Theatres and Halls in Clapham Junction and Battersea
The Grand Theatre / Essoldo Cinema - Munt's Hall / The Grand Hall of Varieties - The Imperial Picture Theatre - The Shakespeare Theatre - The Clapham Picture House / Electric Palace / ColiseumCinema - Memories of Clapham's Theatres and Cinemas - Munt's Hall and The Theatre management consortium of Dan Leno, Herbert Campbell, Harry Randall, and Fred Williams
Formerly - The New Grand Theatre of Varieties - Later - Essoldo Cinema / Mecca Bingo / The Grand Nightclub and Concert Venue
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Clapham Grand - Click to Interact
The Grand Theatre in Clapham Junction, Battersea was designed by Ernest A. E. Woodrow and is today the only completely surviving example of his work. The Theatre was constructed by Gray Hill of Coventry and was first opened on Monday the 26th of November 1900 with a Music Hall production featuring many of the best known artistes of the day, see review below. When the Theatre opened it had a capacity of 3,000 and a stage 68' wide by 28' deep.
The Theatre was built for a consortium which was led by the well known Music Hall artistes Dan Leno, who lived nearby in Clapham Park; Herbert Campbell; Harry Randall; and Fred Williams. They had already built two Theatres, namely The Granville in Waltham Green and The Camberwell Palace, both of which have since been demolished. Before building the Clapham Grand they took over an earlier Concert Hall in Clapham called Munt's Hall to see if their idea of a larger hall in the area was viable. Satisfied that it was they set about commissioning A. E. Woodrow to build their new Theatre, the Grand. It was to be the consortium's last venture in Theatre building however, as the Syndicates were soon to become all too powerful.
The ERA reported on the opening of the Grand Theatre in their 1st of December 1900 edition saying:- 'The patronage enjoyed by Mr Jesse Sparrow and his directors reached such a high pitch of recent years at the Grand that they at last found it absolutely necessary to look about them and procure a site whereon to erect a hall which should be in keeping with their ever-increasing requirements. The result has been the erection of a place of amusement on St. John's-hill, appropriately entitled the New Grand...
...Mr Ernest A. E. Woodrow, the architect (Shown Right), has made a simple anti free design in Renaissance style, executed in red brick and stone, and having for its central feature a group of entrances to the vestibule. On either side of this central arrangement two projecting turrets rear their heads some 80ft. above the pavement. In entering the building one passes beneath a handsome wrought-iron and glass canopy; and thence, through one of the arched entrances, a spacious vestibule is reached with its marble steps, mosaic floor, and decorated walls and ceiling. On the right is the staircase to the circle; and a door on this side opens into the corridor leading to the fauteuils. Immediately facing the entrances are the doors to the pit stalls and pit.
On entering the pit, one is struck with the rake of the floor, which affords a good view from any point, Extensive seating is provided on the circle and gallery levels; and an uninterrupted view may be had in all the rows from the absence of pillars. The interior is decorated in cream and gold; and the upholstery is of a crimson hue, the effect being very striking. Electric fans and a sliding-roof will contribute to keep the air within the building pure. The stage is a fully equipped one, a double asbestos and iron curtain separating it from the auditorium. An elegant railing in polished brass is a conspicuous feature of the orchestra accommodation. The electric illumination of the hall will be produced by the company's own plant. The holding capacity is estimated at about 3,000.
The builder is Mr C. Gray Hill. Mr Francis H. Bull has designed and painted an attractive drop (Shown Below M.L.), being also responsible for some pretty and effective scenery. The whole of the seating, upholstery, draperies and curtains, the draperies and proscenium border, which are of a very handsome design of ruby plush, with applique; of gold satin and fringe to correspond, are by Messrs H. Lazarus and Son...
Above - An early image of the auditorium, proscenium, and stage of the Grand Theatre, Clapham showing the Theatre's original 'Willow Pattern Plate' Act Drop - Courtesy David Garratt.
...The inhabitants of Clapham-junction are to be congratulated on their handsome and up-to-date theatre of varieties; and if Mr J. Sparrow (Shown Right), seconded by Mr Arthur Yates, provide as excellent an entertainment as was their custom at the old hall, the success of the Grand is assured, and it will doubtless secure a large measure of prosperity and renown.
On Monday last, the opening night, a large concourse of people collected, a goodly number of whom were unable to gain admittance, while inside the building was crowded from floor to ceiling. On the rise of the curtain, the directors and others connected with the company which owns the hall were disclosed and Mr Leo Stormont and Miss Alexandra Dagmar, stepping on, sung the National Anthem in good style and voice. It was heartily joined in by the audience.
Mr Dan Leno (Shown Left) then made a quaint speech, in which he said he came with the intention of opening the hall, but, arriving rather late, found it already open. He then spoke of the position of the music hall artiste some fifteen years ago, remarking that now it was possible for a man to bring his wife to the music hall and know the performance would be all it should be. After congratulating the residents at Clapham-junction on having such a magnificent palace of varieties, he went on to say that those who controlled the hall would do all they could to provide an even better entertainment than that given at the late hall, as the accommodation was larger.
Mr Herbert Campbell made a few suitable remarks, finishing by asking the audience if the acoustic properties of the building were good, if the line of sight was alright, and if they could see in every part of the house, and was answered by loud cries of "Yes" and cheers.
The privilege of being the first artist to appear at the New Grand fell to Mr Ben Albert, who rendered three songs in comic style, one with a refrain, "Oh, it is grateful and comforting," a parody on "There is beauty all around," and a song of rhymes. All Mr Albert's selections, which caused much laughter, were well received. Mr Franco Piper, who followed, is a banjo player of considerable dexterity. His imitations of church bells were excellent. Those mirth-provoking and really comical artistes, Foreman and Fannan, can always procure a good hearing, and although their entertainment does not change much, they can invariably be seen and enjoyed. The patrons of the New Grand evidently liked them, judging by the reception accorded to "Percy and Harold" on Monday. They are extremely funny in a duet, smartly written, entitled "What a man thought." Miss Alexandra Dagmar scored heavily. She has a particularly pleasing voice, and in the selection from El Capitan is heard to advantage. Her high notes are exceedingly clear. Her rendering of "Killarney" was good, and she received quite an ovation for her effort. A turn of a totally different nature was that of the Zaro troupe of lady and gentleman acrobats. The chief lady exhibits an enormous amount of strength, and these artistes do some really clever feats. Berzac's Circus, composed of a performing mule and ponies, is excellent. Mons. Berzac has trained his animals well, and much amusement is caused by some boys endeavouring to ride the donkey - an altogether impossible task. There is a revolving table which the ponies can stand on, but which throws the boys in all directions when they try. If anyone is ever successful in earning the prizes offered by Mons. Berzac for riding the donkey or standing on the table he will well deserve them. Miss Kate Carney is a general favourite, and especially so at Clapham-junction. Her reception was most hearty. She sang "the twopenny tube," a song about an absent-minded beggar, with a chorus, "But, oh, the beggar! and a sentimental ditty, "Are we to part like this," the refrains of which were loudly taken up by the audience. Miss Constance Maxon was distinctly amusing in a District Messenger boy ditty, another in which she imitated a doll saying "papa" and "mamma," and a boy crying and laughing. She finished her turn with mimicry of Chirgwin and his singing of "The Blind Boy."
Mr J. Sparrow then announced that, although he did not expect to have to make a speech, he had to say that as one of the Brothers Horne was ill, he had secured Mr Harry Pleon as a substitute. The latter gentleman is an excellent comedian. His rendering of "Down the Strand" is "enough to make a cat laugh." Mr Harry Pleon's imitation of the way in which Messrs R. G. Knowles and Dan Leno might recite "The Absent-Minded Beggar" is very well done, the latter especially so. Some smart juggling was given by Jehan Bedini and Little Arthur, a clever and entertaining pair. Mr Arthur Rigby was in splendid form, and rendered in a diverting manner "I'm a plumber " and "How to manage a husband." The entertainment was concluded by Mr Fred Karno's troupe of comedians in that mirthful and comical sketch The New Woman's Club.
Right - A Poster for the Clapham Grand for the week of October 13th 1947, during Nat Tennens' Management, who ran the Grand between 1946 and 1949.
The foregoing has been the programme at the Grand during the current week. Amongst the many well-known people present at the opening function were:- Mr and Mrs Dan Leno, Miss Georgina Leno, Master Herbert Leno, Mr and Mrs Herbert Campbell, Mr and Mrs Fred Williams, Mr and Mrs Henry Joyner, Mr and Mrs T. G. Hales, Miss Hales, Mr and Mrs Arthur Magnus (Liverpool), Mr John Parker (Nottingham), Charles Temperley, W. Howard Smith, A. E. Golding, Henry Comfort, Edward Munk, G. E. S. Venner, Miss Fortesque, Harry Lundy, Fred Holden, W. Ancliffe, Tom Rice, Mrs Harry Randall, Miss Lulu Randall, Mr and Mrs Grimsdall, Miss Dora Clifford, Mr and Mrs Adelaward, Miss Flo Chapman, Miss Kitty Beresford, Mr Lawrence Barclay, and Mr Henri Cazman.'
Above - The Grand, Clapham Junction in 2005 - Photo Courtesy Alan Garner & Richard Milsom.
The Grand Theatre opened on Monday the 26th of November 1900 with a Music Hall production featuring many of the best known artistes of the day, see review above, and went on to have a successful career as a Music Hall and Variety Theatre for the next 40 years. However, in 1930 the Theatre was fitted up for cinema use and although it still provided variety productions it would later go on to full time Cinema as the renamed Essoldo Cinema. The projection room was constructed behind the screen and the films had to be laced emulsion forwards, the sound head being modified to get the sound to function, the projectors at that time were Kallee 8s.
Right - A Programme for the Clapham Grand on October 6th 1947, during Nat Tennens' Management, who ran the Grand between 1946 and 1949.
The Theatre was converted for bingo use in 1972 and run by Mecca Bingo. In 1991 the building was partly restored and altered for live music concerts but this was mostly unsuccessful. In the late 90s the pub chain Whetherspoons bought the Theatre hoping to convert it into a pub but The Theatres Trust, English Heritage and Wandsworth Council all felt that the interior would be damaged and the project was scrapped. You can read about this successful appeal against pub conversion form the website of The Institute of Historic Building Conversion here. Today the Theatre is being used as a Nightclub and Concert Venue, still retaining The Grand name.
Above - The Auditorium of the Grand, Clapham in 1992 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.
The remarkable thing about the Grand is that despite its history and various uses throughout the years, and even its current incarnation, the Theatre is still in a pretty good state, has much of its original decoration, most of its structure remains intact, and it could be readily converted back into a live Theatre if the inclination and funds were present. The Clapham Grand is today a Grade II listed Building. There is more on the Clapham Grand below.
You may like to visit the Clapham Grand's own Website here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
was very interested in the Grand Clapham. During the mid 1940s I knew
this Theatre very well, and was friendly with the Stage Manager Ernie
The Theatre was extremely well run at this date. The Lessee Mrs George Barclay, wife of the one time agent George Barclay, was better known as the Music Hall star Kate Carney.
Above - A Variety Programme for the Grand, Clapham in 1945 - Courtesy Alan Chudley.
Above - The Grand, Clapham Junction in 2005 - Photo Courtesy Alan Garner & Richard Milsom.
A visitor to the site, Tony Rogers, has sent along some interesting memories of his time at the Clapham Grand when he was Chief Projectionist there in the late 1950s:- 'Reading your article about the Grand Clapham Junction brought back many fond memories as I was the Chief Projectionist at the Grand (Essoldo) between 1956 and 1958. It was used as the shop window to demonstrate the new "Essoldomatic" automatic projection system so the projection room had to be kept spotless at all times.
The Manager at that time was Terry Cooke and was indeed a personal friend of the late Anthony Newley who often visited the theatre. Terry Cook had been a POW in Germany during the war and would tell some great stories of his time spent in captivity. After the war he got into theatre management and before coming to the Grand had managed a large theatre in Harrogate. The managers office at the Grand was very lush, it even had its own washing and changing room.
I remember Terry Cook showing me some old tickets and sales books from the Theatre's early days with Dan Leno and even Charlie Chaplin.
Right - The Projection Room at the Grand / Essoldo in the late 1950s - Courtesy Tony Rogers.
The Projection room at the Grand was in the old Lime (Spotlight) room way up above the upper circle. We had to carry the film transit cases up numerous flights of stairs (we must have been very fit then) and we were equipped with Two Kalee model 21s projectors, President Arc lamps and Duosonic sound system. This in 1956 was state of the art. The grand was chosen by Sol Sheckman (Essoldo) to promote the Essoldomatic Projection system. They were trying to sell this to other cinema chains, and eventually did in 1958 when it was sold to the Rank organisation and re-named Projectormatic. We were still using twenty minute reels of film in those days and this gadget would auto change-over reels, close the screen curtains Etc. The projection room being so high up and away from living beings meant that we could only see the stage and screen from the projection ports, this meant we had no idea if we had an audience of 20 or 2000.
I well remember showing some big blockbusters during my time there. "Oklahoma", "The King and I", "High Society" were just a few that come to mind. The upper circle had no seats but was often used by policemen who should have been on the beat but decided going to the pictures was much more to their liking. In 1958 I was moved on to run two cinemas in Hertfordshire, sadly I said my farewell to the Grand, and then in a few years it was to become a Bingo Hall. I was delighted to learn that it became a listed building, and long may it prosper in whatever form it is used for.' Text and image kindly sent in by Tony Rogers.
Later - The Grand Hall of Varieties / The Imperial Picture Theatre
Above - An early photograph of Munt's Bro's Pianos and the Entrance to Munt's Hall - Courtesy The Munt Family Archive
The Imperial Picture Theatre which some people may still remember today was situated on St. John's Hill in Clapham Junction and first opened as such in 1914. However, the building was first constructed as a Concert Hall called Munt's Hall which was opened by the Lord Mayor of London with a fine art exhibition in 1878.
Above - The opening of Munt's Hall in 1878 - Courtesy The Munt Family Archive
Munt's Hall was situated behind the Munt's Brother's Piano Showroom and Head Office but had an entrance beside it on St. John's Hill. The Munt family also owned their own Piano Factory in Eltringham Street, Battersea which was Managed by William Munt, but sales were operated from the Showroom on St. John's Hill. They sold pianos, sheet music, violins and other orchestral instruments.
Right - A Map showing the location of Munt's Hall, Clapham Junction and Munt's Brothers Pianos - Courtesy The Munt Family Archive. The Hall was situated behind the Munt's Bro's Building.
Munt's Hall was later renamed the Grand Hall of Varieties when a consortium led by the well loved Music Hall artistes Dan Leno, Herbert Campbell, Harry Randall, and Fred Williams, took over the building to see if their idea of a larger Theatre in the area was viable.
Above - A photograph of Munt's Bro's Pianos and the Entrance to the now renamed Grand Hall, Clapham Junction - Courtesy The Munt Family Archive.
Above - An early photograph of the interior of Munt's Hall - Courtesy The Munt Family Archive
Above - An early photograph of the interior and Stage of Munt's Hall - Courtesy The Munt Family Archive
Above - An early photograph of the 'Sitting-Out Room' of Munt's Hall - Courtesy The Munt Family Archive
As it turned out the Grand Hall of Varieties was very successful but when the Hall's Lease eventually expired, and was not able to be renewed because of new fire regulations, the Consortium had to look elsewhere to continue their operations. Edward Munt then sold them a large plot of land he owned at the corner of Severus Road, a few yards further up St. Johns Hill, and the Consortium, by then managed by Charlie Sparrow, set about commissioning A. E. Woodrow to build the new Grand, Clapham Junction, which opened in 1900 and is still standing today. This was to be the Consortium's last venture in Theatre building as the Syndicates were soon to become all too powerful for the smaller players in Theatre building, more details on this below.
The original Hall was then closed up and remained empty for many years but was eventually refurbished in 1909 with a new sprung Birds Eye Maple floor and used for private Balls and Amateur Dramatics under the management of Edward Munt until 1910. The Hall had a capacity of 750 and a Mr. Munday was its 'Keeper' during this period.
In December 1909 the nearby Arding & Hobbs building caught fire and was totally destroyed, eight members of staff died in the fire along with several firemen. Henry Arding said at the time that it looked to be the end of their store in Clapham Junction. However, in March 1911 Edward Munt came to the rescue when he sold his Piano showroom and offices to Henry Arding who rebuilt their store in the old Munt's Buildings, and Arding returned the favour by leasing a property they owned at 15 to 17 St. John's Road to the Munts where they reestablished their Piano Showrooms.
Right - A Ticket for a Grand Evening Concert' at Munt's Hall for a Benefit for the Widow and Children of A. E. Stewart, on August the 10th 1892 - Courtesy The Munt Family Archive.
The sale of the Munt's Building to Arding & Hobbs didn't include the old Munt's Hall however, and in 1914 the Hall was converted into a Cinema called The Imperial Picture Theatre, see details below. There is also more information on Munt's Hall and its famous Consortium period below.
Some of the above information on Munt's Hall was gleaned from the Diaries and Memoirs of Edward John Munt. The text and many of its accompanying photographs, were very kindly sent in by Malcolm Munt, great grandson of Edward Munt, and are courtesy the Munt Family Archive.
From 'Harry Randall, Old Time Comedian' 1930
It was about this time that Leno, Campbell and myself conceived the idea of going into music-hall management. Fred Williams joined us, and our first enterprise was the taking over of a place called Muntz Hall (sic), just by Clapham Junction. We formed a small company, and Jesse Sparrow, who had gained considerable experience, with the Saturday night concerts at The Town Hall, Shoreditch, was made manager. I took on the secretaryship for a short time till we engaged a Mr Venner. We renamed the place "The Grand Hall, Clapham."
It was a small hall holding about six or seven hundred people. We gave it a great send off by the entire Board appearing the first week. I may remark, however, that we didn't draw our usual salaries! We prospered very well the first year and paid a dividend. Then we got more adventurous. We leased a hall at Croydon and named it "The Empire"; it belonged to a man known as "Spangle" Hales, who had a shop in Bow Street where they sold all sorts of tinsels, theatrical jewellery, and spangles.
In his spare time he embraced many other callings. He once ran (many years ago) a "Clown Cricketers Team". At the Drury Lane Theatre he was the super master; he was also the gentleman who supplied all the horses and ponies for theatrical shows. He was decidedly illiterate, but he had a wonderful faculty of "getting the dibs". He earned a nickname in a certain dressing room at the "Lane" where they used to play poker. On one occasion he was asked to show his "hand" and on putting his cards down said: "Haces and heights!" He was known for a long time after as Haces and Heights. This gentleman joined the Board when we turned the above mentioned hall into a company.
Then we aspired further. We bought a piece of ground at Walham Green, formed a company and built "The Granville". Our architect, who took a friendly interest in us, was the celebrated theatre designer, Frank Matcham, who built the Coliseum and the Hippodrome. The last-named, of course, was originally a circus, where the whole of the "ring" could be lowered and filled with water for water carnivals and other aquatic spectacles. The interior of this little theatre was entirely decorated with faience-work carried out by Doultons. It was the first to be decorated in this way, which possessed a double advantage: it was easily washed down and always looked fresh.
Then we went a bit further and built the Palace, Camberwell. Not being satisfied with this, we built a large music-hall near The Grand, Clapham, and closed the small one. We were very proud of our little growing plants. Then our troubles began.
The managers and proprietors of all the big halls began to look askance at our little suburban successes, and decided between themselves that we were to be crushed. They made no bones about it; individually they told us so to our faces.
So they started their campaign. Every contract they made with an artist had a "barring" clause ruling us out, and though we had bookings ahead with prominent performers, the Syndicates got them to sign fresh contracts with the boycott clause inserted. Of course, the performer could hardly be blamed. Naturally he could not afford to fall out with so powerful a combination.
But the tactics of these managers became very questionable. Artists would religiously turn up for their engagements, only to be promptly injuncted. Not only did they act thusly, they so timed their injunction that it was not served till late on the Monday afternoon when all the bills were out and we were debarred from getting decent substitutes. We fought against it for a long time, but the attacking force was too powerful for us, and we slowly decayed.
The Palace, Camberwell, went into liquidation; Walter Gibbons took over The Grand, Clapham (at an arrangement), which was finally bought by his company. The only little monument left of our efforts is The Granville, Walham Green, which, I understand, is still doing fairly well. We lost a great deal of our own money - for which we had conscientiously backed our horses - but I am afraid we drew in a great many of our friends.' - An Extract from 'Harry Randall, Old Time Comedian' 1930 - Kindly sent in by Val Appleton, great niece by marriage of Harry Randall.
Formerly - Munt's Hall / The Grand Hall of Varieties
Above - A photograph of The Imperial Cinema, Clapham Junction - Courtesy The Munt Family Archive
The sale of the Munt's Building to Arding & Hobbs in March 1911 didn't include the old Munt's Hall, and in 1914 the Hall was converted into a Cinema called The Imperial Picture Theatre. The new Cinema had a capacity of 800 and opened with the film 'Moths.'
Right - A Programme for the Imperial Picture Theatre (Late Munt's Hall), Clapham Junction.
The Imperial Picture Theatre Programme (shown right and below) has the following details of the films which were shown that week: On August the 9th, 10th and 11th the programme consisted of 1. Pathe Gazette, 2. Mary Pickford in 'Behind the Scenes', 3. 'A Near Thing' Comedy, 4. 'Our Empire's Shield' The official Admiralty Pictures production showing how the ships ran the gauntlet in order to supply the nation with food, 5. 'Eastward Ho' From W. F. Raine's famous novel, 6. Selection by the Imperial Symphony Orchestra under the Direction of Mr. Julius Kantrovitch.
On August the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th the programme consisted of 1. Pathe Gazette, 2. 'A Mexican Trifle' a comedy featuring Winkle, 3. Charles Urban's 'Movie Chats', 4. 'South of Santa Fe,' a drama in two acts, 5. 'The Flag Lieutenant' by Major W. P. Drury and Leo Trevor. Adapted from Mr. Cyril Maude's great West End success, 6. Selection by the Imperial Symphony Orchestra.
In 1955 the Cinema was renamed when the Picture Theatre part of the name was dropped in favour of a new simpler Imperial. The Imperial closed in 1973 at the end of its run of showing the films 'Innocent Bystanders' and 'Crucible of Terror.' The Cinema was then renamed The Ruby with a smaller capacity of 450 but closed in 1981 whilst showing the film 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' And that was the end for the building as the Cinema was then demolished to make way for a branch of Barclays Bank.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Above - Details of a Film Programme at the Imperial Picture Theatre (Late Munt's Hall), Clapham Junction.
Above - An early postcard of the Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham Junction
The Shakespeare Theatre was built by Charles Gray Hill to the designs of the prolific Theatre Architect W. G. Sprague on a site next to the Battersea Town Hall (which is still standing today) on Lavender Hill, and was separated from it by Theatre Street.
The Theatre opened under the management of William Bennett on the 16th of November 1896 and was mainly used as a 'legitimate Theatre' showing drama and plays, but was also put into use as a Pantomime house at Christmas time.
Right - An early pantomime programme for the Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham Junction, for a production of 'Dick Whittington' at Christmas 1897/98. In the cast were Emmie Owen, Richard D'oyly Cart, Jeannie Macdonald, Arthur Alexander, Ernest Heathcote, Edwin Brett, Kathleen Raye, Burt Shepard, Nancy Mostyn, Ethel Bryant, Little Luna, William Green, The Sisters Sprightly, Kyota, The Levardos, George Graves, Joe Clark, George Windsor, Fred Collins, Richard Saker, Madeline Duval, Edith Cruikshanks, Edith Buckler, Grace Allingham, May Cartwright, and Olga Durhem.
Later owner / managers of the Shakespeare Theatre would be Henry Bennett in 1907, Frederic Baildon in 1912 Thomas Baxter in 1913, Josephe Clozenberg in 1914, and later Clavering, until it was taken over by UPT in 1928.
Ellen Terry, Lily Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt are all said to have performed here over the years.
The Shakespeare's Auditorium consisted of Stalls and Pit, Dress Circle, Balcony, and Gallery and had a capacity of 1,205 including boxes.
Above - The auditorium of the Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham Junction shortly before it was taken over by UPT in 1928
Above - The auditorium of the Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham Junction shortly before it was taken over by UPT in 1928
Above - The Battersea Town Hall and Shakespeare Theatre - From the 'Premier Photographic View Album of London' 1907
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Battersea Town Hall and site of the former Shakespeare Theatre - Click to Interact
The Shakespeare Theatre was eventually turned over to Cinema use in 1923 and, sadly, was later badly damaged by bombs during the Second World War, leaving only the facade intact.
Battersea Council later bought the bomb damaged site with a Compulsory Purchase Order and demolished the Theatre in 1957.
A modern office block called Shakespeare House now stands on the site.
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Above - Detail from an early postcard of the Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham Junction
Formerly - The Electric Palace / The Proposed Coliseum Cinema
The Clapham picture House opened on the 9th of December 1992 and was a conversion of the former Electric Palace which first opened on the 10th of July 1910. The original building, with its main entrance on Venn Street, was designed by Gilbert Booth with seating for nearly 1,000 people. A new entrance was later created on the High Street in 1916.
In 1913 the Cinema News and Property Gazette published an article on the Electric Palace in their January 8th edition saying:- 'Good pictures need good music is the opinion of Mr, Geo. W. Snazelle, the courteous and popular manager of the Electric Palace, Clapham Common, the resort of Clapham's elite. Situate facing the clock tower, the theatre is in itself a landmark of the district. Its proprietors have here adopted the same policy pursued by them in those other parts of the Metropolis adopted by Electric Palaces, Ltd.
They have not wasted money on outside embellishment, but have made the interior what every picture palace should be, an artistic sumptuous, and cosy place. Mr. Snazelle is himself a personage of importance, as I discovered, when in the course of conversation I learnt that he was a descendant of one of the leading members of the Carl Rosa Opera Company and is the grandson of the author of that famous recitation " How Bill Adams Won the Battle of Waterloo." He is in fact a worthy son of a worthy sire. He may be said to have made his debut into cinematography at the Ladbroke Hall, North Kensington, a by no means easy place to manage, consisting as it does of a trinity, a large hall used for whist drives, a cinema theatre, and a ballroom. From thence he went to the Electric Palace, Highgate, afterwards coming to Clapham, where he is highly esteemed by his patrons of all classes.
Amongst other information which Mr. Snazelle gave me was the significant remark that picture patrons are asking for more English films, a fact which I hope Messrs. Hepworth, Clarendon, Barker, and Cricks and Martin will note. He considers that the Essanay actor Gilbert Anderson (Bronco Bill)
is the greatest favourite amongst his audience and he also vouchsafed the opinion that William Santschi, Selig's curly headed actor, is the admiration of the gentler sex, whilst for Mr. Montague's special benefit that Clapham audiences have a great predilection for Selig films.
Mr. Snazelle did tremendous business whilst showing Gaumont's "Christmas Reunion," supplementing this fine film by the engagement of Miss Doris Slater the well-known soprano who rendered "Ora Pro Nobis" and "Nazareth ' during the time the artist in the picture was supposed to be singing. I remained during a performance and feeling duty bound to remark that whilst Mr. Snazelle remains in charge here, Electric Palaces, Ltd. have no need to fear competition.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the Cinema News and Property Gazette, January 8th 1913.
The Electric Place closed in 1918 when the owners went bankrupt. The building was then sold and the new owners began construction of a new Cinema called the Coliseum on the site. This was to be a huge Theatre with seating for nearly 3,000 people, but only the foyer and facade were ever completed.
The Building News and Engineering Journal of August the 13th 1919 reported on the new Coliseum Cinema, along with a drawing of the proposed building (shown right), saying:- 'This elevation shows a reconstruction scheme of the existing cinema adjoining the "Plough Inn," Clapham, for Mr. Wm. Williams, of Albany Mansions, 87, Charing Cross Road, who is also at the head of the syndicate for acquiring the Tivoli site in the Strand. The work will be executed in Bath or Ancaster stone. Messrs. North Robin, of 99, Regent Street, W.l, are the architects.' - The Building News and Engineering Journal August 13th 1919.
Right - A Drawing of the Proposed Coliseum Cinema, Clapham - From The Building News and Engineering Journal August 13th 1919.
The Electric Palace's auditorium survived behind this new facade and was then turned over to other uses including a snooker hall until it was purchased by City Screen Cinemas in 1990 and converted into the Clapham Picture House with three screens. A fourth screen was later added in 1998, along with a restaurant and bar, and this is the building still operating today.
Left - A Google StreetView Image of the Surviving Facade of the proposed Coliseum Cinema, now in use as a branch of Londis - Click to Interact.
You may like to visit the Clapham Picture House's own website here.
A visitor to the site recently sent along some interesting memories of the Grand and other places of entertainment in the Clapham Junction and Battersea area. You can read his personal reminiscences below:-
'In response to your article on The Grand - I was born in Clapham Junction in 1946, and lived there until 1967 when I married and moved from the area. In the 1950s, Clapham Junction was a great place to grow up in. The Granada Cinema stood at the top of St. Johns Hill and The Grand was situated on the right-hand side, going down towards Arding & Hobbs. It was always known as The Grand, even though the name had changed to The Essoldo Cinema. But even in the mid 1950s, I can remember my older sister taking me to see a Circus/Variety show there. As we queued up outside, I remember seeing an elephant being led up some steps through large double doors at the side-entrance in Severus Road.
Right - An Excerpt from a 1947 programme for the Clapham Grand whilst under Nat Tennens' Management.
The Manager of The Grand was always immaculately dressed. I can still visualise him standing in the foyer as we queued up to go in; a black dress suit with velvet lapels, white shirt and black bow tie. I believe he was a friend of Anthony Newley. Before Anthony Newley became a big star he was often seen talking with the manager at The Grand, and interestingly, the film that made him a star, Idol on Parade, was premiered at The Granada, Clapham Junction. Incidentally, when The Grand opened in 1900 it was originally called The New Grand. The New Grand was mainly financed by Dan Leno, the Music Hall star, who lived nearby in Clapham Park. Artistes who subsequently appeared at The Grand, included Marie Lloyd, Little Tich and Harry Tate.
A little further down St. Johns Hill on the same side, stood The Imperial Cinema, later known as The Ruby. This was much smaller in size than The Grand. The whole building was demolished about 30 years ago, and the present site is now occupied by a new Barclays Bank. The Imperial Cinema in St. Johns Hill originally opened as the Grand Hall of Varieties in 1894, but because of the competition from The Grand which opened in 1900, it was rarely used and was converted to a cinema in 1914 with 800 seats.
Turning right at the bottom, takes you along St. Johns Road and into Northcote Road. Just past the traffic lights on the left-hand side stood The Century Cinema, formerly known as The Globe. I can vividly recall being taken there in 1953 with a party from my school, Belleville Junior Boys, to see a film of Edmund Hillary conquering Everest.
Left - The Grand, Clapham Junction in 2005 - Photo Courtesy Alan Garner & Richard Milsom.
I believe it was demolished later in the 60s or 70s in favour of a supermarket. The Century Cinema originally opened as The Bio Picture Palace in 1908, converted from a former assembly room. It changed to The Standard Electric Theatre in 1912, then The Bolingbroke Picture Hall, The Globe, and lastly The Century.
Going straight on at the bottom of St. John's Hill, takes you into Lavender Hill. About 200yds up on the left-hand side is an Asda supermarket. On this site in the mid 1950's stood the remains of the Pavilion Cinema which opened in 1916 and was destroyed by a V1 flying bomb in 1944. As a boy my friends and I used to play amongst the debris.
I would point out that there is a popular misconception about Clapham Junction. When the railway station opened in 1863, it was called Clapham Junction because of the criminal reputation of the Battersea area. It was thought that by calling it Clapham it would give the station a more acceptable image. Clapham Junction is in fact in the heart of Battersea. Clapham lies further south. How times change. When I grew up there, Battersea was a working-class area. Its now a very up-market place the home of the rich and famous. Also, according to my memory, The Grand was never known as The Clapham Grand. It was just called The Grand (Clapham Junction, Battersea)
A little further along Lavender Hill on the same side of the road, stood The Shakespeare Theatre which was also badly bomb damaged during World War II. It stood to the left of the still existing Battersea Town Hall, separated by Theatre Street. It is still called Theatre street, and the current site of The Shakespeare is now occupied by a modern office block called Shakespeare House. It originally opened in 1896 mainly as a dramatic theatre. Ellen Terry, Lily Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt performed there, amongst others. It was eventually converted to a cinema in 1923. After the war, Battersea Council bought the bomb damaged site and demolished it in 1957.
Right - An Excerpt from a 1947 programme for the Clapham Grand whilst under the Nat Tennens' Management.
The Washington Music Hall in York Road originally opened as The Royal Standard. It had nine name changes between 1886 and 1917, including The Washington Music Hall and The Palace of Varieties. It opened as a cinema in 1924 and was called The Super Palace.'
The above text was kindly sent in by Alan Garner with some factual details gleaned from Battersea Past by Patrick Loobey.
Some of the archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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