Theatres and Halls in Hammersmith, London
Formerly - The Gaumont Palace Theatre / Odeon
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Apollo, Hammersmith - Click to Interact
The Apollo, Hammersmith is today one of Britain's best preserved Super Cinemas. The Theatre was designed by the well known Theatre Architect Robert Cromie, and opened as the Gaumont Palace on the 28th of March 1932. The Theatre was built primarily as a Cinema but was equipped with a large and fully equipped stage, 20 dressing rooms, a Compton Theatre Organ, a cafe, and a vast auditorium in the Art Deco Style with seating for 3,487 people on two levels.
In 1962 the Theatre was renamed Odeon, showing Films on its giant Cinema Screen exclusively.
Exclusive Cinema use ended in August 1984 however, when it became home to Live theatre use again, when Concerts and Live Shows became the main fair, with only the occasional films shown in-between live dates.
In 1992 the Theatre was renamed the Apollo, Hammersmith and was operated by Clear Channel, who reinstated the original Compton Organ, which had been in storage for a number of years. In 2007 the Theatre was run by the MAMA Group, and later by HMV, but was bought by Stage C in 2012 for £32 million.
This Grade II* Listed Theatre today has a capacity of 3,419 and is largely unaltered from Robert Cromie's original design. The Theatre has played host to numerous well publicised events over the years including Concerts, Stage Musicals, Opera, Ballet, and of course, something it is now famous for, the broadcasting on Television of its live stand up Comedy Shows.
AEG Live bought the Theatre in 2012 and in June 2013 they closed it so that they could carry out a multi million pound renovation and restoration project to restore the Theatre to its 1932 splendour, and reopen it in September 2013. There is an article about the restoration of the Theatre here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Formerly - The Lyric Hall / The Lyric Opera House, The Lyric Theatre, Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith
Introduction - The Lyric Hall - The Lyric Opera House - The Lyric Theatre, Bradmore Grove - Demolition and Preservation of the Auditorium - The Lyric Theatre, King Street - Ballet at the Lyric Theatre 1944 - Revudeville at the Lyric Theatre, 1932
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Lyric, Hammersmith - Click to Interact.
What is remarkable about the Lyric Theatre on Lyric Square, Hammersmith today is that although it is a functioning Theatre it is not actually on the original site in which it was built. The Theatre was originally built on Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith in 1888 as a Music Hall called the Lyric Hall, which was later reconstructed on the same site and reopened as the Lyric Opera House on the 17th of November 1890. Five years later the Theatre was again reconstructed on the same site, this time to the designs of the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham and reopened on the 20th of July 1895. In 1899 the Theatre was reconstructed and enlarged, especially front of house, again to the designs of Frank Matcham.
Left and Right - A programme for Gilbert & Sulivan's 'H.M.S. Pinafore' and 'After All' at the Lyric Opera House in December 1897 - Courtesy Alison Piano. Note the image of the Original Bradmore Grove Theatre on the cover.
The Theatre ran for many years in this form, on its original site on Bradmore Grove, until it was demolished in 1969. However, the Lyric's auditorium was painstakingly removed before the demolition and then completely reconstructed inside a modern building off King Street ten years later, in what is today known as Lyric Square.
There is more on the present building below but there now follows details of the original Theatre on Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith.
Above - The Lyric Opera House, Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith - From an early programme for the Theatre printed in Diana Howard's 'London Theatres and Music Halls 1850 - 1950' and held at the Hammersmith Public Library
On Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith in 1888 a Music Hall was built to the designs of Isaac Mason called the Lyric Hall. This building had a very short life and two years later was reconstructed to the designs of F. & H. Francis & Sons and reopened as the Lyric Opera House on the 17th of November 1890. The auditorium consisted of two levels, stalls and one circle.
Right - An early programme for the Lyric Opera House, Hammersmith - Printed in Diana Howard's 'London Theatres and Music Halls 1850 - 1950' and held at the Hammersmith Public Library.
Five years later the Theatre was again reconstructed, this time by the Chamberlen Brothers, to the designs of the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham, who gutted the building and rebuilt the Theatre within the walls of the original structure. The new auditorium, decorated by De Jong, was constructed on three levels; stalls, circle, and gallery, capable of holding 1,000 people. And the Theatre was equipped with new stage 23' 10" wide by about 17' deep, with a new fly tower allowing scenery to be flown out rather than using rolled cloths as in the old Theatre.
Left - The back of a programme for Gilbert & Sulivan's 'H.M.S. Pinafore' and 'After All' at the Lyric Opera House in December 1897 - Courtesy Alison Piano. Note the image of the Original Bradmore Grove auditorium and seating plan.
The new Lyric Theatre was opened on the 20th of July 1895 by Lilly Langtry who gave an Address by Wilton Jones. This was followed by a production of the drama 'A House of Lies', and the two act play 'Dora'.
This new Theatre was so successful that in 1899 the building was again reconstructed and enlarged, especially front of house, again to the designs of Frank Matcham. The ERA printed a review of the new building in their 21st of October 1899 edition saying:- 'Mr Acton Phillips's theatre, since its reconstruction from the design of Mr Frank Matcham, has received a very large amount of patronage from the local public, so much so that its accommodation has had to be increased, and this occurs principally in the additions to the front of the house.
Right - The auditorium of the Lyric Opera House, Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith, now situated in the present day Lyric Theatre off Kings Street, Hammersmith - From Diana Howard's 'London Theatres and Music Halls 1850 - 1950'.
At the rear of the dress-circle a large and handsome saloon has been erected, and this occupies the vacant space over the entrance vestibule and offices, &c. The saloon is fitted up and furnished in a most artistic manner, the ceiling being in raised decoration and the walls covered with leather paper, and the whole richly furnished and lighted by electricity. The approach to this room is by a wide staircase, the walls and ceiling being similarly decorated. A large retiring room has been added, fitted up with all the latest improvements...
Above - The Auditorium and Stage of the Matcham designed original Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith - Courtesy Roger Fox.
...The exterior has been for some months in the hands of the builders. Their work now being completed, the result is as shown in the accompanying illustration. The old building, which used to fall back some distance from the main wall on the first tier, has now been brought forward, and it greatly enhances the appearance of the exterior. The front consists of yellow bricks pointed with red stone ornamentation. The handsome windows are provided with ornamented leaded lights. There is a quantity of elaborate iron work, and a graceful balcony at each end of the building. All the woodwork and doors are of "Post-office" red, which gives a warm appearance and harmonises with the stonework. The entrance hall is new, the walls being of Hendon stone and faience work, with ceilings of raised Cordova work delicately decorated. The whole of the entrance hall and the dress circle tier, from which the approach to the new saloon bar runs, have been handsomely adorned, and velvet curtains of a particularly rich terra cotta colour have been added.
Left - A Wartime programme for the Ballet Rambert at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in a repertory of their original Ballets in September 1944.
Altogether the alterations have been a decided improvement to the front of the house, and have been completed from the designs of the well-known architect, Mr Frank Matcham, and under his supervision. The building work has been done by Messrs Chamberlain Brothers. Messrs Acton Phillips and Son are to be congratulated on the effect of the improvements in their pretty theatre.'
Above Left - A programme for the pantomime 'Puss in Boots' which opened at the Lyric Hammersmith on Monday the 27th of December 1965 and played twice daily at 2.30 and 7.00 - Courtesy Roger Fox who says:- 'I think that this version was around for some time as I came across graffiti in a dressing room at the Theatre Royal Winchester which referred to Hughie Green having suffered there!'. In the cast were Olwyn Atkinson, Patrick Duggan, Susan Reid, Barbara Lewis, Len Lowe, Barrie Gosney, Harry Corbett and Friends, Hughie Green, Mitzi Maguire, Jasmine Dee, Monica Rose, Tony Holland, Vic Hallums, William Shearer, and The Dee Dancers.
Above Right - A programme for 'The French Mistress' one of the last shows to play the Lyric Hammersmith - Courtesy Roger Fox. In the cast were Barry Sinclair, Pamela Pitchford, Victor Woolf, Michael Wade, Michael Reeves, Jennifer Wood, Gary Taylor, Donald Torr, and Clarkson Rose.
Above - Details from a programme for 'The Idiot' at the Lyric Hammersmith which opened on the 5th of March 1962 - Courtesy Roger Fox who says:- 'Unfortunately it has some scribbles on the right hand page, but it is worth reproducing just because of the cast. Just think what many of them went on to do.'
The Lyric Theatre ran for many years in this form until it was closed in 1966 and then, after a public inquiry, demolished in 1969.
However, the Lyric's auditorium was painstakingly removed before the demolition and then completely reconstructed inside a modern building off King Street ten years later, in what is today known as Lyric Square. See details and images below.
Right - Demolition of the old Lyric Theatre, Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith in 1969. Click to see many more photographs of the Theatre before and during the auditorium's preservation, and during the Theatre's demolition before the subsequent reinstatement of the auditorium in its new home on Lyric Square, Hammersmith - Photograph courtesy Vernon Burgess of the Fulham and Hammersmith Historical Society.
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Lyric Theatre, Lyric Square, Hammersmith - Click to Interact
After a public inquiry in 1969, the original Theatre was demolished but the auditorium was preserved and then completely reconstructed inside a modern building off King Street, Hammersmith in 1979, which was situated on part of the site of the former Hammersmith Palace Theatre, demolished in 1950.
Right - The auditorium of the Lyric, Hammersmith today - Courtesy The Lyric Hammersmith.
Although the auditorium was recreated the dimensions were modified slightly to fit in the new shell. The proscenium was widened by about 4 foot and the height was extended to match. In fact the whole auditorium was then stretched to fit in with the new dimensions, including raising the ceiling, and new lighting positions were cleverly fitted into the ceiling, disguised by mesh where plaster would have previously been.
The auditorium of the current Lyric Theatre is built on three levels, Stalls and two circles, and can accommodate around 537. The stage has a proscenium width of 29 foot and a depth of 27 foot.
Above - The auditorium and stage of the Lyric, Hammersmith today - Courtesy Philip Meech and The Lyric Hammersmith.
Above - The auditorium of the Lyric, Hammersmith today - Courtesy The Lyric Hammersmith.
The new Lyric Theatre on Lyric Square, King Street, Hammersmith, was opened by the Queen in 1979 and, apart from the main Theatre itself, also housed a small Studio Theatre which could accommodate 120 people.
In 2004 redevelopment of the building took place when the original small entrance on King Street was replaced by a new entrance on Lyric square.
The changes also included adding a new Box Office, new rehearsal and workshop spaces, and a cafe at street level. The work was carried out to the designs of the architect Rick Mather.
In 2012 work was begun on another redevelopment of the Lyric which included the building of new Drama, Dance, Film, and TV recording studios, a small Cinema for 60, and a new bar and cafe for its patrons. The expansion was completed in November 2014.
Left - The auditorium of the Lyric, Hammersmith today - Courtesy The Lyric Hammersmith.
You may also like to visit the Lyric Hammersmith's own website here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
A 1970s Seating Plan for the Lyric Hammersmith
Above - A 1970s Seating Plan for the Lyric Hammersmith
BALLET, ballet, ballet. As soon as one company leaves, another arrives.
Or, maybe, two arrive - as, last week, LUNCHTIME BALLET at the Cambridge, BALLET RAMBERT At Hammersmith Lyric.
Time was when we seemed able to think of ballet only in terms of Russia. Looking over my old articles I find one written in 1918 headed "A Plea for an English Ballet - The Need for a Permanent Institution."
I wish I could claim that and the Wells Ballet as cause and effect. For the Wells Ballet has no equal in England. Great were the days when you could see it for sixpence.
Right - Wartime programme for the Ballet Rambert at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in a repertory of their original Ballets in August 1944. This article was found inside the programme.
'It Should Be Free'
At the New the cheapest Seats were a shilling. Sad but understandable. Now at the Prince's (where Helpmann and Fonteyn will follow the opera season) they have gone up to eighteen pence. In the name of Baylis, why?
In a properly civilised country it would be possible to enjoy the best ballet, the best drama, the best music free. Revolutionary? Hardly. We enjoy the best pictures free at our public galleries.
But as to the Rambert Ballet. Often it is charming. Don't miss "Jardin aux Lilas," a dark, delicate, emotional gem with thwarted love for its theme and costumes of supreme beauty by Hugh Stevenson.
Nor should you miss Sara Luzita. Mme. Rambert not only has trained but is training some of our finest dancers. Sara Luzita looks like becoming one. On the other hand, you may miss "Swan Lake Act II" - a sorry failure on a stage too small where huntsmen too stiff aim at swans far too galumphing.
Above text from a press cutting found inside a Wartime programme for the Ballet Rambert at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in a repertory of their original Ballets in August 1944.
Above - A Programme for the Windmill Theatre's Revudeville, here being staged at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith during the management of Nigel Playfair in 1932 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
The success of 'Revudeville' at the Windmill Theatre encouraged Laura Henderson to try out these Revues in other Theatres. In 1932 the Lyric Hammersmith staged a production of Revudeville, and in February 1937 the Piccadilly Theatre began showing 'Revudeville Pot-Pourrie' for a short time. A notice in the Windmill's Xmas Revudeville programme reads:
'Owing to the remarkable demand by provincial Theatres for Revudeville to be staged in their separate towns, Mrs. Laura Henderson has decided to embark on another project, and for the purpose has taken the Lyric Theatre, Hemmersmith for one month at which to start a No. 1 Touring Company of Revudeville. This has been produced entirely by Miss Eva Bradfield, who has been responsible for all the productions in the Windmill Theatre for the last seven months, and we can promise all patrons of this theatre who care to take a journey down to Hammersmith, an entertainment on considerably larger lines than that attempted here, and one which will be outstanding in every respect.'
The above mentioned Tour began on the 26th of December 1932 and ran for just 4 weeks. Vivian Van Damm wrote an article about this tour in a Windmill Theatre programme of 1932 which reads:
'I am receiving many letters from patrons all over the Country begging me to change my programme weekly of fortnightly, and much as I should love to be able to please all and sundry who make this request, I would ask you to realise what it means to put on an absolute and complete change of programme every three weeks, including as it does four new production numbers which take considerable time to devise and rehearse, and in addition a minimum of 67 new dresses have to be made for each show.
Right - A Postcard showing the Lyric Restaurant on Hammersmith Broadway
It certainly would be a marvelous thing for us if we could please everybody in this respect, but unfortunately at the moment that is not possible. One day however, judging by the way in which Revudeville is forging ahead in the esteem of the British public, I may be in a position to give you very good news regarding a further scheme, and whilst I am on this subject, I should like to take this opportunity of informing you that a complete new version of Revudeville, which is eventually going on tour, is being rehearsed and will be put on at the Lyric, Hammersmith (the house which Sir Nigel Playfair made so famous with "The Beggar's Opera") commencing on Monday, Dec. 26th, for four weeks only.
This production will be on the same lines as the present show we give here but with entirely different numbers and if you and your friends happen to be in that neighbourhood and want to have an hour or so of delightful entertainment, I can do no better than recommend you look to the Lyric, Hammersmith and see what we can do when we go out for a big show. The Lyric, of course, is a much larger theatre than the Windmill, and the show will naturally be on a bigger scale.' - Vivian Van Damm - From a Windmill Theatre Programme of 1932 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Later - King's Studio
Above - The King's Theatre, Hammersmith, from a postcard.
The King's Theatre, Hamersmith was built by W.G.R. Sprague and opened on the 26th December 1902 with a seating capacity of 3,000. The Theatre stood at 178 - 180 Hammersmith Road, which at the time of writing in 2005 was the site of a building called Kings House (numbered 174 Hammersmith Road) on the eastern side of the junction of Hammersmith Road and Rowan Road, and adjacent to Latymer Court.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, the King's Theatre was extensively used by the B.B.C., as the King's Studio, for live and recorded broadcasts and also for television. Between the 18th of January 1953 and the 5th of April 1953, ten episodes of The Goon Show were recorded at the Theatre.
The King's Theatre was demolished in 1963.
Some of the above details were kindly sent in by John Hughes.
The King's Theatre reaches its Golden Jubilee
FIFTY YEARS OF THEATRICAL HISTORY
(Reprinted from "The West London Observer, December 12th, 1952)
AT 1 p.m. on December 26th, 1902, The King's Theatre, Hammersmith opened its doors to the public for the first time with the pantomime "Cinderella."
During the 50 intervening years since that opening day, almost every British actor and actress of any claim whatsoever to fame has appeared on its stage.
Right - Programme for 'Cinderella' at the King's Theatre Hammersmith 1952 - Click for article by Lupino Lane on this production and biog.
Thumbing through, its programmes is like turning the pages of a theatrical "Who's Who."
Names that will never die, commencing with those giants of the Edwardian era, who today are still the yardstick by which Thespian talent is measured, are there in profusion.
Names like Beerbohm Tree, Sir Henry Lytton, Sir John Martin-Harvey, Matheson Lang, Sir Charles Hawtrey, Marie Tempest, Sir C. Aubrey Smith, Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
Names that were then, and still are, household words, familiar to us all.
During the years when musical comedy was in its heyday, the No.1 companies of George Edwardes and George Dance made frequent appearances at the King's Theatre and there were many seasons of Gilbert and Sullivan and the Carl Rosa Opera Company.
More recently the programmes carry the names of our modern stars -- Donald Wolfit, Ivor Novello, Noel Coward, Godfrey Tearle, Eileen Herlie, Fay Compton, Ruth Draper... but one could go on for a long time without exhausting the list of names covering every facet of the entertainment world. Names of plays that are still running and plays that have been long forgotten.
Right - Programme for 'The Courage of Silence' at the King's Theatre, Hammersmith - Week of May 22nd 1905
The programmes of this famous Hammersmith theatre are in very truth the pages of theatrical history.
Always noted for its adherence to the real pantomime tradition, the King's jubilee presentation of "Cinderella" will differ little in essentials from that first "Cinderella" in 1902. Many scenes are the same, and one of the featured attractions is still the "magnificent crystal coach drawn by real Shetland ponies." In this instance, the wording on both the first programme and the one for 1952 is almost identical.
An interesting link with the opening of the King's was disclosed when a Mr. Viner (now at Ongar, Essex) visited the theatre to book seats for a party for the jubilee pantomime. In conversation with the manager, it was revealed that his reason for doing this was a somewhat sentimental one.
When the actual construction was begun, Mr. Viner was the youngest employee of the contractors on the site and as such was chosen to lay the very first brick of the theatre, a distinction he now recalls with pride.
Left - Programme for 'Mary Rose' at the King's Theatre, Hammersmith Week of Feb 28th 1921.
A long-standing family connection between direction and management is also a noteworthy feature of the theatre. The present direction is in the hands of the Trustees of the late J. B. Mulholland, owner and founder. His son, Mr. J. V. Mulholland is the licensee, and the manager is Mr. Anthony Pigott, son of Mr. Thomas J. Pigott, general manager to J. B. Mulholland and the trust for 40 years.
Of recent years, the King's Theatre has been extensively used by the B.B.C. for live broadcasts and also for television. (See note)
Could some of those now dead and gone stars of the early days of the theatre peep in during a modern telecast. and discover that the production was being seen by millions of people in their own homes, they would assuredly think that black magic and witchcraft were rife in the modern theatre.
It may be interesting to our readers to learn what was written about the King's Theatre at its opening in 1902.
Referring to the pantomime, the 'West London Observer" of 26th December, 1902, says "Grand Fairy Pantomime 'Cinderella and the Little Glass Slipper' . . . on a scale of completeness and with a wealth of Gorgeous Scenery, Superb Dresses, Charming Effects, Magnificent Company, Beautiful Ballets and numerous auxiliaries." What more could one want?
Left and below right - Unusual programme cut into the shape of a pair of shoes for 'Goody Two Shoes' at the King's Theatre Hammersmith.
It was the first theatre to be constructed on the cantilever system, dispensing with all columns and affording an uninterrupted view of the stage from all parts of the house.
Press comments in 1902 on the building's amenities and architectural features were flattering and widespread, extending even to France where a Parisian journal carried quite a lengthy report on the opening.
This Hammersmith theatre was evidently something of a nine days' wonder when it first opened.
The 1952/53 production of "Cinderella" like that first one 50 years ago, will undoubtedly be a landmark in the long list of this famous theatre's pantomime successes and will be well worthy of the King's Golden Jubilee.
Text from a programme for 'Cinderella' with Lupino Lane at the King's Theatre Hammersmith, 1953. Images from my own collection - M.L.
Formerly - The Town Hall Tavern / The Temple of Varieties / The Palace of Varieties - Later - The Palace Cinema
Above - An early photograph of the Temple of Varieties, Hammersmith, later the Hammersmith Palace
The Palace of Varieties, or Hammersmith Palace as it was sometimes known, was built in 1898 and was a reconstruction of the former Temple of Varieties which was situated in King Street, Hammersmith. The Temple of Varieties itself started life as a Music Hall attached to a public house called the Town Hall Tavern in the 1880s, a precise opening date is not currently known.
The Hall was originally run by Theodore Gordon who started the venture by putting on 'Smoking Concerts' on Saturday nights, and then, 'more and more frequently'. This he continued for several years. Gordon also ran many other Halls, including the Sun Music Hall which he managed for 18 years. There is more on Theodore Gordon here.
Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Temple of Varieties, along with Albert Chevalier and many other well known Music hall artistes of the time, in a benefit for Rob Cunningham in July 1884 whilst the Hall was under the management of Theodore Gordon.
Arthur Lloyd also appeared here in a Benefit for Theodore Gordon in February 1884 where the ERA remarked:- 'Mr Arthur Lloyd, who was most enthusiastically received, sang two of his songs which have been most favourably noticed very recently - namely; "The Improver" and "Tra-la-la," in such a manner as to justify all the applause of which he was the worthy recipient.'
The Temple of Varieties was run by Acton Phillips Jnr., for a period from 1884 until 1897 when it was sold to J. C. Coe and reconstructed and reopened as the Palace of Varieties in 1898. Phillips would also run the Lyric Opera House in Hammersmith from 1891. More on Acton Phillips can be read below.
When J. C. Coe acquired the Music Hall in 1897 he soon set about having it reconstructed. He hired the architect W. M. Brutton to design the new Theatre for him and on Monday the 7th of November 1898 it opened for business as the Hammersmith Palace of Varieties. The ERA reported on the new Theatre shortly before it opened in their 5th of November 1898 edition saying:- 'It will be remembered that Mr J. C. Coe, the proprietor of this popular suburban variety house, determined soon after his acquisition of the property to make such structural alterations as practically amounted to rebuilding. He entrusted the plans to Mr W. M. Brutton, the well-known London architect, and the result is a worthy addition to the numerous pleasure houses that are springing up in all parts of Suburbia.
The façade is finished with a tower, carried out in a style somewhat different to the usual run of London buildings, the design being of a free French character in Doulton stone and red brick. The wrought iron shelter to the grand entrance is a very fine piece of work. It is somewhat after the design of the architect's work at the Alhambra, London, the grills over being used for lighting up the front.
On entering the grand vestibule, which is ornamented with Moorish tiles, our attention is at once drawn to a richly decorated circular ceiling. From this vestibule we get to the stalls and pit-stalls, and at once become convinced of the elegant and spacious proportions of the hall.
The fauteuils are upholstered in rich ruby velvet, harmonising with the richly coloured Brussels carpets, and have a most comfortable and elegant appearance. The buffet bars on all tiers are situated so as to give a full view of the stage, and are accessible from spacious promenades. The occupants of the balcony and the gallery have evidently been well considered, as from every seat a splendid view of the stage is to be obtained. Considering the great length in comparison with the width, the arrangements of the side balconies give a dressy appearance to the spacious main balcony running across the hall.
The decorations are carried out in a harmony of cream and gold, and the side walls are embellished with a very bold design in connection with the chaste illustration that enriches the ceiling, the beauty of the colour scheme being heightened by pictures and painted panels. The latest improvements in electric lighting and the most modern heating and ventilating apparatus have been established throughout the whole building. Electricity also illuminates the stage. Most convenient entrances and exits have been arranged. The stage, with a depth of 36ft. and a width of 40ft., will allow of the production of elaborate spectacular sketches, which can be mounted in a manner quite equal to any theatrical piece. The artists have not been forgotten in the matter of comfort and convenience, and their dressing rooms, which are almost entirely separated from the stage, the only communication being through an iron door, are replete with comfort. The whole of the work, involving an expenditure of about £30,000, has been carried out by the builders, Messrs Godson and Sons, in the short time of fourteen weeks. Messrs De Jong are responsible for the decorations, and Messrs Vaughan and Brown have installed the electric plant, which in itself lends grace and prettiness to an interior that will, we feel sure, be considered one of the most tasteful in suburban London. The general manager of the Hammersmith Palace is Mr Charles Hector, a gentleman of considerable experience, both before and behind the footlights. The opening is announced for Monday next.'
The Hammersmith Palace opened on Monday the 7th of November 1898 and would be in use as a Variety Theatre up until 1909 when it was closed for alterations by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham. The Theatre then reopened on the 24th of January 1910, still operating as a Variety Theatre but also showing early moving pictures.
Right - A postcard showing King Street, Hammersmith with the Hammersmith Palace on the left.
In 1913 Charles Gulliver became manager of the Palace but variety continued under his reign until 1928 when the Theatre was taken over by Greater London Theatres and Cinemas Ltd. Under their management the Theatre went over to both variety and Cinema use and by the mid 1930s the Theatre had been renamed the Palace Cinema, although variety was still staged there occasionally.
The Palace Cinema closed in the late 1940s and was eventually demolished in 1950. The site was later used for the construction of the Kings Mall Shopping Centre and the new Lyric Theatre which had Matcham's 1895 Lyric auditorium from Bradmore Grove reconstructed inside its 1970s shell.
The enterprising and entertaining Mr Acton Phillips, the proprietor of the Lyric Opera House, Hammersmith, was duly elected an alderman of the newly created Borough of Hammersmith (by Act of Parliament) on Nov. 9th, and he is justly proud that he should he so honoured to fill such a position in the first election of the Borough on the occasion of the appointment of its premier Mayor. Besides being an energetic theatrical manager, Mr Phillips has long taken an interest in parochial affairs, and was for ten years a faithful vestryman, holding various offices. He is also one of the governors of the Latimer Foundation, which was originated for the purpose of providing a good education at inexpensive rates - there are two schools, the upper and the lower, which turn out many scholars during the year.
"Yes, my late father and I always took the greatest interest in things theatrical," says Mr Phillips, retrospectively. "My father, I may say, began his connection, more or less, with the stage over fifty years ago - not professionally, but casually, as it were. He was a friend of Mrs Chatterton, the wife of the famous Drury-lane manager, before she married F. B. C., while his wife was a sister of Dick Shepherd, of the Surrey and other theatres, besides which my father was a bosom friend of Mr H. G. Lake.
Well, we were always at the theatres before and behind, and could walk in and out almost when we pleased at Drury lane and the Princess's. Of course, as a youngster, this delighted me, and as I had a taste for the violin, I took lessons of Mr W. C. Levey, of Esmeralda fame. He used to write and arrange all the music for the Walter Scott - cum - Andrew Halliday dramas at the Lane, as well as for the pantomimes. Also much of the music for the Princess's and Adelphi Theatres, when Mr Chatterton for a time was in partnership with Ben Webster, and also when he ran, as he did foolishly, all three houses on his own account. I fancy that triple arrangement was his undoing. Drury-lane Theatre is enough, I should think, for any man to manage at a time.
However, that is neither here nor there. It was while W. C. Levey was conducting at the Lane - and what a lot of pretty ballads he wrote - that from time to time I played the fiddle in the orchestra there - as an amateur of course. And I may say, in parenthesis, that I have been first violinist, also as an amateur, for twenty years with the Handel Festival Band.
It was in 1884 that my father, having retired from business, yet still willing to work, invited me to go into partnership to acquire and carry on the Town Hall Tavern, Hammersmith, and the Theatre of Varieties, which stood in the rear. Then, as now, though the place has been rechristened the Palace of Varieties, it is affectionately referred to as the T.O.V. or Tov. - and this house and that act as excellent feeders to each other. Nothing like having two places of amusement close together. Give good shows at each, and they will help to create and swell two audiences.
Well, I joined my father - I was proprietor of the famous Cock Tavern at Kilburn at the time, the house that Dick Turpin and other gentry of the road were wont to refresh at after a good haul on Hampstead-heath. I expect - and we soon began to build up the old place in a double sense - artistically and architecturally. Prior to 1884 the house was a sort of music and smoking concert hall, but sketches were always a feature. It was the first variety house in or near London to give them regularly. It was managed for a long time by Theodore Gordon, of the Sun Music Hall, Knightsbridge, but, honestly, it was not a financial success."
Then Messrs Acton Phillips, pere et fils, commenced operations, and gradually made the house a success, and ran it without intermission until 1897, having seven years previously acquired the Lyric Opera House, as they rechristened the old building. It is interesting to note that the Messrs Phillips introduced a skyful of stars to the London boards, that is to say, artists who have since become "constellations," including Marie Lloyd, and all her sisters. Marie Lloyd made her debut at a legitimate hall at the old Theatre of Varieties as an "extra turn," with the proviso that if she "went" she was to stay. The engagement was made for a week, and was so encouraging that it ran into over four months.
With Dan Leno, too, they entered into his first London contract, though, through the impossibility of fixing the dates, he played a previous turn at the Middlesex. Dan Leno, though he was very successful with a "Milkman" song, was chiefly engaged for his clog and step dancing. "In 1897 we sold the Theatre of Varieties to devote all our time to the Lyric Opera House, which we had opened in October, 1891. Up to the previous named year we, of course, ran both the houses. We took the place from Baron Grant when it was in a parlous state, and, as in the case of the Varieties, we had to work and build and rebuild until you see it what it is. By the way Mr Horace Sedger, who was about to open the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury-avenue, claimed the title, and brought an action against us. But we proved that we were the first to use it, and so we gained the day without having to pay any costs. We opened as a stock theatre with a stock company, breaking the bills every now and then to take in a touring piece. Indeed, we can lay claim to being the very pioneers of the suburban stock and travelling company theatres.
Our first programme consisted of Lost in London, with David James, junior, Alfred Courtney, Harry Cornwall, Elsie Chester, and Eugenie Vernie in the cast. To give you an idea of the thoroughness with which we presented our pieces and made our selections, during the first few months we had such well-known people playing here as Stanislaus Calhaem, J. G. Taylor, Frederick Merer (now at the Grand, Fulham), Lionel Wallace, Bassett Roe, Kenneth Black, J. R. Crauford, Harry Ashford, Arthur Escourt, Alfred B. Cross, Henry Dana (now of Her Majesty's), and Charles Lauri; Misses Amy M'Neil, Leah Marlborough, Ethel Sarjeant, and many others too numerous to mention or remember. Dramas of all kinds, from Drury-lane downwards, were our fare."
As the Messrs Acton Phillips at the Varieties constantly had new sketches done, so at the Lyric Opera House they kept to their old system of travelling companies and "stock." And indeed, Mr Acton Phillips, since the death of his father in May, 1899, has carried on the house on the same laudable plan.
"We have done a pantomime every year," says Mr Phillips, "and this is our tenth - The Forty Thieves due early next month, produced by my stage and general manager, Mr John M. East, my able lieutenant, who has been here close upon ten years. Our first pantomime was Dick Whittington. The Forty Thieves will he a pure pantomime, such as the children love, and is from the pen of Mr Brian Darley - come and see some of the preparations."
So into the splendid paint-room we went, and saw the artistes busily engaged on their congenial and genial tasks, and the property men making props and masks of all kinds for the delectation and delight of the youngsters. Everything is done at the Lyric Opera House in a systematic way, and the appliances and the management and the offices are in striking contrast to what one met with in the suburbs and the provinces even fifteen years ago. Mr Phillips has a splendid practice of keeping all his programme, which from time to time he has bound into volumes for ready reference. A most enjoyable chat and a most enjoyable man, and we take our leave after a very pleasant half hour or so of easy and agreeable conversation.
Some of the archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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