The Parkhurst Theatre, 401 Holloway Road, London
Formerly - The Parkhurst Grand Hall and Theatre
The Parkhurst Theatre first opened as the Parkhurst Grand Hall and Theatre with a production of 'Nixie' on the 24th of May 1890, although a private view of the building with a selection of vocal and instrumental music was given at the Hall on the previous Saturday. The Theatre was designed by G. Truefitt for its owners Messrs Driver and Perfect, and was situated at the corner of Parkhurst Road and Holloway Road, next to the later Marlborough Theatre of 1903.
Right - A Programme for the Pantomime 'Babes in the Wood' at the Parkhurst Theatre in December 1894. In the cast were Alice Lawrence, Lena Benson, Jessie Reed, Ada Binning, Maggie Bowman, Nellie Bowman, Percy Everard, J. E. Nightingale, John Krank, Mack Krank, Sam Wilkinson, Maude Burgwitz, Elsie Gerard, Ada Tinsley, Dawson, Halsemere, Marie Barrat, Daisy Laburnham, Wurtemburg, Taylor, A. Cox, L. Cox, Kate Mitchell, Gilbert Esmond and R. Lawrence. - More of this programme can be seen below.
The ERA reported on the opening of the Parkhurst Grand Hall in their 31st of May 1890 edition saying:- 'In the busiest part of the Holloway-road, and just opposite the "Nag's Head," there has been erected a new and handsome hall by Messrs Driver and Perfect, who call their building the "Parkhurst Grand Hall and Theatre." For it is intended to supply dramatic as well as musical entertainments, the hall being admirably adapted for both purposes.
It has been built from the designs of Mr G. Truefitt, whose ideas of providing for the safety of future audiences may be highly commended, seeing that the entire plan of the building is such that every portion can be approached from the level of the outside throughfare, there are no galleries with flights of steps, no long corridors, no awkward corners, the approaches are all on the ground floor; but the space at the command of the proprietors has been so ample that they may boast of having opened to the public the safest and most convenient place of entertainment in the metropolis.
A vestibule at the end of the hall leads direct from the road, and doors opening from it give access to the main building, while the visitor has only to keep straight on who wishes to enter the refreshment or cloak rooms. There is also a smaller hall suitable for public meetings when a large audience is not expected to be present...
Above - The auditorium and Stage of the Parkhurst Theatre from a programme for 'Babes in the Wood' in December 1894.
...The accommodation for the audience in the large hall is entirely in the area, and opposite the entrance there is a large and handsome stage framed like a picture by a gilt proscenium, and having a graceful classic drop scene. The stage, when used for musical purposes, is arranged as a drawing-room, but there are all the appliances for dramatic performances on the most complete scale, and during the week Mrs Hodgson Burnett's play Nixie has been the attraction, with Mr William Herbert, Mr Lewis Waller, Miss Helen Forsyth, Miss Lucy Webling, and other members of the company who have taken part in the piece during its performance at the Globe. Mr Hugh Moss has been responsible for its production, and Mr J. R. Perfect, jun., is the manager. The prices of admission are very moderate - stalls, 3s.; reserved seats, 2s.; and other portions of the hall, 1.s. Thus the patrons of the Parkhurst Hall will have an opportunity of seeing a number of popular West-end pieces with the greatest convenience and economy...
Above - A Programme for the Pantomime 'Babes in the Wood' at the Parkhurst Theatre in December 1894.
...Returning to the Grand Hall, which is airy and lofty, we see on looking upward to the roof, which is slightly vaulted, tablets recording the names of famous actors on the one side and celebrated musicians on the other. The hall is lighted by three large sun-lights in the roof, but when day performances of music, &c., are given, five large windows on each side of the hall give the requisite light. The general character of the decorations is Pompeian, the uniformity of the walls being broken by decorated pilasters, and the colour of the decorations is mainly cream and buff, alternated with blue lines, and heightened by gilt ornaments. The effect is therefore cheerful and elegant, without being glaring.
Ample arrangements are made for ventilation in the roof, so that there is not the slightest inconvenience from heat, and the plan of the building prevents draughts. Visitors will find that their comfort and convenience have been studied in every way. In order to carry out still further the precautions for safety, Messrs Driver and Perfect have had the buildings, the corridors, floors, &c., constructed of fireproof materials, and perhaps it will be only fair to let them speak for themselves, as they do in the following extract from their preliminary address:
Last Saturday evening was the private view of the new building, and a selection of vocal and instrumental music was given by a number of excellent performers, who would have gained still greater attention but for the interest the visitors took in the hall and its accessories. Under the management of Mr Sydney Price, who gave a recitation, several songs and solos were given, Miss A. Bernard and Mr H. Thomas being heard in a duet from the Trovatore. Mr Edward Griffin in "The heart bowed down" sang with good effect. Miss Holdom played pianoforte solos, and the Bohee Brothers gave a capital banjo performance. Mdlle. D'Alcourt sang the vocal waltz from Gounod's Romeo and Juliet with facility. Miss Florence Lambeth and Mr Allen Morris also gave songs, and took part in the garden scene from Faust, Mr John Le Hay's ventriloquial entertainment being the concluding item. We may safely assert that in the Parkhurst Grand Hall Messrs Driver and Perfect have launched a successful enterprise.'
The Parkhurst Theatre was converted for Cinema use in 1908 when it was taken over by Biograph Theatres Ltd, opening in April that year with a capacity of over 1,000, and managed by a Miss Fuller.
The Cinema News and Property Gazette printed a report on the Theatre in their January 8th 1913 editions saying:- 'Standing in the Holloway Road, facing one of the finest shopping centres in London, is one of the two cinema theatres in the country presided over by a member of the fair sex; and to Miss Fuller who directs its destinies belongs the unique distinction of having been the first lady to control such an undertaking.
Even if I had not been previously aware of this fact I should not have long remained in ignorance of it, for immediately on setting foot inside the Parkhurst I found plenty of evidence of that artistic taste which betokens the presence at the helm of a lady.
Miss Fuller sets much store by her portrait gallery, situate in the entrance hall, where one can see at a glance the stars of the moving picture firmament. Truly she has got together a most marvellous collection.
Right - The Cinema News and Property Gazette report on the Parkhurst Theatre, January 8th 1913.
London's lady manager has a firm belief in her own sex, and this being so, it will not surprise readers to learn that the Parkhurst Theatre, so far as the staff is concerned, may with but few exceptions be described as an Adamless Eden. Miss Fuller told me that she considered it fitting that ladies should be in attendance upon ladies. Doubtless she had in mind the fact that it is also woman's province to wait upon man. Naturally I desired to learn the opinion of the subject of this sketch upon long films, and I quickly found that whilst she appreciated the thrilling dramas which these provide she strongly opines to the belief that 2,500 feet is sufficient for any picture where a continuous show is given, owing to the fact that those who come in when the picture is half-way through tire before it comes round again, while others who have come to see a particular film complain of having to wait interminably for it to be reached.
I elicited a little bit of information which should be pleasing to the producers of both American and English films, for I found that Miss Fuller, whilst bestowing praise upon the Vitagraph pictures, was ready to record the fact that the English films were rapidly coming to the front, and she singled out for special mention in this direction the Hepworth Company.
Left - Details of the Parkhurst Theatre as a Cinema - From the Cinema News and Property Gazette, January 8th 1913.
Those who argue that reissues or repetitions of picture are not popular would do well to bear in mind Miss Fuller's remarks upon the point, for she informed me that her patrons frequently request that a picture previously shown shall be re-booked, and she backed up this assertion by pointing out that La Tosca had to be re-booked three times on this account.
The Parkhurst Theatre was not Miss Fuller's first venture in cinema management, for she had previously had charge of the first continuous show opened in London at the Electric Theatre, Shepherd's Bush. She may be said to have made the acquaintance of Moving pictures at the earliest possible moment having witnessed the first display given by Mr. Paul. No better proof of the manner in which Miss Fuller governs the theatre can be needed than the fact that during her management not a single disturbance has ever occurred - since the opening day - striking testimony to the respect which is shown to her on all hands.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the Cinema News and Property Gazette, January 8th 1913.
The Parkhurst Theatre didn't remain long in Cinema use however, and by 1926 it had closed down and was subsequently demolished for the building of the Holloway Arcade. Today housing and retail units occupy the site of the former Theatre.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Some Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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