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Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

Theatres and Halls in Warrington, Cheshire

Palace Hippodrome Theatre - Royal Court Theatre / Public Hall - The Picturedrome / Cameo Cinema

The Palace Hippodrome Theatre, 15-17 Friars Gate, Warrington

Later - The Palace Cinema / Surewin Bingo/ Apollo Bingo / Brannigans Nightclub / Showbar Nightclub

The Palace Hippodrome Theatre, Warrington in the early 1900s - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones Warrington Memories.

Above - The Palace Hippodrome Theatre, Warrington in the early 1900s - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories.

The Palace hippodrome Theatre was built for Frank Macnaghten and constructed by C. W. Davenport to the designs of the architect G. F. Ward. The Theatre opened on Monday the 23rd of September 1907.

The Stage Newspaper reported on the imminent opening of the new Theatre in their 19th of September 1907 edition saying:- 'Warrington is soon to be in the happy possession of a handsome up-to-date hippodrome and variety house. The builder and architect are Mr. C. W. Davenport and Mr. G. F. Ward, of Birmingham.

Special attention has been given to ventilation, heating, fire-resisting appliances, and the means of ingress and egress. An uninterrupted view of the stage can be obtained from all parts. The building, which is lofty, will accommodate 2,100 persons, namely, pit 800, circle 500, gallery 800. There is a 29ft. opening for the proscenium. The depth of the stage is 30ft., while the width from wall to wall is 60ft. The fire-proof curtain will work automatically. The place is well-lighted, both by gas and electricity.

Special attention is being paid to the furnishing and decoration of the building. The tip-up seats in the circle are of green plush. The decorations, which have been carried out under the personal supervision of Mr. Mack, are on an extensive scale. Attention is drawn to the ceiling, on which are shown a group of Cupids in the Venetian style, while Music and Art are represented by historical paintings, the whole being relieved with gold lines. The disc in the centre is festooned in the style of Louis XV. The front of the boxes in the circle is enriched with crimson and gold, and the panels on the sides of the boxes are in the Wedgwood style. The paper in the pit will be rich red, and in the circle gold and green, intermixed and festooned.

The eight dressing-rooms have been fitted up with care, and there is also a large room for the band under the stage. The members of this will number ten, and they will be under the direction of Mr. Widdop, who will come from Southampton to Warrington with good credentials.

All the scenery is being painted in London by Mr. Bull. The house will be controlled and run under the personal supervision of Mr. Frank Macnaghten. The whole of the work is being supervised on behalf of that gentleman by Mr. Sydney Arthur, and Mr. G. D. Bradbury will be the resident manager. The house opens next Monday. - The Stage, 19th September 1907.

A Google StreetView Image of the former Palace Hippodrome Theatre, Warrington - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Palace Hippodrome Theatre, Warrington - Click to Interact

The Theatre opened on the 23rd of September 1907 and went on to stage variety shows and the like until 1931 when it was converted for full time Cinema use, which opened with the film 'Hell's Angels'. During its Cinema years the balconies were closed off and the projection room had to be accessed from outside the building.

Cinema use ended in November 1964 and the Theatre was converted for Bingo by Hutchinson’s and rebranded 'Surewin Bingo'. Later named Apollo Bingo it eventually closed altogether in 1997 and spent a number of years empty, but was later converted for Nightclub use and opened under the name of Brannigans.

The former Palace Hippodrome Theatre is currently being used as a Nightclub called The Showbar. The Theatre had its boxes and the plasterwork from the circle fronts removed in the 60s, and much of the interior is currently closed off, but it is otherwise in its original form and could be converted back to theatrical use if the funds and motivation were there.

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

The Royal Court Theatre, Rylands Street, Warrington

Formerly - The Public Hall

An early photograph of the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones Warrington Memories.

Above - An early photograph of the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories.

A Programme for the play 'Her Only Son' at the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington in July 1922 - Courtesy Barry Jones.The Royal Court Theatre was designed by the Manchester Architects Darbyshire and Smith, and opened with a production of the plays 'Kindred Souls' and 'Rough Diamond', on Thursday the 27th of July 1892. The Theatre was a reconstruction of an earlier Public Hall, originally designed by Edward Walters and opened on the 11th November 1862. The Public Hall was first converted into a Theatre in 1885 at the cost of £1,000, also by Alfred Darbyshire, but had continued to use the Public Hall name. When Darbyshire reconstructed the Theatre again in 1892 the new name of Royal Court was used.

Right - A Programme for the play 'Her Only Son' at the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington in July 1922 - Courtesy Barry Jones. In the cast were Arthur Pringle, Gertrude Bosner, Alice Inman, Leslie Beaufort, Charles Brandon, Landon Littler, Dolly Wright, Chas. E. Warne, Mona Gray, Teddie Bass, Carrie Ellis, and Bert Bannister.

The ERA carried a report on the reopening of the Court Theatre in their 30th of July 1892 edition saying:- 'This comfortable theatre was opened on Thursday evening under circumstances which gave signs of future success. Kindred souls and A Rough Diamond were the pieces played, in which Messrs Arthur and Percy Milton appeared, supported by their own comedy company. The performances on Friday were under the patronage and presence of his Worship the Mayor and elite of the neighbourhood. Thursday was the first night of tour of the Milton-Rays' company, and it is only a slight compliment to say that the performance throughout was one which did the artists credit. Mr Arthur Milton repeated his exceedingly clever and pleasing impersonation of Frank Frith, Mr Percy Milton was more amusing than ever as Flutterwig; Miss Minnie Mulvey was captivating as Lucy, Mrs George Stone was a competent Fanny Frith, Miss Emily Hughes was a satisfactory Polly Drake, and the efforts of Miss Lydia Fraser, Miss Alice Carruthers, Messrs Joseph Rowland, Walter Summers, T. G. Bailey, and G. L. Montague were worthy of all commendation. A Rough Diamond was equally well played.

In carry out their idea of a first-class theatre (sic), the safety of the audience has predominated in the minds of the proprietors hence the cautious adoption of what is known as the "Henry Irving one-tier principle," which was the main feature of the model safety plan issued a few years ago by Mr Henry Irving, in conjunction with Messrs Darbyshire and Smith, of Manchester, the firm of architects which has, therefore, been entrusted with the carrying out of the present project.

A poster for the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington for Monday January 8th 1940 - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories.The balcony has been entirely reconstructed and re-arranged, beautifully upholstered chairs, forming a feature in the centre, which will now be cosy and comfortable. From all parts of the balcony an excellent view of the stage is obtained. Four handsome private boxes have been erected against the proscenium walls, and they have been specially fitted up by Messrs Oetzmann and Co., of London, who have also supplied the circle chairs as well as the plush curtains which adorn the side windows and the boxes. For the orchestra screen handsome standards and rails (purchased from Her Majesty's Theatre, London) are provided, and the pit will henceforth be divided by barriers into three portions. All the public staircases are fireproof.

Left - A poster for the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington for Monday January 8th 1940 - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories. On the Bill were Jack Daly, The Four Aces, Younger & Younger, The Helena Trio, Thelma & Bud De-Sylva, The Danny Lipton Trio, The Rhythm Rascals, and Jack Smart & Jimmy Benson.

The interior of the theatre is decorated in a light blue scheme of colour, relieved with cream and gold, and the ceiling and walls are enriched by bands of ornament. But, beyond all this, there is a commodious and practically arranged stage. That this portion of the work has received especial care goes without saying, for every modern appliance has been introduced behind the scenes at a very large outlay. A new "gridiron" (in the roof), new fly galleries, and their innumerable appurtenances, new scenery and gas arrangements, are some of the details; whilst the stage itself recedes to pretty nearly double its previous depth, the Musical society's large organ having been removed for this purpose. It being now possible to produce spectacular drama on a large scale, it becomes obvious that future bookings will embrace some of the finest London successes.

The work on the proscenium, whilst not of a gorgeous character, presents a very pleasing sight. It has been the subject of a considerable amount of attention at the hands of the decorators, the proprietors fully recognising that a proscenium occupies no small place in helping to render the scenery all the more attractive. On the top of the proscenium and over the centre is emblazoned the national coat of arms.

The reconstruction has been entrusted to Mr John Bland, and the decorations to Messrs Heighwav, both of Manchester. The new scenery is by Mr Egerton, of Bradford : Mr W. S. Todd being responsible for the act drop, in the centre of which there has been depicted an Indian palace in medallion. The improvements and alterations behind the curtain have been executed by Mr Featherstone.

One source of repeated complaints in the old Public Hall has been successfully grappled with in the renovated theatre, namely, the draughts which used to sweep through the gallery. The exits have been rearranged, and now ready egress can be obtained with a corresponding degree of safety to the spectator!, in the event of any untoward accident. The whole of the work has occupied only six weeks.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 30th July 1892.

The Royal Court Theatre opened with a production of the plays 'Kindred Souls' and 'Rough Diamond' on Thursday the 27th of July 1892 but it was to have a short life as it was destroyed by a fire just 14 years later. The fire broke out on the morning of Christmas Eve the 24th of December 1906 after the production of 'Sunday' had finished its first performance of the play there the previous evening. The Stage Newspaper reported on the event in their 27th of December 1906 edition saying:- 'In the early hours of Christmas Day the Royal Court, Warrington, was burned out to the four walls. At ten minutes past three on Christmas morning a constable saw smoke issuing from the theatre, and at once raised the alarm. On the brigade reaching the theatre it was found that the fire had originated in the dressing rooms under the stage...

A photograph of the auditorium and stage of the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington after the fire in December 1906 - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories.

Above - A photograph of the auditorium and stage of the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington after the fire in December 1906 - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories.

...At one time the efforts of the men to quell the outbreak appeared to be successful, but suddenly the flames burst forth in another part of the building. With dramatic swiftness the fire assumed a menacing aspect, spreading in all directions with great rapidity. Within abut an hour of the discovery of the outbreak the roof collapsed, and several firemen had narrow escapes from injury by the falling debris.

The fire practically burnt itself out, for little could be done, owing to the combustible nature of the building, a large portion of which was of wood. The firemen, however, were fortunate in preventing the flames from spreading to an adjoining distillery and cabinet works.

The total damage is estimated at £10,000. Mr. Louis Calvert's Sunday company, who had opened there on Christmas Eve, had all their scenery and properties burnt. The dresses were saved, though much damaged by water. Mr. Calvert estimates his loss in this respect at £500. He however, is not losing time in re-equipping the piece. Immediately on the receipt of the news orders were given for fresh scenery and effects, and on Monday Sunday will re-open at Blackburn, The theatre was originally a public hall, and as such had some interesting political associations, as it was visited by Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Chamberlain, and was the scene of some notable speeches.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Stage Newspaper, 27th of December 1906.

Despite the fire, plans were soon in place for rebuilding and advertisements were soon appearing in the press saying:- 'Royal Court, Warrington to be reopened on August 5th, now rebuilding after fire, on most up to date lines. Enlarged auditorium, electric light, splendid dressing rooms, heated throughout. Wanted, special attractions for August 12th and 19th.'

I haven't yet been able to find an opening report for the newly rebuilt Theatre but an advertisement in the Stage Newspaper shows that it was running the piece 'Lucky Liza' in late August 1907, and later editions show the Theatre regularly housing all manner of productions.

A photograph of the Staff of the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington posing outside the Theatre in 1908 - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories.

Above - A photograph of the Staff of the Royal Court Theatre, Warrington posing outside the Theatre in 1908 - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories.

In November 1927 the Royal Court put on something of a coo when it staged a unique version of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'. The play was adapted by Charles Morrell after Stoker's death at the request of his widow (Florence) so she could collect higher royalties on a version of the play she owned outright. The play was presented by Harry Warburton at The Royal Court, Warrington on Saturday the 5th of November 1927 at 3pm, and was the only time that a fully authorised, and owned by Stoker, version of the gothic masterpiece was ever presented anywhere. The man who "donned the cape" in this very special production, Edmund Blake, was also the very first man to play the role of Dracula, when he performed it at the Grand Theatre, Derby in 1924. - This information was kindly sent in by Andy Struthers who is a serious Dracula scholar and has recently helped Stoker's descendant (Dacre) complete the Whitby section of his soon to be released Dracula Travel Guide, see dractravel.com for more info.

One of the last productions at the Royal Court was Geoffrey Hewitson's Famous Players in 'Mademoiselle' in August 1957. In September the Stage Newspaper carried a short report on the Theatre's closure saying:- 'When the doors of the Royal Court, Warrington, closed recently it marked the end of the last live theatre between Manchester and Liverpool. Opened in November, 1862, as a public hall, the Royal Court was the town's centre of entertainment. Presentations included oratorio, opera, musical comedy and readings by Charle Dickens. And, in later years, variety, revues, touring dramas and resident repertory. There is at present no definite news regarding the future use of the building, but what an opportunity there is for local authorities to take over one of the cosiest and most intimate of playhouses in the North West and turn it into a civic theatre.' - The Stage, September 26, 1957.

Sadly the Stage's hopes that the Royal Court could be turned into a Civic Theatre went unheard and the Theatre never reopened and was demolished two years later.

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

The Picturedrome, 83 Sankey Street, Warrington

Later - The Cameo Cinema

An early photograph of Sanky Street, Warrington showing the Picturedrome to the right - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories.

Above - An early photograph of Sanky Street, Warrington showing the Picturedrome to the right - Courtesy Alan Barton and Barry Jones, Warrington Memories.

The Picturedrome was situated on Sankey Street in Warrington and first opened in June 1910. The building originally had a Terra-cotta stone frontage but this was altered in the 1930s in the Art Deco Style when it reopened as the Cameo Cinema. The small auditorium could accommodate around 450 people.

The Cinema closed in 1956 and was put into use as a Television shop, and later an Estate Agents.

The building is no longer standing but many of the buildings in the photograph above still are.

Some of the above information was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website.

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

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Warrington in 1867 and 1879.

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

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