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The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

Dundee Music Hall & Opera House, Shore Street at Exchange Street, Dundee

Formerly - The Exchange Building / The Excelsior Theatre - Later The Masonic Temple / The Shore Youth Venue

Dundee Theatres

A Google StreetView Image of the Dundee Exchange today, which formerly housed the Music Hall & Opera House - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Dundee Exchange today, which formerly housed the Music Hall & Opera House - Click to Interact.

Dundee`s Exchange in 1888, as the Excelsior Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The Dundee Music Hall (& Opera House) started in the 1860s in a new Exchange Building which the merchants of the original Exchange Coffee House - within the Trades Hall – had commissioned architect George Smith, of Glasgow and Edinburgh, to design. The new Dundee Exchange opened in 1828, in Shore Street at Exchange Street. It was principally a library, reading room and exchange, above shops at ground level. Some thirty years later the merchants moved yet again, this time to the Royal Exchange in Panmure Street, designed by David Bryce of Edinburgh, and opening in 1856.

Right - Dundee`s Exchange in 1888, as the Excelsior Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The Dundee Exchange in Shore Street was sold in the late 1850s to the newly-formed Dundee Grocers` Benevolent Society who refurbished the property and installed a fine sprung floor in the hall above the shops. It was used for meetings, lectures, balls, concerts, and entertainments, including the Henry Nicholls` Entertainments who gave plays and readings season after season. In 1866 it was leased to the Macleod Brothers, waxwork and music hall operators in Aberdeen and Dundee led by JC Macleod, who opened as the Dundee Music Hall on 18th September 1866, complete with boxes and balcony:-

“The hall has been redecorated and a roomy and elegant gallery fitted up. Seven dazzling gasoliers suspended from the roof give the hall a most brilliant appearance.”

The following year, 1867, the lease was obtained by William McFarland at the invitation of the Grocers Society, and he moved out of the wooden Alhambra which had been declared dangerous. He promoted the venue as the Dundee Music Hall, later adding the words “and Opera House” - “at the foot of Castle Street, near the Royal Arch.” McFarland presented quality variety, drama, pantomime and some opera, managing the building with efficiency. Prices were as follows:-

Dundee Music Hall strongman Donald Dinnie - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Boxes 1s, Balcony 9d, Body of Hall 6d, Back Seats 6d. While at the foot of playbills were added the words “No shouting, Whistling or Smoking allowed; offenders expelled, and no Money returned; Police in attendance.”

He toured North America for a time in 1872 managing Donald Dinnie and James Fleming, the legendary Highland Games strongmen, at outside venues and in theatres.

Left - Dundee Music Hall strongman Donald Dinnie - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

An 1872 colourful playbill of Dundee Music Hall & Opera House operated by William McFarland can be seen here.

An 1874 playbill of Dundee Music Hall & Opera House operated by William McFarland can be seen here.

An 1880s playbill of the Dundee Music Hall operated by William McFarland can be seen here.

After 1885 when McFarland expanded again and took over the new Her Majesty`s Theatre (and concentrated his variety programmes at the Theatre Royal) the music hall was leased – in 1888 - to John Young who renamed it the Excelsior. He ran it for a year and was required by his licence to charge entry at no less than 2d, but he was reported on occasion as charging 1d for Children`s Saturday matinees. Young went on to open the new Alhambra, and then the Tivoli.

In 1889 the building was altered and decorated in Pompeian style becoming the City Assembly Rooms, with the building cleared of the stage, balcony, gallery and boxes. It later became a Masonic Temple, followed by commercial use, and is now the Shore Youth venue.

The above information on the Dundee Music Hall & Opera House was written for this site by Graeme Smith in February 2013.

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

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