The Rotunda Theatre, Junction of Scotland Road and Stanley Road, Liverpool
Above - Sketch of the Rotunda Theatre, Liverpool - From 'The Playgoer' of 1901 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.
The Rotunda Theatre was situated at the junction of Scotland Road and Stanley Road, Liverpool, and was first constructed as a Music Hall, which was opened on the 11th of July 1863 by Dennis Grannell. The Theatre was very popular and was enlarged and improved on several occasions, notably in 1866 when a larger stage was added at the Scotland Road end of the building. The building originally comprised of the Music Hall itself which was on the second floor, with Billiard Rooms on the first floor, games rooms in the basement, and an Hotel at the Southern end.
In 1875 Grannell had the entire roof removed and the interior enlarged but only two years later the Theatre was destroyed by fire in July 1877 during a three week run of the melodrama 'The Shaughraun'.
However, undeterred Grannell soon had the Theatre rebuilt, this time to the designs of the architects C. J. Phipps and Davis and Sons, it was reopened the following year, on Friday the 20th of December 1878, with a production of 'The Lilly of Killarney' by the Carla Rosa Opera Company.
The Building News and Engineering Journal reported on the Theatre's reopening in their 13th of December 1878 edition saying:- 'The new Rotunda Theatre, Liverpool, which is to be opened on Friday next, has been reconstructed from the designs of Mr. C. J. Phipps, F.S.A., in conjunction with Messrs. E. Davies and Son, of Liverpool; Messrs. Haigh and Co., of Liverpool, being the general contractors.
Right - The Rotunda, Liverpool - Courtesy Ron Formby.
The ground floor of the building comprises a tavern and cafe, and also billiard-rooms, with seven tables; and there are six American bowling alleys in the basement.
The entrances to the theatre (the pit of which is on the level of the first floor) are at the extreme back. Every staircase has a solid brick wall dividing the flights, and there are three distinct and separate staircases, so that each division of the audience has at least two means of egress in case of need. This is irrespective of the two staircases in the proscenium, both of which communicate with the highest level down to the street.
The seating capacity of the theatre is estimated for about 2,000 persons, but the space in every part of the building for those who choose to stand will make it capable of holding about 3,000.
Above - A Programme and Poster for the Rotunda, Liverpool - Courtesy Ron Formby
The plan is adopted of having all the walls of the gallery lined with glazed bricks, alternately white and red, combining great cleanliness with ornamental decoration. The ceiling and the two tiers of box fronts and proscenium pillars have been manufactured by the patentees, Geo. Jackson and Son, of Rathbone-place, in their fibrous plaster, and ornamentally painted and decorated from the designs of the architect.
The stage opening is 24ft. wide by 30ft. high, and the
ceiling is 38ft. above the pit floor. The stage is 32ft. deep from the
curtain line to the back wall, but a large room at the back of the stage
allows of scenic effects being shown to a depth of 44ft. The height
above the stage floor is 44ft., and the depth below sufficient to admit
of an entire scene being lowered out of sight. Over the whole building
is a high Mansard roof, covered with a lead flat, upon which are arranged
seats and alcoves in the various towers, and a camera obscura in the
The above text in quotes was first published in the Building News and Engineering Journal, 13th of December 1878.
The newly rebuilt Rotunda Theatre opened on Friday the 20th of December 1878, with a production of 'The Lilly of Killarney' by the Carla Rosa Opera Company, and the Theatre then went on to have a long and successful career. Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Rotunda, Liverpool in 1890 and 1891.
The interior of the Theatre was reconstructed in 1899 and the Theatre was said to have been utterly transformed, it reopened on the 4th of September 1899 with the play 'The Fenian' which was performed by the Hubert O'Grady Company. Melodrama was the main stay of the Theatre over the coming years although it often had drama and pantomime too, and even the occasional Bioscope presentations were later shown during its variety years in the 1920s and 30s.
However, the Theatre's long reign came to an end eventually when it was destroyed by enemy action during the war in September 1941.
Right - The Rotunda Theatre, Liverpool, destroyed by enemy action in 1941 - Image courtesy Ron Formby.
Some of the archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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