The Theatre Royal, Corporation Street, Hyde, Cheshire
And The Theatre royal, Frank Street
Above - A Google Street View of The Theatre Royal and Festival Theatre, Hyde - Click to Interact
The Theatre Royal in Corporation Street, Hyde was built for its Managing Director, Councillor Joseph W. Maloney, and constructed by S. Robinson and Sons of Hyde in 1902. Building began early in the year and the Theatre was completed for its opening night production of T. F. Elliston's company in 'Little Jim' on Monday the 3rd of November 1902.
Right - A copy of the 'Little Jim' programme cover for the opening of the Theatre Royal, Hyde on November 3rd 1902 - Courtesy Roy Cross.
The Theatre was designed by Campbell and Horsley who also designed the nearby Crown Theatre, Manchester, which originally opened as the Lyceum Theatre in 1899. The Theatre Royal actually replaced an earlier Theatre of the same name in Frank Street which was a wooden construction operating in Hyde since 1865, this was originally run by Charles Henry Duvall and then later by Joseph Maloney who would go on to build the new Theatre Royal in 1902. The new Theatre was built on a much grander scale with a wide Terra-cotta frontage and an auditorium, decorated by Charles Bancroft, in ivory and old-gold with crimson draperies, and constructed on three levels, stalls and pit, with cantilevered dress circle and gallery, and two private boxes, which in total could accommodate upwards of 1,600 people, all seated comfortably, some in tip up chairs, with arms, and upholstered in crimson velvet.
The Stage Newspaper reported on the building of the new Theatre Royal in their 15th of May 1902 edition saying: 'This handsome building, which is nearing completion, will supply a want in Hyde. The increased accommodation provided by the new house will enable the best companies to visit the town. The scheme for a new theatre for Hyde had long been discussed, but many difficulties cropped up to hinder its carrying out, but the spirited management of the old establishment overcame all obstacles, and the present erection is the result. The directors have been materially aided in their deliberations by the enterprising managing director, Mr. Councillor Joseph W. Maloney, who has placed his many years experience at their service.
The building will be elegantly furnished and decorated, and while being lighted with gas on the latest principle to meet immediate requirements, every preparation will be made for the future by laying down wires, etc., for electricity, which illuminating power will supersede gas directly we have a public installation in the town. The building, when completed, will be a centre of attraction for Hyde, Denton, Mottram, Tintwistle, Hollingworth, Hadfield, Glossop, Woodley, Romiley, Marple, and Compstall, and it will thus be seen the theatre will supply a want in portions of three counties, vis., Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Lancashire. The site provides frontage for the new structure on all four sides, thus rendering it practically isolated. The auditorium consists of the pit, with sixteen rows of seating, accommodating 600 persons; the pit-stalls, with six rows, will seat 225 persons; the dress and rear circle in six rows, provides chairs for 300: and the gallery and amphitheatre contain twelve rows, with seating capacity for 500 persons.
Left - A programme cover for the Theatre Royal, Hyde whilst under the management of J. W. and Frank Maloney - Courtesy Roy Cross.
The dress circle is reached from the entrance hall in the centre of the front by a wide staircase ending in a spacious landing, off which is a small foyer leading to the front and side circles and two private boxes. The pit is entered from the main front by two short corridors, and the pit-stalls by a separate corridor running along the side of, but apart from , the pit, these two portions of the auditorium being served with six means of exit. The amphitheatre and gallery have two entrances from the front street by means of two self-contained staircases which should in case of emergency be ample to ensure safety to the occupants. Refreshments will served in spurious saloons situated outside the auditorium in all parts of the house. The stage will measure 63ft. by 40ft., with stage, cellars, flies, gridirons, carpenter's shop, and paint-room.
Right - The auditorium of the Theatre royal, Hyde in 1981 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.
The proscenium opening is 29ft. wide and 26ft high. In the side street is placed the artists' entrance, which communicates by means of a corridor with the stage and dressing-room stairs, the number and size of dressing rooms being ample to accommodate large companies. The comfort of the artists has been well looked to, as each dressing-room will be supplied with hot and cold water. Externally, the free use of red terra-cotta is adopted, and internally the decorative scheme will be carried out in fibrous plaster and other relief materials. The theatre, which is to be opened in September, has been designed by Messrs Cambell and Horsley.'
The Theatre took longer than many other provincial Theatres to be constructed and although it had first been projected to open in September and then October, the Theatre wasn't actually completed until November 1902, although, unlike many other Theatres of the period, this one was actually completely finished by the time it opened. Some Theatres would open without their decorations completed, hastily hidden ladders hiding in corners, and the smell of newly painted walls greeting the audience.
The Stage Newspaper reported on the opening of the Theatre and its first production in their November 6th 1902 edition saying: 'This fine theatre, erected by the Hyde Theatre Co., Limited, opened on Monday, when a well filled house - the whole of the higher priced seats having been booked in advance - rewarded the patient waiting of an anxious management
It is no fault of the managing director, Councillor J. W. Maloney, that the old but highly prosperous wooden building which for twenty years has been the principal place of amusement in the town has not been superseded by a more up-to-date theatre years ago. Councilor Maloney coveted a splendid sight in the centre of the town, near the Town Hall and Market Place, and after surmounting many difficulties - the consummation of his ambition has been achieved. The seating accommodation may be briefly described. The pit has sixteen rows of seats, accommodating 600 persons; the pit-stalls, upholstered in crimson rep, with six rows will seat 225; the dress and rear circle provides tip-up chairs, upholstered in-crimson velvet, for 300; while the gallery and amphitheatre have seating accommodation for 500 persons. The seats in the pit and rear circle are divided by arms, so that each person has ample room.
The dress circle is reached from the entrance hall in the centre of the front by a wide staircase ending in a spacious landing; on which is a small foyer leading to the front and side circles, and two handsomely decorated and furnished private boxes. The stage measures 62 ft. by 40 ft. The proscenium opening is 20 ft. wide and 26 ft. high, so that the largest scenery travelling can be staged.
Left - The auditorium and stage of the Theatre royal, Hyde in 1981 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.
The theatre is two tier, and built on the cantilever-principle. The decorations are not too ornate, being more chaste than elaborate. The ceiling is most artistic, representing nude cupids weaving garlands of roses. Above the proscenium are bas-relief figures paying homage to Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies. A very fine modelled bas-relief representation of the Borough Coat of Arms is the centre ornament. The fronts of the tiers are panelled and decorated with embossed fibrous plaster in colours of ivory and old-gold. Crimson draperies, with crimson and terra-cotta wall colourings give warmth and beauty to the auditorium. The dressing-grooms are supplied with hot and cold water. The building has been designed by Messrs. Campbell and Horsley, Manchester, and built by S. Robinson and Sons, Hyde, whilst the decorations and painting have been done by Mr. Charles Bancroft.
The audience on Monday seemed delighted with the beauty of the interior, and greatly appreciated the change from the more sombre appearance of the old house.
Right - The auditorium and stage of the Theatre royal, Hyde in 1981 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.
Altogether, the management may pride itself upon possessing a fine theatre. Everyone rose to the strains of the National Anthem, admirably played by a large orchestra under the baton of Mr. J. E. Lord, and vigorously sung by Mr. Hugh Ashton, while hearty cheers greeted Councillor Maloney on his introducing the Mayor of Hyde, Councillor Beeley, who, wearing his robes of office, in felicitous language declared the theatre open. On the stage were Alderman Bailey (Mayor-elect) and the elite of the town.
The initial attraction is Little Jim, capitally played by Mr. T. F. Elliston's company. The mounting of the piece is truly superb, and on this large stage the scenery is displayed to the best advantage. After the first act of the onus of the work falls upon Miss Sydney Fairbrother, who plays the title-part with charming simplicity and tenderness, the pathos of her acting eliciting sympathetic admiration, especially so in she scene where she depicts the mental agony of an afflicted mute. Miss Vera Beringer is an emotional actress, and puts all her energy into her work as Marcella. Miss Frances Alleyne too, as Yvonne imparts much reality to a difficult role. Miss Georgie Corlass, in a totally different character, delights the audience with her vivacity and singing as a music-hall soubrette. As George Paterson, Mr. Albert Ward speaks his lines with telling effect and proves his quality as an actor. Mr. William Clayton as Mathias Bardier is excellent in portraying 'villainy. Mr. T. E. Conover as Dicky, and Mr. John. Cullin as Viscount de la Membrolle are responsible for much fun. Other important parts are in the capable hands of Messrs. Fred Inwood, Gus Blake, Frank Strickland, and Berkeley Perkins. Commendation is due to Mr. Walter Jackson, the local stage manager whose practical knowledge is much appreciated.'
The Theatre Royal, Hyde opened on Monday the 3rd of November 1902 with T. F. Elliston's company in 'Little Jim' and then went on to run as a 'legitimate' Theatre for many years staging serious drama and plays, often by Shakespeare and other respected authors and playwrights, in an attempt by its Managing Director, Councilor Joseph W. Maloney, to educate the local population.
In 1911 the plot of land next to the Theatre was used to create a small cinema called the Alexandra, seating 230, and above it a Billiard Hall called the Victoria. Not long after this the Theatre Royal found itself having to compete with the popularity of the cinema and had a screen installed itself, which could be flown out to accommodate live shows. The Theatre went on in this vain for many years, staging live shows and showing news reels and the like on its screen, in the manner of cine-variety. Unlike many other Theatres that began showing films the Royal was not altered substantially for cinema use and remained in much its original form, and did carry on showing live shows, interspersed with boxing and wrestling matches, and even circus performances right up until 1972.
However, even the Theatre Royal succumbed in the end and in 1972 the live shows ceased and the stage and two of the dressing rooms were converted into a small Cinema whilst the main auditorium went over to full time cinema use. Ironically the Alexandra Cinema next door was converted for theatrical use in 1952 and renamed the Festival Theatre, putting on amateur shows, which it still does to this day.
Above - The auditorium of the Theatre royal, Hyde in 1981 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.
Twenty years after going over to cinema use the Theatre Royal closed down completely in 1992 and so it has remained ever since, slowly decaying and in need of serious restoration. The building has been looked after by its former chief projectionist since it closed and so has been saved from the usual vandals and arsonists that are the bane of other derelict Theatres around the Country.
In 1999 consent was given to demolish the building for a redevelopment scheme which included housing construction and the building of a public house on the site, but thankfully in April 2000 the building was spot-listed, after a concerted effort to save it by local residents. In 2001 a Trust called 'Theatre Royal Onward' was set up to try and acquire the building for its future preservation and they have been working tirelessly on their Campaign ever since. You can read all about the Trust's efforts to restore and reopen the Theatre Royal, Hyde on their own website here. You may also like to see these photographs by Gerald England on his site here.
Despite the fact that the Theatre has been used for cinema and now stands empty it is far less altered than many of its contemporaries. Even the stage house, flies, and grid still exist despite being converted for previous cinema use. The auditorium is still intact and only the proscenium has been altered in any major fashion. I am told by the former lease holder of the Theatre, from 1975 to 1990, when he sold it on, that there still exists behind an easily removable panel in the former prompt corner a 'Gas Table, used for the Theatre's original gas stage lighting control, surely a rare survivor these days. There is also a huge gas meter under the stage, indicative of the volume of gas consumed in a Theatre of this size.
In 2011 the owners began work inside the Theatre to remove asbestos, dismantle the Cinema no 2 which was situated at the rear of the former Theatre's stage, remove dry rot in the building and refurbish the floors. In March 2012 a meeting was held between the Tameside Council, the Theatre Royal Onward Trust, and the Theatre consultant David Wilmore, to discuss future options for the building. The main idea was to try and look towards converting it into a multi-use building.
A Campaign to try and save the building and restore it to theatrical use can be found here. Unfortunately however, the campaign issued an official statement in 2016 stating that they have been unsuccessful in their efforts to purchase the Theatre. The building seems to have been sold to the Hyde Islamic Resource Centre, although whether the sale has completed is unclear at the time of writing in March 2017.
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