The Coronet Theatre, 103 - 111 Notting Hill Gate, London
Also known as the Coronet Cinema / Gaumont Cinema
Above - The Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate in 1904 - From a postcard.
The Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill Gate, London was built by Walter Wallis to the designs of the well known Theatre architect W.G.R. Sprague at a cost of £25,000 and opened under the management of Edward George Saunders on the 28th of November 1898 with a production of the popular Japanese opera 'The Geisha' by the Morell and Mouillot's company.
Right - The Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate from a Sketch in 'The Builder' of 1898
The auditorium, which is still pretty much in its original condition except for its missing box fronts, was built on three levels with two balconies and a capacity of 1,143, which consisted of 93 in the Stalls, 350 in the Pit, 120 in the Dress Circle, 415 in the Gallery, and 40 in the Boxes. The stage was 65 foot wide by 40 foot deep.
The Theatre's Furniture and Decorations were supplied and executed by Messrs Waring and Gallow. The paintings on the Ceiling and Proscenium, and the original 'Act Drop' for the Theatre, based on the famous tapestry entitled "La Barque de Venus" were created by Mr. Arthur J. Black.
Of a truth the new Coronet Theatre well becomes Kensington, the suburb of all others in which art is really fostered: and of the newest addition to the dramatic houses that are springing up in all parts of this great metropolis of ours we might well say with Milton: - "Built like a temple, where pilasters round were set, and Doric pillars overlaid with golden architecture."
Theatrical architecture in the past has too been sacrificed to the utilitarian spirit that affected syndicates and boards of directors; and we have had to put up with storied stucco and pretentious and shabbily ornamented brick fronts. Now however, a change has come over the spirit of the age. We have long left behind the period spoken of by Charles Sprague when he wrote "Lo, where the stage, the poor, degraded stage, holds its warped mirror to a gaping age," and entrepreneurs like Mr E. G. Saunders take little thought of economy where the legacy of the drama is concerned, and it has been his aim to set an example in theatre building which may be worthily followed.
It is more than difficult to give a description that will convey a true idea of the classic outlines and elevation of a theatre of which the whole County of London may well be proud. It is designed in the pure Italian Renaissance style of architecture and is built entirely in white stone. To come, however, to details. The principle facade rears its stately columns in High-street, close to the Metropolitan District station of Notting Hill Gate, and the chief entrance is at the junction of the thoroughfare with Johnson-street. Mr W. G. Sprague, whose reputation for theatre-designing has long since been firmly established by other beautiful buildings, has been particularly happy in his treatment of what may be called the corner of the edifice. It is rounded, and above the entrance doors is a graceful circular arch, of which the spandrils have foliated decoration. This arch carries the eye to a domed tower (accessible from the gallery stairs), surmounted by a cupola on the octagon terminal of which is to be seen a figure of Mercury, which is exactly 80ft, from the ground.
The High-street and Johnson-street elevations are divided into triangular arches, the pediments of which are ornamented with richly carved designs, in which may be seen a coronet. The frieze of the building is decorated with fruit and flowers. The injurious action of the London atmosphere on a stone building is only too well known, and to prevent the erosion so commonly seen on many of our buildings, the whole of the exterior has been covered with two coats of fluet - a French composition that renders the stone impervious to dirt. This preservative becomes very hard, and can practically be washed like the best varnish, so that the proprietors of the Coronet Theatre need never endure the reproach becoming a theatre with a drowsy aspect.
Above - A programme for the Comic Opera 'Chilperic' at the Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate at the time the Theatre was still under its original management of Mr. E. G. Saunders in March 1903.
One enters the house through walnut half guilded doors into a handsome vestibule with walnut augments. The auditorium is built entirely of concrete and steel, and is absolutely without supporting columns, the cantilever principle being wisely adopted. The first tier includes dress-circle (with many seats) and balcony, and a cosy box each side is a special feature. The graceful curve of this part of the house is ornamented with fibrous plaster ornaments, in which may be distinguished Cupids holding coronets, and with the elctroliery forms a softened light. The form of the ground floor is made pronounced by a rake, and there is no seat of any part from which the stage is not visible. The same is true of the dress-circle and balcony, of which corresponds to the pit and stalls, and the gallery will be a boon in addressing those same supporters of theatres - the gods - being given every consideration and convenience. (Please note that the above paragraph was very hard to read from the original newsprint so may not be completely accurately transcribed. M.L.)
The scheme of decoration is a harmony of gold and a striking feature is the handsome decorated columns that rise each side of the boxes near the proscenium, of which there are eight, all of them exceedingly convenient and differing in size, their construction being novel and picturesque.
The ground floor is divided into orchestra stalls, pit stalls, and pit, and the second tier is mostly taken up with a spacious gallery that will seat over 800 persons, though there are three rows reserved for amphitheatre patrons. The centre of the ceiling is raised in the form of an ellipse, to which the artistic brush of Mr Arthur J. Black has given a dainty prettiness. He has chosen for his subject the seasons, chastely represented by female figures. Gentle spring, in a pale green vestment, is seen scattering purple and yellow blooms; summer, in a crimson and green robe, is surrounded by a profusion of roses; autumn, in sober garments, is wreathed with golden corn; and winter is clothed in white and grey. Again is the pleasing fancy of the artist exhibited in the filling-in of the tympanium over the richly embellished proscenium. The subject is Mirth. Bacchanals, wreathed with flowers are seen dancing to the piping of Euterpe, who is seated. The act-drop is another clever bit of work by the same artist. It is really an adaptation in oils of an old piece of Farrarese tapestry, and is entitled "La Barque de Venus." The vessel is shaped like an ancient Roman galley such as might have been seen at Actium, its prow being lapped possibly by the wavelets of the Aegean sea. The goddess is seated beneath a bower of Cupids fishing. The collouring of the picture is much enhanced by the figures of flamingoes preening their plumage on the shore.
Above - A programme for 'Sapho' at the Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate at the time the Theatre was still under its original management of Mr. E. G. Saunders in June 1903.
The Louis Quinze style of decoration is carried out in the refreshment saloons. Of these the principle is on the dress-circle floor, and here again will be seen Mr Black's artistic handiwork in two circular panels, which form the chief decorative feature of the ceiling. One represents "Dawn robbing the day," a harmony in gold and blue; and the other, in soberer hues, depicts "Evening unrobing the night."
The stage has been designed and constructed by Mr Cawdrey, who has introduced every possible mechanical appliance. It is 40ft deep and 75ft wide. The frontages in Uxbridge-street and High-street are 120ft, and the facade in Johnson-street is 70ft in length. The builder is Mr Walter Wallis, and the decorations and furnishings have been carried out by the well-known firm of Warings, who have supplied the rich gold silk tableau curtains.
The comfort of the artistes has been considered by the fitting and furnishing of the twelve dressing-rooms. With the exception of a gas sun-burner, the front of the house is entirely illuminated by electricity, and the same medium will doubtless be further utilised eventually behind the scenes. The heating of the house comes from low pressure radiators installed by Strode and Co.; and for the electric lighting Messrs Sax Slatter and Co. are responsible. The onerous and important post of clerk of the works has been ably filled by Mr F. Thomas. The managing-director of the enterprise is Mr E. G. Saunders, and the manager of the theatre is Mr Richard Mansell, who has lately been filling a similar position at the Broadway Theatre, New Cross. The orchestral conductor is Mr Victor Hollander, under whose direction a capital band played some highly appreciated selections at the private view.
Above - A programme for 'La Seconde Mme. Tanqueray' at the Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate at the time the Theatre was still under its original management of Mr. E. G. Saunders in June 1903.
Everyone concerned with the enterprise is entitled to the heartiest congratulations, and compliments were showered on Mr E. G. Saunders and his coadjutors by the large number of guests on Thursday afternoon, when London's latest suburban theatre evoked a chorus of admiration. The theatre opens on Monday with a representation of the popular Japanese opera The Geisha by Messrs Morell and Mouillot's company.
Among the well-known people present we noticed Messrs C. J. Abud, Hayden Coffin, Isaac Cohen, Willie Clarkson, Edward Ledger, Henry Dundas, Edwin Barwick, Austin Fryers, Henry Sutton, J. M. East, W. Bailey, Miss Jenny Lee, Mr and Mrs John Donald, Messrs Rothsay, Fredericks, Pulling, D. S. Davis, James Manders, Harry Monkhouse, Vernon Dowsett, Alfred Calmour.
The Coronet, despite its famous architect and its position close to central London, only operated as a full time Theatre for 18 years before Cinema use began to take over, and by 1923 it was altered to full time Cinema by the addition of a projection room in the former Dress Circle Bar, and a screen fitted forward of the proscenium arch. The Theatre's capacity was reduced at this time to 1,010.
Right - A programme giving details of a repertory season at the Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate, by Miss Horniman commencing on the 10th of June 1912. This saw the performance of six different plays in six days. This is quite a remarkable repertory for such a small Theatre and must have involved an enormous amount of work on behalf of both the cast and crew of the Theatre. On Matinee days two different plays would be performed meaning that the sets must have been quite simple, however storage must still have been something of a major headache.
1930 saw Gaumont Provincial Cinematography Theatres taking over the building. They closed the Gallery level and removed the box fronts, covering them over with flat panels, so reducing the capacity of the Theatre to just 515.
In 1950 the Theatre was renamed the Gaumont Cinema.
Left - A film programme for the Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate for the month of September 1924. Films showing that month were 'Straws in the Wind', Call of the Canyon', Daddy's Boy', 'The Fools Awakening', Bluebeard's Eighth Wife', 'Tons of Money', Southern Love', 'Lawful Larceny', and Scaramouche'.
In 1972 the then owners of the Coronet, the Rank Organisastion, decided to sell the building for demolition and regeneration of the site with offices and shops but thankfully the local Council, after a sustained campaign by local residents to save the building, made the site a conservation area, so halting the plans.
Rank subsequently refurbished the Theatre instead but in 1977 they sold it to Panton Films, an independent Cinema operator, and the Theatre reverted to its former, and original, name; the Coronet.
Above - A film programme for the Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate for the month of September 1924. Films showing that month were 'Straws in the Wind', Call of the Canyon', Daddy's Boy', 'The Fools Awakening', Bluebeard's Eighth Wife', 'Tons of Money', Southern Love', 'Lawful Larceny', and Scaramouche'.
Above - The Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate in 2002 - Photos M.L.
In 1993 permission was given for a small cinema to built within the former stage of the Theatre but with the proviso that the stage could be reinstated should the Theatre ever be restored to its former use.
In 2004 the Theatre, which was by now Grade II Listed, was bought by The Kensington Temple, and although it was feared that the building might be converted into a church, this has not happened and the owners have instead retained its Cinema use, and indeed even improved its facilities.
Right - A coloured reissue of the 1904 Coronet Theatre Postcard shown higher up on this page.
The Coronet is still in use as a Cinema but is readily convertible back to Theatrical use should the funds and the inclination appear.
You may like to visit the website of the Coronet Cinema here.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.