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The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

Theatres and Halls in Inverness, Scotland

The Eden Court Theatre - The Empire Theatre / Central Hall Picture House - The Theatre Royal

The Eden Court Theatre, Bishop’s Road, Inverness, Scotland

A Google StreetView Image of the Eden Court Theatre - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Eden Court Theatre - Click to Interact.

The Eden Court Theatre was built on the banks of the River Ness and opened in April 1976. The Theatre was designed by the architects Law & Dunbar-Nasmith with a multi leveled horse shoe shaped auditorium seating 830. The dressing rooms and offices for the Theatre were built into part of the former Bishop's Palace which was constructed in the 19th century for Bishop Robert Eden. Part of this was also used as a small cinema. Around the Theatre's auditorium a multitude of hexagonal projections housed the Theatre's foyers, bars, restaurant, and staircases to the various levels. The Theatre was designed to be able to house plays, opera, musicals, concerts, and films on its proscenium arched 80 foot thrust stage, and has a motorised centre section which can be moved back to form an orchestra pit capable of seating 60 musicians.

In November 2007 the Eden Court Theatre reopened after major improvements were carried out which included the addition of a second Theatre, two new Cinemas, two dance and drama studios, and new dressing rooms built on three floors. This was all carried out to the designs of the architects Page / Park.

The Eden Court Theatre is a Grade A Listed Building, you may like to visit the Theatre's own website here.

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

The Empire Theatre, 63 Academy Street, Inverness, Scotland

Formerly - The Central Hall Picture House

The Theatre - Various Show Photos - The Final Night

The Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Derek Mathieson

Above - The Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Derek Mathieson

The Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Alan Chudley.The Empire Theatre was situated on Academy Street, Inverness and was originally opened by Inverness Picture House Ltd., as the Central Hall Picture House in 1912. The Theatre had seating for 1,100 people and a small stage with a 28 foot side proscenium.

Right - The Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Alan Chudley.

A Bill for 'The Quaker Girl' at the Central Picture House, Inverness in April 1932 - Courtesy Alan Chudley.However, after the earlier Theatre Royal on Bank Street was destroyed by fire on the 17th March 1931, Will Fyffe's revue, which had been on at the Royal that night, was transferred to the Central Picture House.

Left - A Bill for 'The Quaker Girl' at the Central Picture House, Inverness in April 1932 - Courtesy Alan Chudley.

Following this other live shows were presented there until the 17th September 1934 when, with an enlarged stage and more dressing rooms added, it reopened as The Empire Theatre with Harry Lauder headlining, and was to become Inverness's Theatre and Concert Hall for the next 36 years, presenting a wide spectrum of theatrical entertainment.

The Auditorium of the Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Derek Mathieson

Above - The Auditorium of the Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Derek Mathieson

The Auditorium and Stage of the Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Derek Mathieson

Above - The Auditorium and Stage of the Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Very few touring shows from south of the border ever went to the Empire; apart from the distances involved, Caledonian Cinemas, as was the case with most Cinema circuits, preferred to rent the Theatre out rather than accept the usual sharing terms as was the case with Theatres. Just after world war two the Empire could be rented for around £100 per week.

Robert Wilson and The Dale Sisters celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Empire Theatre, Inverness on the 31st of December 1962 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - Robert Wilson and The Dale Sisters celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Empire Theatre, Inverness on the 31st of December 1962 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

A page from a programme for Harry Lauder performing at the Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Alan Chudley.The Empire seated around 1,000 people in Stalls and Circle, the decorations were very plain and the front of house areas rather cramped. Conditions backstage left much to be desired, many of the dressing rooms were under the stage, these were often very cold and subject to flooding when the Empire's antiquated heating system was brought into use after the all too often long periods of winter closure.

Right - A page from a programme for Harry Lauder performing at the Empire Theatre, Inverness - Courtesy Alan Chudley.

A Poster for the Alexander Brothers at the Empire Theatre, Inverness for August 1964 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.Never the less, all the big names in Scottish Variety often played the Empire, bringing their resident shows from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Paisley, Greenock, and Ayr.

These shows played to good business until the coming of television. Amateur companies also presented shows there and local semi professionals appeared along side the professional artistes in the variety shows. These semi professionals such as comedian Johnnie Bogan from the Muir of Ord were very popular.

Left - A Poster for the Alexander Brothers at the Empire Theatre, Inverness for August 1964 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

John Worth, the Inverness Empire's Manager for over 20 years - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.With the coming of television, the Empire became a liability to Caledonian Cinemas who tried to sell the building, and the periods of closure became longer.

The end came for this Theatre on Saturday 28th November 1970 when the last show was put on with the orchestra under the baton of John Worth, who had been the Empire's popular manager for over 20 years. The show presented a mixture of professional and amateurs who had appeared at the Empire over the years.

Right - John Worth, the Inverness Empire's Manager for over 20 years - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

More information on the Empire, and its closing night, can be seen here. And some photos from various Empire productions, shown in the Empire Theatre's Final Night Programme, can be seen here.

A Google StreetView Image of the site of the former Empire Theatre, Inverness - Click to Interact.After the final show on the 28th of November 1970 the Empire Theatre was demolished and an office block called 'Caledonian House' was built on the site. Today the site of the Empire Theatre is home to an Hotel called the Pentahotel.

Left - A Google StreetView Image of the site of the former Empire Theatre, Inverness - Click to Interact.

Some of the above information on the Empire, Inverness was kindly sent in by Alan Chudley.

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

Some Photographs from various Inverness Empire productions, shown in the Empire Theatre's Final Night Programme

Andy Stewart and Company outside the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - Andy Stewart and Company outside the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Summer Show Dancers at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - Summer Show Dancers at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The Cast of Dick Whittington at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Cast of Dick Whittington at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The M Firth School of Dancing in 'Merry Go Round' at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The M Firth School of Dancing in 'Merry Go Round' at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Margaret Firth and Her dancers at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - Margaret Firth and Her dancers at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The Patrick O'Hagan Summer Show at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Patrick O'Hagan Summer Show at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The Cast of an Unknown Summer Show at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Cast of an Unknown Summer Show at the Inverness Empire Theatre - From the Theatre's Final Night Programme in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Derek Mathieson on the Empire Theatre Inverness and its Closing Night

The Staff of the Empire Theatre, Inverness wearing George B Bowie aprons in 1952 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Staff of the Empire Theatre, Inverness wearing George B Bowie aprons in 1952 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson who says 'The doorman was known as 'Slipper' Mackenzie, and the lady next to him was Jean Brockie who was in charge of the box office.'

The Programme for the Final Night of the Empire Theatre, Inverness on Saturday the 28th of November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.A visitor to this site, Derek Mathieson, who worked at the Empire Theatre in the 1960s and was there on the closing night of Saturday the 28th of November 1970, has sent in some information and images related to the Empire, which can be seen here and above. Derek says:- 'For many years the Empire was leased by George B. Bowie the Glasgow Impresario, who held the leases on many of the theatres in Scotland and particularly in seaside places such as Largs, Dunoon, North Berwick, Montrose, Leven, Dunbar, also the Theatre at Paisley.

Right - The Programme for the Final Night of the Empire Theatre, Inverness on Saturday the 28th of November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The manager who ran the theatre for Bowie was John Worth (shown below left), who came from a theatrical family, I know he had at least two brothers who were in the theatre, Claude Worth and Jack Worth, both of whom I think worked for Bowie.

John Worth, Manager of the Empire Theatre, Inverness for 20 years, shown here in the Stalls of the Theatre in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.Bowie gave up the lease in the 1950's and John Worth decided to stay on in Inverness, and took on the lease of the theatre which was owned by C.A.C,. (Caledonian Associated Cinemas Ltd, based in Inverness). John Worth booked the shows himself, and produced many shows as well, as he was a very talented pianist, in fact he was in the pit on the closing night. John Worth held the lease until the theatre closed on 28th November 1970.

Left - John Worth, Manager of the Empire Theatre, Inverness for 20 years, shown here in the Stalls of the Theatre in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The theatre often held midnight Matinees on a Friday evening starting at 11pm they always attracted a good house with a few inebriated patrons amongst the audience. Calumn Kennedy and Alasdair Gilles and Irish Singer Bridie Gallagher were always guaranteed full houses. Calumn Kennedy held the Box Office record at the theatre.

The line up for the Inverness Empire's Final Night was hosted by Ronnie Coburn, the Scottish comedian, and starred The Corries (John Worth was their manager for many years), Bill McCue, Will Star, Johnnie Bogan, Margaret Firth and her dancers, and a host of local amateur groups.

The Last few minutes of the Final Night at the Empire Theatre, Inverness in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Last few minutes of the Final Night at the Empire Theatre, Inverness in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Bill McCue on stage for the Inverness Empire's Final Night in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.Will Star on stage for the Inverness Empire's Final Night in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.The dancers did a routine towards the end with picks, symbolising the demolishing of the building. Unbeknown to John Worth, Margaret Firth (who ran troups of dancers and was a great friend of John Worth) came on and did a dance routine, John knew nothing about this and his face was a picture when she came on stage.

Right - Will Star on stage for the Inverness Empire's Final Night in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson. And Bill McCue on stage for the Inverness Empire's Final Night in November 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

There were two performances on the Final night in November 1970, and it was a nightmare getting the first house patrons out and the final house patrons seated for the final show.

The Last few minutes of the Final Night at the Empire Theatre, Inverness in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Last few minutes of the Final Night at the Empire Theatre, Inverness in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Derek Mathieson's Stage Door Pass for the Final Night of the Empire Theatre, inverness in 1970.John Worth decided that as the finale was approaching, the stage drapes, and scenery would be flown out into the fly tower and all that would be left would be the lighting and the bare brick walls (see photos above and below).

All the cast assembled on stage, and Ronnie brought all the stage staff and front of house staff on to the stage. It was after 1am in the morning before the last people left the stage. Some of the public did not want to leave. Some took away souvenirs of pieces of scenery on their way out.

Shown here are various photographs of the final night, together with my Stage Door Pass for the Final Night.' - Derek Mathieson, June 2016.

The Final Night at the Empire Theatre, Inverness in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Final Night at the Empire Theatre, Inverness in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The Final Night at the Empire Theatre, Inverness in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Final Night at the Empire Theatre, Inverness in 1970 - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The above text and its accompanying images were kindly sent in by Derek Mathieson in June 2016 and should not be furthur reproduced without his explicit permission.

The Theatre Royal, Bank Street, Inverness, Scotland

A Google StreetView Image of Moray House, Bank Street, Inverness, which stands on the site of the former Theatre Royal - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of Moray House, Bank Street, Inverness, which stands on the site of the former Theatre Royal - Click to Interact.

The Theatre Royal was sittuated on Bank Street, Inverness and opened on Monday the 6th of November 1882. The ERA reported on the opening of the Theatre in their 11th of November 1882 edition saying:- 'This new theatre, situated in Bank-street, was opened on Monday evening, by Mr C. Bernard's Les Cloches de Corneville company, under very favourable circumstances. The house was not crowded, but a large and fashionable assemblage occupied the dress circle and orchestra stalls; the pit and gallery were well filled; and two of the private boxes were occupied.

The theatre is built to accommodate 800 persons. The auditory is circular in shape, and is divided into private boxes, dress circle, orchestra stalls, pit, and gallery. The two latter have each two exits. The dress circle is reached directly from the street, through an open portico projected over the pavement, and up a broad flight of steps broken by a plat on the centre. The dress circle also communicates with the two gallery stairs, through doorways which will only be used in cases of emergency. There are other two exits - one from each side of the stage, running directly into the side paths, which communicate also with the pit. It will thus be seen that provision for entering and leaving the house is ample, and it is one great advantage that there are no long lobbies or corridors between any part of the house and the street.

The stage has been fitted up in a tasteful manner, and contains all modern appliances, both in regard to the arrangements of scenery and the lighting apparatus. An entirely new stock of scenery has been painted expressly for the theatre. Dressing-rooms, property-rooms, managers' room, green room, attending room, &c., in fact, all the apartments usually required behind the curtain, are provided.

The auditory is painted and decorated in a rich, but quiet and effective, manner, the private boxes, proscenium, and other parts are tastefully draped, and the dress circle and orchestra stalls comfortably upholstered. The general effect of the interior, when lighted up, is bright and pleasing. The light of the auditory is supplied by a large sunlight from the ceiling, and the ceiling itself is beautifully decorated, the colour being a pale French blue, while the cove of the ceiling is enlivened by a series of figures in procession, representing various scenes of country life.

Externally the building also presents a very fine appearance. On the ground floor there are five large doorways, the central one giving access to the dress circle, two on either side of it leading to the pit, and two flank ones leading to the gallery staircases. The three central doors are in the projecting portion of the building, which is rounded on the angles, and rises to a height of three storeys, finishing as an open platform surrounded by a stone balustrade. The main building rises another storey behind this, and is also furnished with a stone balustrade, broken out in the centre by a wide tympanum or gable. Over the doors on the ground floor are two rows of windows for lighting the dress circle and gallery floors. The front is of polished Covesea ashlar, and is on the whole very effective.

On Monday evening the entertainment commenced with the singing of the National Anthem, with full chorus and orchestral accompaniments, the audience all standing. Miss Newton, who plays the role of Marquis in the opera, thereafter stepped forward, and, with much grace and elocutionary effect, delivered a prologue. In almost every detail the performance given by Mr Bernard's company was complete, and gave great satisfaction to the large audience assembled to witness the opening of this splendid building.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 11 November 1882.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Theatre Royal, Inverness a few years after it opened in 1887. The ERA reported on the occasion in their 28th of August 1887 edition saying:' 'Mr. Arthur Lloyd, in one of his characters at the Theatre Royal, Inverness, last week, set a man in the pit laughing so loudly and so long that at last he was almost in convulsions. The audience, a most enthusiastic one, was affected to such an extent that they shrieked with laughter; and Mr Lloyd and his daughter at last had to turn their backs upon the house and have a chuckle to themselves. When order was restored they resumed their performances and brought the play to a successful close.' - The ERA, 28th of August 1887.

Arthur Lloyd also performed at the Theatre Royal in January 1900.

Sadly the Theatre Royal was destroyed by fire on the 17th March 1931. The show at the time was Will Fyffe's revue, and all his costumes and scenery were lost in the fire. However, the show was able to open the following night at the Central Hall Picture House, in Academy Street.

There is an early photograph of the Theatre Royal here. A building called Moray House now stands on the Theatre's site.

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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