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The Paragon Theatre, 93-95 Mile End Road, London

Formerly - The Eagle Public House / Lusby's Music Hall / Lusby's Summer and Winter Palace - Later - The Empire Cinema / ABC / Cannon / Coronet / Genesis Cinema

The Eagle - Lusby's Music Hall - The Paragon Theatre - The Mile End Empire - The Empire Cinema / ABC / Cannon / Coronet / Genesis - A Chat With William Lusby

A Google StreetView Image of the Genesis Cinema, Mile End Road, which was constructed on the site of the former Lusby's Music Hall / Paragon Theatre - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Genesis Cinema, Mile End Road, which was constructed on the site of the former Lusby's Music Hall / Paragon Theatre - Click to Interact.

 

A Bill for Lusby's Summer and Winter Palace on the 30th of August 1880.The site of the present Genesis Cinema in the Mile End Road, London, has a long and involved theatrical heritage going right back to 1848 when a Public House called The Eagle was first erected there. This had a large area which was used for entertainments in the Music Hall style from its early days, run by Wilton Friend.

The Music Hall was later run by William Lusby from 1868 who renamed it Lusby's Music Hall. The Hall was reconstructed in 1877 and renamed Lusby's Summer and Winter Palace. This opened on Easter Monday, the 2nd of April 1877.

Right - A Bill for Lusby's Summer and Winter Palace on the 30th of August 1880.

The ERA reported on the opening of Lusby's Summer and Winter Palace in their 8th of April 1877 edition saying:- 'This new place of amusement, which, both on account of its great size and the splendid appearance of its interior, deserves to be described as "grand," was opened to the public for the first time on Easter Monday evening. It affords accommodation for five thousand visitors, and there must have been nearly that number of persons who availed themselves of the earliest opportunity to see the magnificent building which Mr William Lusby has had erected for the use of the pleasure-seekers of the Mile End-road and its vicinity, as well as to witness the performances of the large and talented company of artistes which he has engaged.

The Hall is one hundred feet in length, sixty feet wide, and thirty-eight feet in height. There is a balcony forty feet in depth from the curve of its horse-shoe shaped front to the back of the Hall. On each side of the Hall on the balcony tier are four private boxes, and beneath these, on each side of the place, are two large stage boxes. The floor of the area has a rise of many feet from the orchestra to the entrance to the Hall, so that a clear view of the stage can be had from the back seats and by persons who may be standing about the large and handsome bar which is placed here. There is a greater ascent from front to back in the balcony, by means of which an unobstructed view of the stage can also be had in that portion of the house, which is reached by three wide fireproof staircases. The stage is a splendid one. It has a depth of forty-five feet, and has been fitted with star traps and all the needful mechanical appliances by Messrs W. Schofield and Son, by whom it was designed and built. The proscenium is thirty-four feet wide and thirty feet high. It is tastefully decorated with papier mache, supplied by the Papier Mache Company, of Wellington street, Strand, and has been artistically picked out in gold and colours by the Brothers Lusk, of Alderney-road, Globe-road, to whom the work of decorating the whole of the Hall was intrusted.

 

The embellishment of the place is of a subdued character, and effective without being garish or gorgeous. The frieze all round the building has been adorned with classical fresco paintings by Mr Francis Weeks. A novel feature in the place is that it has been so constructed as to combine an ornamental garden with the Hall. On each side of the building on the ground-floor are five wide openings fitted with folding doors, which can be readily put back in the summer time, when visitors may desire to step out into the cool air or to feel it coming in to them. The space without along each side of the Hall will form a pleasant promenade within view of the auditorium and the stage. The Proprietor justly claims for himself and his architect, Mr J. M. Knight, who has ably co-operated with him in carrying out his idea, the merit of having hit upon a plan by which perfect ventilation may be secured with the utmost facility in the hottest weather, and he may further properly take pride in the fact that here only can be found in London a place of amusement which posseses the double attraction of a Music Hall entertainment and a summer garden.

A Poster for 'The Musical Paviors' at Lusby's Summer and Winter Palace, Mile End Road in December 1883 - Courtesy Philip Mernick.We have yet to add respecting this novel structure that it is approached by an unusually ample vestibule. This consists of the former Hall, which, when the work now being carried on is completed, will form a grand lounge. Mr Lusby has secured for the decoration of this part of the place the bas relief of Aurora, from the private residence of Lady Palmerston in Park-lane. The stall portion of the Hall, is furnished with luxurious chairs, and many large mirrors in golden frames add to the brilliant and pleasing appearance of the place. The bar appliances have been supplied by Mr T. G. Briggs, of Jubilee-street, Mile-end-road; the water mains and hydrants by Messrs John Aird and Sons, of Belvedere-road, S.E.; and the gas arrangements were intrusted to Mr M. Defries, of Whitechapel-road. The drop curtain is an exceedingly pretty one. It bears in the middle a large and well executed picture, representing Charles the First and his Queen, his family, and suite in a State barge on the Thames at Hampton Court. All the figures and surroundings of this production are admirably depicted, and reflect the highest credit on Mr Francis Weeks, by whom the curtain was designed and painted. The same artist has furnished a grand Palace Scene or Pillared Hall, an outdoor scene representing a picturesque, mediaeval-looking continental city, and another of the English rural landscape kind, with its stream, bridge, mill, church, &c.

Left - A Poster for 'The Musical Paviors' at Lusby's Summer and Winter Palace, Mile End Road in December 1883 - Courtesy Philip Mernick.

A full and efficient band, under the direction of Mr Thomas Carter, has been provided. The company engaged is a large and attractive one, and well calculated to fill the place for some time to come. Estimated by the length of time which it occupies, the large number of persons engaged in it, and the laughter and applause which it evoked, the representation by Martinetti's troupe, from the Princess's Theatre, of a comic ballet called, we imagine, The Magic Flute, must be regarded as the chief item in the present bill of fare here. This performance is highly bustling and amusing. The gentleman who plays the part of Clown is excessively droll. One of the prominent characters by playing on a flute, which has been given to him by a magician, causes all the people at a wedding to become rigid, like the figures at a waxwork exhibition. While they are in this condition the merry Andrew plays rare pranks, which occasion immense merriment. Another very attractive and effective portion of the entertainment here is found in the marvellous aerial gymnastic performance of Madame Sanyeah. This lady's strength of nerve and jaw is amazing, and, like her handsome figure and graceful feats, excites boundless admiration. The exceedingly dexterous conjuror D'Alvini, who is called "the Jap of Japs," is one of the company, which further includes the gifted and pleasing Murray and White Minstrels; the musical Miss Kate Bele; Mr Alexander Lumsden, the favourite Music Hall tenor vocalist; the Brothers Chirgwin, with their Negro drollery and clever instrumental music; the nimble-footed Mr E. Mosedale ; Miss Emily Adams the talented juvenile burlesque actress and singer; Master Sidney, a youthful sentimental singer of good ability; the two Sisters Melita and Mr Harry Fisher, who display much vocal and Terpsichorean skill; Mr Sam Redfern, the eminently voluble and humorous Negro comedian; and Mr Frank Estcourt, who, besides singing motto and other songs, discharges the duties of Chairman in a becoming manner.

The office of General Manager continues to be filled by Mr Wilton Friend, who, we have no doubt, will prove fully equal to the efficient performance of the manifold and arduous labours connected with the management of such a great establishment, supported as he is by the energetic and enterprising Proprietor, to whom we wish complete success in his undertaking, planned with boldness and carried out with unsparing liberality controlled by good judgment.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 8th of April 1877.

 

The Paragon Theatre

An early photograph of the Paragon Theatre, Mile End Road.William Lusby sold the Music Hall to Crowder and Payne in 1878 but sadly it was destroyed by fire on the 20th of January 1884. Undeterred, Crowder and Payne then commissioned the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham to design a new Theatre to replace it. The new Theatre, to be called the Paragon Theatre, opened the following year, on the 21st of May 1885.

An early programme for the paragon Theatre, Mile End Road for March 1st 1886 - Courtesy David Garratt.Right - An early photograph of the Paragon Theatre, Mile End Road.

The ERA reported on the opening of the Paragon Theatre in their 9th of May 1885 edition saying:- 'Almost immediately after the fateful night of the 20th of January, 1884, when the once famous Lusby's Music Hall was destroyed by fire, it was announced that Messrs Crowder and Payne would re-erect upon the site a new hall, which would be at once worthy of the reputation which had been obtained for the old establishment, and of the important and densely populated neighbourhood which had supported the same.

Left - An early programme for the paragon Theatre, Mile End Road for March 1st 1886 - Courtesy David Garratt.

The realisation of this project has now come to pass; and the present structure, which will be opened to the public on the 21st of the current month, is one which not only in every way answers the requirements of the neighbourhood, but which will also prove to be, if not the very finest, certainly one of the very finest places of amusement in London. To say this may seem high praise; but the term is quite justified by the, magnificent building of which a description will follow, and which will be found to be a veritable Paragon in every way.

 

Cast Details from an early programme for the paragon Theatre, Mile End Road for March 1st 1886 - Courtesy David Garratt.When it is stated that the new building and its annexes cover more than an acre of ground it will be at once understood that it is of gigantic proportions, as the following figures of the dimensions will amply corroborate:- From the line of footlights to the back of the auditorium measures nearly 100ft.; the hall proper is 60ft. in width, with a promenade on each side of 20ft., making a total width of 100ft.; the height from floor to top of the domed ceiling is 60ft., and from the line of footlights to the balcony and gallery front is from 58ft. to 60ft.; the stage opening is 34ft. wide by the same number of feet in height; the depth is 64ft., the height to gridiron is 60ft., with a cellarage depth of nearly 20ft., and a width across of about 100ft.

Right - Cast Details from an early programme for the paragon Theatre, Mile End Road for March 1st 1886 - Courtesy David Garratt.

Having disposed of these details, a description of the general features of the building will be readily understood. The principal entrance is from the Mile-end-road, and here an innovation, the first of numerous excellent ideas, is to be encountered. The old public house bar, instead of being on the street level as formerly, will now be found beneath the main entrance, and this will be approached by a capital staircase leading to "the Paragon Dive." The entrances are broad and noble in appearance, that on the right leading to the pit and balcony and that on the left leading to the better parts of the hall, the gallery having a separate entrance in Eagle-place. At the end of the entrance passage is found the crush-room, adorned at one extremity by a conservatory, and at the other with a huge mirror which reflects and apparently duplicates it. Through this is seen the grand promenade, a noble apartment leading to the foyer, which is fitted with marble bars, a grill, and every convenience necessary. The foyer leads straight away to the promenade which surrounds the ground floor of the theatre, and which, being a few feet higher than the floor whereon the seats are fixed, enables a spectator who is promenading around to have an uninterrupted and perfect view of the stage.

 

Refreshment Prices from an early programme for the paragon Theatre, Mile End Road for March 1st 1886 - Courtesy David Garratt.The hall proper consists of the gallery, the balcony with twelve private boxes on a separate level, and, on the lowest level, the pit, stalls, and fauteuils. The gallery is a magnificent one, which will accommodate about 800 or more, and commands an excellent view of the stage from all parts; indeed, this is constructed marvellously well. The balcony is equally large, and the private boxes on either side are commodious and very prettily decorated in gold colour, cream, and blue, relieved with gold. There are plenty of means of access and special provisions for exit for all these upper parts of the hall, as well as for those on the ground floor level. It should be mentioned that on the gallery level is a huge cistern, which is in addition to the continual service from the water mains to the hydrants, and one of Merryweather's accumulators, so that there is here a special provision for of extinguishing fire if it break out, at the top level of the house, independent of, but in conjunction with, the other hydrants placed all over the premises in prominent positions.

Left - Refreshment Prices from an early programme for the paragon Theatre, Mile End Road for March 1st 1886 - Courtesy David Garratt.

It is on the ground floor that the beauties of the building strike the spectator most forcibly. The entrance to the fauteuils is from the promenade, through doorways on either side. These entrances, in accordance with the general decoration of the place, are Oriental in character, draped with rich dark red or maroon velvet, of which material all the other various draperies are made. In niches in the doorways will be seen a pretty effect, obtained by the introduction of blue porcelain flower pots, in which ferns are planted. The main ceiling is bold in design and most effective in execution, the splendid dome being elaborately decorated with an allegorical subject highly creditable to the artist, Herr Kettler, who has designed and executed it. The lighting of the house is obtained by a huge sunburner in the dome and four magnificent brass gaseliers, one in the centre of each ornamental spandrel at the four corners of the ceiling. These spandrels are formed in the shape of shells, and are very effective in appearance. The proscenium is very ornamental, and forms a fitting frame for the drop scene, a splendid Alhambra interior painted by the well-known scenic artist Mr C. Brooke. The former is exceptionally effective, side pillars supporting the arch being again supported by the heads of elephants, which form the cantilevers. The fiat surface is panelled out boldly, and on either side of the proscenium there is a doorway, heavily draped, through which artists will be able to make their appearance when taking "calls " before the curtain. This is in itself a novel idea, carried out in a very capital manner, the doors of communication used for this purpose being of iron, and fireproof.

Another novel feature is the introduction of a scagliola marble rim to the proscenium, which adds greatly to the effect from the front. A passage has been constructed to connect the two promenades on the right and left of the fauteuils ; this runs on the orchestra level, between that and the wall dividing the stage from the hall. This means of getting from one side to the other of the auditorium is sure to be of immense service.

The stage, as will be imagined from the dimensions given above, is very large, and it is so very completely fitted that the most elaborate mechanical scenery can be worked upon it. The lighting of the stage and of the other parts of the house, of which a description appeared in our issue of last week, is also on the most elaborate and perfect scale. Dressing and retiring rooms in plenty are provided, and every provision has been made behind the curtain as in the front of the house to anticipate all reasonable requirements.

The decorations, as well as those before mentioned, are effective and tasteful, being orientalesque in character, carried out in salmon, cream, gold colour, blue, and gold, enriched. with raised work, and introducing types of Eastern art, such as the elephant's heads, &c., and relieved with plentiful hangings of rich-coloured velvet, draped in a bold manner. The gas-fittings are pretty and novel, being a reproduction of the bamboo in its leafy state. These, in the form of brackets, gaseliers, and standards, will be found all over the house. Electric bells and speaking tubes are provided in all parts of the building, and the means of ventilation adopted are founded upon natural laws of cause and effect, and should prove highly successful, especially since the building has been so contrived that the outer air is obtainable for all parts of the hall and its subsidiary apartments. Many other features are for want of space impossible to be described here, but they have all been designed with the object of rendering this a most perfect building of its kind...

 

A Silk programme for the seventh anniversary of the Paragon Theatre, Mile End, on Thursday the 19th of May 1892

A Silk programme for the seventh anniversary of the Paragon Theatre, Mile End, on Thursday the 19th of May 1892

Above - A Silk programme for the seventh anniversary of the Paragon Theatre, Mile End, on Thursday the 19th of May 1892 - On the Bill were some of the biggest names of the time including Daisy Le Row, Major Miles, Harry Pleon, Lotto, Lilo and Otto, Herbert Campbell, F. Boisset and Troup, R. G. Knowles, The Leonards, The Sisters Belfry, Fannie Leslie, Dan Leno, Little Tich, Clarke and Conway, Lizzie Chase, McConnel Trio, W. F. Moss, Tom White's Eton Boys, Harry Freeman, Amy Lawrence, Edwin Boyde, Baby Langtry, Joe Cheevers, The Florador Quartette, G. W. Hunter, Harry Anderson, The Ruby Quartette, Curtis D'Alton, Harry Lemore, and Keegan and Elvin.

...The architect of the same, the designer of all the decorative and other ornamental details, the inventor of the ventilation, and the planner of the stage, is Mr Frank Matcham of Bedford-row, who fully deserves to be heartily complimented on all that he has accomplished. The firm of Merryweather and Son is responsible for the hydrants and fire-extinauishiug apparatus, the gas-fitting has been executed by Messrs Vaughan and Brown, the upholstery by Messrs Lyon and Son, the scagliola marble by Messrs Bellman and Ivey, the marble work of bars by Mr Salter, and the whole of the decorative plastering and painting by the Frame Makers', Gliders', and Decorators' Association.

The general superintendence of the works has been in the hands of the architect and Mr Webber, the foreman; while Mr Snow has acted as clerk of the works. Messrs Crowder and Payne, with characteristic enterprise and energy have been their own builders, and from the success of their efforts in this direction it seems as though they would be as fortunate in the building trade as they have been as caterers for the amusements of the public. In the six months or thereabout, during which the building has been in course of erection, they have provided a model place of entertainment capable of accommodating about three thousand persons; and it only remains to us to wish them an amount of support and success commensurate with the magnificent effort they have made to secure it. In two weeks or less the public will be able to see the Paragon for themselves, and if they are not satisfied with it they will, indeed, prove hard to please.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 9th May 1885.

Concert Halls and Assembly Rooms by Ernest A. E. Woodrow, A.R.I.B.A

Concert Halls and Assembly Rooms by Ernest A. E. Woodrow, A.R.I.B.A

Above - Plans of the Paragon Theatre from Chapter 21 of Ernest Woodrow's Concert Halls and Assembly Rooms, 1895. Accompanying text reads:- 'I illustrate one of Mr. Frank Matcham's finest halls, which is most appropriately designed for the needs of an East-End audience. The plan and section represent the Paragon Theatre of Varieties in the Mile End-road (Figs. 3 and 4). Like all this architect's work, there is not a seat in this hall where you cannot obtain an uninterrupted view of the stage. The large and open auditorium renders it bearable to sit in this hall in spite of numberless pipes and East-End cigars. This is an assembly-hall where the special needs of the case have been considered with care and success.' - Full Article here.

The Paragon Theatre opened on the 21st of May 1885 and all the well known Music Hall names appeared there over the following years. Originally the Theatre was lit with Gas but in 1893 the Theatre had electricity installed. The Theatre closed down for a few weeks whilst this was accomplished, the building was redecorated at the same time, and a new hot water heating system was also installed.

The ERA reported on the new scheme of decorations in their 5th of August 1893 edition saying:- '...The Moresque style, in which Mr Matcham originally designed the theatre, has been adhered to in the redecoration, and Mr Payne, the managing director, having given carte blanche to Mr Matcham, he has evidently availed himself of the opportunity of bringing the Paragon up to date, and under his directions it will be found to be one of the most handsome and luxurious halls in London. The large domed ceiling of the auditorium is a special feature, and has been cleverly treated by the introduction of dancing Moorish figures holding aloft rich Indian draperies suspended from the centre, and disclosing a blue Indian sky. The conception is quite Eastern, and the effect remarkably good. The raised ornamental work on the remainder of the ceiling, with the large proscenium and the gallery fronts, have been decorated in rich Indian colours, and lavishly gilded. Names of composers are introduced in the coves surrounding the ceiling, and Moresque designs on the side walls of the auditorium. The walls and ceiling are painted and decorated with stencils and ornaments, and decorated anaglypta. The large entrances, foyers, crush-rooms, &c., have also received artistic treatment, a feature being the crush-room, which is finished in blues and bronze greens, rather a daring combination, but very effective, the coved ceiling being treated as an Indian sky, with sun's rays, and flamingos in flight. The whole building is rich in colour and gold, and the architect's ideas have been cleverly carried out by Messrs Campbell, Smith, and Co. in their usual effective style. The installation of the electric light has caused quite a transformation in the building, the fittings being bold and chaste in design. This work, together with the hot water heating, has been carried out by the well-known firm of Vaughan and Brown. The building has been entirely reupholstered by Messrs Lyons and Son.' - The ERA, 5th of August 1893.

The Mile End Empire

In 1912 the Theatre was renamed the Mile End Empire and began showing early Cinema with a rear projection booth situated on the former stage of the Theatre. Cinema use was so successful that by 1938 ABC, who then owned the building, decided to demolish it and build a new Super Cinema in its place. The Empire closed on the 3rd of April 1938 and that was the end for this particular building as it was demolished straight afterwards.

The Empire Cinema
Later - ABC / Cannon / Coronet / Genesis

The new Empire Cinema was designed by ABC's chief architect, William R. Glen F.R.I.A.S and opened on the 12th of June 1939 with the films 'Burn 'Em Up O'Connor' and 'Persons In Hiding'. The Cinema was designed in the Art Deco style and was equipped with a small stage and two dressing rooms but film has dominated its programming ever since.

In 1973 the Cinema was tripled and the facade was re-clad. Cannon Cinemas bought the building in 1986 and renamed it Cannon but soon after it was bought by Coronet Cinemas and renamed Coronet in October 1986. Three years later the Cinema was closed and it then stood derelict for more than ten years, being damaged by vandals and suffering a small fire in the process.

The building was saved when a local, Tyrone Walker-Hebborn, bought the Cinema and spent around £3 million restoring the building and adding another two screens. The Cinema reopened as the Genesis Cinema on the 5th of May 1999 with the film 'True Crime'. Barbara Windsor had the honour of opening the Cinema. The Genesis still remains in this form today with the main screen in the former circle, two screens in the former rear stalls area, and two screens in the former front stalls area.

You may like to visit the Genesis Cinema's own website here.

Information for the Cinemas later years was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website.

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

 

A Chat With William Lusby

From the ERA, 20th February 1897

One more familiar figure retires - we will not say disappears - from the scene of music hall enterprise in the East-end of London, that of Mr William Lusby, who has transferred the proprietorship and direction of the Foresters', Mile-end-road, to Mr G. H. Macdermott. "Mac" has achieved a success so brilliant at the Hoxton Theatre of Varieties that he is disposed to extend the sphere of his activity, and he could find no more suitable hall to run with the historic Harwood's than that from which Mr Lusby now withdraws. They are within so convenient a distance of each other, and yet cannot be regarded as rivals. Mr Lusby, on his part, is disposed for a period of comparative rest. He has, to be sure, many interests lying without the music hall business that will prevent him from being utterly idle. He will pitch his tent at Ilford, where he has house property; indeed, Mr Lusby has taken a very active part in the development of this district, on which his eye rested years ago, and of which, as a residential suburb with vast potentialities, he has a high opinion. "If you remark the growth of London," says he, "you will see that the community expands in a great ring. Ilford formed a gap in the ring - but I knew that this could not be permanent, and time justifies me in my belief."

Mr Lusby's original occupation was that of a speculator in the material of dilapidated houses. If there is such a lucrative bit of sacrilege to be committed as buying, removing, and reselling the lead on the roof of a church he is your man. But he always had a passion for public entertainments. As a lad he frequented every theatre and music hall, but, especially every music hall, that his means permitted him to patronise. The odd thing is that, although they did not meet until much later in life, Mr Lusby and Mr Wilton Friend, his long-time lieutenant, must have had the same haunts as lads. Whenever their conversation takes the course of reminiscence, they always recall the same entertainments and entertainers - very primitive entertainments, very quaint entertainers they were, many of them, Mr Lusby and his colleague being just old enough to remember the music hall in its infancy. What a change they have lived to see in its style and circumstances! As a lad, it was always Mr Lusby's determination, if ever he acquired sufficient capital, to run some kind of show.

He thought that the object of his ambition was within his reach pretty early in life. A building opposite the Vine House in Mile-end-road was to be disposed of. Mr Lusby acquired it, and set to work on such alterations as he thought necessary to make a place of entertainment. But it attracted the jealous eye of a gentleman who did very well as the proprietor of a variety of popular shows, and he to the best of Mr Lusby's belief, suggested to the authorities that the new building was ill suited for its purpose. Poor Mr Lusby was peremptorily ordered to make this alteration, that, and the other, quite beyond his means - in fact, the end of his little capital was already in sight. In this predicament he appealed to the owner of the building to accept the improvements already achieved in his property in settlement of a breach of contract, and the young entrepreneur, relieved of all his savings, began life afresh. He was rather disgusted with things in general, and in this state of mind set sail for Australia, determined to try his luck at the goldfields. For a long time he had no luck whatsoever. Then he obtained moderately lucrative work with a little group of partners. A curious thing happened - curious in the light of Mr Lusby's later life experience. Most of Mr Lusby's undertakings have been begun in direct opposition to the advice of his friends. He had his eye on a claim that his colleagues absolutely condemned as worthless; but to cut a long story short, he persuaded them to set to work on it, the result being that in a very short space of time they were worth a few hundreds apiece. Mr Lusby, fairly tired of Australia, determined to start for home.

He quickly became the proprietor, for the sum of £100, of a licensed house at the back of the Pavilion Theatre, known as the Sugar Loaf. He improved the conduct of the house and the character of the entertainments periodically given there, cultivating the custom of the performers engaged at the Pavilion Theatre. In ever so short a space of time he sold the Sugar Loaf for the sum of £1,000 - ten times his original outlay. Mr Lusby thereupon acquired a discredited tavern known as the Eagle; and now known as the Paragon Music Hall. Everybody assured him he was making for ruin, and one sincere friend, in imploring him to forfeit his deposit, and let his first loss be his last, offered to contribute a hundred pounds towards such loss. Firmly declining this offer, and as firmly believing in his own powers, Mr Lusby got to work. The character of the house was very bad. Mr Lusby made it a sort of East-end Vauxhall. The long corridor now affording access to the Paragon was in those days used as a refuge from the gardens when the weather prevented an al fresco entertainment. The programme of music and varieties was at an appointed time peremptorily stopped, that dancing might begin. Eventually Mr Lusby roofed in the greater part of the gardens; but trees still grew all round the concert-room, the sides whereof could easily be thrown open by the removal of a series of glass shutters. The style or title of the building, as most people remember, was then Lusby's Summer and Winter Palace. Having conducted this business with much success for nine years, Mr Lusby disposed of it in 1878 to Messrs Crowder and Payne. The building was afterwards burned down, and the splendid structure known as the Paragon, eventually sold to a limited liability company, was raised on its site. For a long time "Lusby's" was submitted to persistent and injurious persecution by a misguided "evangelist."

When Mr Lusby sold the Eagle he first settled in Ilford, and there engaged in real estate speculations. For years he took no stock in the variety business. But at length he acquired the Foresters' Music Hall, his intention being to provide herein occupation for a young relative. This scheme was abandoned, and Mr Lusby, having the Foresters' on his hands, determined to resume business there as a music hall proprietor. The Foresters' has seen many vicissitudes - and is, in fact, a very old established business, the oldest of its kind, Mr Lusby thinks, in succession to the Mahogany Bar. For his own part Mr Lusby is inclined to believe that the institution of the two houses a night system gave a remarkable impetus to business. Here, again, Mr Lusby acted in direct opposition to the views of many experienced people. He was told that to play two houses a night meant the estrangement of his respectable patrons. And, indeed, the first night looked as though the experiment were doomed to failure. The floor of the house held seven persons at sixpence apiece and one at fourpence. The attendance in the galleries was rather better, but not at all encouraging. Mr Lusby now tells you that he was of a mind to buy them a drink and send them home, but wiser counsels prevailed. The entertainment was given in its entirety with proper care. The audiences gradually increased, till Mr Lusby is able to retire from the Foresters' with the consciousness that he has enormously increased the value of the property and the popularity of the house during his term. He leaves good old Wilton Friend behind - as a "fixture," shall we say? - for Wilton Friend has spent very nearly a quarter of a century in continuous residence at this end of the town.

Mr Lusby's own recollections include a prescient admiration of Mr George Leybourne, when that eventually great artist was known as Joe Saunders and made fewer shillings a week than he afterwards made pounds. In discussing the degree in which such a hall as the Foresters' is dependent on its immediate locality for support, Mr Lusby gives you a very curious characteristic of the East-end boy, who is a most enthusiastic playgoer. Distance, it seems, is no consideration with these youngsters when they are in pursuit of a popular favourite. They will tramp for miles to hear an artist of whom they have particular knowledge or of whom they have had a good report.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 20th February 1897.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were kindly collated and sent in for inclusion by B.F.

 

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