The Euston Palace of Varieties, Euston Road and Tonbridge Street, King's Cross
Later - The Euston Theatre / Euston Musical Hall / Regent Theatre / Century Cinema
The Euston Theatre of Varieties was designed by Wylson & Long and built by the builders, Kirk and Kirk. The Theatre opened on the 26th of December, 1900 with a capacity of 1,310, and was later known as the Regent Theatre. The Theatre was demolished in 1960.
The laying of the foundation stone
The foundation stone for the Theatre was laid during the first two months of construction, in June 1900, and the ERA covered the story in their 16th of June 1900 edition saying:
'The laying of the foundation-stone of the Euston Theatre of Varieties on Tuesday inaugurates another important music hall enterprise, and gives a place of amusement to one of the busiest arteries of central London. Situated at the junction of Euston-road, Tonbridge-street, and Argyll-street, and immediately facing St. Pancras Station, the site is an ideal one, and the theatre will minister to the wants of a densely populated district.
The building was commenced scarcely two months ago, and the progress already made reflects the greatest credit on all concerned, and the delay that arose during the inception of the plans in consequence of "ancient lights" claims is to be atoned for in some degree by the prospect of the contractors, Messrs Kirk and Kirk, creating something like a record in theatre building.
The facade is designed in a free treatment of Renaissance, executed in red bricks and buff terra-cotta, and flanked at each end by square towers. The principal entrance faces Euston-road, with the pit and gallery to the left; but as the house is to be worked on the two performances a night system, additional pit and gallery entrances have been provided in Tonbridge-street. The entrance hall (in which is situated the box office) will be about 32ft. wide. The lower portion will be wood, with painted decoration above. In the wall of this hall the foundation-stone was laid on Tuesday by the Earl of Euston, D.L., J.P. The block is of solid marble, and bears the following inscription in gilt letters:-
This stone was laid by
From the entrance hall staircases lead to the stalls and balcony, the balcony being on the pavement level, and the stalls considerably below. The seating on the ground-floor will be divided into the usual pit and stalls, whilst at the back of the pit (under the entrance hall) will be a spacious lounge.
The auditorium measures about 55ft. by 62ft. inside, whilst the height from ground floor to gallery ceiling is 60ft. The seating accommodation above the ground floor will consist of a balcony with four private boxes - two on each side - and a large gallery over. The stage, which will be fitted with a fireproof curtain, is a very large one for this class of house, in order to allow for spectacular productions, and is 47ft. deep and 54ft, wide, the proscenium opening being some 30ft. in width. A roomy range of dressing-rooms will be situated at the rear of the stage, access to which is gained from Tonbridge-street.
Right - A Glimpse of the Auditorium and stage of the New Euston Theatre of Varieties - From 'The Sketch' December 26th 1900
The constructional ironwork has been designed so as avoid obstructing the view from any one seat in the house, and is being executed by Messrs Hawkins and Baxter. The whole of the interior will be erected in iron and concrete, including even the roof, so as to eliminate, as far as possible, all fire risks, for, although it is not possible to build a fireproof theatre, the architects intend that this shall be fire resisting to the utmost. The interior decorations are being executed by Mr J. M. Boekbinder. A special feature is being made of the dome, which is to be covered with a painting representing a Fete Champare a la Watteau, and will undoubtedly prove a most artistic feature of the auditorium.
There was a large crowd of people prominent in variety circles at the ceremony on Tuesday. Among those we noticed were Mr Henri Gros (the chairman of the Euston), Mr G. Adney Payne, Mr Henry Tozer, and Mr Joseph Davis (directors), Mr W. Millwood, Mr Henry Sutton, Mr Vernon Dowsett, Mr James Howell, Mr Angelo A. Asher, Mr George Burgess, Mr E. Swan-borough, Mr C. A. Wilkes, Mr C. Smith-Wilkes, Mr Herbert Sprake, Mr E. S. Barnes, Mr E. V. Pag Frank Talbot, Herren L. M. Waldmann and Willhiem (of Vienna), Mr F. Miller, Mr C. Beecham, Mr F. Holden, Mr J. W. Edgar, Mr C. Gray, Mr Blythovertt, Mr Fred J Erwood, Colonel Probyn, L.C.C., Mr .Tames Worswick, Mr G. Ridout, Mr S. Hyman, Mr Percy L. Willby (secretary of the company), Mr J. M. Boekbinder, Mr Fred M'Avor G. Richter, Mr Joseph Chapman, Mr Horace Marriott (secretary of the Music Hall Benevolent Fund), Mr Richard Warner and Mr Walter De Freece, Mr H. J. Didcott, Mr Charles Lauri, Mr Paul Valentine, the Rev. J. H. Anderson, Mr W. J. Strong (clerk of the works), Mr Leo Stormont, Mr Edgar Lee, Mr F. Higham, Mr Will Oliver, Dr. Patrick E. Campbell. Mr 'Thomas Claxton, Mr A. O. Dick, Mr J. J. Donaghue, Mr Henry Emanuel, Mr W. B. Fendick, Mr William Graham, Mr Percy Gold, Mrs Annie Horne, Mr T. E. Halloran, Mr L. P. Joyce, Mr Walter F. Mills, Mr H. Masters, Mr Alan Macey, Mr Eugene C. Stafford, Miss Mary Smyth, Mr A. J. Tozer, Mr Pemberton Willard, Mr R. A. Burdett, Mr J. 0. Cathie. Mr W. H. Dawes, Messrs Davis and Pollak, Mr and Mrs C. J. Edgar, Misses Florence and Stella Esdaile, Mr F. Farrell, Mr A. E. Fleming, Mr T. Grimsdall, Mr James Hubert, Mr J. H. Jennings, Mr Henry Kelly, Miss Syria Lamonte, Mr Samuel Barnard, Mr Walter Meller, Mr Ben Nathan, Mr G. W. Perry, Mr O. H. Phillips, Mr George Peel, Mr Jack Somers, Mrs G. A. Payne, the Baroness Valmar, Vesta Victoria, and others.
The building, which has been only seven weeks in progress, has been reared to the balcony tier, and it is confidently expected that it will be completed and ready for opening by the first week in November. Whilst the guests were arriving the Canterbury Theatre orchestra, ably conducted by Mr Peter Conroy, played a selection of popular airs.
Above - An image of the auditorium of the Euston Theatre of Varieties during its time as the Regent Theatre, when it was about to return to Live entertainment with a pantomime in 1950. This photograph was displayed in the foyer of the Regent Theatre at that time. The metal casing in the centre of the upper circle was to house six "Major Equipment" pageant 1KW lanterns. - Courtesy Alan Chudley.
Mr HENRI GROS, the chairman, asked the assembled company
to join with him and the directors in thanking Lord Euston for his
kindness in attending there that afternoon at the instigation of his
friend, Mr Payne. It might seem to some people that this was a trivial
function, but the presence of his Lordship testified that at all events
it was a commendable one. The amusement of the people was at all times
a matter of importance. It had occupied the attention of legislators
from the earliest times. Even the great Napoleon
Mr Wylson having handed Lord EUSTON the trowel, a bottle containing current coins of the realm was placed in a cavity in the nether stone, and his lordship proceeded in a workmanlike manner to spread the mortar. When the marble block was lowered in site he declared it "well and truly laid." Three hearty cheers having been given, his lordship said he had been very pleased to come there, and if he had been of any use in helping forward what we hoped would be a most prosperous and successful enterprise his reward would be ample. He understood there was some little discontent respecting the licence, but still that was a thing they could not beat the governing authorities upon, and, perhaps, after all, there was as much to be said on the one side as the other. He hoped this building would progress satisfactorily, and that when completed it would be perfect in all its parts and as successful a venture as the directors and shareholders could desire. He once more wished them hearty good luck.
A blessing on the undertaking having been offered by the Rev. J. H.Anderson, the Rector of Tooting, Mr G. A. PAINE proposed a cordial vote of thanks to Lord Euston, who, he was assured, had given up a most important engagement in order to be with them that afternoon, so that their thanks were due to him in a double sense. The foundation-stone had been laid, and from what they could see they could form an idea of what the building would be like. It occupied a site around which there was no place of amusement within a radius of a mile, and that was a great thing to be able to say of a little village like London. No effort would be spared on the part the directors to ensure success. It was intended to open on the two houses a night system, and the four hours' entertainment each night would be of the highest class. He hoped that with the assistance of Messrs Wylson and Long, the architects, Messrs Kirk and Kirk, the builders, and Mr W. J. Strong, the clerk of the works, the building would be ready for opening in November.
Mr H. Tozer said he hoped that all those he saw around him would register a vow to be present with him at the opening of the Euston Theatre of Varieties that day six months. He was talking recently to a Scotch friend of his concerning the theatre, and he congratulated him on the fact that there was already a double blessing on the house, as it was being erected under the auspices of "two Kirks." As they would open the new building with the National Anthem, he proposed that they should all sing it now. The strains were immediately taken up by the assembled company. Mr Wylson then handed each director a handsome silver cigar-case, with a view of the building engraved on it as a souvenir of the day, the gift of the architects, and after a photograph had been taken, Mr G. A. Payne invited everyone to refreshments.'
The Theatre's opening
The Theatre opened on the 26th of December, 1900 and 'the Sketch' covered the story in their 26th of December 1900 edition saying:
'Of the making of new theatres there really appears to be no end, for within the last few days two have been thrown open. Both are in St. Pancras- namely, the Camden Theatre, in Camden Town, and the New Euston Theatre of Varieties, opposite the Midland Terminus. The first-named theatre was fully, described and pictured in The Sketch many weeks ago, but, owing to certain unavoidable delays in the preparations of those concerned, it has not been possible to describe and picture the New Euston until now.
Right - A Glimpse of the Auditorium and stage of the New Euston Theatre of Varieties - From 'The Sketch' December 26th 1900
One wonders why so busy a thoroughfare of London as this part of the Euston Road should have been so long neglected in the matter of amusement-temples. For the vast crowds of visitors and others pouring in and out all day long from the Midland, the Great Northern, and the Euston Termini there has been no place of amusement for a mile or so around. Nothing, indeed, but the Grand, Islington, Collins' Music-Hall, and the Agricultural Hall, a good way North ; and the Oxford, the Bedford, and the Metropolitan Music Halls, a long way West. At last, however, thanks to the enterprise of Messrs. G. Adney Payne (the Managing Director), Mr. Henry Gros (the Chairman), Mr. Henry Tozer, and Mr. Joseph Davis, this long-felt want has now been supplied.
As will be seen from the illustrations, the Euston is indeed a palatial building, not only as regards its imposing exterior, but also as regards its really beautiful auditorium. In addition to the cosiness and the splendid line-of-sight which the architects, Messrs. Wylson and Long, have achieved, this interior is full of artistic merit. In proof of this, it is only necessary to call attention to the specimens given of the charming paintings which Mr. J. M. Bookbinder, has contributed to certain parts of the said auditorium.
Left - A Specimen of the Mural Decorations at the new Euston Theatre of Varieties. - From 'The Sketch' December 26th 1900.
These paintings alone are worth a long journey to see, and certain it is that the patrons who will twice per night fill London's latest magnificent Variety Theatre will murmur admiration for these pictures. They are surely among the very best with which this artist has embellished many leading theatres and Music-Halls, to say nothing of noble mansions by the score.
The, Directors (with them Mr. Fred A. McAvoy as Manager) promise at least ten of the best turns per "house." Moreover, their stage being fifty-six feet wide and forty-six feet deep, they will be able to present many a large-sized spectacular show, for which Mr. T. E. Ryan will paint the scenery. Finally, it may be said that the New Euston is indeed a thing of beauty, and ought to be a joy at least throughout the next New Century, if not longer. If it is not, it will be through no fault of the theatre, or of its architects or management.'
Right - A Specimen of the Mural Decorations at the new Euston Theatre of Varieties. - From 'The Sketch' December 26th 1900.
The above text in quotes was first published in 'the Sketch,' 26th of December 1900.
Another review of the building
In their 22nd of November 1900 edition the ERA printed a review of the new Euston Theatre of Varieties shortly before it opened saying:
'The directorate of the new Euston Theatre of Varieties in the Euston-road invited their friends and fellow-citizens on Wednesday evening to gaze on what - in this last month of the dying century - may be considered an ideal building for the housing of entertainment, which is to be triply crowned by Melpomene, Thalia, and Euterpe.
Mr George Adney Payne, of immense experience and wide knowledge in everything pertaining to music halls; Mr Henri Gros, a borough councillor, with the artistic instincts of a Frenchman and the keen business intelligence of an Englishman; Mr Henry Tozer, another borough councillor, with a positive genius for finance; and Mr Joseph "Duncraig " Davis, a successful commercial man, cooperate in the management. In the prices they have fixed they have wisely studied the pockets of the working classes, for the place is built in a neighbourhood that teems with toilers; and though the lavish expenditure and excellent taste displayed on all hands would seem to fit in with the establishment of a fashionable house, it will be the sixpences and threepences of the masses that will make it pay.
The position has been most admirably chosen, for the new Euston stands
immediately opposite the St. Pancras Hotel and Midland Terminus and
the Great Northern. Close by is the King's-cross station that opens
up the whole Metropolitan Railway system, and within a few minutes'
walk is Euston Station. 'Twas a dreary road at one time - the Euston,
and - as the latest variety poet has said-
Unblest with hall of music mirth, and song,
But that Fairy Enterprise has just come along, and now we see a palace that should surely "lift to the eternal summer" of prosperity, and that must always be an important factor in the lightening of the burden of toil among the vast population that surrounds it.
Above - The Euston Theatre of Varieties - From an early Postcard
The architects who have done so well - who, indeed have surpassed any of their previous purely theatrical work - are Messrs Wylson and Long. The style of the fine facade in the Euston-road - where, by-the-way, are placed the principal entrances - is of English Renaissance, to correspond with the interior, the materials employed being red brick and buff tera cotta. The building is flanked at each end by square towers. On entering one of the four main doorways one's attention is immediately attracted by the chasteness of the sober oak-coloured dado, modelled fibrous plaster. The decorative scheme of this portion of the beautiful house is in Flemish Renaissance of the sixteenth century, a style of architecture so nearly resembling English Renaissance that the vestibule is quite in keeping with the general decoration of the interior and exterior of the house.
On the left of the entrance hall has been placed the foundation-stone, which was laid by the Right Hon. the Earl of. Euston on June 12th, and it bears the following inscription in gilt letters :
This stone was laid by
The Venetian marble mosaic of Messrs Diespeker and Co. has been selected for paving the vestibule, the great advantage claimed for this material being that there is no joint whatever throughout the whole of the floor, which is as pleasing in appearance as it is durable. Underneath the entrance vestibule is the pit saloon. It need hardly be added that here again the style of decoration is as carefully attended to as in the other parts of the house, and that the furniture is as comfortable as can be desired. Similar refreshment accommodation has of necessity been provided in the gallery. From an archway at the left-hand side of the vestibule is a staircase which leads to the stalls passage, giving access to the orchestra and pit stalls. A similar archway on the right leads to the grand circle.
Arriving at the balcony tier, one enters the promenade, on the right of which is the foyer, or refreshment room, which is separated from the promenade by a handsome glazed screen. The decorations of this really charming saloon are in the Louis Seize style, the deviation from the general decorative scheme being thought advisable, as it favours lightness. The necessary cloakrooms and offices are, of course, provided in the grand circle and other parts of the hall; and on this tier also is to be found a private room for the use of the officials. On either side of the main entrance are staircases leading to the pit and gallery. These staircases are very roomy and fire-resisting, in accordance with the County Council requirements.
The principal idea which the architects and designers had in view was to carry out the scheme of the directors to provide in all parts of the house a maximum amount of seating accommodation. That they have done their work in masterly fashion, and that all other points necessary in successful theatre architecture have not suffered is manifest. That regard for comfort has been particularly applied to the cheaper parts of the house is evidenced by the fact that the gallery tier contains no fewer than seventeen rows of seating accommodation, a unique number in the annals of theatre building. In the grand circle seven rows of seats, amplified by a small promenade at the back, have been provided. The pit also contains a promenade and nine rows of seats, Finally, there are four rows of stalls and five rows of orchestra stalls, and the boxes, four in number, contain accommodation for twenty persons.
As regards general style and colour effect for the auditorium, the scheme adopted is a free treatment of English Renaissance; the colours are café au lait and gold, the whole being relieved by artistic dome and wall paintings and plastic decorations. Mr J. M. Boekbinder, whose name has almost become a household word in theatre decoration, with his army of artists and modellers, not to mention several Academy professors from Belgium who have given their valuable aid, are responsible for the feast provided for the eye. Handsome plaster decorations picked out in gold adorn the fronts of the grand circle and gallery tiers, as well as the proscenium opening and the boxes, a feature of much artistic interest being the striking effect produced by the modelling of the balcony front. Here figures of tiny boys are holding swathes of drapery, from which beautiful electroliers hang. In the domed ceiling a really fine series of pictures has seen produced, the subject - a fete champetre in the time of Louis Quinze - being continued right round. The figures are fancifully dressed in the costume of the period, and the pastoral scene, with its twilight effects, is increased in its pretty effectiveness by the introduction of Chinese lanterns amongst the trees and shrubs. Every figure is a study from life, and so artistically painted is the whole scheme that it deserves a closer scrutiny than will be possible to the public from a distance of forty feet. A fitting companion to the beautiful wall and ceiling adornments has been provided by Mr T. E. Ryan, the scene-painter who is responsible for the artistic drop-curtain. To give every part of the scheme of decoration as permanent a character as possible, the directors decided to employ tile decorations to a considerable extent. The walls of the pit, grand circle, and gallery have tiled dados, five and six feet high, running all round the house, from the Porcelain Tile Company.
The auditorium has a depth, measured from the curtain line to the back of the balcony screen, of 72ft,, and the width between the walls is no less than 36ft. The height from pit floor to the centre of the dome is 43ft., the diameter of the dome being 27ft. The stage, which is constructed on the most up-to-date plans, is large enough for the presentation of any sketch or production that may be desired. The width of the proscenium opening is 29ft., and the height 25ft.
Messrs Kirk and Kirk are responsible for the building of the Euston, and they have taken care that everything that is necessary for securing good workmanship and sound construction is carefully attended to. And here it should not be forgotten that the success of Messrs Kirk in the present instance must, to a large extent, be ascribed to the intelligence, care, and skill displayed by Mr Strong, their general foreman in charge, whose untiring energies have rendered it possible to complete the hall, fit for opening, before Christmas.
An iron curtain shuts off the stage from the auditorium, and numerous
fire hydrants have been placed in various parts of the house, which
serve as first aid in protecting the public in case of need. The electric
art fittings, some of the finest that have ever been produced, are the
work of Messrs Osier and Co., of Oxford-street, of glass fame, whose
beautiful electroliers are constructed so as to harmonise with the style
of architecture adopted. The Yale lock system, by which all the sets,
as well as the single locks, on all the doors of the building are controlled
by a small master-key, has been adopted, as is usually the case with
all the best modern theatres.
On Wednesday evening an impromptu entertainment was given under the direction of Mr Fred M'Avoy, the manager, the excellent band of the establishment, under the direction of Mr Bond Sayers, filling the orchestra. Mrs George Adney Payne, who was most enthusiastically received, sang "The Holy City" with much charm of voice; Miss Edith Courtney, the popular singer from the Palace, was heard to advantage in a favourite ballad; Mr Ian Colqhoun's fine voice and method gave immense satisfaction in that characteristically Irish song, "Off to Philadelphia;" and Mr Jake Friedman, the Liedertafel Quartet, Miss Elsie Leslie, and others also entertained.
The visitors included most of the leading music
hall financiers and proprietors, and many came from the theatres
to see the latest variety palace. Among those we encountered were Messrs
G. Adney Payne, J. L. Gravdon, H. Barnato, Jesse Sparrow, Hartley Milburn,
H. J. Didcott, Philip Yorke, Louis Edwards, Herbert Newson Smith, Sidney
Hyman, J. H. Jennings, Henry Sutton, Horace Marriott, Paul and Alfred
Martinetti, Frank Rendle, Herbert Campbell, Angelo Asher, Mr and Mrs
George Foster, Henri Gros, Dick Warner, Lundy, Millwood, H. T. Brickwell,
Albert Gilmer, Vernon Dowsett, Frank Glenister, Joseph Davis, Henry
Tozer, John Brill, Boekbinder, G. Ridout, Long,
Wylson, Elliott, Lyon, Mr anti Mrs C. Blyth-Pratt, Mr and Mrs Lewis,
of Chigwell, and many more.
Renaming to the Regent Theatre
Above - An image of the auditorium of the Regent Theatre, when it was about to return to Live entertainment with a pantomime in 1950. This photograph was displayed in the foyer of the Regent Theatre at that time. The metal casing in the centre of the upper circle was to house six "Major Equipment" pageant 1KW lanterns. - Courtesy Alan Chudley.
The Theatre remained a vaiety theatre until 1920 when it was renamed the Regent Theatre and used as a playhouse.
The Regent was later converted for use as a Cinema in 1935 and this continued until 1950 when the building was returned to Theatrical use under the Regent Theatre name.
Right - An Advertisement for Max Miller appearing at the Regent Theatre, King's Cross in February 1951 - From a 50th year Souvenir Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Regent Theatre, King's Cross.
An Extract from the 50th Year Souvenir Programme at the Regent Theatre
DID YOU KNOW ? That when the "Regent" opened in 1900 it was known as " The Euston Theatre of Varieties"?
Right - The 50th year Souvenir Programme for the Regent Theatre, King's Cross during the run of 'Cinderella'.
That it was described as one of London's "classy", Music Halls and such stars as Marie Lloyd, Daisy Dormer, Chirgwin, Mark Sheridan and Little Tich appeared here?
That in 1920, under the management of Sir Barry Jackson it was re-named the Regent Theatre, and that famous plays, including "Abraham Lincoln" and " St. Joan" were produced here?
That from 1925 to 1932 the London Repertory Company staged a further series of noteworthy plays. In 1935 it became a Cinema.
Left and Right - Extracts from a 50th year Souvenir Programme for 'Cinderella' at the Regent Theatre, King's Cross.
DO YOU KNOW ? That our Stage Lighting is the most modern in the world and that no other theatre is fully equipped with fluorescent stage lighting?
That we are equipped with the finest Stereophonic Amplification?
And---getting down to more personal matters-you can book any seat in the Theatre and enjoy your favourite drink in any of the three Bars. There's one on each floor!
The text above is from the 50th Year Souvenir Programme for the Regent Theatre.
Renaming to The Century Cinema
Above - The old Euston Palace of Varieties whilst
in use as a Cinema called the Century in a photograph taken from the
street outside St Pancras Station in the mid to late 60's - Courtesy
The Regent Theatre was later in use as a Cinema again under the name of the Century Cinema. A visitor to this site, Shamus Dark, has recently sent in a photograph of the building (Shown Above) and some of his memories about the Theatre during this period. Shamus says: 'I moved back to King's Cross in 1963 and lived only a few hundred yards away in Birkenhead Street. At that time, the Regent had become a cinema and was re-named The Century Cinema. I'm not sure when this happened, but perhaps it was in the late 50's. Anyway, I was a regular there up until the late 60's. The last film I saw there starred Bette Davis and if I remember rightly, they showed mostly old films, or at least, old-ish stuff. Another film I clearly remember seeing at the Century was a piece starring Brandon de Wilde, Carol Lynley, Macdonald Carey and Marsha Hunt. It was called Blue Denim in the U.S., but Blue Jeans in the U.K. and was a story about teenage pregnancy and abortion - quite a daring subject at the time. It was down at heel and had obviously seen better days and I think fell into disuse, either in the late 60's or sometime in the 70's. It lay empty for some years, before, sadly, being demolished to make way for the hideous council building, unfortunately still extant. - Shamus Dark.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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