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The Imperial Theatre, Corner of Clyde Street and High Street, Bordesley, Birmingham

Later - The Bordesley Palace Theatre

Birmingham Index

A sketch of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From the ERA, 4th of March 1899 - To see more of these Sketches click here.

Above - A sketch of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From the ERA, 4th of March 1899 - To see more of these Sketches click here.

The Silk Opening Programme for 'Sporting Life' at the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley, Birmingham on the 2nd of October 1899 - Courtesy Richard Marsden.The Imperial Theatre was constructed on the corner of Clyde Street and the High Street in Birmingham's Bordesley district and was built at a cost of £25,000.

The Theatre was designed by the architects Owen and Ward who also designed the Opera House, Kidderminster, the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, the Hippodrome, Poplar, and Her Majesty's Theatre, Walsall.

Right - The Silk Opening Programme for 'Sporting Life' at the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley, Birmingham on the 2nd of October 1899 - Courtesy Richard Marsden.

The auditorium was designed in the Renaissance style and painted in cream, blue, and gold, and was constructed on three levels, orchestra and pit stalls, pit, and cantilevered dress circle, balcony, and gallery, and with its six boxes the Theatre could seat 2,500 people.

The Theatre opened on the 2nd of October 1899 with a performance of 'Sporting Life, see opening programme shown right, but the ERA had already reported on the new Imperial Theatre, along with the sketch of the building shown above, some months earlier in their 4th of March 1899 edition saying:-

The Imperial Theatre, Birmingham - From an illustration in the Playgoer of 1901 / 1902 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.'This theatre, which is now rapidly approaching completion, promises to be one of the most perfect of our many provincial theatres, and it is to be hoped that Messrs Machin and Bacon, the enterprising proprietors, will have their undertaking crowned with success.

Left -The Imperial Theatre, Birmingham - From an illustration in the Playgoer of 1901 / 1902 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

A Twice Nightly Variety Poster for the Palace Theatre, Bordesley, formerly the Imperial Theatre, with the Arthur Lloyd Trio on the Bill - Courtesy Colin Maitland.Messrs Owen and Ward, the eminent theatrical architects of the Midlands, have prepared the plans, and have bestowed great care and ingenuity upon the mangements and design generally. The building has two frontages, one to High-street, of 104ft., and the other to Clyde-street, of 134ft. There are arranged twelve exits from the various parts of the house, communicating directly with the streets, and each section of the building has at least two spacious fire-proof staircases connected therewith.

The grand hall leading to circle and stalls is approached through three pairs of handsome mahogany and glass doors, and is 25ft. by 20ft., with wide staircases on both sides leading to the dress-circle. The ceiling of the hall will be domed and decorated with elaborate hand-painted panels illustrative of Shakespeare's works, and the walls will be lined with marble in parti-colours, and the floors paved with marble mosaic.

Right - A Twice Nightly Variety Poster for the Palace Theatre, Bordesley, formerly the Imperial Theatre, in March 1906, with the Arthur Lloyd Trio on the Bill - Courtesy Colin Maitland.

The interior accommodation is classified into orchestra and pit stalls, pit, dress circle, balcony, and gallery, together with six private boxes, and will seat 2,500 persons. The auditorium is 69ft. by 65f t., and the stage is 69ft. by 40ft. The latter will be of quite modern construction, and capable of mounting the most elaborate productions. The gridiron will be 50ft. above stage level. A convenient green-room has been provided, and ample dressing-rooms for both sexes. Spacious saloons are arranged of easy access to all parts of the house, and also conveniences for both ladies and gentlemen, together with a well-arranged cloak-room. There are also offices, wardrobe-room, ballet-room, &c. Both gas and electricity will be employed for lighting purposes throughout. Heating and ventilation has been adopted on the most approved methods, and, indeed, every consideration has been given to the pleasure and comfort of the audience.

The interior decorations will be principally of fibrous plaster in the Renaissance style, the prevailing colours being cream, blue, and gold; whilst the draperies and upholstering will be in old gold silk. A handsome domed ceiling, with a particularly quaint proscenium front, complete the interior embellishments.

A Programme Cover for the London players in one act plays of the Grand Guignol at the Bordesley Palace Theatre in September 1922 - Courtesy Robert Thompson.The elevation to High-street is of a bold treatment in red Ruabon brick, with buff terra-cotta dressings by Messrs Doulton and Co., the two extreme angles being surmounted by square towers; whilst a gabled pediment adorns the central feature. An ornamental iron and glass verandah, supported on cantilevers, is placed as a shelter over the principal entrances.

Left - A Programme Cover for the London players in one act plays of the Grand Guignol at the Bordesley Palace Theatre, formerly the Imperial Theatre, in September 1922 - Courtesy Robert Thompson.

In conclusion, we have only to say that the construction of the building is quite up to date, the circle and gallery being supported on steel cantilevers, thus avoiding any obstruction in the shape of iron columns, &c. There will be a fireproof curtain to the proscenium opening, and the fire arrangements, generally, will be carried out under the supervision of Superintendent Tozer, chief of the fire brigade, who has had great experience in this kind of work.

This magnificent theatre will open on Oct. 2nd, and will be worked in conjunction with Mr Chas. E Machin's various other theatres, and all bookings will be made from the London offices, Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham-junction, S.W.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 4th March 1899.

A sketch of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899

Above - A sketch of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899

Plans of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899 The Building News and Engineering Journal also reported on the Imperial Theatre in their May 12th 1899 edition saying:- 'This theatre, which is now rapidly approaching completion, promises to be one of the most completely contrived of our provincial theatres. Messrs. Owen and Ward, architects, of Birmingham, have prepared the plans.

The building has two frontages, one to High-street of 104 ft., and the other to Clyde-street of 134ft. There are arranged twelve exits from the various parts of the house, communicating directly with the streets, and each section of the building has at least two spacious fireproof staircases connected therewith. The grand hall, which is approached from High-street, and is 25ft. by 20ft., will be decorated with parti-coloured marbles, the ceiling being domed and harmoniously decorated in colour. The staircases to circle and stalls lead from this hall.

Right - Plans of the Imperial Theatre, Bordesley - From The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899.

The interior accommodation is classified into orchestra and pit stalls, pit, dress circle, balcony, and gallery, together with six private boxes, and will seat 2,500 persons. The auditorium is 69ft. by 65ft., and the stage 69ft. by 40ft. The latter will be of the latest construction, capable of mounting the most elaborate productions. The grid will be 50ft. above stage level.

A convenient green-room is provided, and ample dressing-rooms for both sexes. Spacious saloons are arranged of easy access to all parts of the house, and also conveniences for both ladies and gentlemen, together with requisite cloak-rooms. Both gas and electricity will be employed for lighting purposes throughout. The heating and ventilation will be carried out on thorough principles. The interior decoration will be principally of fibrous plaster in the Renaissance style, the prevailing colours being cream, blue, and gold, whilst the draperies and upholstering will be in old gold silk.

The elevation to High-street is treated boldly in red Ruabon brick, with buff terracotta dressings. The terracotta work is by Messrs. Doulton and Co., and the general contractor is Mr. E. J. Charles, of Moseley, Birmingham.'

The above text in quotes was first published in The Building News and Engineering Journal, May 12th 1899.

The Bordesley Palace Theatre

The Bordesley Palace, Birmingham shown here with a creative commons licence from Mike Blakemore of the Cinema Treasures Website.

Above - The Bordesley Palace, Birmingham shown here with a creative commons licence from Mike Blakemore of the Cinema Treasures Website.

An Advertisement for the soon to be opened Bordesley Palace Theatre, Birmingham - From the Birmingham Daily Gazette, 31st of July 1903.The Imperial Theatre was originally opened on the 2nd of October 1899 with a performance of 'Sporting Life. But a few years later it was bought by Moss Empires, in 1903, who refurbished the building at a cost of £6,000 and reopened it on the 3rd of August 1903 as a Variety House called the Bordesley Palace, with a much lower seating capacity of around 1,300 people.

Right - An Advertisement for the soon to be opened Bordesley Palace Theatre, Birmingham - From the Birmingham Daily Gazette, 31st of July 1903.

The Music Hall and Theatre Review reported on the changes and the newly named Bordesley Palace Theatre in their 7th of August 1903 edition saying:- 'The Imperial Theatre of Bordesley, Manchester [sic], at which for the past two years stage plays have been performed, has changed its name, which will in future be "The Bordesley Palace Theatre and Stage Circus of Varieties." The theatre has been purchased by the well known amusement organisation, the Moss Empires, Limited, and at a cost of £6,000 it has been remodelled and refurnished to meet the requirements of an up-to-date concert hall.

On Bank Holiday the first two variety performances under the new auspices were given, and at each there was a crowded audience. The accommodation of the theatre has been increased, and an alteration of the seating effected, and prices reduced. The former amphitheatre and gallery have been made into one, a charge being made for this part of the house of 3d.; the former orchestral stalls, pit stalls, and pit have been amalgamated, fitted throughout with tip-up chairs, and to these, which will be known as the orchestra stalls, the admission will be 6d. One shilling is charged for the grand circle, and 1s. 6d. for single seats in the private boxes.

The building is admirably appointed. The upholstering throughout is in plush terra-cotta, and with decorations in cream, pale blue, and gold, a most artistic effect is obtained. Mr G. F. Thompson is the acting manager, with Mr. W. Machin as assistant.

In the initial performance Wilson and Waring, comedy artistes, are well received. Peggy Pryde is as popular as ever, and introduces several new character songs. Mendel, a blind pianist and composer, is responsible for a really excellent performance. He astonished the audience by the readiness with which he repeated, after only once hearing, various difficult pieces of music. The brothers Webb are delightful instrumentalists; and there are many other good numbers including Beatrice Willey, Fred Lincoln, New York Quartette, the Klein Family (clever on cycles), and Dan Dee.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Music Hall and Theatre Review, 7th of August 1903.

A Programme Cover for the British International Pictures Limited film 'A Southern Maid', Starring Bebe Daniels, Clifford Mollinson & Lupino Lane at the Bordesley Palace on January 22nd 1934 - Courtesy Robert Thompson.The Theatre was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in October 1928 and closed down as a live Theatre the following year. It was then converted for full time Cinema use with a capacity of 1,296 people seated.

Right - A Programme Cover for the British International Pictures Limited film 'A Southern Maid', Starring Bebe Daniels, Clifford Mollinson & Lupino Lane at the Bordesley Palace on January 22nd 1934 - Courtesy Robert Thompson.

During the war the Theatre was requisitioned by the Government and used as a food store and sadly it would never reopen as a Theatre or Cinema again.

In 1955 it was sold to Fisher and Ludlow for demolition. The Birmingham Daily Post reported on this in their 1st of October 1955 edition saying:- 'The Bordesley, Palace Theatre, believed to be the last of Birmingham's old music halls, has been sold and will be pulled down to make way for a factory extension. When built in about 1899 it was named the Imperial Theatre. It became a cinema in 1928 when it was renamed. The last stage show being the famous melodrama, Maria Marten, or The Murder to the Red Barn.

The building was purchased and sold recently by Jack Cotton and Partners, Birmingham auctioneers and estate agents at a "competitive price". It has been sold to Fisher and Ludlow, who already owned the rest of the island block in which the old theatre stands. The site of more than two acres on which their factory now stands was purchased for them by Jack Cotton and Partners in 1936 from Peyton, Hoyland and Barber, bedstead manufacturers. The firm has thus had to wait 19 Years before completing the purchase of the whole block.

The old Bordesley Palace or Imperial Theatre was famous in Birmingham at one time for its musical shows. It was built as "the most modern main hall of its kind." A curtain bell was installed in a Public house across the road for summoning patrons at the end of intervals. Bordesley Palace ceased to be a cinema a little before World War II and was requisitioned by the Ministry of Food. Throughout the war it was used to store groceries. It was derequisitioned only about six months ago.'

A Google StreetView Image of the site of the Imperial Theatre today - Click to Interact.The above text in quotes was first published in the Birmingham Daily Post, 1st of October 1955.

Sadly that was the end for this Theatre and it was eventually demolished in 1957. Today the site of the Theatre is in use as a Car Park for a Storage Company.

Right - A Google StreetView Image of the site of the Imperial Theatre today - Click to Interact.

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

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