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The Theatre Royal, Aston Road North, Aston, Birmingham

Later - The Astoria Cinema / Alpha Television Studios

Birmingham Index

Silk Programme for the Theatre Royal, Aston, for a Complimentary Benefit of the manager at the time, Mr. Dan Barnard on Friday August the 3rd, 1900. The Theatre Royal, Aston was built at a cost of £6,500 and opened under the ownership of Robert Hall on the 7th of August 1893 with a production of 'Naughty Titania' by Stanley Rogers. The Theatre was equipped with a simple auditorium comprising a pit and gallery but no boxes, although it had quite a large stage for a playhouse. Robert Hall however, would soon find himself bankrupted by the project.

In May 1894 the Theatre was bought by Charles Barnard and refurbished to the designs of W. Hancock, at a cost of £3,000. The Theatre now had a larger balcony, new stalls boxes, and electric lighting, and was reopened under the Management of Leotard Bosco as a Variety Theatre on the 14th of May 1894.

Right - A Silk Programme for the Theatre Royal, Aston, for a Complimentary Benefit of the manager at the time, Mr. Dan Barnard on Friday August the 3rd, 1900. - Acts included Tom Costello, Munro and O'Toole, Bob Gates, Warde and Whylie, Innes Robarto, Nelly Shannon, Chas Bu'val, Little Dolly Moore, Jack Cruise, Frank Harwood, Tom Wootwell, May Evans, Milner Veren, The Danbys, Kitty Rayburn, Harry Maam, The Sisters Navette, Jess Verno, Dell's Lifeograph, and Sydney Vereker.

The Theatre was again refurbished in 1912 at great expense and is stated to have had a capacity of 2,000 at the time. The Theatre reopened in January 1913 and the ERA reported on the changes in their 4th of January 1913 edition saying:- 'The Aston Theatre Royal, during the past four months, has undergone entire reconstruction. The work was commenced on August 26, since when many improvements have been introduced, from plans prepared by Mr. C. H. Collett, architect, under the supervision of Mr. A. H. Rose, and the manager, Mr. L. Chapman. The alterations cost about £7,000. The theatre will now accommodate 2,000 people.

The frontage has been extended 15 feet, and inside a new and up-to-date set of fire appliances has been installed. The new electrical installation lends considerable attraction and brilliance to a well-decorated interior, whilst with the new fire-proof curtain which has been constructed, and the modern description of fire appliances, the public have been safeguarded in every possible way. There are eleven separate exits from the theatre, enabling the manager to clear the house in all parts comfortably within about two minutes.

Everybody occupying a seat will now be provided with a distinct view of the stage, inasmuch as the floor has been raised to a considerable incline. In addition to this, a peculiar feature of the construction lies in the fact that there is not a single column in the sight line of the audience in any part of the building. The galleries having been carried out on the cantilever system.

The heating apparatus has also been brought up-to-date. The old theatre was absolutely dangerous, and the greater portion of the seats had an obstructed view of the stage. This has all been obviated in the manner described, and as regards the exits, there are five on the ground floor and three each in the circle and gallery. The circle is said to be one of the largest in the city, and seats nearly 600 people.

The decorative work is exceedingly artistic, and has been carried out with fireproof material. In the dressing-rooms, which are some of the finest we have seen, heating apparatus has been installed, and each is fitted with hot and cold water, together with the sprinkler apparatus in case of fire. The majority of the dressing-rooms are situated on the ground floor, with separate exits to each, and every one has electric light and gas. On the first floor is a commodious chorus room, in which fifty performers can be comfortably accommodated, and this, too, is well equipped.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 4th of January 1913.

The Theatre closed for live entertainment in 1926 and was then converted for Cinema use, reopening as the Astoria Cinema on the 12th of December 1927. After many years of successful business the Astoria Cinema closed on the 26th of November 1955 and the building was then converted into a Television Studio for ATV and ABC Television Limited, and renamed the Alpha Television Studios, opening on the 17th of February 1956.

A film report on the story of how televised news came to the Midlands - Click to view the filmATV later moved into its own purpose built studios in Broad Street, Birmingham and sadly the former Theatre royal / Astoria Cinema was then demolished to make way for a new building on the site in 1973.

Left - A film report on the story of how televised news came to the Midlands and how it was first broadcast from the Television Theatre in Aston, formerly the Theatre Royal / Astoria Cinema - Click to view the film.

There is a great deal more on the various incarnations of the Theatre Royal, and the history of Aston here.

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

Leotard Bosco, General Manager of the Aston Theatre

Obituary from the Stage Newspaper, 1st of August 1895

Leotard Bosco - From the Music Hall and Theatre Review, 6th of April 1894.After a week's illness only Mr. James Frederick Greethead, professionally known as Mr. Leotard Bosco, the general-manager of the New Royal, Aston, Birmingham, died at his residence, Birchfield-road, on Wednesday in last week from diabetes. The brevity of his final illness, and its sudden and fatal termination, came as a sad blow to his many friends and admirers, not only in the midlands, but in other parts of the country.

Right - Leotard Bosco - From the Music Hall and Theatre Review, 6th of April 1894.

Mr. Leotard Bosco was in his 46th year. He started in life in 1862 as a programme boy in Cook's Circus, then Ayer's panorama of America. In 1866 he joined Rubini, the conjurer, and early in 1869 entered Mr. Mark Wheeler's Co. with his fairy fountains. On completing his engagement, he gave up the conjuring part of the entertainment and went on tour with his fairy fountains, making a success. In 1876 a disastrous fire ruined him, as he had invested his savings in completing two of the largest fountains. He afterwards started a combination which proved a success.

Next he ran a circus at Newcastle, and after a successful season came to Birmingham and took the St. James's which he re-christened the Egyptian Hall. After he had run it successfully it was sold over his head. Then he went to the Pier Pavilion and Winter Gardena at Rhyl, and after a good winter season took the George Hotel, Rhyl, but the adventure was a failure, and he again lost all that he had made.

But he managed to get on the road again, and after a successful tour, which left him at the close of one season with £2,000 profit, he took the Gaiety, Hanley, of which be purchased the freehold at the end of the first year, afterward, selling out and taking the Gaiety, Warrington, which was also a success.

Then his fortunes changed once more, for on taking the Star Hotel and Theatre at Stockton, the tenant lost the license just before Mr. Bosco's tenancy began. Thence he went to Hull and took the Mechanics' Hall, which he renamed Bosco's Empire. For five years he ran it successfully, and then sold it, staying on as general Manager. In September, 1893, he opened the Jollity, Bradford, but owing to the coal strike the venture proved a failure.

A Watch Fob presented to Leotard Bosco of the Aston Theatre, Birmingham in March 1895, shortly before his death - Courtesy Julie Popplewell whose husband found it whilst metal detecting in Guisborough N. Yorks.In April he went to Aston, as manager of the Aston Royal, which had been acquired by Mr. Charles Barnard. On Ms. Bosco taking up the management great structural improvements were made. At the present time more improvements are in progress, and another gallery is in course of contraction which will accommodate about 1,000 people.

Left - A Watch Fob presented to Leotard Bosco of the Aston Theatre, Birmingham in March 1895, shortly before his death - Courtesy Julie Popplewell whose husband found it whilst metal detecting in Guisborough N. Yorks.

Mr. Bosco became very popular in Aston, and his well-known figure will be missed, not only by habitués of the theatre, but also by all with whom he came in contact. Possessed of exceptional business capabilities, of a genial temperament, and generous to a fault, he won golden opinions on all sides. In company with Mr. Charles Barnard he was instrumental in raising a large sum of money last winter on behalf of the Aston Relief Association.

The funeral took place on Saturday, at Handsworth Old Church, and was attended by a large number of friends and relations, in addition to members of the theatre staff. The bearers were Messrs. James Greenwood, C. Greenwood, John Greenwood, Fred Jones, Bert Chaffer, and J. Wormington; while among those present at the graveside were Messrs. Charles Barnard, Downes, Derrick, Princep, Earlesmere, Owen, Deighton, H. Garratt, Westlake, &c.

The above article was first published in the Stage Newspaper, 1st of August 1895.

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