The Sun Music Hall, 26 Knightsbridge High Street, Knightsbridge, London
The Sun Music Hall in Knightsbridge, originally licensed as the Sun Public House in 1851, was built at a cost of £5000 with a capacity of 800.
Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed here in 1862, 1870, 1871, 1872, 1879, and 1881, and the Sun was in fact the first Music Hall in which he performed when first arriving in London on the 12th of October 1862 - For cuttings see here.
The Sun - An Extract from 'They were singing' Christopher Pulling - 1952:
'...Others opened about the same time included the Lord Raglan, in Theobald's Road, Holborn (described by Edmund Yates under the guise of the Lord Somerset), and two in Knightsbridge--the Sun and the Trevor. On the stage of the Sun in Knightsbridge Leybourne first sang Champagne Charlie in 1867, and Macdermott By Jingo in 1878; Leybourne, on the decline, made his last appearance there in 1884, and Vance dropped dead as the curtain fell in 1888. The Sun was nearly opposite Knightsbridge Barracks, and has long sice disappeared; the name of Trevor is preserved in a public house at the corner of Trevor Square.'
Above - An extract from 'They were singing' by Christopher Pulling - 1952.
...Mr Pat Cashans death in its awful suddenness carries ones mind back to the Great Vances death at the now defunct Sun Music Hall at Knightsbridge [London] on Boxing Night in 1888. The building was crowded, and Vance had given two songs with more than usual spirit, and had rendered three verses of "Are you guilty?" for which song he dressed in the wig and robes of a judge, and was walking off the stage to his dressing-room, when he suddenly fell at the wings. He was lifted up, but the voice had died away for ever...
The Rising Sun tavern at NO. 26 High Road was opened about 1830 in an old red-brick house of 'neat appearance', containing 'much carved work' and 'a plain, old-fashioned staircase'. It was probably built in the seventeenth century - an indistinct inscription on the coping was variously interpreted as 16- or 1611: in recent years it had been occupied by Major Robert Eyre, a veteran of the American War of Independence and the founder, in 1803, of the Knightsbridge Volunteers."
Right - The Sun Music Hall in its latter days, when the premises were apparently associated with the restaurant and buffet on the ground floor of the Princes Gate Hotel. - Survey of London Vol XLV Knightsbridge - Courtesy John Grice.
In 1851 the Rising Sun was licensed for music and dancing, and a concert room was erected at the rear of the premises. This 'Sun Music Hall' is-as rebuilt in 1864-6 to designs by the architects Finch Hill & Paraire. Ranking 'with the first class establishments of the metropolis', the new Sun Music Hall was 100ft long and 35ft wide with a cantilevered gallery along three sides, and ornamented with wall panels of allegorical reliefs and a decorative balcony front of carton pierre. It was at the Sun that George Leybourne first performed 'Champagne Charlie', in 1867, and G. H. Macdermott the great hit of 1878, 'By Jingo'.
Extensive improvements to bring the hall up to fire safety standards were ordered by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1884, but before they were carried out the premises were sold, in April 1885, to J. C. Humphreys, owner of Humphreys' Hall adjoining, which was destroyed a few days later, when the Japanese Village exhibition there caught fire.
Humphreys refitted the Sun Music Hall as a concert room for 'musical entertainments of a high class'. By January 1886 the old Rising Sun had been demolished, to be replaced later in the year by a restaurant or coffee-room with apartments above - effectively a western extension to Albert Gate Mansions with which it was later united. This work seems to have been carried out by Humphreys' architect for the rebuilding of Humphreys' Hall, Spencer Chadwick, in conjunction with the theatre and restaurant architect Thomas Verity. The new apartments, together with the restaurant, were run for a time as the Princes or Princes Gate Hotel.
With the Japanese Village exhibition recreated in the new Humphreys' Hall, the refurbished Sun Music Hall became the Nippon Theatre, or New Shebaya concert hall, used for Japanese as well as conventional Western-style musical entertainments.
Following the closure of the village in 1887 the theatre enjoyed a brief renaissance under its old name the Sun Music Hall. On Boxing Night 1888 the Great Vance, clad in judicial robes and wig, sang his last song, 'Are You Guilty?', before collapsing in the wings with a fatal heart attack."
The Sun, together with the former restaurant and buffet was subsequently hired out for receptions and meetings as Knightsbridge Hall, Humphreys having given an undertaking to the London County Council that it would never again be used as a music-hall. Knightsbridge Hall was later taken over by the John Griffiths Cycle Corporation Ltd as a cycle-riding school and showroom, which it remained for some years. In 1905 a plan to use the building as a restaurant was abandoned when Humphreys was refused a renewal of the licence, which he had held for ten years without making use of it.
An extension to Knightsbridge Hall, on the sites of Nos 225-229 Knightsbridge (the former Nos 1-3 Trevor Terrace), was erected in 1918 by J. C. Humphreys' firm, Humphreys Ltd. About 1921 the enlarged premises, known as the Knightsbridge Halls, were taken by the decorators and furnishers Robersons Ltd and fitted out as galleries for displaying panelled interiors salvaged from historic houses.
By the late 1930s the Knightsbridge Halls were used for motor-trading. They were demolished after the Second World War for the building of Mercury House.
The above text and plan are from The Survey of London Vol XLV Knightsbridge - Courtesy John Grice.
SUN MUSIC HALL, KNIGHTSBRIDGE
(Proprietor Mr. E. Williams)
Great Change of Company. Fresh talent. Arthur Lloyd (the great Comedian), Leggatt and Allen (Comic Duettists), George Leybourne (The Lion Comic). Miss Emma Day (the Eminent Serio-Comic), Harry Liston (the Star Comic), La Petite Taglioni (the smallest Serio-Comic lady in the World). E. D. Davies (the Great Ventriloquist), W. H. Barry (Comic), Culleen and Atrato (the Daring Gymnasts), Stanley Grey (the Pleasing Tenor), and Sisters Duvernay. Manager Mr. T. Gordon.
SUN MUSIC HALL, KNIGHTSBRIDGE
(Proprietor Mr. E. Williams)
Great Change of Company. Fresh talent. Arthur Lloyd (the great Comedian), Leggatt and Allen (Comic Duettists), Marian Isaacs (the Great Soprano), Kate Garstone (the fascinating Serio-Comic), Sam Bagnall (Shakespearian Comic), Sisters Lindon (Characteristic Duettists), Miss Emma Day (the eminent Serio-Comic), Harry Liston (the Star Comic), La Petite Taglioni (the smallest Serio-Comic lady in the World). E. D. Davies (the Great Ventriloquist), Culleen and Atrato (the Daring Gymnasts) and Sisters Duvernay. Manager T. Gordon.
(Four small ads underneath each other).
MR. ARTHUR LLOYD
CANTERBURY HALL ..9 OCLOCK
MR. ARTHUR LLOYD
PAVILION 10 OCLOCK
MR. ARTHUR LLOYD
SUN, KNIGHTSBRIDGE ..10.45.
Immense Success in all his New Songs.
MR. ARTHUR LLOYD
The Cuttings above were 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.
Manager of the Sun Music Hall for 18 years
Recent issues of The Era have recorded the progress of a testimonial to Mr Theodore Gordon that will no doubt assume dimensions commensurate with the deserts of that unfortunate gentleman and with the esteem in which he is held by the brethren of a profession to which he has devoted now nearly fifty years - although he is still something short of sixty. To be peremptorily removed from active service at such an age, the wits as keen as ever, is, indeed, a calamity. Worse still, the expenses attendant upon a long illness, that has necessitated a number of costly operations, have consumed the savings which, being of a provident disposition, Mr Gordon had accumulated. At one time paralysis threatened, but Mr Gordon's medical advisers are of opinion that this truly awful visitation has been averted. In an atmosphere more salubrious than that of the music hall, with no great responsibilities to weigh upon his mind, they are of opinion that he may yet see old age. To Mr Gordon the establishment of a cigar divan in the suburb where thirty years of residence have made him well known is a scheme that commends itself, and this the testimonial now by way of being collected will no doubt easily encompass. Mr Gordon was good enough to recall the incidents of his long and varied career for our Special Commissioner the other evening.
His father and mother were both in the profession. They travelled the Lincoln Circuit under the management of the late Mr Robertson, Mrs Kendal's father, and it is of these circumstances that Mr Gordon has his earliest memories, Tom Robertson, afterwards famous as a dramatist, was a loose-limbed lad some years Mr Gordon's senior. Miss Harriett Gordon, the elder sister of Mr Theodore Gordon, was an esteemed member of the Robertson troupe. She was indeed a versatile and gifted creature, equally remarkable on the dramatic and lyric stage. With Charles Dillon at the Lyceum she shared the honours in Belphegor, and little Theodore had the run of the theatre, just as he had subsequently of the Strand Theatre, where he made the acquaintance of a lad about his own age - Willie Edouin by name.
Mr Theodore Gordon was utilised as a child actor whenever occasion arose. But afterwards he was most carefully trained in the art and practice of music. His masters were of no less distinction than John Barnard, Jackson of the Lyceum, and Spillane.
He thus acquired great facility, and was engaged in various theatrical bands. He forsook the theatre in the following circumstances; - A number of professional people gave an entertainment at Kensington Workhouse. Sam Collins, the popular Irish comedian of that day, had promised to attend, but he was late, and the directors of the programme were for the moment in difficulty. Someone suggested that Mr Gordon sang a good song, and he was called upon to do so. He "obliged" with " Nil desperandum." Just as he was nearing the end of his ditty, Sam Collins came in and overheard the youngster, who was soon to be heard nightly at the Marylehone Music Hall, where he was paid a salary, not princely, but regular. Mr Gordon sang the whole repertory of baritone songs in use at the time-" The White Squall," for instance - and acquired great popularity. He stayed on, in fact, for six months. Then the failure which attended Sam Collins's adventure at the Welsh Harp involved the Marylebone, which in those days had little tables and chairs here and there for the consumption of food and drink during the performance. Mr Gordon combined the functions of chairman, ballad vocalist, and musical director of the Marylebone, where he remained six months in the employment of Mr Collins, and thereafter three mouths in the employment of Mr Collins's successor.
One night a gentlemen with a black beard approached the chairman's table and asked "If he spoke to Theodore Gordon." He did. He proceeded to ask if Mr Gordon were any relation to Miss Harriett Gordon, who in the meantime had gone out to Australia, where she died. Mr Gordon admitted the relationship, and Mr Villiers - for that was the gentleman with the black beard - remarked that he had acted with Miss Gordon at the Haymarket. He asked Mr Theodore Gordon to go down to the South London Music Hall, of which he was then proprietor, and, having heard him sing, promptly engaged him as principal baritone. In those days the operatic selection flourished gloriously, and Mr Gordon's post was one of great importance. Between whiles he performed the genial functions of the chairman, now abolished in nearly every London music hall. Eventually it became his duty to musically prepare as well as take part in the operatic selections.
Mr Gordon's knowledge of music was, in fact, complete and practical, and from the day that he equipped Sam Collins with a most popular ditty, entitled "The Twig of the Shannon," his name has appeared on many a sheet of music. In the course of time Mr Villiers came to the conclusion that the "musical selection" had lost its hold, as part of a variety entertainment, at any rate, on the audiences frequenting the South London Palace; and, his occupation gone, Mr Gordon had to seek new employment, which was quickly forthcoming at the London Pavilion, where Messrs Loibl and Sonnhammer were still in command, Mr Gordon tells you that his own desire was to attach himself to comic opera, but accident took him into quite another sphere. He was invited to become the manager of the Sun Music Hall, Knightsbridge, in those days an establishment of considerable note.
This position Mr Gordon occupied for no fewer than eighteen years. He supposes that there was no well-known artist of the day that did not pass through his books - Leybourne, Vance, Arthur Lloyd, Louie Sherrington, and Jenny Hill, for instance. And for Mr Gordon himself, drawing his patrons from the whole region of Kensington, Hammersmith, Fulham, and Chelsea, he made a circle of friends that will not surely forget him in his present extremity. His passionate love of the river and knowledge of the waterman's craft made him many friends, too, in aquatic circles. When at length the proprietor with whom he had worked so long and so harmoniously at the Sun decided to dispose of the property, it was naturally in Mr Gordon's mind to become the responsible owner where he had been so long the successful manager; but he was not fortunate in enlisting all the necessary capital, and had once more to accept an engagement, which he did with Mr Purkiss, who had just acquired the Royal Music Hall, Holborn. But legal difficulties and structural alterations kept the Royal closed month after month, forcing Mr Gordon to make deep inroads on his not large savings, and eventually to address himself to another enterprise.
He took the Town Hall Tavern at Hammersmith, and there gave, first on Saturday nights only, then more and more frequently, a species of smoking concert. This must be looked upon as the foundation of the now prosperous Temple of Varieties directed by Mr Acton Phillips and his son.
Meanwhile, after a few years at Hammersmith,
Mr Gordon had accepted the invitation of Mr Geo. Moore to manage the
Washington Music Hall at Battersea. This
he did for eight years - until, in fact, the disease that now disables
him first made itself manifest. Mr Gordon's own belief is that the death
of a beloved son was a shock to the nerves so serious as to cause locomotor
ataxi to follow ailments of an otherwise trivial character. At any rate,
he was unable to carry on the work, daily and nightly, that falls to
the share of the manager of a popular music hall, and had to leave the
Washington. Recently he felt well enough to join Mr
Phillips at his old home, the Hammersmith
Music Hall; but again his illness became acute. That the generous
members of the profession to which Mr Theo. Gordon has been attached
so long and with such credit will now enable him to look forward cheerfully
towards the years of life that remain to him there can be no doubt.
His illness is a calamity not due to excess, any more that his need
is due to improvidence. Mr Gordon has helpmeet (sic) well able to assist
him in business. He has still two "boys," as he proudly calls
them, although one has a fourteen years' record as a cornet player in
the Horse Guards Blue. The other is following the career of music in
Some archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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