Theatres and Halls in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham
The Georgian Theatre - The Globe Theatre - The Hippodrome Theatre / Arc Theatre and Arts Centre - The Grand Theatre / Star Theatre / Plaza Theatre - Empire Theatre / Castle Theatre - The Alhambra Music Hall - The Empire Music Hall - The Gaiety Theatre
Other Names - The Theatre Royal / Stockton Theatre / Oxford Music Hall / Oxford Theatre of Varieties / Royal Concert Hall
The Georgian Theatre is situated in Green Dragon Yard, Stockton-on-Tees, and is one of the oldest Theatres still existing in the Country. The building has a long and involved history which began life when it was first constructed as Stockton's Tithe Barn in the 1600s.
Right - A photograph of the Georgian Theatre, Stockton today - Petegal-half.
In 1776 the building was bought by Thomas Bates who raised the original sandstone walls with brickwork and converted it into a Theatre. The Theatre was later taken over by Thomas Cawdell in 1787 and it then had a string of other names and owner / managers over the following years, a full list of which can be found on the Theatres Trust site here.
In 1818 the Theatre's then owners, Anderson and Faulkener, carried out some alterations to the building included adding twelve boxes to the auditorium, and the Theatre then continued under the management of Anderson, until Thomas Sheffield took it over in 1822. Another long list of owner / managers then ran the building until Robert Douglas took it over in 1865.
In 1865 the building was altered, and it then reopened in January 1866 as the Theatre Royal. An advertisement in the ERA of the 19th of November 1865 has the heading:- 'To be Let - The New Theatre Royal, Stockton-on-Tees', and goes on to say:- 'The Building is expected to be completed for opening on or before 31st January 1866. The house will contain from 1,250 to 1,500 persons. It is substantially built from the designs of Messrs. Potts and Son, of Sunderland, and contains ample accommodation and the most convenient arrangements for Company and Audience. Apply to R. Richmond, Stockton-on-Tees, Hon. Sec.' - The ERA, 19th November 1865.
In 1866 the Theatre was being run by J. Samuels and then another long list of owner / managers ran it until 1874 when the building was taken over by the Salvation Army and its long theatrical life came to an end.
The building was later used as a confectionery factory until the 1950s and would suffer greatly over the following years. However, it was eventually acquired by Stockton Borough Council in the 1960s and then in 1980 it was finally refurbished and returned to community use. A commemoration stone on the Theatre's exterior reads:- 'This stone commemorates the re-opening of the Georgian Theatre. Originally opened in 1766. Re-opened by Councilor Jim Cooke, Mayor. 29 April 1980.'
In 1993 the building was handed over to the Stockton Music and Arts Collective and it has been in use as a music related venue ever since. In 2007 long overdue restoration work was carried out to the building and new dressing rooms, a bar, and a new heating system were added. In 2008 the area in which the Theatre stands, Green Dragon Yard, was improved and the Theatre's exterior was smartened up.
The building is still owned by the Stockton Borough Council but is today run by the Tees Music Alliance who put on a wide variety of entertainments including live bands, jazz, and even small plays in its 200 capacity auditorium. Opposite the Theatre is a recording and rehearsal studio called the Green Dragon Studios whose website can be found here.
The Georgian Theatre is today a Grade II Listed Building, and you may like to visit its own website here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Formerly - The Globe Picture House - Later - ABC Cinema
Above -The Globe Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees during
the run of 'Can Can' on the 22nd of October 1956 - Courtesy Gerry
The Globe Theatre which stands on the High Street, Stockton-on-Tees today was designed in the Art Deco Style by Percy Lindsay Browne of Newcastle for its owners Charles and Alfred Lewis, and opened as a variety Theatre on the 16th of December 1935. The Theatre was built in eight months and stands on the site of two former Cinema buildings, the first of which was a small 500 seat pre-war Cinema which was demolished in 1925, and the second was the Globe Picture House with 1,200 seats which was closed in April 1935 and then demolished to make way for the present Theatre.
In 1937 the Globe was bought by ABC but continued with variety shows interspersed with film presentations. The Theatre was also home to touring shows, ballet, opera and an annual pantomime at Christmas each year.
In 1967 the Theatre had a change of name to ABC but it closed altogether on the 15th of June 1974. Live Theatre was later attempted again but it soon went over to Bingo in 1978 and continued as such until 1996 when it was closed and has remained so ever since.
In 2001 the Globe Theatre was Listed Grade II and a report on the building by Ian Grundy listed on the excellent Cinema Treasures website can be found here.
In February 2010 planning permission was granted for Jomast Developments to commence work on a £4m project to restore the Theatre as part of a £38m transformation of Stockton High Street, and in 2011 work on the Theatre was commenced with Dr. David Wilmore appointed as the restoration consultant.
In 2013 the Heritage Lottery Fund granted the restoration project the £4 million it needed. The Theatre is projected to reopen as a 2,500 capacity live music and comedy venue in 2016.
Right - A Google StreetView Image of the Globe Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees - Click to Interact.
There are some interesting photos of the building and the artists who performed there over the years, along with images of the auditorium in 2013, and some history of the building on former BBC presenter Stan Laundon's website here. And some interesting photos of the building in 2011 from the 28 days later website here.
The Globe Theatre's Facebook page can be found here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Later - Essoldo / Classic Cinema / ARC Theatre and Arts Centre
Above - A Google StreetView Image of The ARC Theatre and Arts Centre which stands on the site of the former Hippodrome Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees today - Click to Interact
The Hippodrome Theatre was situated on Dovecot Street, Stockton-on-Tees and was originally designed by William Hope and opened on the 18th of December 1905. The Theatre was built as a variety Theatre and had an auditorium on three levels, stalls, circle, and balcony, with a capacity of 1,700. It was equipped with a large stage, 40 foot wide by 30 foot deep, and ten dressing rooms.
Right - A programme for a War Time variety show at the Hippodrome Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees for the week of the 11th of November 1916. On the Bill were the Hanlon Charles Troup, Tom Burns, Harry O'Bryne, Lucy Brennan, Len Carrodus, the Five Bombays, and the Five Sisters.
The Theatre ran as a variety Theatre until the early 1930s when it was equipped with a Western Electric sound system and was turned over to showing the new 'Talkies' films. This wasn't to last long however, as in 1932 the building was destroyed by a fire on the 8th of November.
Left - A Programme for 'Charley's Aunt' at the Stockton-on-Tees Hippodrome for Monday 29th of October 1924.
On August the 28th 1933 a new Theatre was opened on the site, designed by Chadwick, Watson and Company, running as a Cinema for many years before reverting back to live theatre use in 1948. Many variety stars performed on the new Hippodrome stage over the following years until it was taken over by Essoldo in 1955 and it went back to full time Cinema use, eventually being renamed the Essoldo in June 1968.
The Theatre was taken over by Classic Cinemas in April 1972 and it was renamed Classic. They later tripled the Cinema in 1973 and reopened it on the 2nd of August the same year.
The Theatre was finally closed for good in January 1996 and demolished for the building of The ARC Theatre and Arts Centre, which also has a Cinema, and is continuing the site's theatrical history to the present day. You may like to visit the ARC's own website here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Formerly - The Royal Star Theatre of Varieties / Star Theatre - Later The Plaza Theatre
Above - A Google StreetView Image of Bishop Street behind the bus shelter, leading off the High Street, Stockton-on-Tees, where the Star / Grand / Plaza Theatre, and Grand Hotel were originally situated - Click to Interact.
The Grand Theatre was situated on Bishop Street, Stockton-on-Tees and was designed by the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham. The Theatre opened under the direction of its general manager M. D. Davison on the 10th of August 1891 with the Elsie Phillis Company in an operetta called 'The Bewitched Curate'. In the cast were H. White, Jate Cohen, C. Angelo, Jeanie Kirk, the Sisters Bristol, and Young and Mack. The Grand Theatre was not the first Theatre on this site however, as it was actually constructed on the site of the former Star Theatre which opened in 1874. There is more on the opening of the Grand Theatre and details of its construction below but first some details of the Star Theatre.
The Star Theatre was built by Thomas Nelson, who would later become Mayor of Stockton, and opened as the Royal Star Theatre of Varieties under the direction of its general manager Charles Exley on Monday the 10th of August 1874. The show was billed in the ERA as having a 'Grand Orchestra with ten first class musicians, splendid new scenery, and a powerful talented Company of high class artistes'. Prices were: Private Box, 2s; Boxes and Promenade, 1s; Pit Stalls, 6d; Gallery, 8d; with half price at 9 O'clock to private boxes, boxes and promenade, and pit stalls. Doors opened at 6.30 and the show commenced at 7 prompt.
Sadly the Star Theatre was destroyed by fire only 9 years later on Tuesday morning the 3rd of April 1883. The Theatre had been owned by Cuthbert Gardener at the time as he had taken it over some 18 months previously. Gardener, whose daughter had been married just the day before the fire, was staying in the adjoining Star Theatre Hotel which formed part of the same Block on Bishop Street as the Theatre, three shops, a stable, and a large leadmill. Gardener was also the proprietor of the Hotel and his family and all the artistes at the Theatre were staying in the Hotel when the fire broke out.
Despite the fire brigade's best efforts the Theatre was completely destroyed along with all the artistes' costumes and props. The fire had started on the stage which was situated at the back of the Theatre on Silver Street, but rapidly engulfed the whole building. The damage was estimated to have been around £10,000 and although the Theatre was insured it would not cover Gardener's losses completely as he had spent a considerable amount of money on 'elaborating the interior' during his time there. Appearing in the performance on the evening before the fire broke out had been Patrick Feeney, Parvo, W. H. Woodhead, Alex Day, Maria Santley, Ada Juleene, and Mrs C. Duemain.
Because the Theatre had been so badly damaged the remains of the building were considered a danger to the adjoining buildings and houses, and Gardener was served notice that it would have to be demolished. However, undeterred, he soon had the Theatre rebuilt and it reopened on the 9th of August the same year. The ERA reported on the reopening in their 18th of August 1883 edition saying:- This magnificent new building was opened on the 9th inst. for the regular season. And, notwithstanding the short time the theatre has been rebuilding, great improvements have been made which will materially add to the safety and comfort of the audiences. The decorations of proscenium, ceiling, fronts of circles, and gallery are both elaborate and artistic. The means of exit are excellent. On Monday evening the Stockton favourite Miss Minnie Gough made a welcome reappearance here, and was well received. Cromwell, an excellent extempore vocalist, who appeared last week, has been re-engaged, and appears with increased success. The other members of the company are Messrs Rezone and Robin (comical trapeze artists), Mr .Albert Elvers (comic), Miss Julia Phillips (serio and dancer), Miss Polly Cusick (settle and dancer), and Madame Milano's charming ballet troupe.' - The ERA, 18th of August 1883.
It's not clear how long Cuthbert Gardener ran the Theatre after the fire and rebuild, but in September 1890 the Theatre was purchased by David Thomas, along with the adjoining Hotel. Thomas was also the proprietor of the Empire Music Hall, in Stockton at the time.
By February 1891 the Theatre had been renamed the Grand Theatre and was owned by Thomas Imeson and Company, who also owned the Theatre Royal, Middlesbrough at the time. A notice in the ERA of the 21st of February 1891 mentions their plans to have the Theatre rebuilt saying:- 'All the preliminaries have been completed for the proposed extensive alterations to the Grand (late Star) Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees, which property, together with the adjoining hotel, was recently purchased by Messrs Tom Imeson and Co., of the Theatre Royal, Middlesbrough. The contract for the alterations has been let to Mr William Smith, builder, South Stockton, and a sum of about £3,000 will be spent on the alterations and decorations, the idea being to convert the theatre into a handsome place of amusement. The plans for the alterations have been prepared by Mr Frank Matcham, architect, and it is expected that the place will be ready for opening in about three months. - The ERA, 21st of February 1891.
By August the same year the Grand Theatre had been rebuilt to the designs of the now renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham, and it was opened on Monday the 10th of August 1891, exactly 19 years to the day since the original Star Theatre had first opened on the 10th of August 1874.
The new Grand Theatre opened with the Elsie Phillis Company in an operetta called 'The Bewitched Curate'. In the cast were H. White, Jate Cohen, C. Angelo, Jeanie Kirk, the Sisters Bristol, and Young and Mack. The ERA reported on the opening of the Theatre in their 15th of August 1891 edition saying:- 'This beautiful building, formerly known as the "Star Theatre," was opened on Monday last. The premises were lately purchased by Messrs T. Imeson and Co., of Middlesbrough, by whom it has been entirely transformed, the outside walls being the only remaining portion of the old building.
The alterations have been designed by Mr Frank Matcham, and carried out under the supervision of Mr Moses. The structural part of the work has been entrusted to Mr W. South, of South Stockton. The internal decorations are designed in refined taste. The front has a fine effect, and is provided with an ornamental balcony, and fire escapes from gallery and boxes. All the entrances are from the front, and the exits are numerous and easy of access. The stage has four exits. The theatre is carpeted throughout, and the dress circle and amphitheatre are upholstered in crimson plush. The private boxes are also hung with plush, heavily festooned. The gallery staircase is fireproof, and the stage is cut off from the theatre by an iron fireproof drop curtain and doors. The dressing-rooms are beneath the stage, and have been fitted with many appliances for the comfort of the artists. The drop-curtain has been artistically painted by Mr F. Holder, of Middlesbrough, and is a fine view of Gibraltar from the Mainland. The proprietors, and, indeed, all connected with the building, must be congratulated on the results obtained. Mr Gus Byron is the acting-manager of the hall, and Mr M. D. Davison the general manager.
On the evening of the opening a capital programme was provided, the first artist to appear being Miss Eugenie Ray, a very clever dancer, Tregetour, juggler and shadowgraphist, gave a talented entertainment. An operetta, The Bewitched Curate, was performed by. Elsie Phyllis's company, which included that clever comedian Mr H White. Miss Kate Cohen, a good serio-comic, also appears. Mr C. Angelo, baritone, was well received and recalled; Miss Jeanie Kirk, Scottish songstress, was greeted with approval; the Sisters Bristol, duettists; and Messrs Young and Mack, specialty artists, completed the company. The whole entertainment went with a smoothness which was creditable to all concerned.' - The ERA, 15th of August 1891.
Sadly only a year after the Theatre opened in 1891 it was once again the subject of a major fire, just as the previous Theatre on the site had been in 1883. This time the fire occurred on the Monday Morning of the 11th of April 1892. Once again the fire started on the stage. However, this time the fire curtain fell in whilst the fire brigade were trying to put out the fire, nearly crushing some of them in the process. But it saved the auditorium from being destroyed, although not before a serious amount of fire, smoke, and water damage had caused serious damage.
Undeterred the owners had the Theatre restored and redecorated by A. R. Dean Ltd., and it reopened on Monday the 1st of August 1892 with a production of Miller and Elliston's Company in 'Harbour Lights'. In the cast were Messrs Brown and Kelly, Miss L. Dent and J. Seebold, Miss N. Gylmour, Mr. R. Synnott, Miss M. Distin, Miss A. De Lobes, and the Sisters Preston.
The Theatre was purchased by Alderman John Batty in the 1890's, and his son, Walter Batty, managed the Theatre for him right into the 1920's.
Right - During Walter Batty's management of the Theatre several famous actors and actresses performed at the Grand and this 1908 Ledger of artist's engagements from January to December, kindly sent in by Anthony Dawson, shows the names of performers and troupes, their agents, and their salaries for each week.
The Grand Theatre ran as a variety Theatre for the next few decades but was eventually turned over to Cinema and renamed the Plaza Theatre in 1930 (See Below).
The Grand Theatre was renamed the Plaza Theatre in 1930 and ran as a Cinema for many years until it was closed in 1959.
The Theatre was subsequently demolished in 1969 along with the Hotel.
Right - A Google StreetView Image of Bishop Street, Stockton-on-Tees, where the Star / Grand / Plaza Theatre, and Grand Hotel were originally situated - Click to Interact.
Formerly - The Castle Theatre
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Castlegate Centre, which was built on the site of the former Castle Theatre / Empire Theatre, and earlier Stockton Castle - Click to Interact
The Empire Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees was designed by Hope & Tasker and originally opened as the Castle Theatre in 1908. It was designed as a Music Hall and was the first Theatre to be designed by the newly formed Company of Hope & Tasker which was created after William Hope died in 1906, at the age of just fourty four. Hope & Tasker would go on to design the Empire, Preston in 1911.
The Theatre had a stage with a 32 foot proscenium opening and was equipped with ten dressing rooms. Although it opened as the Castle Theatre, so named because it was built on the site of the former Stockton Castle, it soon had a change of name to the Empire Theatre when it was refurbished and reopened in February 1914.
By 1916 the Theatre was home to plays, music hall, variety, and films, and Cinema would soon become a big part of its presentations when it began showing the early 'Talkies' in 1929. The Theatre was taken over by the Walter Bentley circuit in 1934 and then ABC a year later.
As is so common with many Theatres from this period the Empire began life as a Theatre, was soon converted for Cinema, and then with the advent of Television was converted to Bingo use, which happened here in 1961. Bingo would be the savior of many Theatres over the years but sadly in this case even that finished in 1963 and the Theatre was then demolished in 1969. Today the site of the forrmer Stockton Castle and Castle Theatre / Empire Theatre is home to the Castlegate Centre.
Formerly - The Presbyterian Chapel
The Alhambra Music Hall was a conversion from a former Presbyterian Chapel and was opened by its Lessee and Manager W. E. Clifton in 1862. The ERA carried a short piece on this in their 7th of September 1862 edition saying:- 'We observe that the old Presbyterian Chapel at this town has been, altered into a Concert Room and is well adapted for it. The artists engaged are Miss Clara Reed and Miss Kate Lee (serio-comic and sentimental vocalist); the latter lady appears to be quite a favourite, as is proved from her receiving a third call to sing same of her songs. Mr Barney Robson, Irish comic, singer, is very humorous and creates much laughter; while Mr Hernandez Green and Family create astonishment at their wonderful gymnastic and trapeze performances. Mr E. H. Mercer is the Musical Director and accompanist. As this place has not long been opened, the Lessee would do well not to announce his bills more than what will take place, as was done daring the Race-week, as for instance the names of several artists were mentioned who did not appear, and the performance of Obi; or Three Fingered Jack, every evening, did not take place.' - The ERA, 7th September 1862.
There was an early Music Hall in Stockton-on-Tees called the Empire Music Hall which is known to have been owned and managed by David Thomas in 1890, Thomas would go on to run the Star Theatre in Stockton that year. I have been unable to establish if this was just a rename of the Alhambra Music Hall or if it was a different building, but it should not be confused with the later Empire Theatre, formerly the Castle Theatre which was built in 1908. - Perhaps you know more about this music hall.
The Building News and Engineering Journal of the 20th of December 1878 reported briefly on this Theatre saying:- 'A new theatre, called the Gaiety, was opened at South Stockton-on-Tees, on Monday night week, by Mr. Wilson Furness, proprietor. The entire cost of the building has been about £3,000. The design was prepared by Mr. Thos. Raper, of South Stockton.'
I have been unable so far to find any more information on this Theatre.
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: