The South London Palace of Varieties, 92 London Road, Lambeth
Formerly - The South London Music Hall
Above - A photograph of the South London Palace during the run of 'The Yorkshire Lad' in the early 1900s - Courtesy Philip Cross whose family ran the H. Cross Ironmonger's shop next door at 93 London Road. Philip says: 'My Great Grandfather retired and sold the shop in 1966 - he had worked there with his father for 60 years - and the shop itself had been in the family for about 140 years (it was said Charlie Chaplin got his funny walk from 'old Bill' who worked in Cross's Ironmonger's... maybe pinch of salt with that one I think!) - Philip Cross - Further research has led me to discover that the full name for this act was 'The Yorkshire Lad in London' and it began life at the Hull Empire in September 1902 and then toured the provinces and many London Theatres as an act in various variety shows until October 1908 where it seems to have ended at the Empire Palace, Lancaster. M.L.
The South London Palace, in London Road, Lambeth first opened on the 30th of December 1860 as the South London Music Hall, with E.W. Mackney on the Bill, among others, and was said to have resembled a Roman Catholic Chapel. The Theatre cost £8,000 to build and had a capacity of 1,200 people. It was managed originally by James Frederick Tindall and Robert Edwin Villiers. Sadly this building was destroyed by fire only 9 years later on the 28th of March 1869.
Undeterred the owners quickly had the building re-erected and it reopened on the 19th of December the same year, 1869. This second Theatre was designed by William Paice and constructed by Langmeed and Way, and had a much larger capacity than the earlier one with seating for some 4,000 people.
The Building News and Engineering Journal reported on the new Theatre, along with the two sketches shown below, in their 13th of May 1870 edition saying:- 'The South London Palace, situated in the London-road, Southwark, has been erected on the site of the old South London Music Hall which was destroyed by fire last summer. The present new building, in addition to the old site, covers considerably more ground, which was obtained by the demolition of some of the surrounding houses. The inside measurement of the new building is as follows: 120ft. long, 70ft. wide, and nearly 50ft. high.
Right - A programme for a music hall production at the South London Music Hall for February the 1st 1896 - Kindly Donated by Ted Oughton. On the Bill were Katie Edgar, Violet & Evelyn Poole, Cliff Ryland, Lilian Alexander, George Leyton, Major Mite, Marie Lloyd, Alice Maydue, A. C. Lilly, Violet Leslie, Leo Stormont, James Le Fre & Co, Tom Leamore, Harry Anderson, Tom White, Cyrus Dare, and Mark Melford & Co. - Click to see entire programme.
The stage which is erected at the south side, and is nearly the whole width of the building, has beneath it a space of 20ft. deep to receive and produce scenic effects. The style of the building is Italian. The pit and stalls are on the ground floor, the private boxes and balcony on the second floor; each of these floors is unusually lofty. The hall is capable of holding 4000 persons. The orchestra, which is 30ft. wide, will hold 40 performers.
The principal entrance to the building is by a wide corridor leading from London-road, at the end of which separate entrances are obtained to the pit, and to the stalls. The balcony floor is approached by a spacious stone staircases, which is also continued to the gallery floor above so as to give additional egress from the gallery in case of fire. The gallery is approached from London-street by an easy stone staircase, there are no winders in any of the staircases. The pit, stalls, balcony, and gallery are each provided with large and separate refreshment bars. For the accommodation of the officials of the establishment an iron spiral staircase runs from the pit to the gallery, thus giving an immediate connection to the three principal refreshment bars. The pit, stalls, balcony, and gallery are each provided with lavatories, water-closets, and urinals. There are also private rooms on each floor for ladies. For the facility of the officials there are private stairs from the several floors to the stage...
Above - A Photo-Lithograph of the Auditorium and Stage of the South London Palace - From the Building News and Engineering Journal, 13th of May 1870.
...The auditorium of the hall is covered by a dome 65ft. diameter, which is effectually ventilated by perforated enrichments, and is provided with an elaborate sunlight. In the roof immediately over the dome is a large ventilator; there are additional ventilators in roof over stage and gallery.
The architect has taken great pains in the general construction of the building. The ventilation, which is unusually good, is obtained (in addition to the perforations in the dome) by series of window openings between the pilasters on each floor (upwards of 70) which openings are filled in on the outside with glazed casements hung on centres with lines, and tilled in on the inside with perforated enriched plaster panels. All the lavatory departments have external ventilation.
One feature in the construction is the novelty of the roof, which is 70ft. span, the portion over the dome being carried by what might be termed collar principals in lieu of the ordinary tie beams, so that by this means an additional height of 9ft. in the dome is obtained in the roof, thereby saves the same height in the walls, by which, considering that additional height would necessitate extra thickness in the brickwork, the saving is very great (see illustration). Considerable trouble has been taken in the levels of the separate floors, which have been so arranged that every person has an uninterrupted view of the whole of the stage, even to the sides of the gallery in which the audience are seated as far as the proscenium...
Above - The Roof of the South London Palace - From the Building News and Engineering Journal, 13th of May 1870.
...Unlike most houses, the architect has resorted to the use of a very few columns, which are always objectionable as an obstruction to the view. Although the entertainment of the establishment is that of a music hall, the building is to all intents and purposes a theatre. The decorations, which are from the architect's drawings, are principally the grape vine foliage, and are very bold, and have a rich and imposing appearance. The sound throughout is admitted by all to be a great success.
The foundation stone was laid last autumn by Stanley Vickers, Esq., M.P., and completed and opened to the public in thirteen weeks, from designs prepared by and under the superintendence and immediate control of Mr.William Paice, architect, Adelphi Chambers; Messrs. Langmead and Way were the builders.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the Building News and Engineering Journal, 13th of May 1870.
The South London Palace opened as a Music Hall and variety Theatre on the 19th of December 1869 and was later equipped to show early films as part of its variety programming. It was the third music-hall to really succeed in London, following the success of Charles Morton's Canterbury Hall and Henry Weston's Weston's Music Hall, later the Holborn Empire.
The Oxford Companion to Theatre says of the South London Palace that:- '...in 1874 it was taken over by J. J. Poole, a most enterprising man, who produced excellent spectacles and ballets there. Among his discoveries were Barrington Foote, Connie Gilchrist, and J. J. Dallas. It was Poole who gave Leybourne his nickname of the 'lion comique'. The Great MacDermott appeared there, singing his 'Scamp' song, and Fred Coyne made his last appearance at the South London, which later saw the debut of Florrie Forde. One of it's chairmen was 'Baron' Courtney.' - The Oxford Companion To Theatre (First Edition) 1950.
Right - Arthur Lloyd on the Bill at the South London Palace - Click to see six more Arthur Lloyd Bills for the South London Palace.
The Theatre was taken over by Variety Theatres Consolidated Ltd in 1925 but sadly it was closed some years later in 1941 after being damaged by German bombs. The Theatre then remained closed for many years and never reopened. The Theatre was demolished in January 1955. Part of the South Bank University stands on the site of the Theatre today.
Above - An image of the South London Palace - From an early programme - Courtesy Peter Charlton
When such an agreeable variety of amusement is provided as we find at the South London Palace, it is difficult to select any items of the programme for especial commendation without appearing unfair to others.
First there is the band, which, under the direction of Mr. Spillane, performed on the night of our visit a selection from Verdis Traviata in a style worthy of one of the operatic establishments. Indeed, we have rarely heard so good a quality of tome and such neat and finished execution, in a Music Hall.
Right - An early programme for the South London - Courtesy Peter Charlton.
Then came an old favourite of the public, Mr. Critchfield, who, in his comic songs, made sundry remarks upon topics of the day, which elicited shouts of laughter and applause. The comic element is especially strong at the South London, for the new comic, Mr. Hillier, immediately followed with a song appropriate to the times, about a German who is on his way home to fight for Fatherland.
Mr. Arthur Lloyd then introduced the infinitesimal tenor, Mr. Henry Collard, who sang She wore a wreath of roses and Happy be thy dreams extremely well; after which Mr. Arthur Lloyd himself made us acquainted with the mysteries of the Roman Fall and compared it with the Grecian Bend to the disadvantage of the latter. But, merrily as this popular song was received, its reception was tame when compared with the description of the Baby Show in which Mr. Lloyd, dressed in feminine costume, describes the experiences of a fond mother at North Woolwich with her own precious tootsicums, her anxiety respecting its weight and the exultation of her maternal heart when she at length receives a prize.
Above - Notice in the ERA of 1870 - Mr. Arthur Lloyd settles all Engagements for Mr Henry Collard, the "Great Little Wonder," the Greatest Novelty in London at the present moment. Eighteen Years of age, and less in stature than Tom Thumb or Commodore Nutt. A perfect little gentleman in miniature. He appears until further notice, at the South London Palace and Royal Music Hall, Holborn. - Courtesy Emmi Birch.
We have often heard men object to being treated like a dog but it is very certain that Mr. Doughtys dogs have not been treated badly and that he has trained up a dog in the way it should go is very evident from the clever performance we saw.
Liskards entertainment was as popular as ever. His droll performance of a portion of Paganinis Carnival of Venice upon the accordion showed a combination of musical ability and quaint humour which is very rare indeed. His manipulation of a pair of bellows and the melody he draws from a book are equally odd and original.
The first part of the programme was graced with the excellent singing of Miss Constance Loseby, who, during the recess of the Gaiety Theatre, has taken a short engagement here. Her singing of Sally in our Alley, though it is rather a song for a tenor than a soprano, was received with immense applause. The ballet of The May Queen ended the first part and the spectacle of one hundred pretty girls disporting themselves around the May-pole, wreathing festoons of gay coloured ribbons and fluttering flags about, to say nothing of their own pretty faces and prettier well say feet.
The hearts of many susceptible youths at the South London bounded as they watched this display of grace and beauty and at the close Mr. Villiers was vociferously called for to receive the acknowledgments due to his taste and liberality. We are almost afraid to say what else there was to be seen and heard at the South London, or our notice will exceed all reasonable bounds. Briefly, then, there was Mr. Brian, dancing as merrily as usual; there was the extraordinary gymnastic performances of Culleen and Atrato, which, owing to the admirable arrangements, relieved the audience from that disagreeable sense of danger which too frequently accompanies such exhibitions; there was Mr. Wash Nortons Negro drollery; there was the comic ballet; there was what else? the fullest and most orderly and respectable audience we have seen in any Music Hall for a long time.
The above text was first published in The Era, 7th of August 1870 - Kindly sent in by Emmi Birch whose Great Great Grandfather was Thomas Culeen of 'Culeen and Atrato' who often appeared on the same Bills as Arthur Lloyd (See above). Culeen and Atrato were a Circus act, Trapeze Artists and Gymnasts. Thomas ended up in the 1880's as a famous (locally) Circus and Theatre proprietor at The Gaiety Theatre in Burnley, Lancashire. If you have any information you are willing to share on Culeen and Atrato then please Contact Me here.
A Programme for a Variety show at the South London Palace, July 19th 1937
Above - Programme extracts for a Variety show at the South London Palace July 19th 1937
An Antiques Roadshow Find
A large decorated testimonial to Arthur Holloway Esquire - the owner of a music hall, which reads: "During the many years in which we have had the pleasure of associating with you, your geniality of manner, your generous disposition, the hearty way in which you have interested yourself in the wellbeing of your fellow men, and the liberality with which you have responded time after time..."
It was presented by the artists at the South London Palace to the owner in 1891 after he had been ill for some time and returned to good health.
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