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The Prince of Wales Theatre, Blackpool

Formerly - The Assembly Rooms - Later the site of the Alhambra / Palace Complex - Also - The Blackpool Baths / Hall of Aquatic Variety Entertainment

Blackpool Theatres Index - Blackpool Theatres Article by Donald Auty

The Prince of Wales Theatre, Blackpool was originally built as an Assembly Rooms in 1864 but was later converted into one of Blackpool's earliest Theatres. This was rebuilt on a larger scale, to the designs of the architect Mr. Sykes, in 1877, and constructed at a cost of around £25,000.

The newly rebuilt Prince of Wales Theatre reopened under the management of R. J. Roberts, formerly of the Theatre Royal, Blackpool, on the 20th of August 1877 with a production by Edward Saker of the Alexandra Theatre, Liverpool, and Lionel Brough of the Lydia Thompson Troup.

The ERA printed a report on the licence application granted for the new Theatre's opening in their 19th of August 1877 edition, which gives some details of the previous and later Theatres, saying: - 'On Monday Mr Ashcroft, solicitor, appeared before the Magistrates on behalf of Mr Gorst, Secretary for the Lane Ends Company, to obtain a license for the Prince of Wales Theatre, which is situated near the Lane Ends Hotel. He stated that there were two main entrances to the Theatre. As the regulations in London required strict means of exit in the case of fire, there were two other entrances; and in the case of a panic the Theatre could be emptied without danger to any one. He understood the application was opposed, but for what reason he knew not, unless it was a case of jealousy on the part of the other caterers for amusement.

The present Theatre, he continued, was erected in 1864. But since then the population had increased to four times as many inhabitants; and although the Theatre might have been sufficiently large for the population at that time, it was totally inadequate for the present population. They also intended to go in for a better class of entertainment than was given at the present time.

As far as accommodation went the Theatre was constructed like the Liverpool and London Theatres, and would be very comfortable. The decorations were under the new design, and were coming direct from Glasgow. The building would cost £10,455, and another thousand pounds was to be spent in decorations. Mr Richard Gorst examined, said the Assembly Rooms were erected about 1864. Since that time the rateable value of the town had increased from £22,000 to about £80,000.

Mr Sykes, the architect, next gave evidence, stating that after the seats were occupied in the Theatre there was stranding room, when the case required, for 250 persons. The stage was as large as the Prince's Theatre in Manchester, and equal to any in Liverpool, There were three staircases at present, and in case of fire there was a plug laid, and two three-inch mains. It was about a quarter as big again as the Theatre Royal, and was well adapted for a Theatre. The stage of the last-named was thirty-four square feet, and the stage of the Prince of Wales Theatre was 900 square feet.

Mr R. J. Roberts said he had made arrangements to be the Manager of the Theatre, and considered it equal to any in Manchester or Liverpool. He said they intended to have travelling companies, and quoted a long list of famed companies who had been unable to visit the town in consequence of a stock company being kept at the Theatre here. Immediately he obtained a licence he intended communicating with the said companies for engagements.

In his, opposition Mr Blackhurst objected to the wooden staircases and said the Act required that they should be stone. He also stated that the present Theatre afforded ample accommodation for playgoers. He then adverted to licences for the sale of liquor, stating that the company would come to their Worships and secure this licence and keep a public-house where people could have drink at any tune. If the Bench refused to grant such licence it would be an easy matter for the company to get a licence from the Excise and snap their fingers at their Worships.

The Bench then retired, and after a lapse of ten minutes returned, and said they had decided to grant the licence, provided that no licences wore taken for the sale of liquors, for the period of twelve calendar months. The applicants for the licence were then bound over in sums of £20 each to keep the Theatre decent and in good order.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 19th of August 1877.

The new Prince of Wales Theatre opened on Monday the 20th of August 1877 under the management of R. J. Roberts, formerly of the Theatre Royal, Blackpool, with a production by Edward Saker, of the Alexandra Theatre, Liverpool, and Lionel Brough of the Lydia Thompson Troup. The stage at this time was stated to have been 38 feet long by 46 feet wide, with a proscenium opening of 24 feet wide by 17½ feet high. A new Act Drop for the opening of the Theatre was painted by John Brunton of the Alexandra Theatre, Liverpool.

The week of 19th of September 1887 saw James Fernandez appearing at the Prince of Wales Theatre as part of Helen Barry’s Tour. The pieces played were ‘Led Astray’, ‘Lesson in Love’, ‘Esmonds of Virginia’, ‘Her Trustee’, ‘After’ and ‘The Ladies Battle’. James Fernandez is an ancestor of Brent Fernandez who has been so helpful in routing out those hard to find articles in the newspaper archives for this site.

The Prince of Wales Theatre, Blackpool had a short life of just 20 years before it was demolished in 1897, along with the swimming baths next door, which had first opened as the Hall of Aquatic Variety Entertainment, and the site was then used for the building of the Alhambra Complex, which opened in 1899. This was later converted and reopened as the Palace Complex in July 1904 but has since been demolished.

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

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

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