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

 

The Alexandra Music Hall, 73 Cowcaddens Street, Glasgow

Later - The Colosseum Hall / The Oxford Cafe Concert and Music 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.

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,

Right - 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.

The Oxford Cafe Concert and Music Hall

For six years from 1890 to 1895 John Johnston Yuile - who had previously run his own art gallery in the city's Union Street, and from 1888 had opened his girl-orientated music hall, the Oxford Café Concert, at 136 Sauchiehall Street – moved his entertainment operation round to Hope Street by leasing the Alexandra Hall which sat above the Cowcaddens entrance to the Theatre Royal. Open from 8pm to midnight and on Saturdays from 7pm to 11.30pm, admission 6d, it provided vocal and instrumental music with variety guests and above all his various corps of ballet which he promoted as his charming young ladies and beauties. Variously the corps were headlined as the French Ballet, Spanish Ballet, Turkish Ballet, Singing Ballet, Black & White Ballet, New Skirt Ballet, Fairy Ballet etc.

An Advertisement for the Oxford Cafe Concert Hall in April 1891 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Yule advertised his new Oxford Café Concert venue as "beautifully decorated and fitted out in Oriental style." He encouraged visits to his Café Concert after patrons had been to the Opera in the Royal and other venues.

Left - An Advertisement for the Oxford Cafe Concert Hall in April 1891 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Soon his strap line in adverts was "To Visitors and Strangers, the Place to Spend a Jolly Evening." He claimed to have the only Café Stage in town, although another existed in Buchanan Street, in Parisian style.

At the city's Licensing Court in April 1893 John Johnston Yuile's application for a drinks licence was considered. The newspapers reported: "The music hall, with its gallery and stage, contained three bars and 12 small circular tables but no intoxicating drinks were sold. The usual music hall entertainment was gone through, principally after 11 o'clock at night. The police superintendent reported - that female waitresses went about serving men and sat down beside them. They have now put uniforms on the waitresses. Gentlemen came to the hall after the public houses were closed, and brought whisky in bottles with them which they mixed with the coffee and stuff which was supplied to them. There are six waitresses and three barmaids. The names of a number of very able artists appear on the bills."

The licence was granted on condition that the waitresses were not allowed to sit down beside the men, nor the artists to come off the stage and sit in the body of the hall in the friendly way they had been doing. The place would have to be conducted as an ordinary music hall."

The Royal Music Hall

A Cine-variety advertisement for the Royal Music Hall, Glasgow in April 1899 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.By the end of the 1890s cine-variety held sway in the old Alexandra Music hall, organised by Arthur Hubner and 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.

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

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.

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.

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. Graeme added more details to the page in December 2017.

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