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Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

Singing Saloons and Music Halls in the Saltmarket, Glasgow

Introduction - Shakespeare Singing Saloon - Oddfellows' Music Saloon - The Jupiter - Sir Walter Scott Saloon / Waverley Music Hall - Mumford's

Glasgow Index

Glasgow Cross viewed from the Saltmarket - Painted in 1871 by William Glover, lessee of the Theatre Royal - Courtesy Graeme Smith.From the 1820s oyster-stores and taverns abounded in the streets around Glasgow Cross. Every Close had a tavern and some operated as a Free-and-Easy complete with a piano and platform – a place in which the frequenters of the house were entertained with amateur and half professional singing over their pipes and beer. The pianist was paid, in the 1860s, at 5/- per night. At least one tavern in the Trongate kept a glee party on the premises with the proprietor as the principal bass singer. Concerts were held in a number of these establishments, as well as an annual concert in The Trades Hall organised by the licensed trade.

Right - Glasgow Cross viewed from the Saltmarket - Painted in 1871 by William Glover, lessee of the Theatre Royal - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Churches were not keen on these venues, but in spite of that it is recorded that some precentors, leading church congregational singing, also found employment singing in some of the taverns including the following, recollected in an address in 1912 to the Old Glasgow Club about Glasgow Concert Singers 1830- 1870 - “It was a great treat to hear John McDougall, precentor in St Enoch Church and Wull Zuille, precentor in the “Hie Kirk” - the Cathedral – singing duets in the Lyceum Rooms; Fraser's Hall, King Street; Haggart's and Pollock's Taverns, King Street; the Black Boy Tavern, Gallowgate; the Black Bull Rooms, Argyle Street, and other fashionable rooms of the day.”

The Black Bull was where Robert Burns stayed on his visits to Glasgow.

The leading Saloon Rooms, or Music Halls, were in Saltmarket Street from the 1840s onwards. All were stone buildings, in comparison to a place of entertainment nearby which was not a Saloon but was Mumford's Theatre or Geggie. Davie Brown, a butcher by trade, who had sung at the City Hall and other concerts, and his wife Eppie had the old Philharmonic Hall in the street, before renting his New Philharmonic music hall in Dunlop Street at the back of the Buck's Head Hotel, Argyle Street, and later developing Brown's Royal Music Hall. In the Saltmarket prominent saloons included the following:-

The Shakespeare Singing Saloon, 36 Saltmarket, Glasgow

This Concert Room was owned and started by Matthew Lowden (or Loudon) in 1840, and on his retiral it changed hands in 1855 to Henry Levy, established cigar dealer and trader in Turkish sponge.

An advertisement for the Shakespeare Saloon, Glasgow in the Glasgow Herald of 1848.The Glasgow publication Guide describes the saloon during the summer of 1850:- “This Saloon and the Bowling Alley in connection with it, are the favourite lounges of “Young Glasgow”, and in respect to musical talent – vocal and instrumental – and accommodation, is the leading house of the kind in the city. Their best feature in the present company is two comic duet singers, who sustain their parts with great dramatic effect and happy individuality of character. The sentimental and comic departments are also well supported.”

Right - An advertisement for the Shakespeare Saloon, Glasgow in the Glasgow Herald of 1848.

In 1860 after making substantial profit at the Shakespeare, Levy bought and reconstructed the Levianthan Spirit Vaults at Glasgow Cross, which also traded as a Music Hall, and bought the Mammoth Concert Hall in Dublin.

The Shakespeare was latterly run by W G Ross. In 1867, “The large Hall occupied for many years as the Shakespeare Singing Saloon, with Bowling Alley on the ground floor”, was advertised for let for a warehouse or other activity. It became the Glasgow base of the Protestant evangelist Harry Alfred Long.

There is more on the Shakespeare Singing Saloon here.

The Oddfellow's Music Saloon, 31 Saltmarket, Glasgow

The Odd Fellows saloon and tavern was owned and operated by Samuel Sloan(e), musician, whose wife was Mary Baylis. During the 1840s his manager was James Baylis, by day a clerk in a brewery, and a regular performer was Sam Baylis, scene painter, musician and puppeteer actor. Both brothers Baylis would prosper in the entertainment world; Sam Baylis forming his Marionette Company which was prominent for decades in Scotland, and England. The Baylis's father had been a band master in the Army.

The Glasgow publication Guide describes a visit to the saloon during the summer of 1850:- “The entertainments here are well supported by popular and clever professionals, in comic, sentimental and characteristic singing, including Mr John McGregor, the old Scottish comedian, whose thorough appreciation of the national character enables him to give happy effect to the quaint songs and stories in which he appears. Mr Baylis (one of the artists of Professor Anderson's Balmoral Castle) is also engaged here, and exhibits his very ingenious Automata.”

Odd Fellows Singing Saloon advertisement of 1848 in the Glasgow Herald.In 1848, when James Baylis went off to start his own Milton Colosseum Music Hall in Cowcaddens – to be followed by his Scotia Music Hall in Stockwell Street and then his Theatre Royal in Hope Street - Sloan advertised it for let:- “The Saloon is lately refitted, painted, papered and varnished, and is capable of holding 250 persons with ease and comfort. The Stage and Scenery are all newly painted and decorated. There is also a Snug attached to the Saloon, which is fitted up in the first style, and constructed so as to unite the attractions of the Saloon, with the ease and comfort of a private room. In addition to the above there are two Private Rooms, also a Kitchen and Bar, and a commodious Cellar for bottling and storing liquors.”

Left - Odd Fellows Singing Saloon advertisement of 1848 in the Glasgow Herald.

However, he continued to operate it until 1851 when he sold it, two years before his death. A later lessee was Peter Currie, not unknown to the owners of a nearby shebeen known as “Grandfather's.”

The last proprietor was John Brand who fitted up a new stage and gallery but ran out of cash. Brand was also well known as the operator of the paddle steamer Petrel, one of the Sunday-breakers on the Clyde which sailed on the Firth – beyond licensing laws on the Sabbath – and dispensed refreshments to passengers. He sold the Oddfellows at the end of 1859 – it was then converted into dwelling houses - and he took a 10 year lease on premises at 115 Trongate which he fitted up as a singing saloon - the Britannia Music Hall - operating it throughout the 1860s until his lease expired, when a new lease was taken up by his manager Hubert Rossborough.

Sam Baylis started his own French Marionette company around 1845 promoted as “Mr Sam Baylis's Marionettes and Living Shadows.” He had appeared in Professor “Wizard of the North” Anderson's splendid theatre booth on Glasgow Green - which Anderson designed complete with terraces, conservatories, trees and bushes. Baylis now developed major annual tours of England with extended summer seasons in Scarborough and Blackpool up to the 1880s. His son Charles Baylis had his own Italian Marionette Company.

The Jupiter, 46 Saltmarket, Glasgow

The Jupiter was akin to a music-hall. It traded as the Jupiter Temperance Hall and had an auditorium and curtain, inclined pit, and a dress box. Admission was 3d paid to the box-keeper who also sold fruit and refreshments.

The Glasgow publication Guide describes a visit to the saloon during the summer of 1850:- “This popular Saloon is supported by Miss Coutts, whose characteristic songs are very piquant, Mr C Sharpe, Mr Thomson, Mr Cooke, a skilful performer on the banjo and Mr Alister McLean, a Highland piper and dancer, who appears in both capacities at the same time, with an effect which is not easy to describe.”

The hall was owned by W Crawford, and latterly in the 1860s by James Thompson who at Christmas each year produced a pantomime.

Sir Walter Scott Saloon / Waverley Music Hall, 18 Saltmarket, Glasgow

The Glasgow publication Guide describes a visit to the saloon, owned by Mrs Baxter, during the summer of 1850:- “The attractions at this Saloon are not inferior to those of the others, and amongst the novelties comprise a rara columba in the person of a female Ethiopian Serenader whose performances are worth witnessing, as much from their intrinsic merit as their novelty.”

Performers always in demand were duettists, dancers, and minstrels with their “own banjos, bones and tambourines”, and Irish singers and Jig dancers. In the 1860s it operated as the Waverley Music Hall under Messrs Roberts and Taylor.

Mumford's, Greendyke Street at Saltmarket, facing Glasgow Green, Glasgow

William J Mumford was born around 1798 in England and as a colourful young man had started his street marionette shows in London by 1820, wearing a straw costume he had made. He moved to Glasgow in 1834 as a spirit merchant – consuming greatly himself – and set up his “mechanical theatre” in the Saltmarket.

He built a wooden theatre known as Mumford's Show or Geggie and combined fairground booth entertainment and theatrical dramas, often with Mumford in the leading role – all to the annoyance of Mr Alexander, the Theatre Royal licensee in Dunlop Street.

A photograph of Mumford's can be seen on The Glasgow Story site here.

In the 1870s the building became a clothing store, finally being demolished around 1902.

The above articles on the Singing Saloons and Music Halls in the Saltmarket, Glasgow were written and kindly sent in for inclusion on this site by Graeme Smith in June 2013.

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