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The Queen's Theatre, Greendyke Street at Glasgow Green, Glasgow

Later - Parry's Theatre and the Greendyke Hall

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In 1849 James Calvert opened the new Queen's Theatre in Greendyke Street at Glasgow Green next to the Episcopal Chapel of St Andrews-on-the Green. He was a comedian who had leased the Theatre Royal, Dublin, and moved to Glasgow where he and his company operated one of the popular “low theatre” booths on the Green – the very large wooden Royal Hibernian.

In 1848 he took over the lease of the handsome Theatre Royal Adelphi from David Prince Miller but fire destroyed it in November. James Calvert continued with penny theatre in his Hibernian theatre and opened a booth at the foot of Maxwell Street to the annoyance of many residents and magistrates. The Glasgow Fair of 1849 now included the semi-permanent arenas of Melbourne's Adelphi surmounted with the inscription “Phoenix- like I rise from out my ashes.”; Hefferman's City Theatre; and Calvert's Hibernian. The dramas played all day, were well performed and not for the faint hearted.

The Glasgow Fair on Glasgow Green in 1825 before its larger theatres were built - Courtesy Graeme Smith

Above - The Glasgow Fair on Glasgow Green in 1825 before its larger theatres were built - Courtesy Graeme Smith

In July 1849 he got authority from the Dean of Guild Court to erect a brick theatre, complete with gallery, in Greendyke Street next to the Episcopal Chapel. A commentator wrote: “We have no doubt this Hibernian will have ample room for dishing up the penny drama for the delectation and improvement of the canaille and young red republicans of the Bridgegate, the Wynds, Saltmarket, High Street, the Vennels and the Savannah.”

He called it the Queen's Theatre, in honour of Queen Victoria's visit that year to the city. Calvert knew what attractions would bring in his boisterous audiences three times a day, and he and his family lived in style in nearby St Andrew's Square.

On his death in 1852 the lease was taken up by the actor C E Marshall who received his licence with the help of a recommendation from Edmund Glover of the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street. However Marshall's term was brief and comedian George Parry, a pantomimist for many years in the Theatre Royal, took over complete with licence initially. It also became known as Parry's Theatre. But over the years he was fined annually by the magistrates for performing plays without a licence, the Glasgow Herald observing : “the house was opened as usual the same night and goes on as before, crowded with the most abandoned of youth of both sexes. As the Queen's pays astonishingly well, it is more convenient to be fined than licensed.”

When the lease expired in 1860 the commodious theatre shut, but reopened at the Fair and renamed Greendyke Hall after being bought by the East India merchant, philanthropist (and founder of the National Bible Society of Scotland) John Henderson of Park near Inchinnan, whose firm Fox, Henderson & Company of London and Renfrew had built the Crystal Palace. He announced it would be available for “instructive and elevating Meetings or Entertainments.” and paid for alterations to create a Musical Saloon and add class rooms. “Soirees and excellent musical entertainments will be given, arranged by the Glasgow Abstainers Union. Tickets sixpence. Tea at eight o'clock precisely.”

A pulpit was installed and worship services started. For the next 8 years, until the building was sold, the Social Reform Society gave orchestral concerts, opera evenings, variety programmes, readings by actors and actresses, mission services and lectures. They had their own brass band, and the use of the Glasgow Orchestra (forerunner of today's RSNO), and a choir of 200 voices when required. They also gave open air concerts on the Green. The temperance movement by this time ran many concert and music-halls across the city.

The above text was written and kindly sent for inclusion on the site by Graeme Smith, from research for his new book on Glasgow's Alhambra Theatre, a sequel to The Theatre Royal : Entertaining a Nation. Details here.

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