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The Coliseum Theatre, Eglinton Street, Glasgow

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The Coliseum Theatre, Eglinton Street, Glasgow in 2003 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Coliseum Theatre, Eglinton Street, Glasgow in 2003 - Photo M.L.

 

A Programme for the Coliseum Theatre , Glasgow for 1911 - Courtesy Graeme Smith. The Coliseum Theatre was situated on Eglinton Street, Glasgow, next to the later Bedford Theatre, and was constructed by Morrison & Mason Ltd with a red sandstone finish. The Theatre was designed by the now renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham for Moss Empires Ltd, opening in 1905, with accommodation for about 3,000 people.

The Theatre was designed in the neo-baroque style with an art-nouveau exterior. Its auditorium had brown and white marble balustrades. The Theatre was one of three Theatres in the city operated by Moss Empires.

The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times printed a review of the newly built Theatre in their Saturday, December the 30th 1905 edition saying:- 'For months past public interest has been centred on the immense building being erected in Eglinton street, Glasgow. It has been an open secret that the erection in question was yet another "Moss Empire," but, in this instance to be called "The Coliseum."

The new Coliseum is the latest and largest addition to the great number of handsome halls owned by the Moss' Empires, Ltd., which form such attractions in the Principle towns of the Kingdom under the management of Messrs. Moss and Stoll. It was opened for Christmas.

Right - A Programme for the Coliseum Theatre , Glasgow for 1911 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The design of the new building has been prepared by the company's architect, Messrs. Frank Matcham and Co., of London, and they have taken for their model one of the latest and most successful of their halls, the Ardwick Empire, Manchester.

The Glasgow Coliseum however, is considerably larger than the Ardwick Empire. - Its seating capacity is exactly 4,000. This means that on the two houses a night principle 8,000 will be entertained nightly, 48,000 weekly, and 2,406,000 yearly.

There are no fewer than thirty six exits, each 6ft. wide - the doors being fitted with automatic alarm bolts.

Waiting-rooms are provided for patrons of every part of the house so that there will be no such thing as standing outside.

The vestibule is of bold Italian design, the walls being finished in imitation stone, and divided up with white marble columns and pilasters. The doors are in ceramic mosaic. A fine white marble staircase leads to an arched gallery surrounding a vestibule, from which the managerial offices are approached. A double staircase is also continued up from here to the private box-lounge. The boxes themselves are placed in the centre of the grand tier, an excellent arrangement as regard privacy, which will be greatly appreciated by Patrons.

The entrance-hall is the finest possessed by any theatre in Great Britain, the floors being covered with rich Turkey rugs and carpets.

The stalls contain comfortable tip up armchairs, a wide staircase leading down to a beautifully decorated and furnished waiting-room.

Even the pit floor, approached from Herbertson Street, through a large waiting-room, is covered with a carpet, and provided with velvet covered settees.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times, Saturday, December the 30th, 1905.

Variety was staged twice nightly, developing into revues, pantomime (briefly) and musical plays. In the 1920s Carl Rosa Opera company visited, and Wagner`s Ring Cycle of operas was performed. The newly formed BBC broadcast its first relay of opera in Britain from the Coliseum in 1923, and later a staging of Rob Roy.

A Thumbnail image of the Coliseum in its Cinerama years - From the photo sharing site Flickr - To see the original Click here.In 1925 it switched to cine-variety as part of the ABC circuit, and in 1929 screened the first talkie in the city, Al Jolson`s The Jazz Singer.

In the 1960`s it became the first Cinerama cinema in Scotland with wall to wall curtaining and the huge convex screen.

Left - A Thumbnail image of the Coliseum in its Cinerama years - From the photo sharing site Flickr - To see the original Click here.

After its closure in 1980 it re-opened as a bingo hall in 1987 but after that ceased in 2003 the building remained unoccupied for years and was on the Register for Scotland's Buildings at Risk list.

Some of the historical information above was sent in for inclusion on the site by Graeme Smith, whose book 'THE THEATRE ROYAL: Entertaining a Nation', is detailed here.

 

The auditorium of the Coliseum Theatre , Glasgow around 1930 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - The auditorium of the Coliseum Theatre , Glasgow around 1930 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.


The side elevation of the Coliseum Theatre, Eglinton Street, Glasgow in 2003 - Photo M.L.On the 25th of May 2009, at around 1.30 in the morning, a major fire broke out in the building. Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service sent 60 Firefighters, five pumps, and three aerial appliances to tackle the blaze but the former Matcham Theatre was severely damaged, and when its roof collapsed what remained of the interior was exposed to further damage. There is some video of the Theatre on fire at the BBC News site here.

Right - The side elevation of the Coliseum Theatre, Eglinton Street, Glasgow in 2003.

Local experts on building safety were soon saying that the building would have to be demolished and after three weeks of Eglinton Street being closed to traffic in front of the Theatre the bulldozers finally moved in and had completely demolished the building by the 15th of June 2009.

 

The Coliseum Theatre, Eglinton Street, Glasgow in 2003 - Photo M.L.And so, as is so often the case, a once majestic Theatre, this one built by one of Britain's best known Theatre Architects, Frank Matcham, is razed to the ground after years of neglect and a final devastating fire, leaving the site open for future development.

Left - The Coliseum Theatre, Eglinton Street, Glasgow in 2003 - Photo ML.

But will the Theatre be replaced by a building of equal stature and use to the community it should serve?

Most probably not if history is anything to go by. A very sad loss of yet another of Britain's historic Theatres.

There is more information and many images of the Glasgow Coliseum in its various guises here. And there are many photos of the demolition of the Theatre here.

 

The Coliseum Theatre and Bedford Theatre, side by side, in Eglinton Street, Glasgow in 2003 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Coliseum Theatre and Bedford Theatre, side by side, in Eglinton Street, Glasgow in 2003 - Photo ML

 

You may find the following pages from this site of interest: