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Theatres in West Bromwich, West Midlands

The Royal Exchange Theatre / Theatre Royal - The Olympia Theatre / Hippodrome / Regent - The Empire Theatre

The Theatre Royal, Walsall Street, West Bromwich

Formerly - The Royal Exchange Theatre

Introduction - The Royal Exchange Theatre - The 1879 Theatre Royal - The 1896 Theatre Royal

Charles Udall's early 1850s Royal Exchange Theatre and Public House, West Bromwich, later the Theatre Royal.

Above - Charles Udall's early 1850s Royal Exchange Theatre and Public House, West Bromwich, later the Theatre Royal.

The Era - Sunday 14 November 1875The West Bromwich Theatre Royal was situated on Walsall Street and went through a number of alterations and rebuilds over the years. It began life as the Royal Exchange Theatre in the early 1850s; a 'Free and Easy' situated next door to a Public House called the Royal Exchange. Both were under the management of Charles Udall who used the Theatre mostly for Concert performances and later for variety performances and Pantomimes. The Theatre's name was later changed to the Theatre Royal in 1869, and the building would later be completely reconstructed and then reopened, again as the Theatre Royal, in September 1879. The new 1879 Theatre Royal was designed by the architect E. Pincher, opening on Saturday the 20th of September 1879 with a production of the play 'Lady Audley's Secret' and the musical burlesque 'Cristable'. The Theatre would later be rebuilt again, this time after a major fire destroyed the first bulding in 1895. The second new Theatre Royal was built to the designs of Owen and Ward and opened on Wednesday the 26th of August 1896. Details of both the 1879 and 1896 Theatres follows.

The Birmingham Daily Post reported on the opening of the new Theatre Royal in their 18th of September 1879 edition saying:- 'For a long time past the Exchange Theatre at West Bromwich has fallen far short of the dramatic requirements of the district. About three month ago it was determined to carry out a number of much-needed structural alterations and improvements. These have now been effected from the plans of Mr. E. Pincher, architect and surveyor, West Bromwich, and the theatre will be reopened on Saturday next. People will then have an opportunity of judging of the surprising transformation which has been brought about.

The theatre was originally built about thirty years ago, and was enlarged eleven years since. It is now almost entirely remodelled, and partly rebuilt, and the decorations have been carried out with a completeness and good taste which leave little else to be desired. The whole aspect of the place has undergone so-great and so agreeable a change that persons who knew the theatre as it used to be will have some difficulty in realising that this is the same building. It may now safely be said that West Bromwich is provided with a theatre worthy of the support of the large and increasing population by which it is surrounded.

Amongst the alterations which have been effected is the enlargement of the old gallery, which will now seat 400 persons, and the addition of a new gallery capable of accommodating 300. The first gallery consists of centre and side boxes, which command a capital view of the stage, and are provided with padded seats covered with marone and scarlet leather. Near the stage are two private boxes elegantly furnished, each capable of accommodating half-a-dozen people. There are two entrances to these boxes - one from Walsall Street, proceeding along the back of the side boxes; and the other from the back of the stage. Considerable enlargement has been effected in the pit, several obstructions being removed, and the seating rearranged to accommodate 800 persons.

The stage has been reconstructed, and fitted up with a number of modern appliances. The footlights have bean replaced by a patent sunk float light, supplied by Messrs, Smith and Son, gas engineers, Birmingham. A new and commodious orchestra has been added for the accommodation of a full band. The building will be well ventilated from the roof, and the ceiling over the upper portion of the top gallery has been raised. The theatre is 55 feet long, 37 feet wide, and 36 feet high.

The whole of the building has been decorated by Mr. W. Naughtin, of Hockley Hill, Birmingham, and the theatre will be lighted by a new sunlight, supplied by Messrs, Strode and Co., gas engineers, of London. The walls are painted with a dado of bright marone, and are divided into panels, at the corners of which are ornamental patterns in dark buff and vermillion relieved with gold. The top of the dado is finished with an ornament of various colours between two lines of dark buff. The ceiling is covered with a pretty-looking design in buff on a pale-blue ground. The ventilators and sun-burners are surrounded by two circles of mouldings in buff and crimson, and the space between is filled with gold stars picked out with carmine on a blue ground.

The building is surrounded with a gold cornice consisting of two series of mouldings divided by a deep cove, and the mouldings are in a dark and tight buff relieved with crimson. The cove is decorated with a conventional foliage design in gold shade, each alternate design being in a panel of dark-blue. The gallery fronts are panelled, the framework being of a buff colour similar to that of the walls, with mouldings, relieved with a dark buff and carmine. The panels are filled in with papier-machie ornaments, supplied by the London Papier-machie Company. These ornaments are really of very elegant design, and do much towards imparting an attractive appearance to the interior. They are of pale buff, on a light blue ground, and in the centre of each ornament is a gold boss on crimson ground. Between the panels are Papier-machie figure subject ornaments. The columns supporting the galleries are fitted with caps of buff and pale green relieved with gold.

The proscenium has been specially designed by the Papier-machie Company, and is richly ornamented in gold, crimson, and pale blue. At the top is a has relief design representing Cupid, and above the arch is a conventional design in carmine, buff, and gold shaded. A new act drop has been provided, representing blue and white satin drapery, and having for its medallion centre a view of Lago Maggiore, painted and designed by Mr. W. H. Drury, the scenic artist of the establishment.

Refreshment rooms adjoin the theatre, and are separated by glass doors. The boxes and pit will now be approached from Walsall Street, by means of a new corridor; and the upper gallery by means of the old corridor from Queen Street. The corridors and stairs are of ample widths to prevent crushing and to provide for easy exit and are brilliantly lighted. The new corridor and vestibule from Walsall Street constitute a prominent feature of the alterations, being artistically decorated with mirrors and cork decorations. The walls of the corridor from Queen Street, with its spacious vestibule and staircase, are painted buff with panels and dado similar to the theatre, and the ceiling is coloured a warm grey with borders and buff decorations.

The Exchange Vaults, which are in front of the theatre, on the ground floors facing Walsall Street, and are the property of the same proprietor, have been altered and modernised, and at the top of the windows are coloured glass representations of the "Seven Ages of Man," and portraits of Shakespeare and the Queen. The coloured glass-work has been done by Mr. S. Evans, of Smethwick.

It will be noticed that the name of the Theatre has been changed. The alterations have been carried out under the supervision of the manager of the Theatre, Mr. H. C. Hazlewood, a gentleman of considerable theatrical experience and ability, and formerly the manager of the Theatre Royal and also the Prince of Wales Theatre, Wolverhampton.

For the coming season Mr. Hazlewood has organised an exceedingly good company, comprising artistes from the London Lyceum, Criterion, and Gaiety, the Brighton Theatre Royal, the Princess's, Manchester, &c. For the opening night the dramatised form of "Lady Audley's Secret" is announced, and will be followed by the musical burlesque, "Cristabel." Amongst the pieces underlined for production hereafter are the french drama, L'Assommoir," now playing at the Princess's Theatre, London; the operatic drama, "Carmen;" the comedy, "Our Friends;" the Parisian success, "Frou Frou;" and a new military drama, founded on incidents in the Zulu war, entitled, "Rorke's Drift." A Christmas pantomime, founded on the nursery story of "Cinderella," is also in preparation. The band has been reorganised, and will be under the direction of Mr. W. H. Batchelor; but on Monday next the orchestra will be occupied by the Band of the Universe Works, Birmingham.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Birmingham Daily Post, 18th September 1879.

A Poster for 'Revel In Swingtime' at the Theatre Royal, Bromwich in November 1937 - Courtesy Trevor butler.The Theatre Royal, West Bromwich had opened on Saturday the 20th of September 1879 but would be destroyed by fire just 16 years later on Monday the 9th of September 1895 whilst under the management of James P. Moore. Moore however, soon had the Theatre rebuilt, this time to the designs of Owen & Ward, and it reopened a little less than a year later on Wednesday the 26th of August 1896.

Right - A Poster for 'Revel In Swingtime' at the Theatre Royal, Bromwich in November 1937 - Courtesy Trevor butler.

The ERA reported on the newly opened Theatre Royal in their 29th of August 1896 edition saying:- 'The new Theatre Royal, which has been erected in Walsall-street, West Bromwich, on the site of the building which was destroyed by fire in September, 1895, was opened on Wednesday evening. The building, which has been built and fitted up in the most modern style, will cost when completed between £6,000 and £7,000. The architects are Messrs Owen and Ward, and Messrs Bradley and Lloyd, of Wolverhampton, are the contractors.

All the entrances and exits are in Walsall-street. Upon entering the outer doors the public pass into spacious vestibules, where tickets of admission may be obtained without the crushing experienced in the old building. The auditorium consists of four private boxes, two rows of orchestral stalls, circle, balcony, pit, and gallery. The proprietor, Mr J. P. Moore, has provided special precautionary measures against fire or accident. In addition the theatre is placed is direct telephonic communication with the Central Fire Station.

The decorations have been carried out by Messrs A. R. Dean and Co., Birmingham. For the illumination of the stage and auditorium a special system of flash lighting has been introduced, this having been executed by Messrs Tollerton and Co., Leeds. Complete lavatory accommodation has been provided, and the refreshment saloons have been fitted with every convenience. Special attention has been paid to the heating arrangements, and water appliances laid on at low pressure.

The act-drop is from the skilful brush of the resident scenic artist, Mr Jesse Creswick, the picture in the medallion centre representing a country dance. The new theatre was opened on Wednesday with Ben-my- Chree, which was performed by Mr Arnold Bell's company before a large audience, who showed their appreciation both of the new building and the performance by frequent and hearty applause. Mr Bell gave a powerful rendering of Dan Mylrea, and received adequate support from Miss Frances Campbell, who was an excellent Mona. Mention may also be made of Messrs Arthur Lennard, Cyril Grier, and Rawson, and of Miss Minnie Harcourt and Miss Mary Dawson. The piece was excellently staged. Mr A. Bye officiated as conductor of the orchestra, and the general arrangements were under the direction of Mr Moore.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 29th August 1896.

Demolition of the Theatre Royal, West Bromwich after fire destroyed the building in 1966 - From the Birmingham Daily Post, 3rd October 1966.The newly rebuilt Theatre Royal, West Bromwich opened on Wednesday the 26th of August 1896 and would go on to have a long career entertaining the West Bromwich population. The brothers Ben and Harry Kennedy took over the management of the Theatre in 1917, they had already been running the nearby Hippodrome Theatre on Carters Green since 1910, and Ben Kennedy had also built the Empire Theatre in Paradise Street in 1914.

Right - Demolition of the Theatre Royal, West Bromwich after fire destroyed the building in 1966 - From the Birmingham Daily Post, 3rd October 1966.

The Theatre Royal would continue in operation throughout the war but was eventually closed shortly afterwards in 1947 and the building then remained empty for many years until it was eventually put to use as a furniture warehouse in the early 1950s. However, even this use came to an end in June 1966 and shortly after this the building was destroyed by fire in an arson attack on Saturday the 1st of October 1966, and subsequently demolished. The fire also damaged the adjoining Royal Exchange Public House which had also closed in June 1966, but had once been run by Charles Udall and was the inspiration for him to build his first Royal Exchange Theatre next door way back in the early 1850s.

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

Some archive newspaper reports on this page were kindly collated and sent in by B.F.

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