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Theatres in Llanelli, Wales

The Royalty Theatre / Haggar's Theatre / Hippodrome - The Theatre Royal

The Royalty Theatre, Market and Water Street, Llanelli, Wales

Later - Haggar's Theatre / Hippodrome

A Google StreetView Image showing the rough position of the former Royalty Theatre, Llanelli - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image showing the rough position of the former Royalty Theatre, Llanelli - Click to Interact. The Two Blue Plaques seen here on the present Tinopolis building on Park Street commemorate the former Theatre and its 1910 Manager Arthur William Haggar. However, the Theatre itself was situated on the corner of Market Street and Water Street which was to the left rear corner of the present Tinopolis building.

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The Royalty Theatre was built on the site of the Old Falcon House at the junction of Market and Water streets, Llanelli, with its main entrance on Market Street. The Theatre was built by J. E. Noakes, a successful and popular comedian and a portable theatre proprietor. The Theatre opened on Boxing Day night 1892, with a production of the musical comedy 'A Detective' written by Alfred Cox, and presented by C. H. Ross's Comedy Company, to a crowded house.

The ERA Newspaper of 24th December 1892 describes the application for a licence for the Theatre as follows:- 'The plan of the imposing and commodious theatre now being completed for Mr J. E. Noakes, the popular comedian, came before the local licensing committee of the County Council on Thursday, 16th inst, at the Town Hall. Mr T. P. Rowlands, gave evidence. He said he was a member of the firm of Messrs J. P. Jones and Rowlands, architects, of Cardiff and Swansea. He had had considerable experience in public buildings, and was the architect of the Grand Theatre, Cardiff, which accommodated between 2,000 and 2,200 people. The Grand Theatre had all the most modern improvements and appliances. He had examined the theatre near the Falcon-bridge, and felt perfectly satisfied that it had been well and strongly built. The walls were strong, and the top staircase was 5 feet 4 inches wide. Both Galleries, practically speaking, were of the same width. The galleries in the Grand Theatre accommodated 800, and the staircase leading therefrom was 7ft. Here the Galleries only accommodate 348 people and there was a staircase 5 feet 4 inches in width, which was quite ample. The galleries could be emptied in two minutes twenty seconds, and in case of a panic in about 5 minutes. Three persons could go down the gallery abreast comfortably. He had had considerable experience in London theatres, and he could say that this compared very favourably with four out of five of them. Mr Wm, Griffiths said he had examined the Royalty and found it to be well and strongly built in every sense of the word. In his opinion the committee need have no fear as to granting the licence. The committee inspected the building. On returning, Mr D Evans proposed that the licence be granted subject to the approval of the local Board. Mr Joseph Joseph seconded, and it was unanimously carried.' - The ERA, 24th December 1892.

The Theatre was designed by Swansea Architect T. P. Martin and built by a local Llanelli builder. The 'Llanelli County Guardian Newspaper' of 29th December 1892 described the Theatre as having a domed ceiling in the auditorium with seating on four levels, namely stalls and pit, circle, upper circle, and gallery. The proscenium arch had a width of 33 feet.

The ERA Newspaper dated 31st December 1892 stated:- 'It is handsomely furnished throughout. The entrances and exits are ample, and the theatre can easily be cleared in three minutes. Mr Noakes has been fortunate in his choice of manager, Mr Sidney Beltram being well up to his duties.'

In 1894 Sidney Beltram left the Theatre for a position in London and John Noakes appointed his son in law, William Totten to be the new manager. However in 1897 John Noakes sold the Theatre to a local syndicate led by John Evans, who ran the Royal Opera House in Swansea. The Theatre was closed for minor building alterations and re-opened a few months later. William Totten stayed on, but changed job position to being leader of the orchestra.

In 1900 through to 1910 the Theatre changes hands again three times. The first new owner was Mr John Tully, followed by Mr Z. Andrew (also the owner of the theatre in Aberdare) and lastly Miss Alice Rochefort became the owner.

Early films shown on the Bioscope were first shown in 1907.

The Royalty Theatre continued to present touring productions and Music Hall/Variety until 1910 when the Theatre was taken over by Arthur William Hagger, a cinema pioneer, who renamed the Theatre 'Hagger's Theatre.' He wanted a base to show his films, but continued running the Theatre with variety and frequent films showings. In 1908 William Hagger had managed to buy a plot of land in Cowell Street and built a 'Picture Palace', exclusively to show films. Hagger's Theatre continued in it's roll as having 'live' theatrical fare, with the new Picture Palace showing film presentations.

In 1910 electricity was installed in Hagger's Theatre.

By 1915 however, it became difficult to find enough touring shows due to the first world war, and by 1917 Hagger put the Theatre up for sale. It was bought and re-opened with a change of name again, this time being called 'The Hippodrome'. It presented Variety and did good business. A memorable production in 1919 was the Revue 'All Aboard' starring Randolph Sutton.

The 1920's saw seasons of Revues, Repertory, tours and Pantomimes, and so the Theatre soldiered on. However, eventually, in the 1960's, as with many Theatres, the paying public fell away, and the Theatre struggled, until closure. It then changed policy to becoming a Bingo Hall.

The Hippodrome eventually failed even with Bingo, and it was finally demolished in 1977, and a Tesco store was built upon the site. Thus ending 85 years of entertainment for the citizens of Llanelli. Today the site is home to an office building for the Tinopolis Television production company. Two Blue Plaques on the present building commemorate the former Theatre and Arthur William Haggar.

More information on John Edmund Noakes' association with the Royalty Theatre, Llanelli by his great grandson Colin Baines can be found here.

The above article on the Royalty Theatre, Llanelli was written for this site by David Garratt in September 2018.

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

The Theatre Royal Llanelli

In December 1880 Thomas Rees of the Royal Standard Theatre in Swansea was advertising in the ERA that his new Wooden Theatre Royal in Llanelly required an entire Dramatic Company and good Low Comedian to open for the season, commencing January 15th 1881. He also needed a stage carpenter and scenic artist who would also be required to play small parts.

There is a reference to Miss Emma Rainbow and Company playing a six week season of plays there in March 1883. However, by June of that year the Theatre Royal had changed hands, the new owner being Mr T. Rees. The Theatre did not fare well though, owing to poor audiences throughout the summer months.

By September 1883 the Theatre again changed ownership to Mr Charles Edward Matthews, opening again with a season of plays. He soon experienced strong competition from the Royal Exchange Music Hall in the town, and changed the Theatre Royal's policy to presenting alternate weeks of Variety and straight Plays.

The Theatre's management had changed yet again by February 1884 with Miss Nelly Beart, who had the auditorium and front of house repainted, and other improvements made. The opening play was 'Held in Bondage', however, her ownership only lasted two months. The next owners were Mr Stuart St Claire and Mr Harry Montague. They seemed to do better business but by 1885 the Theatre had closed, presumably permanently, as records of the building then cease.

The above article on the Theatre Royal, Llanelli was written for this site by David Garratt in November 2018.

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

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