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Kirkcaldy, long established in fishing, flax, and North Sea trading with the Continent, expanded in the 19th century with industry based on Fife`s deep coalfields and especially with the start of linoleum production. The new technologies of combining linen cloth and linseed oil created international demand for the new floor coverings, with the town becoming the centre of linoleum manufacturing in Britain, and for a time the world-centre. For dramatic entertainment, and for concerts, touring companies could use the town`s Corn Exchange and also in the 19th century use the town`s Theatre. The Corn Exchange Hall could seat about 750 people and in 1900 was a base for Horace Livermore and his Court Minstrels which toured Britain. The town also had a share of temporary theatres, one in 1871 being the Mammoth Theatre.

Kirkcaldy`s theatre today is named after the philosopher Adam Smith, a distinguished son of the town who went off to Glasgow University and expounded the theory of economics.

 

The Kirkcaldy Theatre, Kirk Wynd, Kirkcaldy

Later - The Theatre Royal / The Grand Theatre / Hunter Hall

Kirk Wynd with the Hunter Hall on right in the 1890s - Courtesy George Proudfoot.Based in the Kirk Wynd at the end of a row of flax warehouses directly opposite the Old Kirk, the town`s Theatre was functioning by the 1830s and could seat over 500 people. The zoomable town centre map of Kirkcaldy shows the Flax Warehouses – which included the theatre in Kirk Wynd.

Right - Kirk Wynd with the Hunter Hall on right in the 1890s - Courtesy George Proudfoot.

Touring companies coming through Dunfermline had a circuit which included Methil, Kirkcaldy, St Andrews, Cupar and on to Dundee across the Tay. Mr & Mrs Ryder, also active in the Dundee Theatre, ran Kirkcaldy Theatre for a time in the 1830s. Horatio Lloyd tells the story of actress Mrs Henry Siddons performing “in the neat enough but very little theatre” in the 1840s here.

 

A Songsheet co-written by J. F. Lambe whose My Sweetheart Company performed in the Grand Theatre, Kirkcaldy in September 1888 - Courtesy Barry Norris.In 1858 Mr Somers, lessee and manager, had his own corps dramatique who were well received. Mr J. F. Lambert of the Dundee Theatre became lessee also at Kirkcaldy supported by his scenic artist Mr Day, bringing plaudits during 1859, and the comic singer Sam Cowell. Each year`s pantomime filled the house, the ticket prices being reduced for Christmas. The tragedian actress Miss Goddard attracted large crowds - some having to be turned away - in 1860 and made her second annual tour round Scotland. Her fortnight of performances in the theatre included public patronage by the sophisticated Lady Harriett St Clair, and on another night Provost Birrell. Day became lessee but the theatre`s fortunes declined for a while, until in the mid 1860s and 70s it was being let by Mrs J. H. Forbes, 293 High Street, “to reputable companies”. The theatre was also used for meetings, and for a time in 1870 it was leased for worship for six months to evangelists from Glasgow.

Left - A Songsheet co-written by J. F. Lambe whose My Sweetheart Company performed in the Grand Theatre, Kirkcaldy in September 1888 - Courtesy Barry Norris.

It resumed its theatre career, but after lying desolate for some years it burned down at the end of December 1888. Three men including one-time lessee, and bill-poster, George Clark – who changed the theatre`s name in September 1888 to Grand Theatre and sought “First class Companies, Concert parties, Dioramas, and other great Novelties” - were arrested and appeared in court on charges of arson to defraud the Federal Insurance Co Ltd. One of them, the lessee John Torrance who was trading as the Theatre Royal at the beginning of 1888 “with a resident scenic artist, good band and efficient staff” was sent to jail for five years. The property`s owner at the time was John Hunter, a councillor and philanthropist. He rebuilt the premises in 1890, renamed the Hunter Hall, and gifted it to the Old Kirk. It continues to be known as the Hunter Hall. Today it is used for community purposes, worship and drama, and is managed by the Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith and kindly sent in for inclusion in December 2014.

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

 

The King's Theatre & Opera House, 252 -262 High Street, Kirkcaldy

Later - The Hippodrome

The Frontage of the King`s Theatre, Kirkcaldy - Courtesy Bruce Peter

Above - The Frontage of the King`s Theatre, Kirkcaldy - Courtesy Bruce Peter

R. C. Buchanan and associates of Glasgow in the early 1900s encouraged the building of new theatres, which when under construction would be sold to local shareholder companies with Buchanan becoming its managing director. Kirkcaldy`s turn came in 1904 soon after he had opened Falkirk`s Grand Theatre and Opera House in 1903. The new theatre would be chaired by Major Robert Howard of Bath Street, Glasgow who was also chairman of the New Century Theatre, Motherwell, the New Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, and the Grand Theatre & Opera House, Falkirk. The site in High Street at the junction with Redburn Wynd was chosen and two architects appointed - J. D. Swanston who was also a Kirkcaldy town councillor and William Williamson. Each had their own architectural firms, Swanston being in partnership with William Syme, with offices in Redburn Wynd.

The auditorium of the King's Theatre, Kirkcaldy - Courtesy Bruce Peter.The spacious red-sandstoned theatre held 2,500 people in a combination of stalls and two galleries with boxes at each level and was entered through an arched arcade, finished in Italian marble, in High Street beyond shops and a tenement building of houses. It is thought that Swanston designed the theatre and Williamson concentrated on the commercial shops and tenement.

Right - The auditorium of the King's Theatre, Kirkcaldy - Courtesy Bruce Peter.

The contractor was W. S. Cruikshank & Son. The son Stewart, then 27, would become one of the top figures in British theatre business. The King`s stage was 30 feet deep and 60 feet wide, with a proscenium opening of 28 feet. Productions came and went, and the theatre was also a venue for meetings including, in April 1906, when General Booth of the Salvation Army was given the freedom of the burgh. The theatre continued to lose money however and even Swanston expressed frustration at the management and accounting methods of the Kirkcaldy Theatre Company Ltd. It was wound up in 1908.

After qualifying as architects, Swanston (and Syme) had become assistants to architect Alex Cullen of Hamilton and Glasgow, who designed Falkirk`s Grand Theatre for an R. C. Buchanan company. J. D. Swanston continued to design theatres and cinemas including Methil`s Gaiety Theatre 1907; Alexandra Theatre, Belfast, 1909; Carnoustie`s seaside Pavilion Theatre - opening in 1912 as the Park Avenue Variety Theatre built in Art Nouveau style (See here); and Kirkcaldy`s Palace Theatre, 1913.

He also designed (in association with James Davidson) the King`s Theatre, Edinburgh in 1906 as another R. C. Buchanan project – also with W. S. Cruikshank & Son as contractor. Swanston`s design of Kirkcaldy King`s Theatre was largely reproduced in the Edinburgh King`s which continues today.

The Foyer of the King's Theatre, Kirkcaldy - Courtesy Bruce Peter

Above - The Foyer of the King's Theatre, Kirkcaldy - Courtesy Bruce Peter

The King`s in Kirkcaldy now changed hands several times. On the 5th February 1908 the theatre was sold at auction in Glasgow to Mr Abrahams of London and Mrs Ellis of the Borough Theatre, Stratford for £7,000, just over a third of its original price. Within a month E. H. Bostock of Glasgow had taken over and renamed it as the Hippodrome, with productions of variety, revues and circus entertainment. In October 1908 the Hippodrome was the venue for the granting of the freedom of the burgh to Prime Minister Asquith. The gallery was barred to women in fear of Suffragette agitation; and the reception afterwards took place in the new Adam Smith Hall.

In 1928 it changed to a full time cinema under the company which became the ABC group, and in 1937 it was redesigned by architect Charles McNair as a modern cinema. Pictures continued to the year 2000 and more photographs can be seen of it in the Scottish Cinema website here, and from the Buildings at Risk website here. It appears that much of the original theatre design remains behind the 1937 adaptations.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith and kindly sent in for inclusion in December 2014.

In November 2016 I was contacted by someone who informed me that a group of local people are hoping to restore and reopen the King's Theatre to the public. They have their own website for the Theatre here, and Facebook page here, where you can read about their aims and donate to the cause.

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

 

The Adam Smith Theatre, Bennochy Road at St Brycedale Avenue, Kirkcaldy

A Postcard showing the Adam Smith & Beveridge Halls, Kirkcaldy in the 1900s - Courtesy Graeme Smith

Above - A Postcard showing the Adam Smith & Beveridge Halls, Kirkcaldy in the 1900s - Courtesy Graeme Smith

A Playbill for the Adam Smith Centre, Kirkcaldy in the 1970s - Courtesy Colin Calder.While he was Provost linen manufacturer Michael Beveridge campaigned for a new place of public entertainment, concerts and meetings, which would also commemorate the life of Adam Smith, a son of Kirkcaldy who became the famed economist and philosopher. In his will Beveridge bequeathed 104 acres of Raith Estate which was developed as a major public park and recreation area - Beveridge Park - opening in 1892. He also left an endowment to build the Adam Smith Memorial and Beveridge Halls & Library, which was its initial name at the time of the architectural competition launched to find the best designs. The imposing new baroque building was designed by James Dunn & James Findlay, architects in Edinburgh.

Right - A Playbill for the Adam Smith Centre, Kirkcaldy in the 1970s - Courtesy Colin Calder.

Opening in October 1899 and owned by Kirkcaldy Corporation, the very new and beautifully fitted Adam Smith Hall seated 1,500 and was soon promoted as:- “suitable for dramatic and operatic companies. Although chiefly used as a concert hall many companies have visited, such as Moody-Manners (C) Company etc. Terms: One night £5; 25 per cent reduction after two nights.” The smaller Beveridge Hall was £3 per night. Photographs of the Hall`s interior in 1972 can be seen here. The halls were refurbished in 1973, and now include a cinema and arts studios.

For 22 years until 2012 the Theatre function suite had Thursday afternoon tea dances managed by Bill Cousins who had retired as a lighting director for Howard & Wyndham Ltd. The Adam Smith Theatre seats 475 and details of its facilities and current programming can be seen here.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith and kindly sent in for inclusion in December 2014.

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

 

A Google StreetView Image of the Adam Smith Theatre - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Adam Smith Theatre - Click to Interact

 

Links Hall, Heggie`s Wynd, Links Street, Kirkcaldy

A Poster for the Kirkcaldy Links Hall for Monday the 27th of July 1914 - Courtesy Colin Calder. The Links Hall in Heggie`s Wynd provided variety and summer shows, being near the Esplanade - but not much, so far, is known of its origins or developer. Its designer may have been William Williamson, co-architect of the King`s Theatre. It is known he designed a Links Hall in 1912 to be built in Links Street. In the same year he was designing a Picture House, but address not provided.

Right - A Poster for the Kirkcaldy Links Hall for Monday the 27th of July 1914 - Courtesy Colin Calder.

On the Bill for the poster shown right, billed as the 'Largest Variety Show in Kirkcaldy' and with 'Twelve Stars Thate Always Shine' were Lochiel, the versatile Comedian, Mimic, and Funny Patterer; Andy Kirk, Kirkcaldy's Comedian and Patterer, J. H. Weir, the Local Star Light Comedian and Chorus Singer; Madge Clifford, the Famous Comedy Dancer and Original Funny Male Impersonator; The Two Argyles in their laughable sketch 'A Scotchman in a Fix'; Loch and Ben, the Favourite Instrumentalists and Cross Talk Patterers; Jack M'Donald, the Great Scotch Comedian from London Pantomime; W. Martin Bradford, Musical Director and Refined Entertainer at the Piano; Ned Flyman, the Clever Conjuror and Card Manipulator; Doris Lindsay, Dainty Comedienne and Expert Dancer, from Moffat's 'Scrape o' the Pen' Co.; A Screamingly Funny Sketch every evening in which the whole Company take part.

The Hall also showed pictures in 1913-14, and continuing after that time when it was leased to the BB Picture Company Ltd of Glasgow.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith and kindly sent in for inclusion in December 2014.

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

 

The Palace Theatre & Opera House, 252 -262 High Street, Kirkcaldy

The Palace Theatre, Kirkcaldy - Courtesy Bruce Peter

Above - The Palace Theatre, Kirkcaldy - Courtesy Bruce Peter

The Palace was designed by architect J. D Swanston, partly in Art Nouveau style, and opened as a 1,100 seated variety theatre in 1913 but after a year it turned to cinema. It burned down in 1946. Further details be seen in the Scottish Cinemas website here.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith and kindly sent in for inclusion in December 2014.

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: