The Theatre Royal, Paragon Street, Hull was designed by G. A. Middlemiss, who also designed the Theatre Royal in his own home town of Sunderland. Building commenced on the Theatre Royal, Hull in June 1871 and the Theatre was officially opened by its proprietor Sefton Parry just 6 months later, on Monday the 27th of November 1871, with a production by Parry's own Company in the 'Post Boy' and 'The Ticket of Leave Man', with Sefton Parry playing the leads in both plays. The Theatre was built on the site of the stage of the former Queen's Theatre, which was itself built in 1846, and demolished in 1870 having become derelict and in danger of falling down for many years.
This was actually the third Theatre Royal to be constructed in Hull and was built as a replacement for the earlier Theatre Royal on Anlaby Road which had opened in November 1869. This was itself built as a replacement for an even earlier Theatre Royal on Humber Street which had opened in 1810 but was destroyed by fire twice, once in October 1859 and again in February 1869.
Right - A programme for George Edward's London Gaiety Theatre Company in 'The Circus Girl' at the Theatre Royal, Hull on Monday March the 7th 1898 - In the cast were Horace Mills, W. R. Shirley, W. H. Rawlins, Charles E. Stevens, George Grossmith, Jun., E. W. Royce, Jun., Alfred Asher, William H. Kemble, Arthur Hatherton, Harry Sim, Herbert Clayton, George Kelly, Jas. Cartwright, R. Forrest, F. Tyler, R. Lennard, L. Stafford, Marie Studholme, Hetty Chapman, Miss Florence Lauri, Kate Talby, Rose Carlisle, Alice Nixon, Lucie Nixon, Ethel Nolan, Blanche Carlow, Doris La Tour, Violet Trelawney, Florence Lenton, Alice Grenfel, and Millie Hylton - See more details below.
A few days before the Paragon Street Theatre Royal opened the ERA reported on the new building in their 24th of November 1871 edition saying:- 'The front in Paragon-street is built in the composite order, of a bold appearance, with large pilasters, surmounted on pedestal bases with large composite capitals and cornices with a pediment over the middle pilasters. The box entrance is formed by two Ionic pilasters and capitals with cornice and balustrade. There will also be a substantial iron railing provided with suitable lamps and gates, which will have a very ornamental effect in Paragon street.
The interior is similar in shape and design to the Globe Theatre in London, and about the same size, being designed to accommodate 1,200 persons. The entrance to the boxes opens from Paragon-street, and after ascending an easy open staircase the visitor is landed at once on the box floor, to the left of which are provided suitable refreshment and ante-rooms. The dress circle, which will accommodate about 150 persons, is admirably adapted for seeing and hearing. Every convenience has been made for the visitor, there being no seat from which a full and satisfactory view of the performances cannot be obtained. The seats have been made by Messrs. Audas and Leggot, and are of crimson repp, with blue and gold stripes. On this floor are also arranged six very compact private boxes. The upper boxes are approached from the dress circle floor by a flight of stairs on either side. There is a single row of seats in front of the gallery, and two side boxes, which are well and comfortably fitted. The gallery is reached by two circular staircases, each 11ft., in diameter, and which have their entrances in South-street. Accommodation is provided in the gallery for about 450 persons. The entrance to the pit is through a wide passage which has its door in Paragon-street. It is without exception one of the best arranged pits we have ever seen, as no matter what position is taken by the visitor, he has everywhere a good view of the stage. The seats are of deal, stained. In one corner of the pit there is a refreshment saloon, with a fine bar, a screen being erected to separate it from the other part of the house. In case of fire or panic a door has been provided, opening into South-street, which can in case of a necessity arising be opened with very slight pressure from the inside...
...The stage door is situated in South-street. The stage itself is 40 feet deep from the footlights, and 60 feet wide. There are commodious dressing-rooms, etc., provided to the right of the stage, the dressing-rooms occupying four floors, two being placed on each floor. The green-room, manager's-room, and property-room are all conveniently arranged. Mr. Parry has very cleverly contrived that the old system of passages, which are very seldom used, should be done away with, and in their stead he has a scene painting-room, which, although somewhat limited in width, will admit of the largest scenes being painted in it. The canvas is attached in a very ingenious manner to pulleys, and can be raised or lowered at the will of the painter. There are also capital arrangements made for quickly transferring the scenes to the stage. Mr. George Vinning is the scenic artist to the establishment. On the opposite side of the stage are the workshops, and a long door which opens into South-street, which will admit scenes of the very largest size to the stage. Everything in connection with this part of the house is absolute perfection, and whilst no space has been wasted, there is every available accommodation provided for the artistes and employes on the establishment.
With respect to the decoration of the house, it is truly magnificent. The whole of the ornamental interior decorations, including the box and gallery fronts, domed ceiling, proscenium, &c, were modelled and executed by Messrs. White and Co., London.
Left - A Poster for the Tivoli Theatre, Hull, formerly the Theatre Royal, for a production of ''Red Riding Hood' in 1948 - Courtesy Dave Wilson.
The proscenium, which is richly embellished with gilding and floral devices, is 26 feet wide and 28 feet high. The act drop, which is after Watteau, by Mr. Julian Hicks, is a splendid work of art, the figures upon it having been painted by Mr. Absolom, President of the Society of Arts, in Water Colours. The splendid burnished gilding, and the painting, are by Mr. William Noble, of the Hampstead-road, London, who has executed the decorations at the Globe, the Prince of Wales's, and other London theatres. The colouring and gilding has been blended together in such a manner that there is nothing which can offend the most fastidious taste, the whole being so well harmonised.
Mr. Noble has been assisted in his work by several Hull painters, and has not confined himself solely to London talent, The decorations, on the front of the dress circle and upper boxes, are in carton pierre of the most chaste and costly description. The ground work is white, with floral ornamentation in pink, picked out in gold. The ceiling is dome-shaped, and is divided into eight panels, and is formed of the same description of material as that round the dress circle. The surbits are also divided in eight handsome perforated panels, the whole being richly gilt.
Right - A 1935 Variety Poster for the Tivoli Theatre, Hull, formerly the Theatre Royal - Courtesy Chris Woodward.
The theatre is lighted by a sun-burner on a somewhat novel principle which is fixed in the centre of the ceiling, it being so formed that it does not throw the least shadow upon any part of the house. The passages are lighted with gas brackets, and a very clever arrangement renders it impossible for the gas to be entirely turned off during the time the performance is proceeding. All necessary precautions have been taken to guard against fire, and appliances are ready to quell any outbreak that may occur. Communication can at once be had with the water mains in South-street, and there are portable hand engines placed ready for use on either side of the stage, and in other parts of the building.
The brickwork and plaster work have been executed by Mr. Jackson, Witham; the woodwork by Messrs, Hockney, Liggins, and Caley, and the gas-fittings, &c., by Messrs. Stones, Settle, and Wilkinson. Mr. Parry has engaged several of the highest members of the profession, and we can only express a hope that the public of Hull will very extensively patronise the establishment, and that he may reap the reward he deserves, and which he fully deserves, for presenting to Hull a theatre such a that which is now erected in Paragon-street.'
Despite the glowing report above the Theatre was reconstructed in 1888, whilst under the management of Alfred Cuthbert, to aid fire prevention and escape from the building when two new exits were added for the Pit, two stone staircases were added for the Gallery, a stone staircase replaced the old wooden Dress Circle one, new fire hydrants were installed on stage, and a new Asbestos Fire curtain was installed into the proscenium.
The Theatre Royal closed with the opening of the Alexandra
Theatre in 1902, both
Theatres being owned by the same firm. This firm then adapted the Theatre
Royal and reopened it as the Tivoli Theatre in 1912.
Above - The Tivoli Theatre, Hull, which was a conversion from the old Theatre Royal - From an Early Postcard - Courtesy Maurice Friedman, British Music hall Society.
The Theatre Royal closed with the opening of the Alexandra Theatre in 1902, both Theatres being owned by the same firm. This firm later adapted the Theatre Royal and reopened it as the Tivoli Theatre in 1912.
Right - A Poster for the New Tivoli Theatre, Hull for November the 7th 1949 featuring The Kopper-Knobs, Clifford Stanton, Ten Zio Angels, Windsor and Wilton, Dennis Willis, Taylor & Gray, Seddes Bros, Claud Williams, an Dennis & Betty Rawlins.
Left - A Poster for the New Tivoli Theatre, Hull for a production of 'Tropical Express' in 1941 - Courtesy Dave Wilson who says ' I seem to remember a piece on a TV program which I was only half watching at the time. It mentioned British Doorlay Revues who 'presented' this show. The piece on the program said that 'Professor Doorlay' was actually a German spy who disappeared without trace after World War Two. This seems to explain the international cast of his shows. I have looked all over the internet and can find no mention of this. Personally I am more inclined to believe that people like Sonnee Rangan were actually Sid Clegg from Halifax but if anyone can throw light on this rumour it would it would be of great interest to me. ' If you know any more about this please Contact me.
The Tivoli Theatre closed as a variety Theatre in 1954 and was for a short time used as a cinema but this venture failed and the Theatre closed in early September 1954 and was later demolished in 1959.
A new building Tivoli House now stands on the site and is currently home to Skeltons bakery and cafe.
Arthur Lucan the famous Music Hall and Variety star whose best known charactor was Old Mother Riley died backstage at the Tivoli Theatre, Hull on Monday 17th May 1954. There is a bronze mermorial bust of Lucan, which was unveilled on the 8th August 1986 by Danny La Rue, situated near the spot where he died, in the back of the cafe, and there are also a number of posters and programmes for the Tivoli Theatre displayed there.
More on Arthur Lucan can be found here
Above - A drawing showing proposed alterations to the Tivoli Theatre, Hull by Frank Matcham & Co., Architects in March 1926 - Courtesy Calvin Parker.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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