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

 

Theatres in New Brighton, Wirral, Merseyside

The Floral Pavilion Theatre - The Tower - The Tower Theatre and Circus - The Original Gaiety Theatre - The Palace Theatre / Second Gaiety Theatre / The Palace Picture Playhouse / Collins Palace Cinema - The Tivoli Theatre - The Winter Gardens Theatre - The Pier Pavilion - The Irving Theatre

The Floral Pavilion Theatre and Conference Centre, Virginia Road, New Brighton

Formerly - The Victoria Pavilion / The Floral Pavilion

A Google StreetView Image of the Floral Pavilion and Conference Centre, New Brighton - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Floral Pavilion and Conference Centre, New Brighton - Click to Interact

The Floral Pavilion Theatre and Conference Centre is situated on Virginia Road, New Brighton, overlooking the River Mersey. It first opened as the Victoria Pavilion, an Open Air Summer Theatre designed by the architects Mangnall & Litttlewood, on the 3rd May 1913. The Gardens were constructed on the site of the former Ham and Egg Parade, and featured an open air Hemicycle Pavilion and Bandstand. The first presentations at the Victoria Pavilion were by Mersey Entertainments Ltd, and featured Variety and Concert Parties.

Through the years there were many different Concert party companies, such as Teels 'Pom Poms'. However entertainments were suspended in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, recommencing in 1917 with 'The Onchans' concert party from the Isle of Man, who played two seasons.

In 1920 the owner manager was Pat Collins junior, of Fair Ground fame. Concert Parties which played seasons during this period were 'The Topics', 'The Big Seven', 'The Dainties', and 'The Onchans' who had first played the Theatre in 1917 and were here again in 1921 and 1922. These were followed by 'The Victorians' including Mr Charles Harvey known as 'the King of Pierrot Comedians'.

In 1924 Albert Douglas took a three months lease on the building, presenting 'The Co-Optimists "A" Company'. During this period the British Guiana Military Band, direct from the Wembley Exhibition, played a three nights engagement. And Lydia Kyasht, the famous Russian dancer made two personal appearances.

In the Summer of 1925 an Iron and glass roof was erected over the Theatre, the floor was re-laid, and the building was redecorated. The stage was also raised higher at this time, and tip up seating was installed. Capacity was now 1,200 persons. The new lessee's were Mr Frank Terry and Os Battye. They opened the season with the 'Super Optimists'.

The 1926 season featured 'Catlins Royal Pierotts', which included Fred Yule of ITMA fame. In 1928 Sunday concerts were also introduced featuring Delmonte's celebrated Orchestra.

1930 to 1932 featured the 'Super-Optimists' again and during this period Radio Broadcasts were given from the Floral Pavilion, which became quite a regular feature.

1933 saw Murray Ashford's 'Hello Happiness' revue followed later in the season with the 'Pleasure on Parade' Company.

In 1935 Frank Terry presented 'Jubilee Pleasure Parade' and in 1938 he changed the show's title to 'New Brighton Follies', continuing up until the outbreak of War in 1939.

From 1941 through until 1944 there were visits by many celebrities such as Tommy Hanley, Rob Wilton, Cavan O'Connor, Wilfred Pickles, and Dick Henderson etc.

In 1948 'Melody Inn' began it's run, which continued for the next 25 years.

In 1965/7 the Pavilion was partially rebuilt with a covered roof being installed, replacing much of the old glass roofing of 1925, wrought iron pillars now supported the new roof, constructed at a cost of £55,000. It reopened as the Floral Pavilion in May 1965. Many one night stand shows were now staged at the Theatre, featuring artists such as Val Doonican and Sir Harry Seacombe etc.

In 2006, as part of the redevelopment of the New Brighton Promenade, the Floral Pavilion was demolished and rebuilt at a cost of £12 million pounds, reopening as The Floral Pavilion Theatre and Conference Centre on the 13th December 2008 with Ken Dodd in his 'Happiness' show, Dodd had also played the Pavilion on the Theatre's last night before its demolition in 2006.

The Theatre currently has a seating capacity of 950, and it's proscenium opening is 8.23 metres wide. The Theatre today has a vary varied performance program to suit most tastes, many being one night performances, and also an annual Pantomime.

You may like to visit the Theatre's own Website here.

The above article on the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton was written for this site by David Garratt in October 2016.

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

The New Brighton Tower

Also See: The New Brighton Tower Theatre and Circus

A Postcard showing the New Brighton Tower sent on the 13th August, 1909 - Courtesy Maurice Poole

Above - A Postcard showing the New Brighton Tower, sent on the 13th August, 1909 - Courtesy Maurice Poole

The New Brighton Tower and Recreation Company bought 30 acres of land at the Rock Point Estate, New Brighton, Cheshire, overlooking the Mersey, in 1896, to create and build a vast tower, and around it's base various entertainment buildings, to rival Blackpool.

The New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899

Above - The New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899

The Tower was 567 feet high above sea level, (52 feet higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris), and weighed 2,249 tons. It was constructed from mild steel, in a lattice framework design, to withstand high wind pressure and weather, which also gave it a light and elegant appearance. It was constructed by Messrs Andrew Handyside & Co Ltd.

A Section Plan of the New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899

Above - A Section Plan of the New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal, December 29th 1899. The Ground Floor housed the Circus and Theatre, and the Second Floor the Ballroom with its own Stage.

At the Tower's base vast buildings were constructed made from red Ruabon bricks with terracotta and Runcorn stone dressings. On the ground floor was a large Theatre and Circus. On the first floor was an octagonal Ballroom with a Stage suitable for Variety, and an elevator hall where assent of the tower began, together with stalls, fancy fair, and shooting bungalows. On the next floor was a promenade designed to rival the hanging gardens of Babylon. It was reckoned that 1,000 people could be accommodated on these various floors. In the basement large cellars were constructed to accommodate a bottling store and stage artists' dressing rooms. Four Electric elevators (only two elevators were in operation when the tower opened), took people up to the Eyrie high above, at a cost of 6 old pence per person (2.5 pence in today’s currency). These elevators were erected by Messrs Easton, Anderson and Goolden. There were also four staircases provided, 10 feet wide, and ladder ways for workmen. To quote the Building News of 29th December 1899 'arrangements have been made so that should any elevator get fastened the passengers can easily be transferred to one of the other elevators at any portion of the ascent.' The whole tower was illuminated by 1,500 variegated electric lights and could be seen for miles around.

A Ground Floor Plan of the New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899.

Above - A Ground Floor Plan of the New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899.

Surrounding the buildings and tower was a vast amusement park featuring a Fairground, an Himalayan Electric Switchback Circular Railway, a Dancing Platform, Water Chutes, various sideshows, a Japanese Tea House, a three lap to the mile cement Cycle Track, a quarter of a mile running track, Football Ground and Grandstand, Refreshment rooms, Band stands, and Kiosks. The grounds also contained lodges and office accommodation for the company.

A Plan of the Grounds of the New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899.

Above - A Plan of the Grounds of the New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899.

A Video showing the Rise and Fall of the New Brighton Tower.
A Video showing the Rise and Fall of the New Brighton Tower.

The cost of the complex was £200,000 and took eighteen months to construct. The building contractor was Messrs W. A. Peters & Sons of Rochdale. The Superintendent was Mr John Ashley, Clerk of Works. The architects and engineers were Messrs Maxwell & Tuke of Corporation Street Manchester.

Right - A Video showing the Rise and Fall of the New Brighton Tower. Note the date shown for the fire in this video is November 1969 but it actually occurred on the 5th of April 1969.

The Tower itself was later demolished due to the effects of the weather, storms and a lack of maintenance over a two year period between 1918 and 1920. The Base of the building including its Theatre and Ballroom, and the surrounding amusement park, were not affected by this however, and were still extremely popular with the public until the remaining parts of the building were destroyed by fire in April 1969 and subsequently demolished.

More information on the New Brighton Tower can be found on the History of Wallasey Website.

The above article on the Tower, New Brighton was first written for this site by David Garratt in May 2016.

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

The Tower Theatre and Circus, New Brighton

Also See: The New Brighton Tower

A Plan showing the New Brighton Tower Theatre and Circus - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899

Above - A Plan showing the New Brighton Tower Theatre and Circus - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899.

The Tower Theatre and Circus was situated between the legs of the New Brighton Tower and was built in the amphitheatre form, featuring a promenade gallery, and one of the largest stages in Britain. It's seating capacity was 2,000 plus standing room for an extra 500 people. Prices ranged from six old pence (two and a half pence in today’s currency) to a guinea (105 pence today) in the boxes. The Theatre and Circus Arena opened on Whit Monday the 30th of May 1898 with a Variety programme consisting of a band, wire walking, songs, dancing, and juggling acts, plus real Lions on stage, and also a Fox Terrier act.

A Ground Floor Plan of the New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899.

Above - A Ground Floor Plan of the New Brighton Tower - From the Building News and Engineering Journal of December the 29th 1899. It's not clear from this plan where the Stage of the Theatre was situated but it looks like it would have been in one of the four extensions to the main Circus Arena, perhaps you know, if so please Contact me.

On the 16th of July 1899 the Theatre was home to a personal appearance by Edward Elgar, and it was evidently also staging touring musical comedies as 'The General' by Captain Montressor, directed by Mr W. Huish, was also presented at this time, and the following week the spectacular drama 'The Klondyke Nugget' was shown here, featuring S. F Cody and the Cody family in various parts.

The early 1900's saw visits of Harry Lauder, Morny Cash, and Maud Allen, the exotic, erotic dancer. Grand Opera was presented at Easter 1909 by a visit of Mr J. W. Turner's Grand English Opera Company, and in the same year Sunday Concerts commenced. Artistes who appeared in these being John McCormack, and Fritz Kreisler, amongst others.

There is a record in 1904 advertising that the 'Royal Bioscope' (which was early silent moving pictures, an early News Reel) being part of each performance. However in 1907 stage shows were accompanied with 'the truly wonderful Chronophone talking, singing, and dancing pictures,' being shown.

1911 saw the visit of John Lawson in three playlets 'Humanity', 'The Monkeys Paw', and 'Sally in our Alley'. The same year saw a visit from Miss Horniman's Company in 'Candida'.

In 1912 musical comedy returned with visits of 'The Merry Widow', and 'Miss Hook of Holland'. Clara Butt appeared in the same year.

In 1917 Vesta Tilley topped the Variety bill.

In the early 1920's the enormous stage was used to accommodate two badminton courts, which were used behind the Safety Curtain. Films were projected onto the Safety Curtain screen whilst the badminton courts could be used at the same time.

Gracie Fields appeared with her husband Archie Pitt in the revue 'By Request' in 1925, and in the same year Dougie Wakefield appeared in 'Too Many Cooks'.

By the late 1930's the fare was mainly films being shown with the occasional spectacular stage presentation.

Wrestling became popular in early 1930's and by 1944 Sunday concerts returned but now featuring Dance Bands and Variety artistes.

During the Second World War period the Theatre became a Garrison Theatre used by the Americans.

At the end of the War there was a 'Victory Concert' given, the choir being conducted by Stainton de B. Taylor with the Theatre bedecked with flags.

After the War the grounds and buildings gradually deteriorated owing to fewer and fewer visitors and it fell into dis-use becoming an eyesore. There was a huge fire on the 5th April 1969, which the Fire brigade fought for several hours, but alas could not save the buildings, and all that was left was their shell.

Eventually the buildings were dismantled and the site cleared. A building company purchased the old athletic track and stadium, and cleared the site for a housing development, now called 'River View Park'. The remaining area of the old pleasure grounds was saved for the community, and a swing park and football pitch created. There is now nothing to show of this huge Entertainment facility and Theatre.

The above article on the Tower Theatre, New Brighton was first written for this site by David Garratt in May 2016.

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

The Gaiety Theatre, New Brighton

This Hall, which was situated behind the Gladstone Hotel, was converted into a Music Hall / Variety Theatre in mid 1880. It had previously been used for auctions. The alterations were carried out by Mr John Warde, and the Theatre opened on Monday the 2nd of August 1880. This Theatre should not be confused with the later Palace Theatre, New Brighton, which was later renamed the Gaiety Theatre.

Upon entering through a glass covered court which was decorated with ferns and shrubs, a staircase lay ahead, at the top of which was a bar serving wines and spirits etc. This bar was under the management of Mr Lawless, of the Gladstone Hotel.

One then entered the main auditorium, which had elegant decorations in pale tints of colour, featuring panels with floral groups framed in gilt. The Proscenium was embellished with deep gilt mouldings encircled by opal lamps, and in each corner of the proscenium, at stage level, were ferns and palms.

The Act Drop was well executed by Mr J. L. Keith, who had also painted the stage scenery.

The Theatre's capacity was estimated at holding 800 persons. The stalls seats were upholstered in velvet and the area seats were upholstered in leather.

There was room for a seven piece orchestra conducted by Mr Eplett, the pianist being Mr George Brunn.

The opening Monday house was crammed and after the overture, Miss Florence Merry sang a couple of 'dashing songs' with the audience entering into the spirit of them. The next item was Mr Robert Lloyd and Lizzie Nelson who presented an Irish sketch. This was followed by Mr F. B. Norton who hit the taste of the sporting community with a spirited song as 'the Bookmaker' and was equally successful in his other songs. The next item on the bill was the Sisters Waite who gave a pleasing version of 'Cinderella' and was both in style and wardrobe (as billed) 'Charming'.

This was followed by Mr Fred Mordaunt who was a ventriloquist. Messrs Dixon and Sutton presented Negro business * in a manner that fairly 'brought the house down,' afterwards performing with hand bells. The last item on the opening bill was Ella Wesner, who was styled as 'The idol of New York', as a male impersonator, who was repeatedly encored.

The ERA newspaper of the 8th of August 1880 reported:- 'We must congratulate Mr Warde and his energetic Manager, Mr George Harrison, on the result of their united exertions in so short a time, and with them well-deserved success.'

This Gaiety Theatre should not be confused with the later Palace Theatre, New Brighton, which was later renamed the Gaiety Theatre in 1914.

The above article on the Gaiety Theatre, New Brighton was first written for this site by David Garratt in March 2016.

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

The Palace Theatre, Marine Parade and Virginia Road, New Brighton

Later - The Gaiety Theatre / The Palace Picture Playhouse / Collins Palace Cinema / Wilkes Palace Amusements / New Palace Funfair / Advertureland

A Google StreetView Image of Adventureland, New Brighton, which was built on the site of the former Palace Theatre in 2003 - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of Adventureland, New Brighton, which was built on the site of the former Palace Theatre in 2003 - Click to Interact.

Situated on the Marine Parade New Brighton, the Palace Theatre was opened on Whit Monday 1881 as part of an entertainment complex featuring the New Salt Baths. The main entrance was in Virginia Road, with additional entrance on the Promenade.

By 1885 further additions had been created on the site these being a Grand Concert Hall, a small Concert Hall, a Ballroom, a Skating rink, an Aviary, and a Grotto. The entertainment given varied from Classical Music to Variety.

In 1887 an application was made for a theatrical licence for the 'Jubilee Concert Hall' by Mr C. B. Roylance Kent on behalf of Mr W. T. Malood, however this was refused.

By 1895 the Palace was under the control of 'The New Brighton Palace Company.' First Class artists were engaged and the Palace became quite successful.

In 1896 the building was now owned by a Manchester syndicate, and there was a proposal to build a large giant wheel on the roof of the building, featuring 42 cars each holding 42 passengers. A new Theatre and new salt waters baths were also proposed, but the whole scheme fell through.

Three years later in 1899, the Palace Theatre was staging early musicals, operetta's and plays on tour from London. However by 1903 The Palace was showing its first films, by 'New Century Pictures', the Palace being the second auditorium in New Brighton to show films as part of it programme.

The Corporation purchased the site in 1907 for £42,500 under the Wallasey Tramways and Improvement act of 1907, and a year later in 1908 Cine Variety was the thing at the Palace, this being the showing of films with a short part of the programme featuring variety acts, very often performing during the changeover of film reels. This continued throughout 1908 until 1910, when a full orchestra was introduced to the performances. The musical Director being Mr Arthur Lynn. During this period Variety artist’s such as Will Hay and Sandy Powell appeared on its stage.

In 1913 control of the building passed to the Tivoli Company Limited who ran the Theatre in conjunction with the Victoria Gardens. Again there were plans to rebuild the Palace Theatre and to incorporate an arcade and large Hotel, but again this was abandoned.

1914 saw the Corporation inviting tenders for tenancy of the Palace and this was won by Mr Ludwig Blatter who's tender was £500.00. Improvements and renovations of the Theatre took place. The Theatre's seating capacity was increased to 1,200 seats from the previous 750 seats, and the Theatre was then renamed 'The Gaiety Theatre' re-opening on Easter Monday of 1914. This should not be confused with the earlier Gaiety Theatre in New Brighton which had opened in 1880. Now films were more prevalent than Variety and the Royal Bohemian Orchestra were featured at every performance.

In April 1916 there was a serious fire to the entertainment complex, but the fire crew managed to save the Skating Rink and the Gaiety Theatre, the remainder of the complex being damaged.

By 1920 the Theatre reverted back to it's original name of 'The Palace Theatre', but later in that same year it became known as 'The Palace Picture Playhouse' for a short period of time before being known as 'Collins Palace Cinema.' This lasted for 4 years until it was closed in 1924/5.

The Palace Theatre re-opened again in 1926 under it's original name, but this would not last for long as it closed again on the 11th December 1926 with the last showing of the film 'Spook Ranch' featuring Hoot Gibson. The Theatre then remained dark until it was finally demolished in 1933, and the site became a car park until August 1939 when the Wilkes Palace Amusements opened on the site.

During the second World War, the War Office took over the building and it was used as a storage space, with a secret munitions factory operating under the building. After the war the site became the New Palace Funfair,' with 'Wilmer Wilkes Circus' next door. This was eventually replaced by a permanent Funfair. The 1980's saw the introduction of Go-Karting, but by 2001 this closed and by 2003 the site had been transformed into the present 'Advertureland', billed today as 'New Brighton’s biggest and best children’s play and activity centre'.

The above article on the Palace Theatre, New Brighton was first written for this site by David Garratt in April 2016.

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

The Tivoli Theatre, Tower Promenade, New Brighton

Later - The Tivoli Super Cinema

A Twice Nightly variety Poster for the Tivoli Theatre, New Brighton - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen.The Tivoli Theatre was built on a site facing the Mersey on Tower Promenade at the foot of Egerton Street, close to the pier and shops. The Theatre frontage contained six shops and a Cafe. Built for New Brighton Tivoli Limited. It opened on the 6th April 1914 with Lily Langtry topping the bill.

The Tivoli was a two tier Theatre consisting of a stalls seating area on the ground floor with a balcony above, which curved around almost to the stage boxes each side of the proscenium arch. The auditorium was decorated in an ornate style, with a well equipped stage, and a seating capacity of 636 people.

The Tivoli had a succession of owners throughout its history with ownership originally changing after only eight weeks, when it was taken over by Tivoli Leases Limited, with Fred Ross, who had successfully marketed the Tower Ballroom, as Manager.

Right - A Twice Nightly variety Poster for the Tivoli Theatre, New Brighton - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen. On the Bill were Jose Collins, Dolly Lee, Joe Hastings, Teddy Stream, Arley and Alys, Cinzano, and Peter Donald and Meta Carson.

By 1923 Pat Collins, the Fun Fair showman purchased the Theatre for the sum of £37,000, but the Theatre was sold again at auction two years later to William Squires.

In 1926 Tivoli Leases Limited took over the Theatre again with Fred Ross as Managing Director of the company.

1928 saw the ownership change yet again, this time when it was sold for £27,000 (a loss) to Provincial Cinematograph Theatres, and eventually to Gaumont British Company, being renamed the 'Tivoli Super Cinema' and opening on Monday 19th February 1928 with 'Saturday Night', a Cecil B DeMille Paramount Super Play Cell production starring Latrice Joy and Conrad Nagel, with a support film entitled 'A Sporting Double' and a serial titled 'Across two Continents.' The Piccadilly orchestra also performed and prices were 4d (two pence in today’s currency), 6d (2 and a half pence) and 1/- (5 pence today).

In October 1928 the new owners announced that films shown, would be the latest pictures. The first film shown on Monday 8th October 1928 was 'Ramona' starring Delores Del Rio and 'Woman Wares' being a non stop programme commencing at 2.30pm and going through to 10.30pm., prices being 6d (2 and a half pence today) and 1/3d (7 pence today). Musical interludes were given by the Tivoli Orchestra conducted by Richard Tomlinson. Films now alternated with stage shows up until 6th April 1929. The Theatre then closed, re-opening again on the 1st of July 1929.

The last film shown during this period was in June 1930 after which Western Electric Sound was installed and then the Cinema reopened with the first 'talkie' being 'Flight' starring Jack Holt and Lila Lee. Prices for 'Talkies' were 1/3d in the circle (7 pence today) 9d in the stalls (4 and a half pence today) and 6d in the pit (2 and a half pence today). The Talkies were short lived, as by the 14th July 1930, a Variety live show season opened and films were never shown again.

By 1938 the Tivoli closed for a period until 1940 when Fred Ross returned as Managing Director again, but soon had to closed again after only four months due to damage from enemy action. The Theatre was then closed for the duration of the war, opening again in 1945 with yet more new owners, this time being 'Leam Production Limited, with Bob Scully as the new Manager. The Tivoli Theatres' policy was now for twice nightly variety throughout the summer months with Repertory playing the winter months.

There were many seasons of Repertory played at the Tivoli in subsequent years. The first Repertory company was Fred Fortescue's Repertory Players, followed by Harry Hanson's Court Players for two seasons. Followed by Richard Stephenson's Saxon Players.

The Tivoli struggled with the advent of television, and falling audiences began to sound the Theatre's death knell. People rallied together to try to save the Theatre but lost the battle, and the Theatre finally closed in April 1955.

The Tivoli was transformed into an amusement arcade in the stalls seating area but by 1970 this had failed and the Theatre was boarded up, finally being demolished in 1976 after a disastrous fire. Thus ended a long history as a Variety/Repertory Theatre and cinema. An Apartment block was later built on the site.

The above article on the Tivoli Theatre, New Brighton was first written for this site by David Garratt in June 2016.

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

The Winter Gardens Theatre, Atherton Street, New Brighton

Formerly - The Conservative Hall / Alexandra Hall

A Google StreetView Image of Winter Gardens House, New Brighton, the site of the former Winter Gardens Theatre - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of Winter Gardens House, New Brighton, on the site of the former Winter Gardens Theatre - Click to Interact.

In 1907 Albert Douglas and his partner Mr H. E. Jones felt that there was an opening for entertainment in New Brighton, and leased the Conservative Hall in Atherton Street, renaming it 'The Alexandra Hall'. They presented shows every Saturday evening and the first entertainment was by 'The Horbury Hand Bell Ringers', on the 19th October 1907. However, after a few weeks it was obvious that the takings were not enough, which resulted in financial failure.

In 1908 the name of the Hall was changed to 'The Winter Gardens, with palms placed around the auditorium and the introduction of an orchestra. Programmes consisted of Variety, Plays, and silent film presentations. However losses were still considerable until the 'John Riding Opera Company' were engaged for a week, and then business picked up. There was an appearance of Lawrence Irving in a one act play, and Ellen Terry appeared in 'Sweet Lavender', and 'Liberty Hall.'

In 1909 a Limited company was formed to purchase the building and large alterations commenced in March of that year. An entirely new stage was constructed, 60 feet wide by 33 feet deep, complete with new 'Flies' above the stage. A modern electric lighting system was installed, and in the auditorium an upstairs Circle seating area was constructed. Work was a 24 hour round the clock operation, and took four weeks and three days. Completion was just ten minutes before the Grand Opening which was a Variety Show. Now large productions could be presented, and the 'Moody Manners Opera Company' played for a two week engagement following the opening week, presenting Zelie de Lussan in 'Carmen' and 'Samson and Delilah'. The presentations now were of tours of Plays and Musicals. 1911 saw a visit by the matinee idol Owen Nares in 'Old Heidelberg'.

The Theatre was able to stay open throughout Word War One.

In 1919 Albert Douglas became the sole Managing Director with his son, A. C. Douglas as Theatre Manager. There were now visits by eminent actors of the day such as, Fred Terry and Julia Neilson, John Martin Harvey, Matheson Lang, Sybil Thorndike etc. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, together with large Musicals of 'The Maid of the Mountains', 'No No Nanette', and 'White Horse Inn'.

There was a rebuild in February 1931 with a re-opening in June of that year, but this only lasted for three months as the depression hit. The Theatre only closed for one week, however, Albert Douglas stated that he would reimburse any losses to the Limited Company out of his own money, if this occurred. The Theatre reopened and business resumed, and was successful.

There were visits from 'The Liverpool Playhouse Company' featuring actors Ronald Squire, Ena Burrill, Marjorie Fielding, James Harcourt, Wyndham Golde and Arthur Chesney. Emlyn Williams played in 'Night Must Fall' and again in 'The Corn is Green',with a gross takings of over £2000.

Vincent Douglas, the youngest son of the Douglas family was a very talented playwright and produced his first play at the age of 18 years, 'The Jeffersons,' which toured Theatres for many years, after premiering at the Winter Gardens. His other plays were 'The Partners', The Optimist,' 'The Perfect Wife, and 'Christmas Dream'. Unfortunately he died at the early age of 26.

In 1936 the theatre was sold to 'Cheshire Picture Halls Ltd.' and converted to a Cinema. Douglas remained as Managing Director for the first 12 months, followed by another 12 months in an advisory capacity. At the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 the Theatre had to close and shortly afterward on the 19th February Albert Douglas died aged 78.

The Theatre re-opened in 1942 with Florence de Jong playing the cinema organ, which was broadcast by the BBC. At the end of the war the Theatre changed hands again being bought by S. M. Associated Cinema which passed to the Essoldo Cinema Circuit, films were shown with occasional theatrical performances. In 1954 a Repertory season was produced by Nita Valerie, 'The Winter Gardens Repertory Players' with another short season of plays in 1956. In that same year there was also a presentation of the 'Essoldo Follies,' a revue.

Theatres throughout the country were now suffering, trying to compete with the introduction of Television, and the fall off of audiences. The Theatre was put up for sale with a reserve price of £15,000, but it did not sell and it closed, later re-opening as a Bingo Hall for a time, but this eventually failed, with the result of eventual demolition of the building in 1991. A Sheltered housing building called Winter Gardens House was then built on the Theatre's site.

There are some nice images, and some more information, on the Winter Gardens Theatre at the excellent Cinema Treasures Website here.

The above article on the Winter Gardens Theatre, New Brighton was first written for this site by David Garratt in August 2016.

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

The Pier Pavilion, New Brighton

A Postcard showing the Pier Pavilion, New Brighton in 1927 - Courtesy Roy Cross

Above - A Postcard showing the Pier Pavilion, New Brighton in 1927 - Courtesy Roy Cross

Originally there was a covered Salon on the Pier at New Brighton which was 130 feet in length with a width which varied between 28 feet and 34 feet. It's main usage was for Concerts, Flower Shows, Balls, and Bazaars.

In 1899 Adeler and Suton's Pierrrots transferred their shows from the shore onto the Pier performing in the Covered Salon. This was the beginning of a history of various Pierrot and Concert Party troupes appearing in the Pier Pavilion.

In 1900 'The Pier Pierrot's Amalgamated Company of Star Artistes' played a season on the Pier, appearing directly after their appearance at London's Agricultural Hall. In the same season Malcolm Scott (the famous Music Hall female impersonator) appeared together with Charles Harvey in 'A Weak Woman' and 'The Lady and the Ship'.

In 1902 the lessees were The Summer Entertainments Syndicate Ltd, who again presented 'The Adeler and Sutton Pierrot's', and in 1903 Malcolm Scott made a return appearance. In fact Adeler & Suttons Pierrot’s Company went from success to success and by 1909 had Pierrot Companies appearing in many seaside towns.

1908 saw the appearance of Bert Erroll and Mona Vivian, and in 1909 the Pavilion had a complete reconstruction and redecoration with heating installed throughout. The Russell Rose Repertory Company paid a visit presenting 'A pair of Spectacles', and 'A Fool's Paradise'. By 1910 Pelissier's 'The Follies' played a season.

Pantomime made it's appearance at the Pavilion with 'Dick Whittington' which commenced it's run on the 8th January 1912, followed immediately by 'Aladdin', and in April of that year 'Scamps' played a season with Leslie Henson as part of the cast.

In April 1913 it was announced that a new Pavilion would be built at the promenade end of the pier, and would be built by The Pier Company, who would now provide the venue's entertainment instead of leasing it out.

By 1914 there were many different Concert Party companies appearing on the pier such as 'The Europeans' - 'The Poppies' - 'The 'Ideals' - and 'The Sequins'.

1915 saw more companies ie,- 'The Curios' - 'The Nobodies' - 'The Zeniths' - and 'The Gaieties.'

Douglas Farber's London Company appeared in 'Glad Eyes' in 1916, followed by 'The Mountebanks' in 1917. The Pier Pavilion stayed open throughout the first World War presenting Concert Party and Pierrot troupes.

More Pantomimes were presented by The Chrysanthemums Pantomime Society in 1921 with 'Cinderella,' and 'Robin Hood' in 1922.

In 1923 the Pier closed for four years with Wallasey Corporation now being the new owners. The whole Pier was rebuilt in 1931 at a cost of £45,000.

Eventually the New Brighton Ferry closed, which sailed from the Pier, and there was also a general decline in the Promenade.

In 1968 Fortes Ltd became the new owners and made repairs and ran the Pier for a time. However it began to make a loss, and after much discussion, the Pier was dismantled in 1978. Thus ending an era of Pierrot and Concert Party entertainment for various residents and holiday visitors.

The above article on the Pier Pavilion, New Brighton was first written for this site by David Garratt in November 2016.

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

The Irving Theatre, Borough Road, Seacombe, New Brighton

Other names: Kings Theatre / La Scala / Philharmonic Cinema / Hippodrome Theatre / The Wallasey Hippodrome / The Irving Repertory Theatre / The Casino / Embassy Luxury Cinema

The Irving Theatre was built by Mr J. Kierman in 1899 and was situated on Borough Road, Seacombe, New Brighton. The Theatre was constructed on the site of the former Hope House and gardens.

Sir Henry IrvingSir Henry Irving laid the corner stone of the new building on the 11th October 1899 and the Theatre was opened on the 18th December 1899, again by Sir Henry Irving, who allowed his name to grace the Theatre, on the strict understanding that it only presented the very best of legitimate drama. The opening production was 'The Sign of the Cross' featuring a cast of over 60 performers. Other productions presented were Sir John Martin Harvey's Company in 'The only Way' (a dramatization of Dickens 'A Tale of Two Cities'), 'A Royal Divorce', and 'Charley's Aunt' by Brandon Thomas.

The Theatre originally held 900 people when it opened, and consisted of the Stage with Fly Tower, the Stalls downstairs, and a horse shoe shaped Balcony held up by six pillars above. On each side of the proscenium arch were two tiers of Boxes. Backstage there were 14 dressing rooms.

The Lessee's in 1902 were Carr and Carr (Ltd) with the General Manager being Fred Kennedy.

In 1902 Mr J. H. French became manager and introduced Musical Comedy, and Pantomimes into the programming of the Theatre. Forthcoming attractions advertised after the re-opening of the 1st of September 1902 were 'The Man from Blankleys,' - 'A Runaway Girl,'- 'The Christian,' - 'San Toy,' -' 'Floradora,' - 'The Belle of New York,' - 'Message from Mars,' - 'La Poupee',- 'The Carl Rosa Opera Company,' and 'The Geisha.'

In 1902 refurbishments took place consisting of the relaying of the pit floor with linoleum, new seats, and a draught screen in the stalls. The Theatre re-opened in September 1904 mainly showing films. The opening film was 'The Rage of Liverpool, (animated pictures of the Royal Visit to Liverpool), plus 'Off for the Holidays' and 'Living Wallasey'. Thomas Shaw's celebrated orchestra was also engaged.

In February 1907 a juvenile company presented 'The Sleeping Beauty' in which an 11 year old Georgie Wood appeared. Stanley Jefferson, later to change his name to Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame, also made an appearance as a Golliwog *.

During 1908 the summer months were taken up by showing silent films, reverting back to theatrical performances in the autumn. Plays such as 'The Walls of Jericho,' 'School for Scandal', and 'Still Alarm' were presented. Alas on the 19th December 1908 a fire broke out causing over £2,000 worth of damage, and the Theatre was closed for 9 months for repairs. These consisted of renovation and redecoration with the Theatre being refitted throughout, and the installation of new tip up seats and new stage drapes in red velvet. It re-opening again on the 13th December 1909 with the play 'The Dairymaids. The Theatre was now named 'The Kings Theatre'.

By 1910 Variety was popular, presented together with weeks of plays, musical comedies and Pantomime.

On Easter Monday 1912 Mr Ludwig Blattner took over the management and renamed the Theatre 'La Scala,' introducing the Cosmopolitan Orchestra under his leadership, which also played many of Mr Blattner's own musical compositions. The Theatre showed many films during this period and changed it's name yet again, now being known as 'The Philharmonic Cinema'. This did not last long however, and a new General Manager, Mr John Gaffney was appointed, and the building took on a new lease of life by presenting Variety, Revue, and occasional straight plays.

1914 saw a mixture of films and stage shows.

In 1917 Albert Chevalier appeared in the play Casta'.

The Theatre was renovated and redecorated yet again in 1918 having undergone improvements with new equipment installed, and changed it's name to the 'Wallasey Hippodrome', re-opening on Monday the 12th of August. This year also saw the appearance of Dr Walford Bodie. Later, The Salon Company Orchestra were engaged, and the Theatre changed it's name again, this time to 'The Casino' and returned to presenting Variety.

Hetty King played the Theatre in 1924 with a return visit of Dr Walford Bodie.

1926 saw a return to legitimate drama presentations, but this did not last long, and in August under the management of Mr L.A. Bayley a season of plays was presented with the Theatre's name changed yet again, this time to 'The 'Irving Repertory Theatre' which lasted until December 1928. After this season of plays, the Theatre's name reverted back to the 'Irving Theatre,' presenting Variety.

1928 saw the Gordon Circuit acquire the Theatre and spending £1,500 on improvements. It re-opened under the management of Mr Claud King on Easter Monday 1928 with yet another name change, back to 'The Hippodrome'. Business declined though resulting in yet another closure.

In March of 1930 Mr F.V. Ross re-opened the Theatre, but it then closed again after a short period..

After re-opening again, in 1932, the Theatre closed again, this time for a year, re-opening on Boxing Day under Mr C.W. F. Bruton's management, but it was closed again in April 1933.

Mr Pat Collins (the Fair Ground owner) re-opened the Theatre in 1934. He renovated and redecorated it again and a 7 piece orchestra were employed. The opening production was 'I'll be Seeing You', Mr Dick Batch now being manager. In December of that year the Revue 'West End Scandals' was presented, beginning it's national tour, after playing at London's Garrick Theatre with Tommy Trinder in the cast. It did not last for long, and the Theatre finally closed as a live performance venue on April the 27th. Plans were made to re-open it in August, but they came to nothing, and in 1936 it became a Cinema.

In 1936 the Theatre was taken over by Buxton Theatre Unit as a Cinema, now known as 'The Embassy Luxury Theatre', Harry Buxton being the owner, with Mr R.A. Morton Martin as manager, re-opening on April 20th after re-seating the circle and stalls, for Cine Variety. The opening film was 'The Ghost Goes West' starring Robert Donat and Jean Parker. The live Variety on stage featured Syd Mack and his Broadcasting Band. BBC star Maggie Scott, billed as 'The Singing Mill Girl' - Raphino (conjuror) and the 12 Alhambra Kiddies. However, it was not long before the Cinema was up for sale again.

North Western Cinema's took over from 26th September 1936 and in 1937 vast changes were made to the building. Extensive alterations took place by practically rebuilding the Cinema within its original Theatre shell. The auditorium was changed into a fan shape, with the proscenium changed to now having an anti proscenium added, featuring horizontal grill work. The horseshoe shaped balcony was demolished and a larger cantilevered balcony built in its place. The old ceiling was remodeled and now descended in waves to meet the top of the proscenium, with the auditorium walls featuring concealed lighting in specially designed coves. Outside, a new modern canopy was built and the exterior lower frontage walls clad in cream, green and black. The Cinema stayed in this state for a further 18 years until in June of 1955 when CinemaScope was installed.

However, by 1959 the Cinema was struggling for business, and Mr Hector McQueen announced the Cinema's closure, finally closing on 21st March 1959. The last film presentation being 'Sea of Sand', starring Richard Attenborough and John Gregson.

The building was then altered into a Bingo Hall, in the screen and stalls area, called the 'Embassy Club,' with a separate Nightclub constructed in the former Balcony area.

As with the history of many Theatres, the owners and managements tried various different formats and name changes, with renovations and redecorations, to capture and keep their audiences, fighting the onslaught of television, and ending their life as Bingo Halls. However, the Irving Theatre, through it's many guises, entertained the public of New Brighton for 60 odd years.

The above article on the Irving Theatre, New Brighton was first written for this site by David Garratt in November 2016.

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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