The Dalston Theatre, 12, Dalston Lane, (formerly Rosebury Place), Hackney
Formerly - Dalston Circus / North London Colosseum Theatre / North London Colosseum and Amphitheatre / North London Colosseum and National Hippodrome / London Colosseum and National Amphitheatre / Dalston Colosseum / Dalston Theatre of Varieties - Later - Gaumont Cinema
Above - The Main Entrance of the former Dalston Theatre in a photograph taken in November 1949 whilst in use as a Cinema and sporting the Gaumont Name.
The original building on this site was opened as the Dalston Circus in 1886 and is said to have been able to accommodate some 1,030 people all seated, but it was not very successful and the following year it was being used as a Variety Theatre under the name of North London Colosseum Theatre. It then ran under a succession of different names for many years, as the North London Colosseum and Amphitheatre, the North London Colosseum and National Hippodrome, and the London Colosseum and National Amphitheatre, but was still in its original form of a Hippodrome Circus type venue.
In 1898 the building was rebuilt as a proper Theatre by Kirk and Kirk, designed by the architects Wylson and Long, and renamed the Dalston Theatre. The new Dalston Theatre opened on Monday the 25th of July 1898 and had an auditorium on two levels, stalls and one circle, decorated in the Italian renaissance style. The ERA printed a review of the new building in their 30th of July, 1898 edition saying:- 'By the opening on Monday night of the handsome new theatre adjoining Dalston junction a notable addition has been made to the outlying playhouses of London. It enjoys the important advantages of being situated in a densely populated district, close to one of the principal stations on the North London line, while tramcars pass the door every few minutes.
Right - An early pantomime programme for 'Cinderella' at the Dalston Theatre under the management of Milton Bode and Edward Compton - Billed as 'Dalston's Third Grand Christmas Pantomime' so probably produced in the early 1900s.
The enterprising proprietors claim to have given London a new type of playhouse, it being arranged with only one tier above the ground floor. It is not many years since Sir Henry Irving suggested a house of this class, and called it his patent safety theatre; but it has been reserved for Messrs Bode and Compton, and their architects, Messrs Wylson and Long, of 16, King William-street, Strand, to be the first to put the principles then suggested into practice, as far as the site and surroundings would allow.
The new house is entered by an unusually spacious vestibule and entrance hall from Dalston lane. The stalls are reached from this entrance by a few steps down. On each side of the stalls are very cosy looking private boxes, the fronts of which add greatly to the decorative design of the interior. The staircase leading to the dress circle is of noble proportions, and is decorated, together with the entrance hall and vestibule in light tones. It leads first to a cheerful little lounge decorated with warm colours, and very comfortably furnished. The dress-circle is of great width and is finished next the stage by large stage boxes, and at each side by family boxes. Immediately behind the dress-circle seats is a row of Continental boxes, and at the rear of these is the gallery. As the gallery is really a continuation of the rake of the dress-circle the occupants of the gallery obtain an excellent view of the stage. The pit and gallery are entered from Rosebery-place. The former is of great size, and has been given a grand rake to enable all to have an uninterrupted view. Indeed, it is impossible to find in any part of the house a seat that does not fully command the stage.
The decorations of the auditorium are Italian renaissance in style, and every ornament and moulding has received the same care as the designing of the building itself. The domed ceiling is believed to be the largest in London, and the ornament is finished in light tints of colour richly relieved with gilding. All boxes and the proscenium-opening are draped with rep curtains of a deep red tone, which, by contrast with the delicate tones of colour used in the decorations, give an effect of great magnificence to the whole interior.
The building has been erected by Messrs Kirk and Kirk, of Esher-street, Westminster, and the constructional ironwork by Messrs Dennett and Ingle, of 5, Whitehall. The decorations were carried out by Mr J. M. Boekbinder, and the upholstery and furniture by Messrs Shoolbred and Co. The stage is of a size capable of taking any production, with a proscenium opening of great width, and has been fitted up by Messrs Cawdery and Co. The whole of the building is lighted by an electric light installation by Messrs Strode and Co., and is also fully provided with gas lighting by Messrs Vaughan and Brown, who have also executed the fire hydrants and appliances. The entire building, together with its accessories, has been carried out under the personal superintendence of the architects.
Left - Cast details from an early pantomime programme for 'Cinderella' at the Dalston Theatre under the management of Milton Bode and Edward Compton - Billed as 'Dalston's Third Grand Christmas Pantomime' so probably produced in the early 1900s.
On Monday evening the programme was opened by Mr Franklin Clive singing the national anthem, accompanied by the orchestra, conducted for this night only by Mr Walter Slaughter, the audience rising and assisting. This was followed by the performance of the comedietta, entitled Hook and Eye, the author, Mr Eille Norwood appearing successfully as Ned Fairleigh. Mr Clifford Bown was amusing as the ex-sergeant, Joshua Gedling, Miss Mona Harrison was a pleasing Sylvia, and Mr A, W. Munroe appeared as Harry Selbourne...
Mr Milton Bode, who, as well as the architect, met with a very hearty reception, added a few words of welcome, hope, and promise, also acknowledging the good work done by the architects, builders, and decorator. Amongst those present were Mr J. B. Mulholland, of the Metropole, Camberwell; Mr A. T. Henderson, of the Grand, Fulham; Mr Isaac Cohen, of the Pavilion, Mile-end; Mr W. Clarkson, and others. We may add that there is an excellent orchestra, of which Mr E. T. De Banzie is director; and that Mr H. Emmerson has been appointed acting-manager.'
The Dalston Theatre opened in 1898 and continued as a Variety Theatre and Playhouse until the October 1919 when its lease expired. The Theatre was then bought by Biocolor Picture Theatres in 1920 and redesigned as a Cinema by the architect F. Edward Jones who was assisted by the well known architect Robert Cromie. The new Cinema had an auditorium on three levels, stalls and two balconies, with seating for over 2,000 people, and although the interior was reconstructed, the original Wylson and Long auditorium walls were kept, albeit being raised to accommodate the new auditorium's height, but the stage of the original Theatre was removed. Amazingly, despite all these changes the main entrance to the Cinema on Dalston Lane was still that of the original Circus building of 1886. The Theatre reopened on the 6th of December 1920 with a showing of the film 'The Illustrious Prince'.
Biocolor Picture Theatres were taken over by Gaumont in 1927 but the Theatre retained its name until the late 1940s when it was renamed the Gaumont, a name which it retained until its closure on the 19th of November 1960 with a final showing of the films 'The Seige of Sydney Street' and 'Hello London'.
Above - The side elevation of the former Dalston Theatre in a photograph taken in 1973
The Theatre was then used as a warehouse for the supermarket Tesco for a while, and then as a car auction room, although the foyer area was used as a nightclub called 'The Four Aces.' Sadly the building became more an more derelict over the years and despite opposition from the Theatres Trust, the CTA, the Georgiam Group, and local campaigners the building was demolished in February 2007 and the site was used for new housing. There are many photographs of the interior of the Dalston Theatre shortly before its demolition here.
Above - The Main Entrance of the former Dalston Theatre in September 2003 - Photograph courtesy Andrew Woodyatt
Above - The side elevation of the former Dalston Theatre in September 2003 - Photograph courtesy Andrew Woodyatt
If you have any more information of images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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