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Theatres in Paisley, Scotland

Introduction - Early Paisley Theatre - Saracen's Head Inn - The Abercorn Inn & Assembly Rooms / Bank Street Theatre / Tontine Theatre - The Theatre Royal - The Exchange Rooms / Theatre Royal / Empire Music Hall - The Abercorn Theatre - Tully's Theatre - Brickwell's Theatre / The Paisley Theatre / The Victory Theatre - The Hippodrome - H.T. Brickwell - J. H . Savile

A Postcard showing Paisley Cross and the High Street in the 1960s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Postcard showing Paisley Cross and the High Street in the 1960s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Paisley prospered with textiles, weaving, thread making and engineering. The immense mills here and overseas owned by Coats and by Clark made it the world centre of cotton thread manufacture. Its architecture and public buildings reflect the immense wealth generated based on the earlier county town of the 18th century which had grown around Paisley Abbey, and which earlier had the richest revenues in Scotland pre-Reformation.

My Love is like a Red Red Rose - Kenneth McKellar
My Love is like a Red Red Rose - Kenneth McKellar

From Paisley have come singers such as Kenneth McKellar, whose singing can be enjoyed by clicking the video thumbnails shown right and left, guitarists and performers Gerry Rafferty and Paolo Nutini, actors from Sir John Martin Harvey to Tom Conti. David Tennant and Gerard Butler - and also, in the heart of the Soviet Union, Willie Campbell, chief clown of the Moscow State Circus in the 1940s and 50s.

Kenneth McKellar - The Old Scots Songs Medley
Kenneth McKellar - The Old Scots Songs Medley

As the 20th century progressed, the theatregoers of Paisley, as with other towns around a metropolis, were drawn to the attractions of the numerous large Theatres in Glasgow, whose city centre is only a few miles away.

Even in the 1820s the proximity of Glasgow caused some theatrical tension when the proprietors of the Theatre Royal in Glasgow's Queen Street flexed their Royal Patent muscles. They had the licence for presenting all plays within an 8 mile radius of the Theatre. Paisley was only 7 miles distant. With their consent J. E. Byrne, lessee of the Glasgow Theatre, followed by Frank Seymour, sometimes described as "Schemer" Seymour, then also of the Glasgow Theatre, successfully staged plays in the Tontine Theatre, Paisley. However William Johnston, well known to Renfrewshire and Ayrshire audiences, opened up without Glasgow's consent in the Tontine (which he called the New Tontine Theatre) and a court interdict was obtained against him.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

Early Paisley Theatre

Early theatre was held in buildings either lying empty or fitted up for brief seasons. Highet's Hayloft near Seedhill Tannery accommodated occasional drama including a young Edmund Kean, then unknown to fame. H. L. Moss ran a Theatre in 1801 and did likewise in other towns. The poet Robert Tannahill was an ardent Theatre-goer, and prologue writer, attending Stephen Kemble's Theatre in Bridge Street at Abbey Bridge, and often walked to Glasgow to enjoy drama at the Theatre Royal in Queen Street. From 1830 to around 1837 Samuel Johnson ran the Bridge Street Theatre with his stock company and William Johnson, a respected actor but indifferent manager, tried his hand in succession to Sam. The Bridge Street Theatre degenerated into a rag store and then part of Messrs Crowley's dyeworks.

In 1825 Frank Seymour of Glasgow, who first reigned in the ball-room of the Saracen's Head Inn fitted up a Theatre in a half-ruined building in New Smithhills. Seymour, who was an excellent actor himself, kept good company.

By the 1840s the annual Paisley Fair included fifteen Waterloo-flys and merry-go-rounds, Buckley's Exhibition, Mumford's Theatre of Arts, Pavilion of Novelty, Steel's Minor Theatre, Scott's Royal Pantheon, glass-blowing and working in miniature, Bostock & Wombwell's Royal Collection of quadrupeds, reptiles and birds, wild and tame, with a lion and a tiger occupying the same cage. By the 1850s the Race Course, the Theatre and the Ball-Room were great attractions.

The largest theatrical venues were at the Saracen's Head Inn and at the Tontine. Shakespearean tragedies and Scottish historical dramas, often based on the novels of Sir Walter Scott, provided much of an evening's entertainment. Astute managers also catered for popular tastes with an additional programme of melodramas, farces and comic interludes.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

The Saracen's Head Inn, Next to the Tollbooth at the corner of Moss Street and High Street, Paisley

Originally known as The Town's House

A Photograph of the old Tolbooth Steeple at Paisley Cross and the adjoining Saracen`s Head Inn in the 1860s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Photograph of the old Tollbooth Steeple at Paisley Cross and the adjoining Saracen`s Head Inn in the 1860s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

A playbill for a production of 'Othello' at the Saracen's Head Inn Theatre, Paisley on the 25th of June 1822 – Courtesy of Renfrewshire Libraries.Next door to the Tollbooth in High Street a three storey Town's House (a public inn) was built for the town council in the 1750s and extended in the 1790s with, at the rear, an Assembly Hall containing a Ball-room, Card Rooms and more bedrooms, at which point it changed its name to the Saracen's Head Inn by the then tenant Mr Sloan. The hall of the inn was soon fitted up as a Theatre, with boxes, pit and gallery. The actors' entrance to it was by a ladder from a stall in the stable by which they got to an apartment above which had a door leading to the hall. One of its later managers was Harry Johnstone, a favourite actor manager in Paisley.

Right - A playbill for a production of 'Othello' at the Saracen's Head Inn Theatre, Paisley on the 25th of June 1822 – Courtesy of Renfrewshire Libraries.

Theatre in Paisley enjoyed a new lease of life in the early 1820's, with the hall in the Saracen's Head Inn at the Cross along with the large ballroom at the Renfrewshire Tontine in Bank Street providing tasteful and comfortable venues. Attendances were usually very satisfactory, with the gallery capable of holding more than five hundred people often crowded to excess.

The Paisley town map delineated in 1857 and enlargeable on the National Library of Scotland site can be seen here showing the Saracen's Head Inn, and the Theatre Royal further east. The Saracen's Head Inn ceased around the end of the 1850s, becoming shops and houses. In 1869 the Tollbooth Steeple was demolished having become insecure. Paisley's population was now 47,000 compared to 7,000 a century before.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

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

The Abercorn Inn & Assembly Rooms, Gauze Street at Bank Street, Paisley

Later - The Renfrewshire Tontine / Bank Street Theatre / New Tontine Theatre / Abercorn Rooms

The Earl of Abercorn`s New Inn, later named the Tontine, as depicted in Paisley's Town Map of the 1780s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - The Earl of Abercorn`s New Inn, later named the Tontine, as depicted in Paisley's Town Map of the 1780s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The Abercorn Inn & Assembly Rooms were built in the 1780s by the Earl of Abercorn (Viscount Hamilton) and opened in 1783; designed by George Steuart from Perthshire who settled in London as an architect for the landed aristocracy. This was the Earl's contribution to the creation of the Newtown area of Paisley, east of the River Cart, which became a weaving suburb. It became the departure point for public carriages in an hourly service to and from Glasgow, including steam carriages pioneered in 1834.

The first lessee of its Assembly room as a Theatre was Joseph Rutter who had accompanied Dr Johnson and James Boswell in their tour of the Western Isles ten years earlier, but Rutter's venture was not a success. Others had greater success, including George S. Sutherland, manager of the Company of Comedians of the Northern Circuit, who was also manager of the Theatre Royal, Dumfries - whom Robert Burns described as "a man of genius" and penned a 34 line poem to be read by Sutherland as a New Year prologue at that Theatre at New Year, 1790.

Paisley`s Renfrewshire Tontine building which later was known as the Abercorn Rooms - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - Paisley`s Renfrewshire Tontine building which later was known as the Abercorn Rooms - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

A Playbill for the New Tontine Theatre, Bank Street, Paisley in 1824 – Courtesy Renfrewshire Libraries. By 1800 it was known as the Renfrewshire Tontine. It originally had 25 rooms plus stabling for 25 carriages, and a Coffee Room etc. The large Ball-room was adapted in the 1820s becoming known as the Bank Theatre and then as the New Tontine Theatre, complete with boxes, pit and gallery, and staging melodramas, comedy, drama and musical events. On one occasion the wooden gallery collapsed but without loss of life. Gas lighting was introduced in 1825.

Right - A Playbill for the New Tontine Theatre, Bank Street, Paisley in 1824 – Courtesy Renfrewshire Libraries.

In the mid 1820s, as recalled by a Paisley writer in 1850:- "There was J. E. Byrne, an Irishman from the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, whose Theatre was in the Assembly Room of the Abercorn Inn, Bank Street. This little temple of the drama will long be remembered for the exquisite singing of Mrs. Byrne, and for a drop scene - a view of Paisley from the Seedhills admirably painted by an artist named Pyet."

By the 1840s the complex had become deserted and dilapidated and in 1845 was sold, to reopen anew as the Abercorn Inn & Hotel. Its hall was now let as the Abercorn Rooms. During the 1850s it resumed its role of being a quality venue for public dinners, balls, soirees, meetings and lectures, and for stage productions including concerts of the Paisley Musical Association. And in the 1860s a favourite venue for Christy's Minstrels, soloists, instrumentalists and the newly formed Paisley Orpheus Choir.

A Newspaper advertisement from the 12th of February 1859 for the Abercorn Rooms featuring Arthur Lloyd.The Exchange Rooms and the Abercorn Rooms became the main halls of the town but once the Exchange Rooms were turned into a Concert Hall only the Abercorn Rooms remained as a town hall, accommodating some 400 people. In the 1860s a movement started to campaign for a much larger town hall, this was to be satisfied later in the 1870s by the building of the Clark Town Hall which opened in 1880.

Left - A Newspaper advertisement from the 12th of February 1859 for the Abercorn Rooms featuring Arthur Lloyd.

In 1880 its last lease managers included W. F. Frame and his concert parties, and also W. T. Rushbury. Drama and concerts now moved more to the new Town Hall and to Brickwell's Theatre. Containing the Old Tontine Bar, the whole building and neighbouring streets were cleared away to make a site for the town's Civic Centre in the 1960s.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

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

The Theatre Royal, 3 & 4 Abercorn Street, Paisley

A Newspaper advertisement from January 1866 for the Pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Abercorn Street, Paisley under Thos C. Howitt - Courtesy Graeme Smith. George Frederick Adams campaigned to open a Theatre in School Wynd (achieved there a few years later by Robert Calvert with his wooden Hibernian Theatre) but finally opened a Theatre in 1844, the Theatre Royal, sandwiched between an iron merchants and a thread manufacturer, in Abercorn Street, at Croft Street, by converting a foundry in Abercorn Street which was part of a large site owned by W & R Walker, timber merchants and wrights.

Tragedian actor Barry Sullivan in later life - Courtesy Graeme Smith.After overcoming some local opposition he was granted a theatrical licence restricted to 120 days each year, of his choosing and a minimum admittance of 6d, "except at Fairs and at New Year when the admittance might be 3d." The leading members of his stock company were tragedian Barry Sullivan who became internationally renowned and actress Mrs Ryder who went on to become a lessee of Theatres in Scotland.

Right - A Newspaper advertisement from January 1866 for the Pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Abercorn Street, Paisley under Thos C. Howitt - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Adams ran places of amusement on Glasgow Green, becoming stage manager of D. P. Miller's huge Theatre on the city's Green. He then married well which let him build the Paisley Theatre. By 1845 he moved on to the Theatre Royal, Aberdeen where he ran out of money. A Mr Hustleby was a successor to Adams in the Paisley Theatre, with G. V. Brooke being a frequent actor in it, often playing Othello.

A Sketch of (Samuel) Edmund Glover (1813 - 1860) - Courtesy the Glover family.The Theatre had boxes, pit and gallery. In 1849 and 1850 productions of drama, opera and spectacle started coming from Edmund Glover of the Prince's Theatre Royal, Glasgow, and soon of the Theatre Royal in that city's Dunlop Street. In 1850 Glover took a 10 year lease from Walker's Heirs, with high class productions coming for one or two days a week, or longer seasons at holidays, and when the Prince's in Glasgow was shut. The interior of the house under Glover "altogether is indescribably graceful and brilliant in appearance." In his long term planning he knew that Greenock, being farther from Glasgow, had scope for theatrical expansion and accordingly opened his very new Theatre Royal in Greenock in 1858, but continued his lease in Paisley. More about Edmund Glover and his family can be seen here for Glasgow and here for Greenock.

Comedy actor William Henry Sennett was awarded a 10 year lease from 1860, the year Edmund Glover died. Sennett junior, son of a Greenock publican of the same name, had been the last lessee in the 1850s of the old Theatre Royal, Mansion House Lane, Greenock. It was profitably conducted by him until 1856 when it was converted to a store, and eventually the Greenock Sugar Exchange. An 1854 playbill for the Paisley Theatre Royal can be seen here.

In the 1860s Sennett became the proprietor of the Theatre Royal in Paisley and also leased the Prince of Wales Theatre, Victoria Street, Belfast, and as lessee staged productions in the City Theatre, Dunfermline. He operated the four as his Circuit:- Theatre Royal, Paisley, the Adelphi, Coatbridge - which he took over in 1865 after D. P. Miller was sequestrated - the Prince of Wales, Belfast and the City Theatre, Dunfermline.

He also ran "the more (!?) aristocratic Alhambra" [a Portable Theatre] "on Glasgow Green in the summer months with shows, mysteries and pantomime. "All class of Novelty treated with Acrobats, Singers, Dancers, Clowns, Pantomimists, Dramatic Company, Full Bands (Brass and Strings)."

In 1865 and 1866 T. C. Howitt took a lease of the Theatre from Sennett who now stayed at Coatbridge, and later in Glasgow.

In 1868 Sennett advertised in the ERA the:- "Paisley Theatre Royal to Let, Redecorated and Painted, and ready for immediate opening. Licensed. Population 50,000. Barrack Town. - Replete with New Scenery and Properties."

New lessees included Messrs Pitt and Charles and various others including a Beatrice Montague. In 1870 it was leased by Mr W. C. Tees, with drama productions, and it also staged work from the Theatre Royal, Greenock.

W. H. Sennett was highly regarded by the magistrates and was awarded the licence for the Theatre Royal for a further 5 years from 1870 "the Theatre having been much improved in appearance and accommodation and evidence was given as to the propriety with which it was being conducted." However, the comedy actor died in 1871. Another generation of Sennetts continued as lessees of the Theatre Royal Coatbridge, including their own touring company, over the next two decades. His widow sold the Adelphi in Coatbridge and in December 1871 the Theatre Royal site was sold to Messrs Hanna, Donald & Wilson of the Abbey Engineering Works, boiler makers and shipbuilders, "who will erect premises on it for the extension of their works adjacent to the River Cart."

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

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

The Exchange Rooms, 8-10 Moss Street, Paisley

Later - The Exchange Rooms Concert Hall / Royal Exchange Rooms / Theatre Royal / Royal Empire Theatre Of Varieties / Empire Music Hall

A Postcard showing Paisley Cross and the High Street in the 1960s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Postcard showing Paisley Cross and the High Street in the 1960s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

An Early Postcard of Moss Street, Paisley showing the Exchange Rooms Concert Hall, later Empire Music Hall, being the fourth building from the right - Courtesy Graeme Smith.What had been a flesh-market, for only a few years, on the east side of Moss Street adjacent to Paisley Cross, was advertised for sale by the Town Council and a new imposing building opened in 1837 comprising a range of shops on the ground floor and on the upper floor a new hall known as the Exchange Rooms, originally numbered 47/48 Moss Street.

Right - An Early Postcard of Moss Street, Paisley showing the Exchange Rooms Concert Hall, later Empire Music Hall, being the fourth building from the right - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Its central position close to the Cross can be seen in this enlargeable map published around 1860. The building survives today and in the town's Conservation Report, 2008, the street is described as follows:-

Moss Street from the Cross to County Place retains the pedestrian scale of Georgian Paisley. This part may be the only late medieval street which was not widened. The facades are very mixed, with Georgian predominating. The former Empire Music Hall at No 8-10 with restoration could be appreciated as the last lay public building to survive from the Georgian period.

A sketch of Horatio Lloyd - From an article in the Chiel, 25th of May, 1889 - Courtesy Adam McNaughtan.The Exchange Rooms became the place for town meetings, lectures, public dinners, soirees and concerts. In 1840 Frank Connor got the Exchange Rooms licensed for a Theatre, fitting it up for seasons with a gallery, pit and boxes. Soirees, balls, weddings, concerts, public meetings, dinners and lectures continued to be held as the years progressed. The Renfrewshire Gazette recalled Connor's initiative, which was for a year before he moved to Inverness:- "Under his management, Henry Johnston, Gustavus Brook, Mr Lloyd, Miss Ellen Tree came and went drawing large houses. Mr Connor's company was the most respectable in point of ability and character that perhaps had ever taken a lengthened stay in the town; and as a consequence several members of the corps found their way into local society and mixed freely with the townsfolk."

Left - A sketch of Horatio Lloyd - From an article in the Chiel, 25th of May, 1889 - Courtesy Adam McNaughtan.

With various managements the famed Edmund Kean trod its boards, Johan Strauss made his first appearance in Paisley with some 14 of his orchestra performing his arrangement of Les Huguenots, and Fanny Kemble gave Shakespearian readings in 1852.

There were short hires for touring companies of actors, opera singers, and instrumentalists; comics, dioramas and at least one waxworks.

In March 1856 actor-manager James Mortimer staged dramas and concerts and established a company of artistes including Mr Lloyd - "as usual his acting has been highly amusing." By the late 1850s a new promoter was Morison Kyle, music publisher and bookseller, whose many musical publications would include Arthur Lloyd's "I'll Gang Tae Paisley."

Morison Kyle at the Exchange Rooms

A National trade advert placed by Morison Kyle for Arthur Lloyd and his wife Katty king performing at the Trade's Hall, Glasgow in January 1874 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Morison Kyle ran Comic Concerts in the Exchange Rooms in 1857 starring the famed Sam Cowell, nephew of W. H. Murray of Edinburgh's Theatre Royal. Kyle became the national manager for numerous artistes and presenter of their Annual Tours across the country including for many years Cowell until the artiste's death in 1864; he was also the publisher of Sam Cowell's Comic Song Book. One of Kyle's top-liners was Jim Moss, father of the future founder and chairman of Moss Empires Ltd.

Above Right - A National trade advert placed by Morison Kyle for Arthur Lloyd and his wife Katty king performing at the Trade's Hall, Glasgow in January 1874 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

A photograph of Sam Cowell - Courtesy the British Music Hall Society. As well as being the owner of the Fine Art and Music Repository, 108 Queen Street, Glasgow, the entrepreneurial Kyle promoted events and entertainments in numerous venues including, as the Glasgow Herald reported in October 1856:- "Mr Morison Kyle has engaged the Minerva Rooms in Glasgow, the premises lately occupied by Messrs Wylie and Lochhead, for Saturday evening concerts. This is as it should be. The City Hall is engaged on Saturday evenings by the Teetotallers. The more the merrier, as everything thrives by competition. Mr Kyle is prepared to contest the ground with an array of talent."

During December his opening, principal performer was "Mr Lloyd, the admired comedian."

Left - A photograph of Sam Cowell - Courtesy the British Music Hall Society.

In 1861 Morison Kyle engaged M. Blondin, the acrobat artiste who had walked across the Niagara Falls on a tight rope, for appearances in the principal cities of Scotland. Blondin performed on the high wire in Gilmorehill grounds (where now stands Glasgow University) "the grounds being admirably adapted for allowing an immense number of spectators to witness the performance on two days in September without crushing or hindrance, and this has enabled Mr Kyle to fix the admission at a very low figure."

He also represented Henry Corri's Royal English Opera Co in its national touring; Arthur Lloyd's Comic Concert company in its long running annual tours around Scotland. He presented variety, drama, and opera including the Anglo Italian Opera Company around Scotland; and staged entertainments in Glasgow's City Hall and in smaller venues including the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Hope Street.

In 1858 Morison Kyle bought the Exchange Rooms and shops below it. Kyle's promoting skills were first class and in early August 1864 he trailed in the Paisley Herald the forthcoming opening of his latest venture:-

'Popular Concert Hall for the People - A popular place of amusement for the people'

A Photograph of the Empire Music Hall and staff in Moss Street, Paisley about 1902 showing the manager Delno Fritz in top hat - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Photograph of the Empire Music Hall and staff in Moss Street, Paisley about 1902 showing the manager Delno Fritz in top hat - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

An Advertisement for the Exchange Rooms Concert, Moss Street, Paisley on 14th December 1858 listing Mr Lloyd and Arthur Lloyd - Courtesy Graeme Smith."Whilst Glasgow is provided with about a dozen spacious elegant and well-conducted concert halls, and almost every town in the kingdom can boast of one or more places of popular amusement, it has been a long-felt want that PAISLEY had been entirely unprovided in this respect.

Right - An Advertisement for the Exchange Rooms Concert, Moss Street, Paisley on 14th December 1858 listing Mr Lloyd and Arthur Lloyd - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Alive to the importance of this desideratum, and sanguine of public support, Mr KYLE, having secured the Exchange Hall, has, by a process of metamorphosis no less-rapid than complete, supplied the long-felt want; and by a thorough RENOVATION and DECORATION, made the EXCHANGE ROOMS one of the most elegantly-appointed Concert Halls in the kingdom; at the same time it will be a Fashionable Public Resort for an evening's entertainment of the most agreeable and innocent nature, where old and young, grave and gay, may wile away an hour in ease, and "chase a wrinkle from the brow of care," charmed with the song and dance, amidst music's swelling strains, and where the politest ear will never be offended. The lofty proportions of the hall and vast amplitude of the area, its spacious appearance together, will form a magnificent drawing-room, so to speak, unlike anything to what the Paisley Public has ever been invited. In fact, it will be literally what it purposes to be, a "MUSIC HALL," par excellence."

An Advertisement for an Exchange Rooms Concert on the 26th of November 1857 arranged by Davie Brown of the Philharmonic Hall, Glasgow - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The Glasgow Morning Journal reported later in August 1864:- "The Exchange Rooms have now been metamorphosed into an exceedingly elegant and tasteful hall and side rooms, and were opened on Monday night by the new proprietor, Mr Morrison Kyle of Glasgow, with a talented staff of artistes, under the management of Mr Fred Allford (baritone vocalist, and late manager of the London Music Hall, Manchester.)

Left - An Advertisement for an Exchange Rooms Concert on the 26th of November 1857 arranged by Davie Brown of the Philharmonic Hall, Glasgow - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The appearance of the interior is far superior to anything of the kind seen in Paisley. The walls and the panels of the gallery and ceiling are painted pale green, the projections being buff, circumscribed with a gold line, and under the blaze the many lights have a delightfully soft effect. A stage and proscenium has been erected, which, together with the drop curtain, a view of Paisley enveloped in the soft haze of the practised scene painter, have been the work of Mr Dudgeon of Glasgow Theatre Royal."

Kyle was awarded a full theatrical licence in 1865. Pantomime in Paisley was first directed by him in 1866. By early 1872 the Exchange Rooms changed its name to "Theatre Royal" after the original Royal in Abercorn Street had been sold to an engineering business which needed the site for their expansion.

An Advertisement for an Exchange Rooms Concert in April 1864 arranged by Mr Shearer of the Whitebait Concert Rooms, Glasgow and featuring Arthur Lloyd - Courtesy Graeme Smith.In September 1874 the Theatre was improved further as the London press noted:- "The Theatre Royal, which has been closed during the summer months, has now been reopened under the management of Mr Macdonald, former lessee. During the past month or so, Mr Morison Kyle, the proprietor, has made several alterations and improvements in the interior of the building, which has rendered it a very compact and beautiful little Theatre.

Right - An Advertisement for an Exchange Rooms Concert in April 1864 arranged by Mr Shearer of the Whitebait Concert Rooms, Glasgow and featuring Arthur Lloyd - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

An Advertisement from the 4th of March 1865 for an Exchange Rooms Concert, top-lined by Jim Moss - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The stage has been brought forward, and enclosed orchestra erected in front. Mr John Huggins, stage carpenter, London, has built an entirely new proscenium, and has rearranged the side scenery, etc., by all of which considerable extra space has been obtained on the stage. The proscenium is now an elegant structure.

Left - An Advertisement from the 4th of March 1865 for an Exchange Rooms Concert, top-lined by Jim Moss - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The services, too, of Thomas Dudgeon and Mr H. Smith, scenic artists, have been engaged, and together they have adorned the stage and the entire building in a manner that cannot fail to elicit great praise. Mr Dudgeon has painted a new drop-scene, showing the River Clyde from Dalnottar Hill, and it is really a work of art. A new act drop curtain, by the same gentleman, is in commemoration of the centenary of Tannahill. In the centre is a shield bearing a portrait of the poet, supported by Fame, which is heralding the praises of the bard; and on either side of the shield are views of Tannahill's well, birth-place, and several other well-known spots in Paisley. New dressing-rooms have been built, and various other felt wants supplied. The company present engaged by Mr Macdonald is looked upon as being A1."

Paisley's former Empire Theatre, painted in cream, in Moss Street at the Cross, in 2017 – Photographed by Graeme Smith.

Above - Paisley's former Empire Theatre, painted in cream, in Moss Street at the Cross, in 2017 – Photographed by Graeme Smith.

Kyle sold it in 1877, two years before his own passing, to a Paisley gentleman James Goold as a going concern. Fred Glover, one of the sons of Edmund Glover, leased the Exchange / Theatre Royal for the winter of 1879 with his own acting company headlining the season.

Trade adverts in the Era in October 1883 showing the competition in Paisley; the Theatre Royal, Moss Street vying against the new Abercorn Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.In 1880 it was leased to D.A. Muir, the Paisley tenor who played music halls from Glasgow to Greenock from the 1870s onwards, who ran it until March 1883 when he then opened as lessee of the new Abercorn Theatre. The lease of the Moss Street Theatre Royal was now taken up by Waldtern Pegg.

Right - Trade adverts in the Era in October 1883 showing the competition in Paisley; the Theatre Royal, Moss Street vying against the new Abercorn Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In the 1880s the proprietor of the Exchange building James Goold, clothier in High Street, who had also tenanted shops and a public house below the Hall when owned by Morison Kyle, continued to own the Theatre with the programming of productions being done by George Weldon, agent for many circus variety business in Britain, and by others. After being closed for almost two years the hall reopened in December 1886 by the return of one of the Pegg family, and with the creation of a new entrance and new Dress and Family Circles. By 1887 the lessee and manager was W. G. Blackadder until February 1889 when due to his ill health it closed, but later opened intermittently to around 1896.

John H. Savile owner of the Paisley Theatre and lessee of the Empire Music Hall, Paisley (also owner of Perth Theatre) - Courtesy Graeme Smith.In late 1896 the lessee and manager of the Royal Empire was William Kean, who in 1896 included in his variety bill of fare Theatrographic film, the first in Paisley.

Kean owned the Britannia in Glasgow and leased the Royal Empire, working both in conjunction. His bubble of floating a Limited Liability company of the Britannia & Royal Empire Ltd soon burst; he was making large losses at the Britannia, but he kept the Royal Empire open and busy through 1897 and into early 1898 when Arthur Hubner of the Britannia took over its management.

Left - John H. Savile owner of the Paisley Theatre and lessee of the Empire Music Hall, Paisley (also owner of Perth Theatre) - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

From September 1898 the Empire, without the prefix Royal, was leased by J. H. Savile, with an option to purchase it at the end of the long lease. He expressed his approach to the reopening, reseating, cork-carpeting, new scenery, new act-drop and renovation of the Empire, namely to ensure that the same beneficial control he brought to bear upon a Theatre might be brought to bear upon a Music Hall.

Savile had specially retained the services of Hubner as manager bringing to the Empire Music Hall Paisley the same standard of variety he was achieving in Glasgow's Britannia. Hubner left in 1900.

Delno Fritz, the Sword-swallower - Courtesy Graeme Smith.A subsequent manager from September 1902 was Delno Fritz, the Great Continental Sword Swallower. He and his wife also had a great fire act. She was regarded then as the only lady sword swallower in the world.

Right - Delno Fritz, the Sword-Swallower - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Paisley's former Empire Theatre, painted in cream, in Moss Street at the Cross, in 2017 – Photographed by Graeme Smith.When the Empire finally closed in 1906 he went off to the USA, appearing in circus and films, still "swallowing unimaginable things."

Left - Paisley's former Empire Theatre, painted in cream, in Moss Street at the Cross, in 2017 – Photographed by Graeme Smith.

The Empire closed on 30th April 1906 (when the newly built Hippodrome opened), and became the Exchange Billiard Rooms, later a tearoom and then a Chinese restaurant.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

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

The Abercorn Theatre, 17 Old Sneddon Street, Paisley

Later - The Abercorn Theatre / New Abercorn Theatre / Royalty Theatre

The person who created the first purpose-built Theatre in Paisley was George Duckenfield, actor, producer and temperance lecturer. In 1882 he opened the Abercorn Theatre in Old Sneddon Street at Abercorn Bridge, near the railway station. Built of brick and internally fitted in wood it had a full theatrical licence with entry at 2s, 1s, 6d and 4d, accommodating about 1,500 people across two levels. Its dimensions were some 90 feet by 60 feet and it was 30 feet in height.

Duckenfield was well established in touring, and at the same time as running his Abercorn Theatre he operated the wooden Theatre in the neighbouring town of Johnstone, and would soon open a Theatre in Irvine. From the 1860s onwards, to the Great War, George Duckenfield's hugely popular Excelsior Company toured across Scotland, Carlisle and Berwick in established venues and in portable Theatres – successors to the penny geggies. But in Paisley he had insufficient money to pay the joiner-builder Thomas McQueen and, in due course, ownership reverted to McQueen who was awarded the theatrical licence in 1884. Undeterred, Duckenfield opened in 1884 his large Allied Theatre in Reform Street, Arbroath for drama and pantomime; and many other places, living to the ripe old age of 82.

Trade adverts in the Era in October 1883 showing the competition in Paisley; the Theatre Royal, Moss Street vying against the new Abercorn Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.By 1883 the lessee of the building, being promoted now as the New Abercorn Theatre, was the tenor D. A. Muir, who previously ran the Exchange Rooms / Theatre Royal in Moss Street, and upon his death later that year his widow took his place.

Right - Trade adverts in the Era in October 1883 showing the competition in Paisley; the Theatre Royal, Moss Street vying against the new Abercorn Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

H. T. Brickwell became the Theatre's Booking Agent responsible for its programming as he toured the country with the Edward Terry companies.

Competition in the town was intense between the Exchange Rooms / Theatre Royal in Moss Street; the Abercorn Theatre; and the newly opened Good Templar Hall near the Cross. The town's Drill Hall also featured shows and concert parties and the town's luxurious civic hall the George A. Clark Town Hall, officially opened in 1882, swept the board for grand occasions, balls, concerts, and recitals.

A Postcard showing the Cross and newly opened George A Clark Town Hall around 1890 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Postcard showing the Cross and newly opened George A Clark Town Hall around 1890 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In March 1884 and changing its name to the Royalty Theatre, H. T. Brickwell and actor J. A. Warden of the Victoria Theatre, Newport became its new lessees, staging drama, comedy, opera, and starting the first of their annual Paisley Pantomimes that year, while still representing Edward Terry companies. By 1886 H. T. Brickwell was sole lessee and his manager was Charles E. Clark, who would become lessee in 1889.

The original owner, joiner Thomas McQueen – being unpaid by Duckenfield - had sold the land to Joseph Fowler Arthur, publican, who was well established as proprietor of the Criterion Vaults at 14 Old Sneddon Street, and in Greenock where he also became owner of Greenock's Theatre Royal.

On 17th November 1889 the Royalty Theatre burned down to the ground. Joseph F. Arthur promptly sought Burgh permission to build a new larger Theatre on its site, but it was not constructed. Instead Brickwell won the day with a new Theatre a few streets away.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

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

Tully's Theatre, Love Street, Paisley

An Advert from June 1890 for John Tully`s Theatre, Paisley - Courtesy Graeme Smith. Short-lived, but intriguing, the Tully Theatre operated in 1890. Hailing from Tynemouth, John Tully's Comedy Company toured Britain in the 1860s onwards, joined in time by the actress Edith Blanche (real surname Adams), who became Mrs Tully.

Right - An Advert from June 1890 for John Tully`s Theatre, Paisley - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In the late 1880s, into the 1890s, he became lessee of the Theatre Royal, Coatbridge. In May 1890 he added a base in Paisley by obtaining a theatrical licence for T. G. Transfield's Royal Circus wooden building in Love Street, which he leased from Mr Transfield. It accommodated about 2,000 people, had dressing rooms and wardrobe stores, and a stage was erected by Tully where there had been a gallery. The Theatre was popular but his lease ceased near the end of the year when it reverted to being a circus venue.

John Tully staggered financially in 1893, in Coatbridge, but recovered in other activities. He produced pantomime for the Theatre Royal, Greenock in the 1890s and toured other pantomimes; became a variety agent, the firm being Adams Agency; toured a UK company in New York, and latterly was a resident manager of Theatres in England. He also toured pantomimes written by Arthur Lloyd.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017. Who thanks Iain Wotherspoon for drawing his attention to this venue.

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

Brickwell's Theatre, 3-7 New Smithhills, Paisley

Later - The Paisley Theatre / The Victory Theatre

A Promotion card for Brickwells' New Theatre in Paisley, later named the Paisley Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith. Brickwell's Theatre opened its doors in October 1890 to the specifications of the joint proprietors Henry Thomas Brickwell and his brother William, who became managing director until his death in 1893. H. T. Brickwell had extensive experience of touring Britain and had become lessee of the town's Royalty Theatre. Brickwell's Theatre, so named to 1893, was one of the first Theatres designed by architect Bertie Crewe in his own name, after leaving the employment of architect Walter Emden.

Right - A Promotion card for Brickwells' New Theatre in Paisley, later named the Paisley Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The ERA in March 1890 anticipated the opening of Mr Brickwell's New Theatre, which they thought would be called the New Royalty Theatre (because until now Brickwell had operated the previous Royalty in Old Sneddon Street) and his architects Bertie Crewe and William Sprague provided advance information:- "The building will be to all intents and purposes entirely isolated, standing, as it will do, facing New Smithhills, with its back to the River Cart. (in later years when the river flooded, its water covered the dressing room floors!) The elevation shows a very artistically designed structure of red brick, ornamented with white stone facings.

A Ground Plan of Bertie Crewe's design for Brickwells' Paisley Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The 1600 accommodation of the house is as follows - stalls, which may be entered from either side, 50, circle 60, upper boxes 130, while the pit will hold 600, the private boxes 20, the gallery 400, and standing room may be found for 300 more.

Left - A Ground Plan of Bertie Crewe's design for Brickwells' Paisley Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The entire building is constructed on the fire proof principle - stone and cement. The ventilation has not escaped notice, for exhaust tubes of great diameter will be placed over the several portions of the house where they will be found most necessary, such as the stage, centre ceiling of auditorium, and over the gallery. Over the stage sprinklers will be so arranged that should by misfortune any fire take place in the scenery an instant flow of water will be directed all over the area.

The lighting will be both by gas and electricity, and during winter hot-water pipes, supplied from a boiler outside the building, will considerably add to the comfort of the audience. The front of the house will be well supplied with retiring and crush rooms, and in the matter of dressing-room accommodation the actors will, we are pleased to say, be well looked after. Complete workshops and scene-dock are to be built on one side of the stage, but cut off from the main building, so that all danger from accident may be carefully avoided. The dimensions of the stage are as follows depth, 56ft. width, 58ft. proscenium opening 25ft., height of gridiron 42ft., from which it will be seen that any company on the road can be accommodated as regards scenery." - The ERA, March 1890.

A Cross section of Bertie Crewe's design for Brickwells' Paisley Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Cross section of Bertie Crewe's design for Brickwells' Paisley Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The ERA later added further information as the opening in October drew near:- "One of the unique points in the new Theatre is that the money-taker controls the whole house, another is that the stage may at short notice be converted into a 42 ft. circus ring. There are to be three tiers the dress circle, upper circle, and gallery and each part has its lounge, refreshment, and smoking rooms. The Theatre is French Renaissance in style, the hangings are to be of peacock-blue plush. The dome is very handsomely painted and plastered to represent a balcony, flowers, and sky.

Among the companies who will first appear is Charles Wybrow's Paul Jones. The Arthur Rousbey Opera Co., and Mr. Osmond Tearle and Co. are also booked. At Christmas a pantomime will be produced by Messrs. A. and P. Milton on a gorgeous and extensive scale." - The ERA, 1890.

And at its opening in October 1890:- "Mr Brickwell's new Theatre at Paisley was opened on Monday, when a large and most fashionable audience assembled, filling the building to its utmost capacity. Mr Clarke, the manager, makes a good representative for Mr Brickwell, being a most courteous, obliging, and deservedly popular gentleman. The company which had the honour of opening the Theatre was Mr Charles Wybrow's, with Paul Jones, which found much favour with the audience, the cast being good all round. At the close of the performance loud calls were raised for Mr Brickwell, who appeared before the curtain and addressed the audience, thanking them for the manner in which they had shown their appreciation of his efforts, and assuring them that nothing would be left undone to place before the public of Paisley a round of entertainments deserving of their support.

The building is of brick throughout, fronting the street with stone, and inside is composed entirely of concrete and iron, thus reducing the danger of fire to a minimum. The inside measurement from the back of the stage to the back of the pit is over 100ft., and the width varies from 490ft. to 53ft. The stage is separated from the auditorium by iron doors and an iron curtain. There are six separate entrances to the stage, one of the six large enough to allow a carriage and pair to pass through. At one side is a large room for the storing of stage furniture, and in connection with the stage, but entirely separate from it and the auditorium is a large room for storing scenery. In a corner near the footlights is an apparatus for controlling the entire lighting of the building, and in the same corner is a large hydrant, to be used in case of fire. Underneath the stage, but separated entirely from it by iron doors and concrete walls and ceiling, are seven dressing-rooms-large, airy, well lighted, and fitted with wash basins and mirrors. At each side of the stage are two private boxes, each capable of holding eight persons. The fronts of the boxes, dress circle, and gallery are beautifully moulded with stucco, and coloured with nice soft tints, while on plain spaces between the figures the names of Shakespeare, Goldsmith, Johnson, &c. have been inscribed. The stalls, dress circle and upper circle behind the dress circle are fitted with tip up chairs covered with crimson plush. The inside of the Theatre has been beautifully decorated, and the dome has been hand-painted in a highly artistic style, the subject of the picture being "The Muses." All the passages and stairs are carpeted, and handrails fitted up on each side.

Bailie Smith in proposing the health of Mr Brickwell and success to the new Theatre, said that although to many of them Mr Brickwell was personally a stranger, he had still had a considerable theatrical connection with Paisley, having been lessee of the old Theatre for seven years. He had done his best with the limited means in the old Theatre to cater for the public, and he had no doubt that now he had such a splendid Theatre he would rise to the occasion." - The ERA, October 1890.

H.T. Brickwell

The Paisley Theatre, Smithhills Street, drawn just after its opening in 1890 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Brought up in Stroud, H. T. Brickwell studied at Liverpool College. After early acting in that town and learning to manage a Theatre in Leeds he became the touring manager for the comedian Edward Terry & Company for many years, while also starting some Theatre projects of his own.

Right - The Paisley Theatre, Smithhills Street, drawn just after its opening in 1890 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In an interview with The ERA in December 1894 he recalls his time in Paisley:- "On his own account Mr Brickwell ran the Paisley Theatre for some time. When it (the Abercorn / Royalty) was little better than a barn he was induced to become one of the guarantors of the rent for the then tenant; and eventually was called upon to find the rent. Having the house thus, in effect, thrown upon his hands, Mr Brickwell determined to make the best of it; and for some time he drew a steady income from the place; till, in fact, it was burned down. Having made a little money in another quarter, too, Mr Brickwell rebuilt the (new) Paisley Theatre, only to find that the people who had loved the old unlovely building would not come near the new house. The time soon arrived when he was very glad to get out of it, a far poorer man than he had been."

He became resident manager of Terry's Theatre, Strand, London when it opened in 1887, designed by architect Walter Emden, but broke with Edward Terry to become the lessee and manger of the Garrick Theatre, London in 1890 through to 1901. After leaving the Garrick he was pursued through the courts in London by Edward Terry for breach of copyright, which may have been the reason why Brickwell was declared bankrupt in 1907. He moved to cine-variety and during WWI he was managing director of the immense Canterbury Theatre of Varieties, Lambeth, London.

On the death in 1893 of Brickwell's brother, William, who was the resident manager in Paisley the Theatre was sold to a new Limited Liability Company, PAISLEY THEATRE LIMITED owned by the singer Arthur Rousbey, who headed the Rousbey Opera Company. The new company's managing director was Charles Rider-Noble of the Opera House, Northampton (before he went off to be a travelling cameraman for film pioneer Charles Urban) and in Paisley the resident manager was R. Eade Montefiore. By agreement in May 1894 he became sole lessee and manager, reintroducing to the town a stock-company of dramatists known as Montefiore's Star Company, who also toured as "24 artists and a powerful chorus" in pantomime productions.

The ERA enthused about resident manager Eade Montefiore being granted a lease of Paisley Theatre, adding:- "Mr Montefiore, since he has been there, has vastly improved the Theatre, and, moreover, his personality has brought him in touch with a class that seldom ever visited their local Theatre. He has also blossomed out as proprietor and editor of the popular weekly The Paisley Mirror, which is conducted with a literary ability and smartness that stamp him also as a first-rate journalist.

The Theatre has been handsomely redecorated and renovated in every part. The entrance hall and corridors are decorated with rich gold paper, mosaic marble pedestals and pillars adorned with the choicest palms, enshrined in artistic vases. The corridors are lined with valuable etchings, massive high floor lamps fill up the corners of the corridors, and plants abound on every side. An excellent orchestra of ten is a welcome feature, while an innovation for Paisley are the pretty girls flitting around in black dresses, white caps." - The ERA.

A photograph of Eade Montefiore in one his later venues, Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee, illustrates his busy and artistic office, seen here.

In August 1895 John Henry Savile became the Theatre's new proprietor and became a resident of Paisley. A widower, he was now engaged to be married a second time and wished to settle down. He staged plays, musicals, comedy, burlesque, pantomime and opera, including performers such as J. H. Toole, Miss Fortescue, Edward Terry, Durward Lely, Edward Compton, Turner's English Opera and Mr D'Oyley Carte's No 1 Repertoire company. The main refreshment room in the building was named the Compton Comedy Bar.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

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

J. H .Savile

John H. Savile owner of the Paisley Theatre and lessee of the Empire Music Hall, Paisley (also owner of Perth Theatre) - Courtesy Graeme Smith.John Henry Savile (real name John Henry Sparrow) had trained as a lawyer and joined his father's law-firm in Norwich but hankered after a career in Theatre management, following the example of his elder brother H. Cecil Beryl (real name William Harcourt Sparrow) who had become lessee of the Prince of Wales Theatre, Glasgow and before that managed the Globe in Glasgow's East End. From 1877 the two looked after the touring of a comedy company around Britain and Ireland. J. H. Savile then directed his own company starring his actress wife Marie Rhodes, who was a great favourite at Howard & Wyndham Theatres; in 1881, after managing Sheffield Theatre Royal, he became the sole business manager for Edward Compton and the Compton Comedy Company touring for 15 years.

Right - John H. Savile owner of the Paisley Theatre and lessee of the Empire Music Hall, Paisley (also owner of Perth Theatre) - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

He knew Glasgow, Edinburgh and Paisley well, particularly during 1879 to 1888 when his brother H. Cecil Beryl was in control of the very new Royal Princess's Theatre in Glasgow's south-side.

In 1896 Savile took his first annual Benefit at Paisley, the evening in the Theatre being chaired by no less than George Clark, one of the town's multi-billionaire thread tycoons.

After a gap of 15 years the town now had pantomime revived, with Savile launching his Cinderella in 1897. Always specially written by Fred Locke, the Paisley Theatre pantomimes would run for 8 weeks each year and then go off touring other Theatres and halls in towns across Scotland, Ireland and in England with a company of 40 artistes under Savile's direction.

From 1898 until 1906 - in which year Paisley's Hippodrome opened and took all the town's variety business - Savile also had the lease of the Empire Music Hall in Moss Street.

He was a caring man and in January 1898 one of the newspapers reflected on the success he had achieved in the management of the Paisley Theatre. Here is a paragraph which probably tells something of the secret of success:- "On Saturday afternoon, on the invitation of Mr J. H. Savile, the old people and children from the Paisley Poorhouse and patients of the Asylum, with the boys from the local Reformatory Institution, witnessed the representation in the Paisley Theatre of "Cinderella." Mr Savile gave a packet of tea to each of the women, a packet of tobacco each of the men, and sweets and an orange the younger people. Tuesday afternoon a detachment from the Riccartsbar Asylum was treated in a similar manner."

By early 1898 he had become an active promoter of a Prospectus to build Perth Theatre, in the city's High Street, with himself as lessee and operator. Until then its City Hall was the venue for his pantomime visits (and productions by others.) He planned to dovetail his Perth and Paisley Theatres "giving each of the towns three nights of good companies" and "might also result in time to combine Inverness with Perth." A year later the Prospectus was published, successfully and with the great and the good being on its board including William Whitelaw, father of a future Deputy Prime Minister, and contained further news of Savile's current career:- "Mr Savile occupies an influential position in the theatrical profession and has been eminently successful with his Paisley Theatre. In May last he was asked to undertake the general management of Messrs Howard & Wyndham's Limited, five Theatres in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Newcastle, and it was only because the Directors made it a sine qua non that Mr Saville should give up his Paisley Theatre in which he is so deeply interested that the negotiations fell through. He will work the Perth Theatre in conjunction with his Paisley one."

Savile duly opened Perth Theatre in 1901 as lessee, buying it fully in 1909, and later moving his residence to Perth.

Britain's renewal of repertory Theatre after the start of the 20th century encouraged Savile, especially the work being done in Glasgow where Alfred Wareing's Glasgow Repertory Company (the Scottish Playgoers Ltd) expressed its innovative voice and pioneering productions mainly in the Royalty Theatre, Glasgow from 1909 up to 1914 when it was suspended due to the Great War. In April 1915 J. H. Savile started his own Savile Repertory Company (usually referred to as the Paisley Repertory Company) based in the Paisley Theatre. Annually the Repertory company would be 43 weeks at Paisley (producing 40 plays) 15 weeks at Perth and 2 weeks in England or Ireland.

In 1918 he added his Perth Repertory Company, which included his actress daughter Winifred Savile. The following year J. H. Savile announced his wish to retire, and advertised both Theatres for sale as going concerns. Perth did continue in Savile family ownership until 1934, latterly under the dynamic direction of daughter Winifred Savile. Known by all as "Midge", she would be appointed by the founders of the Citizens Theatre Ltd, Glasgow, in 1944 (to 1946) as the first business manager of the new repertory company in the Athenaeum and also oversaw the move to the Royal Princess's Theatre - which had been the Theatre of her uncle H. Cecil Beryl.

E H Bostock photographed in later life - Courtesy Graeme Smith.E. H. Bostock, chairman of the Bostock Circuit, promptly bought the Paisley Theatre from Savile in 1919 for variety, pantomime and some repertory to obviate the rebuilding of his nearby Hippodrome.

Right - E. H. Bostock photographed in later life - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

At the end of August 1919 The Stage reported:- "In three months Mr. E. H. Bostock has effected a transformation of the Paisley Theatre house from a structural and an artistic point. The Theatre originally seated about 1,400 persons, but in improving the accommodation Mr. Bostock has sacrificed 400 seats.

Bostock's advertisement for the Paisley Theatre pantomime of December 1921 – Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive.The dress circle and the old upper circle have been merged into one, and been fitted with 200 comfortable tip-up chairs. The stalls also have been extended, taking in part of the pit; 232 tip-up chairs now form the stalls. The seating in the pit has been overhauled and new seats with back rests have been fitted in the gallery. What was known as the Compton Comedy bar has been converted into a lounge, and a new and more spacious bar built as an adjunct to the south gable. The upper circle bar has been converted into a lounge and light refreshment bar also for service as a waiting-room. A new system of heating is being completed, and for this a chamber has been built. The electric lighting has been considerably improved.

Right - Bostock's advertisement for the Paisley Theatre pantomime of December 1921 – Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive.

Part of the stage has been relaid, and additions and improvements made in the lighting arrangements there. New scenery has been painted by Mr. Hinchey, whose work is known to the Paisley patrons. His new act drop calls for special praise. Every part of the house has been redecorated. The colour scheme is of rose, gold and grey. The dress circle and stalls have been carpeted and draperies and palms add to the general effect." - The Stage, August 1919.

The Bostock bill of fare ensured packed houses twice nightly. Around 1929 the Bostock Circuit in Scotland and England reviewed their many Theatre and cinema sites in light of the arrival of the Talkies. Some properties were expanded to modern cinemas, and others remained as they were but increasingly would be operated by others outwith the Bostock Circuit and its management team. In September 1930 the first external lessee, Leslie Lynn of the Millport Entertainers, was appointed but the Bostock family would continue to own it until its closure in 1959. He was also appointed lessee of their Hamilton Hippodrome and Blantyre Picture House.

A Programme cover for the Victory Theatre, Paisley in the late 1930s - Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive.Leslie Lynn had trod the boards in towns and in resorts as a comedy ventriloquist, forming his own concert parties. He also now operated cinemas in Kilwinning, Millport and Alloa. Following his death at the end of 1932 the Theatre was leased by Bostock in 1933 to Victoria Circuit Ltd of Glasgow whose managing director was W. W. Thomson, with other venues in Central Scotland. Alec Ascot was one of his successors and producer of many shows in the Theatre. He was a comedian and, partnered by singer Frances Whyte, performed in towns and holiday resorts in the 1920s and 30s, and in London's Palladium as a feed to Dave Willis. The financial and guiding hand of this expanding circuit was Willie Galt variety agent-extraordinaire right up to the 1950s.

Right - A Programme cover for the Victory Theatre, Paisley in the late 1930s - Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive.

Jack Milroy getting ready to go on stage - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The Theatre was renamed the Victory Theatre. Variety, revues, and pantomime took pride of place, and local productions the Paisley Musical & Operatic Society, the Paisley Opera Club and drama companies including the Paisley Plays Club, and the Paisley Scouts Gang Shows.

Left - Jack Milroy getting ready to go on stage - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Headliners in the 1930s onwards included Tommy Morgan, Charlie Kemble, George West and Dave Willis; to be followed in later decades by Renee Houston, Jack Milroy and Johnny Beattie.

A Paisley Theatre Playbill from November 1939 -  Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive. A Programme Cover for the Paisley Theatre in 1930 -  Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive. A Paisley Theatre programme Cover from the 1950s -  Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive.

 

Above - A Paisley Theatre Playbill from November 1939 for a variety show headlined by George West, A Programme Cover for the Paisley Theatre when leased to Leslie Lynn in 1930, and A Paisley Theatre programme Cover from the 1950s - All Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive.

The famous Scottish Logan Family
The famous Scottish Logan Family

In the early 1940s having just left school a young Jimmy Logan was an assistant stage manager at Paisley Theatre for two years including seasons of the talented Logan Family headed by his father Jack Short. Jimmy recalls that much of his time front of house was that of a chucker-out! A recording of Jack Short and his entertaining Logan Family can be enjoyed by clicking the Video Thumbnail Shown Right, with special thanks to John Short. In the 1940s and into the 1950s variety, revues and pantomime were joined by seasons of repertory including the Fraser Neale Company headed by Tommy Lorne's daughter.

The Paisley Theatre in Smithhills Street in 1959 awaiting demolition - Courtesy Charles Soutar.

Above - The Paisley Theatre in Smithhills Street in 1959 awaiting demolition - Courtesy Charles Soutar.

Later in the 1950s it changed to week-ends only and finally closed in 1959, another victim of television. It was demolished in 1966 to make way for a central redevelopment and today's Piazza shopping centre straddling the River Cart, which in the original 1959 town centre plans was proposed to include a Theatre-cum-cinema, but did not materialise.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

The Hippodrome Theatre, New Smithhills, Paisley

A Paisley Hippodrome Playbill for January 16th 1911 - Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive.Now greatly expanding his own Bostock Circuit, Edward Henry Bostock opened up in New Smithhills in the same street as the Paisley Theatre. His Hippodrome providing variety and pantomime would contain ideas similar to his Scottish Zoo & Glasgow Hippodrome, which Bertie Crewe had helped to design. The new Paisley venue was built of timber and corrugated iron and accommodated 1,500 persons, and a near-replica of it was opened by Bostock the following year 1907 in Hamilton, whose Hippodrome can be seen here.

Right - A Paisley Hippodrome Playbill for January 16th 1911 - Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive.

The ERA reported on:- "PAISLEY'S NEW HIPPODROME. On Monday 15th October 1906 the new place of entertainment for Paisley people had an auspicious opening. Mr. E. H. Bostock, well known in connection with the Glasgow Zoo Hippodrome, has erected a first class music-hall in the centre of the town, and styled it the Paisley Hippodrome. The external appearance gives an idea of the commodious interior, the beauty which is difficult to imagine without seeing. The entrance hall is beautifully embellished in warm colours, prettily designed, and in its comfort and convenience affords every desirable facility for patrons. A partition divides the entrance-way into two, one side being for pit and stall patrons, and the other for the "gods"- (a raised element of the stalls.) Inside the main hall itself a chaste scheme of ornamentation has been carried out. An arched ceiling the latest lines, with pretty floral decoration, gives a span of fifty feet. The gallery is roomy and well planned, and the pit cushioned seats are provided, with linoleum under foot. Handsome tip-up chairs and a rich carpet add to the comfort of the stalls. Two boxes, one on each side the proscenium, have been handsomely ornamented and finished. The proscenium itself is a beautiful example of plastic and decorative art. The opening 26ft and the stage itself everything has been done to ensure safety. Asbestos lining and a water curtain have been provided, and two hydrants are also available. Fireproof paint has been employed for the scenery and in the dressing-rooms, which are placed at the rear the stage. Every precautionary measure has been taken, therefore, for the safety of performers and patrons alike; Mr. George Watson is stage manager, and the acting manager is Mr. Wilson. The music is under the direction of Mr. Tadma-Parker, who has life experience of the work. The building is lit electrically and by gas, and the footlights and battens are also electric. Emergency exits are numerous, and all are fitted with the patent push-bolt, which only requires a touch to open.

Messrs. Devonport and Co., Birmingham, are the architects and builders, and the celebrated A. Dean and Co., Birmingham, have the credit of the proscenium, besides supplying all the upholstery required for boxes, stalls, and stage. The stage curtains are of the tableaux design, lifting from the sides. Heating is by means of radiators, and altogether the hall presents a most elegant appearance. It is quite unnecessary to remark that the circus element does not enter into the Hippodrome. There is no ring, and the performances are of the variety order, on the lines of the Zoo-Hippodrome in Glasgow, there being two shows a night. Although Mr. Bostock has the full theatrical licence, he declines to have anything to with the Inland Revenue licence, which confers the right to sell intoxicants. There was distinguished company present at the opening on Monday night, and the proceeds of the first house performance was, with Mr. Bostock's well-known generosity, distributed among local charities.

Singer and Comedienne Lily Morris - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The bill was a first-class one, including The Craggs, in their clever and amusing comedy sketch of The Steward of the "Channel Queen", which was brimful of genuine humour, merriment, and skill; the Brothers Dean, in their refined and graceful dancing act; Nina Gordon, Scottish mimic and society entertainer; The Meymotts (Harry and Ada), in screaming musical interlude, Semi-Detached; Drew and Alders, eccentric comedians, and still more eccentric dancers; Jack Lane, the original Yorkshire rustic; the Alberto Troupe, head, hand, and wire equilibrists; and Lily Morris, star comedienne (Shown Left). A series of animated pictures by the Hippodrome Bioscope was also shown." - The ERA , October 1906.

Left - Singer and Comedienne Lily Morris - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

After a decade or so the highly popular Hippodrome, which was also used for meetings and rallies, was completely destroyed by fire on 29th February 1916. It was the first fire in any of his many venues in Britain over the last 35 years. Bostock also owned the town's Rink Picture & Variety Palace, which opened around 1909 as the Astoria Roller-Skating Rink, in Lawn Street and provided cine-variety up to 1931 when the Bostock Circuit reconstructed it and named it the Astoria Picture House.

Bostock determined in 1916 to build a New Hippodrome, which he said would be more commodious and more substantial, and bought the site which had been carnival grounds next to the side of Robert Cochrane's high-class drapery and departmental store adjacent to the Paisley Theatre owned by Savile - but any construction would have to await the ending of hostilities.

In January 1919 J. H. Savile advertised that, as he wished "to retire from the strenuous business", he would consider offers for either or both of his Theatres as going concerns, namely the Paisley Theatre and the Perth Theatre. Within a month E. H. Bostock had bought the Paisley Theatre and would take entry in May 1919, to run it as a variety Theatre. In the Bulletin newspaper of Monday 25th May 1919 a photograph of the proposed NEW HIPPODROME was featured with Bostock announcing it would be built in 1920, to hold 2,000 people. But it was not to be. Instead he considerably improved the design and comforts of the Paisley Theatre which would continue to be owned by the Bostock family into the 1950s.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

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

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