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The Theatre Royal, Manningham Lane, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Formerly - The Royal Alexandra Theatre - Later - The Theatre Royal Picture House / The Irving Royal Cinema / Classic Royal Cinema

Bradford Index

Postcard of the Theatre Royal, Bradford

Above - An early hand tinted postcard of the Theatre Royal, Bradford

A programme for 'Robinson Crusoe' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford at Christmas 1890 - 1891 - Courtesy Graham Brogden. The Theatre Royal, in Manningham Lane, Bradford (not to be confused with the earlier Theatre Royal on Duke Street) originally opened as the Alexandra Theatre on Monday the 26th of December 1864 with the pantomime 'All That Glitters is not Gold'.

The Theatre was built for J. B. Buckstone and Wilde and was designed by the local architects, Andrews & Son and Pepper and constructed by W. Morgan at a cost of some £6,000, and could accommodate around 1,800 people, 200 in the Dress Boxes, 250 in the Upper Boxes, 600 in the Pit, and 750 in the Gallery. There were three entrances and five exit doors to the Theatre, with the gallery, dress boxes, and pit having separate entrances.

Right - A programme for 'Robinson Crusoe' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford at Christmas 1890 - 1891 - Courtesy Graham Brogden. Details for this production can be seen below.

A programme for 'Red Riding Hood' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford at Christmas 1891 1892 - Courtesy Graham Brogden. The roof of the Theatre was completed in September 1864 and a meeting was held in the Talbot Hotel to celebrate it. Some one hundred men who had been involved with the construction of the Theatre were entertained and fed with roast beef, mutton, geese, plum pudding, fruit, pies, and an abundance of beer, spirits and tobacco.

Left - A programme for 'Red Riding Hood' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford at Christmas 1891 1892 - Courtesy Graham Brogden.

In another room of the Hotel John Baldwin Buxton, the Director of the Theatre and manager of London's Haymarket Company, and other Directors including G. Lewis and W. H. France, entertained the ladies of the Haymarket Company, the architects, Andrews & Son and Pepper, the Construction Company W. Morgan, and 30 other gentlemen involved with the Theatre's construction with a grand supper. After the meal the Directors and Company joined the workmen for a toast to the new Theatre.

Programme for Henry Irving and Ellen Terry and the Lyceum Theatre, London, Company in 'The Merchant of Venice' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford for the week beginning March the 11th 1901 for six nights and one Matinee - Click to see entire Programme.The License for the Theatre was granted a few months later in December 1864 and the Theatre opened shortly afterwards on Monday the 26th of December 1864 with the pantomime 'All That Glitters is not Gold'.

Right - A programme for Henry Irving and Ellen Terry and the Lyceum Theatre, London, Company in 'The Merchant of Venice' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford for the week beginning March the 11th 1901 for six nights and one Matinee - Click to see the entire Programme.

A programme for 'Aladdin' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford at Christmas 1892 1893 - Courtesy Graham Brogden. The ERA reported on the new Theatre the day before it opened, in their 25th of December 1864, saying: - 'The important and populous town of Bradford has long needed a Theatre calculated to meet the growing requirements of the play-going inhabitants. That necessity is now amply supplied by the new Alexandra Theatre, to open on Monday, the 26th, under the joint Proprietorship of Messrs. J. B. Bucketone and Wilde.

Left - A programme for 'Aladdin' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford at Christmas 1892 1893 - Courtesy Graham Brogden.

Bradford has grown out of its absurd sanctimonious discountenance of theatrical amusements, and the new home of the Drama will open its doors with every prospect of success. The Theatre has been designed by the local architects, Messrs. Andrews and Son and Pepper. Every department has been presided over by local firms. Messrs. John Burnley and W. Crabtree have supplied the mason's and joiner's work; Mr. B. Dixon and Mr. J. Thomson have executed the plastering and ornamental decorations and slating; Mr. Harland, the painter's, gilder's, and paper-hanger's work; and Mr. H. Archer, with Messrs, Brown and Muff, have provided the furniture and carpets.

A Bill from October 1905 for Henry Irving performing at the Theatre Royal, Bradford in what would turn out to be his last performances before his death. - Kindly donated by Wendy Robinson.Owing to the nature of the ground no stairs are necessary to reach the boxes, and the gallery staircase is of stone. Corridors run at the back of the boxes, which are fitted with stuffed seats. The dress-circle is formed of velvet-covered chairs. The saloons and passages are handsomely carpeted. Separate entrances and egresses have been arranged in all parts of the Theatre, with special reference to the contingencies of fire or sudden panics. The whole of the doors open outwards.

White and gold is the contrast shown in the decorations, the richness of which make amends for the very plain exterior. Every alternate seat in the pit is provided with a back, according to a general plan in Theatres. The centre chandelier is from the establishment of Messrs. Osier, at Birmingham. J. G. Hilton, Esq., of Westminster, has designed the stage, which has been constructed by Mr. J. Neill, of Bradford, under the supervision of Mr. Oliver Wales, the machinist of the Haymarket Theatre.

The total number able to be accommodated in the building is 1,800, and may be thus divided: - Dress boxes, 200; upper boxes, 250; pit, 600; gallery, 750. Mr. Wilde will be the Resident Manager; Mr. S. Artaud, Stage Manager; Mr. R. Carroll, Prompter; Mr. Spillane, of Theatre Royal, Haymarket, will supply the music; and Mr, Arthur Leclercq (a host in himself) is appointed Ballet Master.

Right - A Bill from October 1905 for Henry Irving performing at the Theatre Royal, Bradford in what would turn out to be his last performances before his death. (There is more on this below.) - Bill Kindly donated by Wendy Robinson.

The performances are to commence on Boxing Night with All That Glitters is not Gold, in which Mrs. Clifford Cooper, Miss Beatrix Shirley, and Miss E. Wiber, with Messrs. S. Artaud, Lerigo, E. Siddons, C. Pitt, Arthur Wood, and James, will appear. The Pantomime is adapted by Mr. Buckstone from W. Brough's burlesque, Rasselas, and has the great advantage of Mr. John O'Connor's valuable services for the principal scenes. Mr. Morris is also employed. The music is by Mr. Spillane, machinery by Mr. Wales, dresses by Mr. Coombes (Royal Italian Opera) and Miss Cherry (Theatre Royal, Haymarket), masks and properties by Mr. Foster (Theatre Royal, Haymarket), and the dances invented by Mr. Arthur Leclercq. In the burlesque opening the following names appear:— Misses Robertson, Shirley, Heathcote, Wiber, Brock, Burns, Weathersby, and Mrs. Robertson, in conjunction with Messrs. Harker, Bousfield, Wood, James, and Lerigo. The Harlequinade will be supported by Mr. A. Leclercq (Harlequin), Miss Caroline Adams (Columbine), Mr. Charles Leclercq (Clown), and Mr. Elsbee Gardiner (Pantaloon). The Misses Hennemont and Reynolds will appear as principal danseuses in the ballet scene. The attractive entertainment is in every way worthy to open the Alexandra Theatre. The prices at admission are:- To the dress boxes, 3s.; upper ditto, 1s. 6d; pit, 1s.; gallery, 6d.; and private boxes, £1. 11s. 6d. There is no half price to any part of the house.' - The ERA, 25th December 1864.

Later renamed the Theatre Royal, it is noted as being the last Theatre in which Henry Irving performed in before his death in October 1905 at the Midland Hotel in Bradford after a performance of 'Becket' at the Theatre. (There is more on this below.)

The Theatre Royal, Bradford had been showing films as part of its programing as early as the late 1890s and in 1921 it was closed as a live Theatre and the auditorium was converted for full time Cinema use. The Cinema opened as the Theatre Royal Picture House on the 5th of December 1921 with a showing of the Charlie Chaplin film 'The Idle Class.'

A photograph showing the department store 'Busbys' and the canopy of the Theatre Royal Picture House, Bradford by C. H. Wood - With kind permission © Bradford Museums & Galleries.

Above - A photograph showing the department store 'Busbys' and the canopy of the Theatre Royal Picture House, Bradford by C. H. Wood - With kind permission © Bradford Museums & Galleries.

In 1965 the Cinema's owners had gone bankrupt and it was put up for sale by the liquidators. A Company called Expo 20 Ltd. then bought the Theatre and after refurbishment they reopened it as the Irving Royal Cinema, as a tribute to Henry Irving who had played his last performance at the Theatre some years before in 1905. The Irving Royal Cinema opened on the 27th of February 1967 with the Al Jolson film 'The Singing Fool'. In October the same year however, Classic Cinemas took over the building and renamed it the Classic Royal Cinema, unceremoniously dropping the Irving name.

The Classic closed on the 16th of November 1974 after a last showing of the film 'The Graduate' and that was the end for this Theatre's long history in Bradford.

The Theatre then stood derelict for many years and was last in use as a store, but in 1990 it was declared unsafe and in danger of collapse and was subsequently demolished. A visitor to the site, Tim Walker, has recently sent in some photographs he took of the Theatre a few days before it was demolished and you can see these below.

Some photographs the former Theatre Royal, Bradford a few days before its demolition in 1990, kindly sent in by Tim Walker'

The auditorium of the former Theatre Royal, Bradford shortly before demolition in 1990 - Courtesy Tim Walker

Above - The auditorium of the former Theatre Royal, Bradford shortly before demolition in 1990 - Courtesy Tim Walker

The Stage House of the former Theatre Royal, Bradford shortly before demolition in 1990 - Courtesy Tim Walker

Above - The Stage House of the former Theatre Royal, Bradford shortly before demolition in 1990 - Courtesy Tim Walker

The proscenium of the former Theatre Royal, Bradford shortly before demolition in 1990 - Courtesy Tim Walker

Above - The proscenium of the former Theatre Royal, Bradford shortly before demolition in 1990 - Courtesy Tim Walker

Plasterwork details of the former Theatre Royal, Bradford shortly before demolition in 1990 - Courtesy Tim Walker Plasterwork details of the former Theatre Royal, Bradford shortly before demolition in 1990 - Courtesy Tim Walker

 

Above - Plasterwork details of the former Theatre Royal, Bradford shortly before demolition in 1990 - Courtesy Tim Walker

Some of the information on the Bradford Theatre Royal's later years was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures website.

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

Robinson Crusoe at the Theatre Royal, Bradford

Programme details for 'Robinson Crusoe' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford at Christmas 1890 - 1891 - Courtesy Graham Brogden.

Above - Programme details for 'Robinson Crusoe' at the Theatre Royal, Bradford at Christmas 1890 - 1891 - Courtesy Graham Brogden.

Henry Irving at the Theatre Royal, Bradford

Poster for Henry Irving's Farewell performance from the Theatre Royal, Bradford for the week of the 9th of October 1905 just days before his death - Courtesy Evonne Randall whose Great Grandfather John Albert Wilson worked there as a Stage Hand and Bill Inspector until his early death in 1928. Poster for Sir Harry Irving, Henry Irving's son, at the Theatre Royal, Bradford - Courtesy Evonne.

 

Above A Poster for Henry Irving's Farewell performance from the Theatre Royal, Bradford for the week of the 9th of October 1905 just days before his death - Courtesy Evonne Randall whose Great Grandfather John Albert Wilson worked there as a Stage Hand and Bill Inspector until his early death in 1928. And A Poster for Sir Harry Irving, Henry Irving's son, at the Theatre Royal, Bradford - Courtesy Evonne Randall.

The Theatre Royal, Bradford is noted as being the last Theatre in which Henry Irving performed in before his death in October 1905 at the Midland Hotel in Bradford, after a performance of 'Becket' at the Theatre.

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

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