Home Page
The Music Hall and Theatre History Website

Home - Index - New - Maps - Contact



 

A Hamilton postcard from the 1920s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.One of the county towns of Lanarkshire, and becoming a lucrative centre of coal mining, Hamilton had its first permanent proscenium hall of entertainment opening in the 1880s.

Travelling circuses used temporary sites as did travelling theatres, such as those on the Low Parks show ground near but far enough out of sight of the Dukes of Hamilton ensconced in their Hamilton Palace, one of Britain`s most palatial residences.

If you performed as a comedian you would earn 25s a week in the 1890s with Clark`s Theatre of Varieties on the show ground, whose home base was Clark`s Music Hall & City Theatre, Dunfermline - Graeme Smith Oct 2014.

 

The Victoria Halls, 157/165 Quarry Street, Hamilton

Later - The Playhouse Cinema / Hamilton Granada

The Victoria Halls building in Quarry Street, Hamilton photographed in 2014 by Graeme Smith

Above - The Victoria Halls building in Quarry Street, Hamilton photographed in 2014 by Graeme Smith

In the 1880s the town`s Downie family designed and built for their ownership a row of stylish red sandstone buildings in Quarry Street, just up from Hamilton`s Central Station - and the Victoria Halls emerged.

Robert Downie was a builder, property owner and landlord as well as the operator of the Hollandbush Quarry to the south of the town. The first element was 143/155 Quarry Street at the junction with John Street; two storeys of houses with shops on the ground floor, which continue functioning today. Its 3 storey neighbour and sister is 157/165 Quarry Street, which opened at the end of September 1887. Because of the Jubilee year it was named the Victoria Building, containing the Victoria Halls, again with shops on the ground floor.

There were two halls in the new building, there was a Lesser Hall, and the larger Victoria Hall with its auditorium, stage and proscenium arch, accommodation being for 1,500, mainly on bench seating with back rails, but with opera chairs at the front of the gallery. There was a range of small dressing rooms.

Harry Lauder and his wife Nance in their garden - Courtesy Graeme Smith.In the first week of October 1887 impresario, baritone and pianist W. T. Rushbury staged his production of Rob Roy, direct from the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, with “New Properties and Lime-light Effects and introducing A Grand Cataract of Real Water”, admission 3s, 2s, 1s, and back seats 6d. Rushbury, for a short time, was lessee of the Theatre Royal but with financial meltdown. He resumed, with much better results in his decades of touring shows round smaller venues. The Victoria Hall, over its 20 years under that name, was a venue for meetings, rallies, variety, and concerts - including the weekly concerts of the Grand Templars Harmonic Association and the seasonal concerts of the Hamilton Choral Union, including in December 1887 their oratorio of Handel`s Messiah.

Harry Lauder now residing in Hamilton, and working as a coal miner, appeared onstage a number of times. In 1891 he and his wife Nance Vallance held their wedding reception in the Victoria`s Lesser Hall.

Right - Harry Lauder and his wife Nance in their garden - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The ownership by the Downie family ended when the Temperance Halls Co-operative Buildings Society Ltd, Hamilton bought the building. It is thought that around this time the theatre`s manager was Rene Clayton of a French circus family who had become connected to the entertainments of E. H. Bostock of Glasgow. In 1906 the Co-operative sold the building to Glasgow Pavilion Ltd who had newly opened their Pavilion Theatre, Renfield Street, Glasgow - but two years later they had still failed to obtain all the licences they sought. They gave up their Hamilton intentions and George Urie Scott, majority owner of the Pavilion, started his Scott`s Empire Picture House and Variety Theatre in the nearby town of Larkhall. That cinema can be seen here.

At the Victoria the new owner became the renowned Edward H. Bostock. His country-wide entertainment empire was headquartered in Glasgow at the Scottish Zoo & Glasgow Hippodrome, Cowcaddens and he also now started his Hamilton Hippodrome, Townhead. Bostock soon changed the Victoria, after internal alterations, to become the Playhouse Cinema – Hamilton`s first picture house - with Rene Clayton managing both of the Bostock venues in the town. Bostock also owned the Blantyre Picture House (seen here) at 188 Glasgow Road in neighbouring Blantyre.

In 1947 the Victoria building reverted to variety under the name (Hamilton) Granada. It opened with comedians Jimmy Benson, followed by Bobby Telfer and many touring companies. Alex Munro was also greatly liked as was Ally Wilson and pantomime favourite George West. Jimmy Logan was well established, a young Andy Stewart was making his way up, and G. H. Elliot was in the twilight of his career.

But television brought it to an end. The much-respected Jan Stepek, who fled Poland after the Nazi invasion and had managed to join the Polish forces in Scotland, was now, in peacetime, expanding his businesses of TV, electrical retailing and travel agencies. He bought over the whole building in 1958 making it his headquarters. The auditorium was retained but a floor installed across it, making two new levels. On his retiral in 2000 he put the building on the market but it was to remain empty until a few years ago when it was purchased by the Clyde Valley Housing Association who have retained the whole facade, demolished all behind it and constructed apartments for rent.

Records of the Victoria`s structure, internal and external, have been made and are listed on the RCAHMS website here.
And the images of the residential designs and construction behind the facade are on the RIAS website here, supplied by the architects for the Clyde Valley Housing Association. (The Victoria Bar on the corner shown was left untouched.)

The above article on the Victoria Halls, Hamilton was written for this site in October 2014 by Graeme Smith.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

The Hamilton Hippodrome, 90 Townhead Street, Hamilton

A photograph of the Hamilton Hippodrome - From 'The Lanarkshire Illustrated' Circa 1910

Above - A photograph of the Hamilton Hippodrome - From 'The Lanarkshire Illustrated' Circa 1910

A programme for the Hamilton Hippodrome - Courtesy Graeme Smith.In 1907 Edward H. Bostock opened his Hamilton Hippodrome which was similar to his Paisley Hippodrome, which in turn was based on the huge Scottish Zoo and Glasgow Hippodrome, Cowcaddens, designed by Bertie Crewe on ideas created by E. H. Bostock. Crewe's designs for the Glasgow Hippodrome were used for all three Theatres.

Right - A programme for the Hamilton Hippodrome - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The Hamilton Hippodrome in Townhead Street during the run of the film 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - The Hamilton Hippodrome in Townhead Street during the run of the film 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The Hippodrome created space for circus entertainment and for variety shows, and pantomime. There were stalls (which could be reduced to make way for a circus ring), circle and balcony. Films were also added if time permitted. For the pantomimes which often were Harry McKelvie`s pantomimes from the Royal Princess`s, Glasgow the admission prices were boxes 11/6d, single 2/4d, stalls 1/3d, pit 8d.

In the 1930s Harry Gordon, Dave Willis and Tommy Morgan were great favourites.

However, in 1946 the building was destroyed by fire, and its replacement was not an entertainment venue.

The above article on the Hamilton Hippodrome was written for this site in October 2014 by Graeme Smith.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

The Hamilton Town House (Town Hall), Cadzow Street, Hamilton

A Google StreetView Image of the Hamilton Town House Main Hall entrance on Lower Auchingramont Road - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Hamilton Town House Main Hall entrance on Lower Auchingramont Road - Click to Interact.

The burgh`s elegant and very commanding Town Hall fronting Cadzow Street was conceived in the Edwardian era and completed in the 1920s. Today, following a major refurbishment helped by the National Lottery, the Town Hall is known as Hamilton Town House with its library, art studios and offices. Around the corner in Lower Auchingramont Street the Main Hall is entered, and now provides a venue for social activity, weddings, meetings and entertainment including concerts, musicals, comedy and pantomime.

You make like to visit the Hamiton Town House's own website here.

The above article on the Hamilton Town House was written for this site in October 2014 by Graeme Smith.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

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