 musicians. There were 10 dressing rooms for the artistes.

Right - The auditorium of the Chiswick Empire - From a newspaper cutting which was framed and hung in the Pack Horse Inn, a Public House situated next door to the Theatre - Courtesy John West.

Although built primarily as a variety Theatre the Empire also staged plays on occasion, and it was during rehearsals for one of these plays, 'The Devil's Dream' that a major fire broke out on the 19th of August 1913, less than a year after the Theatre had opened. The fire destroyed the Theatre's stage and caused a lot of damage to the auditorium.

Undeterred though, the management soon had the Theatre restored and just three months later it reopened with the aptly named play 'The Miracle' on the 15th of November 1913.

By the 1920s the Theatre was home to twice nightly variety, revues, plays, and opera, all to regularly filled houses, but despite this in 1932 it was converted for full time Cinema use and a Western Electric sound system was installed to accompany the films. However, variety was soon back at the Empire and films were relegated to being shown on Sundays only.

 

Chiswick Empire - From a postcardDuring the early years of the war the Theatre was closed but it reopened towards the end of 1941, and then went on to have a very successful life as a variety Theatre for many years, where all the biggest names of the day appeared on its stage.

Left - A Postcard showing the Chiswick Empire.

A Variety Programme for the Chiswick Empire on July the 21st 1947. All good things must come to an end though, and especially for Theatres of this period. The Chiswick Empire was closed on the 29th of June 1959 after a sell out week featuring the well known piano playing Liberace. Only a month later the Theatre had been completely demolished and an office building, called Empire House, soon arose on the site.

Right - A Variety Programme Cover for the Chiswick Empire for July the 21st 1947. On the Bill were the Two Playboys, Zelda Day, Bobbie Kimber, Max Bacon, Dudley and his Little Tough Guys, Monte Rey, Suzette Tarri, Victor Julian and his Pets, all accompanied by the Dermott MacDermott Orchestra.

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

 

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