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The Alexandra Music Hall, 73 Cowcaddens Street, Glasgow

Later - The Colosseum Hall / The Royal Music Hall / The Alexandra Assembly Rooms / Pringle`s Picture Palace / The Bijou Picture Hall

Glasgow Index

A drawing of the Front Elevation of the Alexandra Music Hall, Cowcaddens, Glasgow, which was situated above the main entrance to the Theatre Royal in Cowcaddens - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A drawing of the Front Elevation of the Alexandra Music Hall, Cowcaddens, Glasgow, which was situated above the main entrance to the Theatre Royal in Cowcaddens - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

 

The Alexandra Music Hall was built in 1867, and designed by architects Clarke & Bell, for James Baylis and his wife Christina as one of their entertainment venues in the city; starting with the Milton Colosseum, Cowcaddens Cross, followed in 1862 by the Scotia / Metropole in Stockwell Street, and then in Cowcaddens at the corner of Hope Street, and built above the main entrance of the Royal Colosseum, soon to be known as the Theatre Royal, the Alexandra Music hall of 1867. (This should not to be confused with the Alexandra Theatre further down Hope Street, opposite Gordon Street, which operated in the 1860s.)

The Alexandra Music Hall - Drawn from surviving records by Ian Hepburn FRIBA - Courtesy Graeme Smith

Above - The Alexandra Music Hall - Drawn from surviving records by Ian Hepburn FRIBA - Courtesy Graeme Smith

The Alexandra Music Hall was also known as the Royal Alexandra Music Hall. It sat above the main entrance to the Theatre Royal, in Cowcaddens, and accommodated 700 people. The stage was at the western side, near to Hope Street. The first lessee was Charles Thomas Owen from 1871 to 1875; he was also the originator and proprietor from 1874 of the Royal Albert Music Hall, at Bridgeton Cross. Both halls worked in conjunction. In addition to variety the Alexandra was used for public meetings.

The Alexandra was not damaged by the fire in 1879 which destroyed much, but not all, of the Theatre Royal, but owing to disputes over ownerships and rebuilding for the Royal the Hall recommenced business as the Colosseum Hall.

An advertisement for 'New Men and Old Acres' followed by 'Jenny Lind at Last!' at the Colosseum Hall, Glasgow on the 18th of May 1881 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.From 1880 to 1883, and known as the Colosseum Hall, it was a base for the Glasgow Amateur Dramatic Society. The Society`s stage manager, the painter and illustrator Forrest Niven, started an acting family including his daughter Margaret (of Bunty Pulls the Strings) followed by her own son Sir Dirk Bogarde. The Society`s Patron was the actor Walter Bentley, prominent in Britain, America and then Australia, where he founded the Australasian Actors Association. He was born in Edinburgh as William Begg, son of a Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. By the late 1880s Howard & Wyndham, led by Michael Simons, took ownership, and by the end of the 1890s cine-variety held sway, organised by Arthur Hubner.

Left - An advertisement for 'New Men and Old Acres' followed by 'Jenny Lind at Last!' at the Colosseum Hall, Glasgow on the 18th of May 1881 - Courtesy Graeme Smith. Its 14 artistes in the performances included professional actresses Julia Sleaman and Amy Glover, sister of the Royal`s William Glover.

In 1899 showman Arthur Hubner from South Africa was advertising the Hall as the Royal Music Hall with prices similar to his Britannia Music Hall in the Trongate, but reserved seats could be had only at the Royal.

He introduced Cinematographe, adding it to the variety acts. By April he was advertising two performances nightly 6.30pm and 9 pm, finishing at 10.45pm. “The doors are quite distinct, the first house leaves by separate exits.” Prices were cut almost in half to Gallery 2d, Pit 3d, Balcony 4d, Stalls 6d, and Chairs 1/-, with higher prices on Saturdays and Holidays in the winter.

A Cine-variety advertisement for the Royal Music Hall, Glasgow in April 1899 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The same artistes moved around his three halls, Britannia, Paisley Empire Music Hall, and the Royal. The Royal Music Hall closed for a long summer and opened again in the winter. By 1900 it was empty.

Right - A Cine-variety advertisement for the Royal Music Hall, Glasgow in April 1899 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In 1904 it became known as the Alexandra Assembly Rooms (much more refined!) before becoming the Bijou Picture Hall. There is a programme for the Alexandra Music Hall here.

 

Ralph Pringle and the Bijou Picture Hall

A Cine- variety advertisement for Pringle`s Palace and the Alexandra Hall, Glasgow in April 1908 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Ralph Pringle had worked as a manager for the Thomas-Edison Animated Picture Company in Newcastle. However, by 1901 he linked up with Moss, Stoll and Thornton, the music hall proprietors, and exhibited as the North American Animated Photo Company in Glasgow, Dundee and England. In the next seven years he constantly commissioned filmmakers such as Mitchell and Kenyon to make topical non-fiction films important to each town. On 19th March 1908 he opened Pringle`s Picture Palace at the Alexandra Hall, charging 2d to 6d.

Right - A Cine- variety advertisement for Pringle`s Palace and the Alexandra Hall, Glasgow in April 1908 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

After the summer the Alexandra changed its name to the Bijou Picture Hall, which locals called the By Jove during its twenty year life. A performance comprised silent film, vaudeville acts, and the supporting Bijou band. Pringle started a Go-as-you-Please competition on Wednesdays, while on Thursdays “Every Lady will be admitted Free to all parts if accompanied by a Gentleman.” Some Thursdays had a Hair-dressing Competition. A ticket for the Bijou can be seen here

The Bijou continued until 1929, when it became a store for owners Howard & Wyndham Ltd, and continued as a store for Scottish Television in the 1950s when STV bought the Theatre Royal to start commercial television services. STV demolished the Hall in 1969, replacing it with new storage and workshop space which was in use until the television company moved to Govan some 40 years later.

More about the Hall as a cinema can be seen here on the Scottish Cinemas website here.

The above article was written by Graeme Smith and kindly sent in for inclusion on the site in 2014, and is in part from his book 'THE THEATRE ROYAL: Entertaining a Nation', Details here.

 

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