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The Star Music Hall, 189 Neckinger Road (Now Abbey Street), Bermondsey

Also known as - The Star and Garter Music Hall / The Star of Bermondsey / Star Kinema / Star Cinema

See also in this Area:- The Rotherhithe Hippodrome - The Trocette Theatre

The site of the Star Music Hall, Bermondsey in August 2014 - Photo M.L.

Above - The site of the Star Music Hall, Bermondsey in August 2014 - Photo M.L.

 

A photograph of the Star, Bermondsey during its variety years.The Star of Bermondsey was a Music Hall attached to the early 1830s Star and Garter Hotel, a public house, situated in Bermondsey in what was then called Neckinger Road but is today called Abbey Street.

Right - A photograph of the Star, Bermondsey during its variety years. This photograph is in the public domain and its origin is unknown. Please Contact me if you know its origin.

The Star Music Hall opened in October 1867 and was probably begun as a result of the one hundred new houses which had been built in the Bermondsey area a year earlier. When the Victuallers Licence for the Star and Garter Hotel was passed from John Mack to Thomas Hayes this seems to have been the catalyst for opening the new Hall. Hayes' Licence for Music and Dancing was granted unopposed on the 17th of October 1867.

A few months later and the Hall was already 'on the map' and the ERA was already carrying notices about its entertainments. One such notice, published in their 23rd of February 1868 edition read:- 'STAR AND GARTER MUSIC HALL, NECKINGER-ROAD, BERMONDSEY. - (Proprietor, Mr. Thomas Hayes) - Immense Success of the following Company: - Miss Fanny Poole (the pleasing Serio-Comic), Miss Fanny Milton (Characteristic Vocalist), Miss Ada Folloy (Serio-Comic Singer and Dancer), Mr. Percy Anderson (the Rising Comic), Mr. Harry Curtis (the People's Favourite), Messrs. Webb and Danvers (with their Celebrated Dogs, Lion and Flora), Mr. Robert Coombs (Comedian, Author, and Composer), Mr. Paddy Folloy (Ireland's Gem), Mr. W. J. Adams (the Great Comique). Pianist, Mr. A. Webb. Manager, Mr. Chris Slater. Doors open Half-past Seven. Commence at Eight. Stalls, 6d.; Area, 4d.' - The ERA, 23rd of February 1868.

Already a popular Music Hall by 1868, the ERA decided to report on the Hall itself in their 26th of April 1868 edition saying:- 'As this place is fresh on our list it may not be amiss if we prefix to our report of its entertainments, a few words about its position, character, and prospects.

The Hall, which, though without a gallery of any kind, will accommodate about 400 persons, adjoins a large, respectable, and thriving hostelry, called the Star and Garter, which is situated in the Neckinger-road, Bermondsey, at no great distance from the Spa-road station, on the Greenwich line.

There is a large stage, with a pretty back scene, and the place is suitably decorated and well lighted. Although the establishment was only opened five months since, under the management of Mr. Thomas Hayes, the present Proprietor, as great has been the success attained that the need of larger space is already felt, and we believe that early enlargement is seriously contemplated.

On Wednesday evening last the place was quite full, and the audience was of the most orderly kind. Mr. Chris. Slater, the Manager and Chairman, opened the proceedings by singing "There are many worse off than you," a "Song on the Tirnes," and "Im not so fat as I used to be." As a vocalist, as an overseer of the artistes, and as ruler of the audience, this gentleman appears to be well qualified for his post. He was followed by Miss Jessie Patterson, who is a young lady of agreeable appearance and manner, and possessed of a strong, clear, contralto voice. She appeared more than once in the course of the evening, and her numerous songs, among which were "Napolitaine" and "I've a welcome for thee," were delivered in a ringing and tasteful style. Mr. Steve Masters sang "Just the style for Frank," "The school of roaring boys," and "It's enough to make a man go mad." He was well dressed for the characters which he assumed, and sang and gestured in a lively and vigorous manner, Mr. Orville Parker, who is well known at most of the large London Music Halls as a first-class Negro delineator, is evidently a favourite here. He displayed great talent by his singing of the song " I'm off to Baltimore," by a performance, on the banjo, and by the delivery of an original and witty stump oration, which was ludicrously incoherent and amusingly absurd. To him succeeded Miss Melly Wood' who sang of "The Postman," "The pig that won't get over the stile," and "Somebody's Child." She supplemented her performance with a clog dance, which was very cleverly executed, and was, like her vocal efforts, much applauded. Mr. Walter Laburnum sings here with great success "'The Maid of Maida:-hill," "Odd man out " "Just the age for a soldier," and is so well received and so warmly recalled that he has to sing a fourth and even a fifth time. Miss Emma Smith appeared as a jockey and as a romping girl, and danced and sang well; and Mr. Patrick Mills proved himself an efficient Irish vocalist and dancer.' - The ERA, 26th of April 1868.

The Music Hall was altered in 1883 by the architects Smith & Stock and at this time the proscenium width was said to be 24 foot, with a stage 20 foot deep. There were just two dressing rooms, one each for ladies and gentlemen artistes.

Abbey Street and the site of the former Star Music Hall, Bermondsey in August 2014 - Photo M.L.By 1908 early films were being shown as part of the entertainments and by 1919 it had been renamed the Star Kinema. The following year the Star was being operated by Vitagraph Theatres Ltd and by 1930 it had been equipped for sound too, although it was still showing both films and variety as part of its programming.

In its later years the Star Cinema, as it had become known, was mostly used as a Cinema although it did still stage a Christmas Pantomime every year until it was closed during the Second World War and never reopened.

The Star was demolished in 1963 along with the Star Public House it was attached to and the site is today home to the Bermondsey Community Centre and a small park.

Right - Abbey Street and the site of the former Star Music Hall, Bermondsey in August 2014. Abbey Street was originally called Neckinger Road after the Neckinger River which used to flow nearby, now one of London's lost rivers - Photo M.L.

 

A drawing of the facade of the Star of Bermondsey by Geoffrey S. Fletcher from 'London Overlooked' 1964.In Geoffrey S. Fletcher's 'London Overlooked' published in 1964, he writes about visiting the old Star Music Hall / Cinema, long after it had been closed up and was scheduled for demolition, he writes:- "An L.C.C. official opened up the Star for me, by appointment, locking me in while he went off on another assignment, for, as he said, 'You might have tramps getting in. In fact, you may find a dead one here already.' Hobos were missing on that day, but as I made my drawing, I heard the rustling and squeaking of the rats, the only remaining audience in the gloom below, among the rags left by the last occupiers...

...The interior of the Star was very simply arranged. It was small in scale, with an upper and a lower balcony and arcaded walls. The balcony fronts - this is characteristic of much early work - were of delicate cast iron, each forming a continuous horseshoe band, supported on thin iron columns. The proscenium arch, unusually high for its width, was ornamented with a diaper pattern...

Right - A drawing of the facade of the Star of Bermondsey by Geoffrey S. Fletcher from 'London Overlooked' 1964.

...Here Bessie Bellwood, whose life away from the footlights was notably daredevil and Bohemian, made her first appearance. Marie Lloyd appeared here in her early days and Tom "Percy from Pimlico" Leamore, but the Star is chiefly associated with Leo Dryden and his songs of Empire - eminently 'The Miner's Dream of Home'. Dryden died in obscurity, with little to his name, as did so many of the stars who had either spent all they got or were overtaken by changing tastes, left high and dry when the music hall had entered into its decline...

...The Star has now been demolished, along with the contemporary pub adjoining, the Star and Garter... The façade was cut brick and carefully built; white brick was used as a contrast. The columns at the entrance had Byzantine-type basket capitals. This Eastern touch often occurred in music hall architecture: the Alhambra was the most remarkable example, and the foyer of the Metropolitan was 'Moorish', the rest of the interior being Baroque."

The above textual extracts in quotes (edited), and sketch, were first published in 'London Overlooked, Geoffrey S. Fletcher, 1964.

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

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

 

You may find the following pages from this site of interest: