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The Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow

Later - The Caledonian Theatre

Introduction and History - The Theatre Owners and Architects - William Munro Neill and the Three Petit Lavalles

Glasgow Index

The Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, from a photograph by Thomas Annan 1863 - Mitchell Library, Glasgow

Above - The Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, from a photograph by Thomas Annan 1863 - Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

Bill for a Benefit for T.C. King, at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street in 1857. T.C. King was the father of Arthur Lloyd's wife, Katty King, and a regular Drury Lane Tragedian - Click to enlarge.In 1781, Dunlop Street, which now runs from Argyle Street to the St Enoch's Centre was a quiet cul-de-sac. When John Jackson began to build a theatre amongst the houses of some of Glasgow's most eminent citizens, he met with some opposition to his plans but in spite of this, Glasgow's first Theatre Royal opened in January 1782.

Right - A Bill for a Benefit for T.C. King, at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street in 1857. T.C. King was the father of Arthur Lloyd's wife, Katty King, and a regular Drury Lane Tragedian - Click to enlarge.

St Enoch's Centre - On the site of the Theatre Royal Dunlop StreetFor the first fifteen years of its life, the Theatre was a second home for the Edinburgh Theatre Royal. Eventually, Glasgow was able to support its own company and the Theatre was visited by some of the great actors of the day such as Mrs Siddons in 1795 and Master Betty 'the infant prodigy' in 1804.

Left - The St Enoch's Centre - Built on the site of the Theatre Royal Dunlop Street

Horatio Lloyd, Arthur Lloyd's father, is also known to have performed here for many years as principle Comedian. Read his personal reminiscence from the Dunlop Street Theatre here.

Poster for the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow in 1843 - Click to Enlarge. Poster for the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow in 1843 - Click to Enlarge. When Jackson and his partner Aitken took over the new Theatre Royal, Queen Street, in 1805, the Dunlop Street Theatre was renamed the Caledonian and became the City's 'minor' house, used for musical entertainments, circus shows and equestrian dramas.

Right - Two posters for the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow in 1843 - Click to Enlarge.

In 1825 the lease of the Caledonian was snatched from under J.H. Alexander's nose by Frank Seymour. Alexander leased the cellar and a war of attrition between the two Theatres began. On nights when a quiet drama was planned for one Theatre the other would hire a brass band:

A poster for 'Innkeepers, Ordinary and Extraordinary' and 'Luke the Labourer, or the lost son' at the Caledonian Theatre, Glasgow on Monday evening the 20th of March 1830. On the Bill for both were Horatio Lloyd, and 'Innkeepers' also featured his soon to be wife Eliza Horncastle, and her father. Horatio Married Eliza the same year as this poster was produced and may have even met her in this production.

Above - A poster for 'Innkeepers, Ordinary and Extraordinary' and 'Luke the Labourer, or the lost son' at the Caledonian Theatre, Glasgow on Monday evening the 20th of March 1830. On the Bill for both were Horatio Lloyd, and 'Innkeepers' also featured his soon to be wife Eliza Horncastle, and her father. Horatio Married Eliza the same year as this poster was produced and may have even met her in this production.

Bill for Blue Beard at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow - Thursday Jan 22nd 1863 - With Horatio Lloyd on the Bill - Courtesy Adam McNaughtan. - Click for Horatio Lloyd's Biography.Eventually the magistrates insisted the Theatres played on different nights but the public came in their thousands to see the fun and the more illustrious Theatre Royal in Queen Street lost heavily.

Right - A Bill for Blue Beard at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow - Thursday Jan 22nd 1863 - With Horatio Lloyd on the Bill - Courtesy Adam McNaughtan. - Click for Horatio Lloyd's Biography.

Poster for Horatio Lloyd at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street on January the 21st 1859 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen.Fire destroyed the Queen Street Theatre on the 10th of January 1829 and the patent, bought by Alexander, transferred to the rebuilt Theatre Royal Dunlop Street, where it stayed untill 1869.

Left - A Poster for Horatio Lloyd at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street on January the 21st 1859 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen.

In 1849 there was a false fire alarm in the theatre which led to 70 people being trampled to death in the ensuing panic. Alexander has a monument in the Necropolis.

The Theatre was burnt down and rebuilt in 1863 and finally demolished in 1869 to make way for St Enoch's station.

The title was transferred to The Theatre Royal in Hope Street where it still remains.

Text (edited) courtesy University of Glasgow Special Collections Department.

Horatio Lloyd, Arthur Lloyd's father, is known to have performed here for many years as principle Comedian. Read his personal reminiscence from the Dunlop Street Theatre here.

Many of the posters on this page are from a large collection of original Lloyd / King Posters collected since the mid 1800s by members of the family and found recently after being lost for 50 years. To see all these posters click the Poster Index here.

The Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow

The Theatre Owners and Architects

Looking for new premises, after the Playhouse in Alston Street, John Jackson met with Robert Barclay, a writer (lawyer) and an “Admiral Depute for the River and Firth of Clyde” (whose country mansion of Capelrig at Newton Mearns still exists.) Barclay sold him a plot of his land at the new Dunlop Street, formed from the grounds of the mansion belonging to Provost Colin Dunlop one of the Tobacco Lords.

Opening on 11 January 1782 the THEATRE ROYAL was built in Dunlop Street with a sandstone front and an interior supported by iron columns which could accommodate almost 2,000 customers on wooden forms. Each month Jackson alternated the performing companies with his Edinburgh Theatre Royal, and actors from elsewhere.

The Bucks Head Hotel at the corner of Dunlop Street and Argyle Street at the time of Edmund Glover - Courtesy Graeme Smith.To the north of the theatre he built a house for himself and his family. “It had a small flower-garden in front, with an alcove, and honeysuckle trained up part of the walls”. It survived until 1852. To the south he had more ground which he sold to William Craig & Son, architects, who were probably the theatre architects. A new street connecting Dunlop Street back to Stockwell Street was named “Jackson Street” in his honour. He was enjoying success in his profession, and he moved permanently to Glasgow in 1788. The Garrick Hotel opposite the theatre and the Bucks Head Hotel at the top of the street at its corner with Argyle Street were among the favourite lodgings for performers and playwrights.

Right - The Bucks Head Hotel at the corner of Dunlop Street and Argyle Street at the time of Edmund Glover - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

However by 1791 Jackson was bankrupt, ousted from the theatre, but returned in 1799. In his time away from business he wrote The History of the Scottish Stage published in 1793 (available online here). Over the next few years the theatre was not busy, and no longer fashionable, even with an extension of the auditorium in 1802. A powerful and luxurious rival appeared in Queen Street – the new Theatre Royal.

Jackson`s family and co-proprietor Francis Aitken sold the Dunlop Street theatre by auction in 1807 to Andrew Thomson who owned one of the mansions in Queen Street. He soon converted the basement into a warehouse for West Indies produce and then to a coach works, letting out the upper part for theatrical shows, circuses, boxing and public meetings. But interest in the theatre, drama clubs and concert halls was not diminishing. Scene painters were used to attract attention. John Knox taught drawing and painting in his artist studio at 40 Dunlop Street, including scene painting by three young friends (Sir) Daniel Macnee, Horatio McCulloch and William Leitch, who later became the art master to Queen Victoria and her expanding family for 20 years.

Andrew Thomson sold out in 1822 and Jackson`s theatre became known as the CALEDONIAN THEATRE operated by a series of managers including Frank Seymour before he moved off to the Queen Street Theatre Royal, and the basement as the DOMINION of FANCY operated by the energetic and flamboyant actor John Henry Alexander who triumphed and won over the whole building which he extended. He restored the name THEATRE ROYAL and built anew in 1830 with his architect William Spence. (Spence also designed the City Theatre, and twenty years later the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cowcaddens).

Henry Alexander bought the Letters Patent and was enjoying his success. In 1839 he built new again (opening in March 1840), this time in the grand manner by the eminent Spence with statues adorning the façade, including Shakespeare, David Garrick, and of course a statue of Alexander himself, as well as the classical muses Thalia (comedy) and Melpomene (tragedy). This was the first public commission of the sculptor John Mossman. The theatre had a pit, two galleries, dress boxes and upper boxes, and was 70 yards long, 50 feet high, and 50 feet wide. The interior was complete with chandeliers and the fronts of the boxes painted with scenes from William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott.

Damaged by more fire in 1840 and a false alarm in 1849 (when sixty five customers died in the panic, mainly from the upper galleries) Alexander always rebuilt, but the last tragedy and its consequences haunted him and he expired in 1851. A splendid painting of John Henry Alexander can be seen in The Glasgow Story website here.

He “left a large fortune” which included the theatre valued at £20,000, houses and other properties in Dunlop Street worth over £6,000 and shares in the Western Bank, but his widow Elizabeth was sequestrated in May 1858 following the financial collapse of the Western Bank because of these shares (shareholders did not then enjoy limited liability) and most of her inheritance passed into the hands of the liquidators of the bank.

Edmund Glover - Courtesy the Glover family and Graeme Smith.Alexander`s manager Mr Simpson continued the Theatre Royal Dunlop Street until he retired a year later in 1852, when Mrs Alexander decided to lease, and then sell, it to Edmund Glover (Shown Left) the eldest son of actress Julia Glover who had made her Glasgow acting debut in 1807 in the Queen Street theatre. As a boy he started as a “panorama operator” for the stages where she appeared in England and Scotland. Becoming an actor and then a producer he was able to rebuild some of the financial standing which the family once had before the Napoleonic Wars.

Left - Edmund Glover - Courtesy the Glover family and Graeme Smith.

By 1840 Edmund Glover had become the leading actor in W.H. Murray`s Edinburgh Theatre Royal, being paid 3 guineas a week, where he met Horatio Lloyd. Glover and his wife Elizabeth, experienced actors themselves and lessees of the Prince`s Theatre in West Nile Street, were now in charge of the Theatre Royal.

The National Library for Scotland zoomable maps show the Town Plan of Glasgow (central part) surveyed in 1857-8, sheet reference V1.11.16 here, where the interior of the theatre in Dunlop Street is clearly depicted....before the rebuild after 1863.

Edmund Glover was an actor-manager, scenic designer, dancer, pantomist and swordsman whose repertoire at both theatres focussed on the great classical plays, pantomimes, and operas (although he noted these “do not make so much profit because of the larger expenditure.”) At the Royal and the Prince`s the same management team was used, including a Mr Houghton who is charmingly described as the “Treasurer and Superintendent of the Audience Department.” Edmund Glover is credited as creating in Glasgow “perhaps the very best stock company of actors and actresses ever gathered together in Scotland.”

Glover opened his acquired Theatre Royal in Dunlop Street on 3rd October 1852 with Italian opera, including three of the greatest singers Giulia Grisi, Mario, and Liugi Lablanche; subsequent weeks had plays, and at the end of the year he staged his first pantomime there The Great Bed of Ware.

Many of Edmund Glover`s Diary entries are about the tribulations of his large Victorian family, - he assisted many relatives and theatre staff - as well as the ups and downs of theatre life. On the upside he writes on 31st December 1853 “So ends year. Cleared £3,000 over my own salary” and two years later on 3rd November “Elizabeth and I on General Fund of company, should be £800 a year each.”

He also leased the Theatre Royal, Paisley and the Theatre Royal, Dunfermline. In December 1858 Edmund Glover bought ground in his own name and opened the Theatre Royal Greenock, designed by his architect Joseph Potts of Glasgow and Sunderland. Situated in West Blackhall Street it held 1600 customers, with entrances similar to the Dunlop Street theatre and with a black and white marble floor. The façade even had niches for statuary.

A Painting of a Seascape by Edmund Glover (The painting is of the Firth of Clyde in moonlight, from a cave on the Isle of Arran) - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Aside from theatres his recreation was painting vivid seascapes and country scenes, which continue to sell today. He exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, as did his son William. One of Glover`s stage managers Walter Baynham, well known to Horatio Lloyd and Arthur Lloyd, wrote The Glasgow Stage, published in 1892.

Right - A Painting of a Seascape by Edmund Glover (The painting is of the Firth of Clyde in moonlight, from a cave on the Isle of Arran) - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

On Edmund Glover`s death in 1860, age 48, the newspapers praised his professionalism – he helped set the standards of the Glasgow stage in the 19th century. The Glasgow Herald exulted:- “Mr Glover was a talented, accomplished and versatile actor. In tragedy he was fervid and classical; in melodrama, chastened and effective; in comedy, humorous and quaint.

The deceased was a model manager, and spared no effort or expense to please the public. As a director of stage business he was hardly surpassed in Britain, especially after the emigration of Mr James Wallack (to New York). In putting a play upon the stage his endeavour was to heighten the effect, and his scenes, properties, and dresses were always in good taste, and got up with suitable splendour. He was unrivalled in his spectacular productions, as witness the magnificent illustrations given in Dunlop Street of the Crimean War, and the Indian Revolt. The pantomimes and burlesques in Glasgow were also noted for their gorgeous scenery and elaborate mechanism. Mr Glover kept a good stock-company and brought a regular succession of “stars” of the first magnitude to Glasgow. The theatrical presentations were interspersed by seasons of Italian and English opera.” - The Glasgow Herald 1860.

A Theatre Royal Programme cover of William Glover on the occasion of a Benefit Night in 1915 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.And the Greenock Herald wrote:- “He had a high sense of his mission which was to make the West of Scotland a school for the development and appreciation of poetry and art. In Glasgow on one occasion when he had lavished large sums on gorgeous representations of the Shakespearian drama, and spectacular exhibitions, he was railled by a friend on what he called the waste. Edmund Glover replied:- Venice was mercantile, and if you give me time, I shall give Glasgow the taste to appreciate what is good.” - The Greenock Herald 1860.

His widow, Elizabeth Glover, continued as lessee then owner of the Royal in Dunlop Street, and the Royal in Greenock. She was aided by Charles G. Houghton the manager and treasurer, and by her elder son William Glover, who also pursued his own passion for painting and became the foremost scenic painter for theatres.

Left - A Theatre Royal Programme cover of William Glover on the occasion of a Benefit Night in 1915, shortly before he died. After 1879 he established his own scenic workshops and studio in Port Dundas and continued as the top scenic designer in Scotland - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

On the last night of the pantomime Blue Beard in January 1863 the theatre was damaged by fire, but using most of the £3,400 from the Norwich Union Insurance Co., it was rebuilt behind the facade, to the designs of architect Joseph Potts, and open again at the end of the year, together with workshops next door at Moodie`s Court. During the nearly 12 months of rebuilding the Theatre Royal performances took place in the Prince`s Theatre.

The rebuilt Theatre Royal opened on the 16th of December 1863 and was much larger – holding 3,000 - and incorporated adjoining ground. The dress circle, stalls and pit were modernised and the old upper boxes and lower and upper galleries were superseded by an amphitheatre. The Glasgow Herald remarked that the theatre was now “in the form of an almost perfect circle, compared to its previous horse-shoe shape”.

Ventilation was greatly improved, and gasaliers removed. A sunlight was introduced “in the principle according to which the London Lyceum is lighted.” The proscenium opening was enlarged to 33 feet; and its semi circular arch had its crown 45 feet high. “The painting room is very much superior to that of the old house. It is 45 feet square by 30 feet high and provides three walls of great extent; thus allowing three artistes to be simultaneously engaged”. The scene painters included William Glover, Sam Bough, and F. C. Fisher. “It may be mentioned that the treasury and the entire workshops, property rooms, dressing rooms etc are entirely separated from the theatre proper by large iron doors. It is also worthy of notice, as affecting the convenience of the audience, and as greatly adding to the general completeness of the theatre, that refreshment-rooms are being provided for all parts of the house, so that the annoyance to the pit and gallery occupants of lemonade hucksters plying their vocation from seat to seat will be abolished.”

The Dublin Builder reported:- “The decoration of the building has been well carried out. The front of the upper gallery is divided into seven panels, surrounded by lilac stiles, and separated by each other by medallion figures painted in imitation of white statuary, on pink backgrounds. The panels themselves are painted in orange colour, and relieved with richly-gilt trelliswork. The colours of the amphitheatre front are pink and white, and the whole frontage is covered with festoons of flowers, and elaborate mouldings of a Grecian character, the salient lines throughout being richly picked out in gold. At regular intervals are placed concave shields, containing white Cupids, and round the whole circle runs a pendant variance wrought in gold and crimson. The dress circle is a beautiful pale green, which is interspersed with the other tints. The architrave which encircles the stately arch of the proscenium is moulded and gilt, and the spandrils are ornamented with panels bearing appropriate trophies. The arch proper – which is in the form of an exact semicircle is worked out as one great panel, of a pale pink colour, relieved with a gilt trellis, and surrounded by lilac coloured stiles. The two lower stage boxes on each side are ornamented in a style corresponding to the dress circle and the amphitheatre. The back wall of the dress circle is covered with a dark crimson paper.

The central portion of the ceiling is divided into five panels, converging to the central point from which hangs the great chandelier. These panels are painted in ultramarine blue, the colour being shaded from a darker to a lighter hue as it approaches the centre of the ceiling. The fieldlings are of a light pink, with grey stiles, the latter having trophies of musical instruments painted on them in light and shade.” - The Dublin Builder 1863.

St Enoch Station and railways lines which swamped Dunlop Street and other streets before reaching St Enoch Square - Courtesy UrbanGlasgow.With Glasgow and its suburbs now having a population of 460,000, an increase of 100,000 since the 1850s, the townsfolk were increasingly concerned over the slum conditions and overcrowding of the old streets and wynds surrounding the Saltmarket and the High Street. Under the City Improvements Trust started in 1866 the Council planned to have housing constructed elsewhere and to rebuild the old areas. The quickest “improver” was the arrival of the railways. The Glasgow & South Western Railway and the Caledonian Railway each had city terminals on the south-side of the Clyde and were looking to cross the river. As part of the railway plans the Theatre Royal was bought by compulsory purchase by the City of Glasgow Union Railway (owned by the two giant companies), finally closing its doors on 28 May 1869, and being demolished.

Right - St Enoch Station and railways lines which swamped Dunlop Street and other streets before reaching St Enoch Square - Courtesy UrbanGlasgow.

The Glover Trustees lodged their claim for compensation, about equal to 9 years future profits totalling £27,000. After arbitration the amount decreed in their favour was £11,798, being three years profit together with over £2,000 for the loss in value of props and machinery.

Frontage plans of William Glover`s proposed Royal Theatre in Bath Street, Glasgow - Courtesy Graeme Smith.William Glover moved the theatre`s company lock stock and barrel up to the new Theatre Royal at Hope Street, Cowcaddens in 1869 where in partnership with George Francis, the son of a city organist, they leased it for 10 years from James Baylis, who had operated it for its first two years as the Royal Colosseum & Opera House. Glover & Francis also became lessees of the Theatre Royal, Newcastle and of the Opera House, Kilmarnock.

Left - Frontage plans of William Glover`s proposed Royal Theatre in Bath Street, Glasgow - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

William Glover hankered for a new theatre of his own. Knowing the railways were coming, he had identified a site in 1867 on the south side of Bath Street between Buchanan Street and West Nile Street, and had plans drawn for this Royal Theatre by the architects Clarke & Bell whom Baylis had used to design his Royal in Hope Street.

In the 1870s Glover finalised the site purchase and brought the plans to light again, but he was running out of money and the theatre was never built. The site today contains the red-sandstoned office block, Albert Chambers at 13 Bath Street.

Rita Glover, great grand-daughter of Edmund Glover - Courtesy the Glover family of Los Angeles and Graeme Smith.Phillis Glover, one of the actress daughters of Edmund Glover - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Edmund Glover`s family, all involved in theatre and later cinema, continued, some in Britain, some in Australia and New Zealand, and some in America – including his actress daughter Phillis Glover (Shown right) who was prominent on the New York stage, and his great grand daughter Rita Glover (Shown far right) who was a prolific producer in California and became Professor of Theatrical Art & Design at the University of California until her death in 1959.

Above Right - Phillis Glover, one of the actress daughters of Edmund Glover - Courtesy Graeme Smith. And Far Right - Rita Glover, great grand-daughter of Edmund Glover, and a prominent producer in California, seated in her office in Los Angeles inspecting a playbill of Rob Roy produced by the Glovers at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow – She was responsible for over 250 Pacific Coast productions and was also Art Director of the Pasadena Playhouse, and of the Hollywood Bowl, and the Greek Theatre - Courtesy the Glover family of Los Angeles and Graeme Smith.

There are around 600 playbills in total of the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street in the 1860s and the Theatre Royal, Hope Street of the 1870s archived and available for research in Glasgow University Library`s Scottish Theatre Archive.

The above article on the owners and architects of the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow is edited from Graeme Smith's 'The Theatre Royal: Entertaining a Nation' and was kindly sent in for inclusion on this site by Graeme Smith in January 2015.

William Munro Neill and the Three Petit Lavalles at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow

The Three Petit Lavalles, Trick Cyclists, who appeared at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street circa 1868 - Courtesy Barbara Neill, Great Granddaughter of William Munro Neill who is pictured in the photograph along with his two cousins.Born of Irish parents in Scotland, few men have had a more romantic life than Mr William Munro Neill, of 149 London Road, Maidstone. Looking back over the greater part of his 78 years, Mr Neill chatted with a “Kent Messenger” representative in a way strongly hinting of both nationalities. Active, in spite of his age, he recounted in a whimsical manner some of the experiences that have been his in a crowded span of years.

At the early age of 12 Mr Neill claims that he was the pioneer of all trick cyclists. This is how it came about. His father owned a coachbuilding business in Edinburgh, while his uncle was the proprietor of a cab business in connection with the Edinburgh to Glasgow Railway. It was this uncle who introduced the Parisian Bicycle into Scotland following a visit abroad. It later became the well-known “Boneshaker.” In this connection, Mr Neill’s father opened the first bicycle-riding school in his coach building works.

Right - The Three Petit Lavalles, Trick Cyclists, who appeared at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street circa 1868 - Courtesy Barbara Neill, Great Granddaughter of William Munro Neill who is pictured in the photograph along with his two cousins.

Young Neill, with his two cousins, were never far away from the novel machines and when business was slack, in direct disobedience, they rode the cycles. Furtive practice when their elders were absent, however, soon made them experts on these early boneshakers and they mastered a number of tricks that they performed for their own amusement. One morning, the son of the local music hall proprietor saw their show. The result was a week’s contract as the “first trick cyclists ever to appear in Scotland.” The other two lads were then aged eight and four. They took the name of the Three Petit Lavalles. A twelve weeks’ run at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, followed. When it seemed as if the three lads were at the start of a stage career, Neill’s mother, who acted as manager to the trio, was taken ill and a contract to appear at Liverpool was cancelled.

The above edited text on William Munro Neill was first published in the Kent Messenger, 16th September 1933 - Courtesy Barbara Neill, Great Granddaughter of William Munro Neill. If you have any more information on the Petit Lavalles or William Munro Neill please Contact me.