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The Grand Theatre, Iona and Buchanan Street, Leith Walk, Edinburgh (Unbuilt) - And The Grand Theatre, St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh

Formerly - The Tivoli Theatre / Later - The Grand Picture House

Edinburgh Index

The proposed but never built Grand Theatre, Leith Walk - From the ERA, 25th of March 1889.

Above - The proposed but never built Grand Theatre, near Leith Walk, Edinburgh - From the ERA, 25th of March 1899.

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Notice announcing that the new Grand Theatre will be built in Leith Walk, Edinburgh - From The ERA December 1889.The Grand Theatre was originally proposed to have been built at the corner of Iona and Buchanan Streets, close to Leith Walk, Edinburgh. The Theatre was designed for Weldon Watts by the architects Hope & Maxwell, and was advertised as to be 'constructed forthwith' for many months during 1899. However, the Theatre was never built in the end and Weldon Watts instead opened a new Theatre called the Tivoli Theatre in St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh the following year, more on this below.

Right - A Notice announcing that the new Grand Theatre will be built in Leith Walk, Edinburgh - From The ERA December 1899.

The ERA reported on the proposed Leith Walk area Grand Theatre, along with the sketch shown above, in their 25th of March 1899 edition saying:- 'Mr Weldon Watts is having this theatre built on a fine corner site at the junction of Iona and Buchanan-streets. The auditorium will have two tiers, circle and gallery, and there will be two special exits to each part of the house. All the entrances, except the circle entrance, will be on the queue system, so that the audience enter in single file past each pay-box without the use of dangerous barriers. All entrances are separate and distinct from the exits. The pit and gallery pay-hatch, both ordinary and early doors, as well as the circle pay-box, are so arranged that they open into, and have communication with, one general pay office, thus ensuring perfect supervision. From the entrance hall, the floor of which will be laid with mosaic, the grand marble stair will lead up to a foyer at the back of the circle. There will be large saloons to the pit, circle, stalls, and gallery. That to the circle will be a fine octagonal-shaped room with an island bar. A coffee-room is also provided, entered from the circle. Every convenience will be provided in the dressing-rooms for the artists. The building is to accommodate 3,000 people, and the dimensions are as follows:— From curtain line to back of pit, 70ft.; width of pit, 62ft. The stage will be 40ft from curtain-line to back wall and 62ft. wide, and arranged to take the largest pieces. The height from the stage to the gridiron will be 53ft.; height from stage to flies, 22ft.; and the distance between the flies 48ft. Externally the building is designed in a free Renaissance style of the Scotch type, and internally the decoration will be handsomely carried out in a similar style, and everything done to make an imposing interior, ensuring comfort and safety to an audience.' - The ERA, 25th March 1899.

As mentioned above however, the Grand Theatre was not constructed in the end and it's proposed owner, Weldon Watts, eventually opened a new Theatre in St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh instead the following year. The Tivoli Theatre opened as a Music Hall in November 1900 and would have a pretty short life. Weldon Watts died in October 1902 and the Tivoli then became the subject of a disagreement by its new owner, a Mr. Anderson, and the lease holder Tom Barrasford, culminating in its closure suddenly in February 1903.

A Postcard advertising the opening production at the Grand Theatre, Edinburgh in December 1904, 'Cinderella', an Eade Montefiore Pantomime.Following this it was eventually reopened by Eade Montefiore as the Grand Theatre on Saturday the 10th of December 1904 with a production of the Pantomime 'Cinderella' see image left, the Grand name would have been an irony for the late Weldon Watts who had originally proposed this name for his never built Theatre in Leith Walk in 1899.

Left - A Postcard advertising the opening production at the Grand Theatre, Edinburgh in December 1904, 'Cinderella', an Eade Montefiore Pantomime, with Miss May Marton as Cinderella, Miss Millie Engler as Prince Rupert, and Little Zola as Buttons. Caption Reads 'Buttons: "That's your little game! I'll call again tomorrow."

The Edinburgh Evening News reported on the opening of the Grand Theatre in their 10th of December 1904 edition saying:- 'The new theatre in St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh, which is to be known as the "Grand," opens its doors to the public to-night, when the pantomime "Cinderella" will be produced. The building is not new as a house of entertainment. It was formerly known as the "Tivoli," and was run on music-hall lines. The new management, however, intend that that character should be entirely a thing of the past. The "Grand' is to be a playhouse, and Mr Eade Montefiore, who has had large experience in the role of manager, starts with the determination to maintain the performance on a level that will appeal to the average class of theatregoer. The appointments of the theatre are in keeping with that laudable ambition.

Everything possible has been done to ensure the comfort of the audience, and Mr Montefiore, who is something of a connoisseur in art, has adorned the walls of the promenade, the smoking-room, and the ladles' room with a very fine collection of engravings, which includes about 150 examples of Hogarth's best-known works. These ante-rooms have been furnished in the most comfortable fashion. The theatre itself has been completely renovated, and in all respects it presents an inviting appearance.

Last night there was a dress rehearsal of the pantomime, which was witnessed by a gathering of 500 ladies and gentlemen of a very representative character. There were Magistrates and Town Councillors, members of other public bodies in the city, representative officers of the military forces in the district, and many well-known citizens, conspicuous among whom was a sprinkling of clergymen of different denominations. At the close of the rehearsal Mr Montefiore expressed his thanks for the generous reception accorded to the play and his appreciation of the good wishes of the influential company who had come to the house-warming'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News, 10th of December 1904.

An advertisement for the sale of the fixtures and fittings of the Grand Theatre, Edinburgh in 1909 - From the Era - Saturday 13th of March 1909.The Grand Theatre opened in December 1904 and was fairly successful for a number of years, putting on all manner of productions, and regularly reviving its opening production of the Pantomime 'Cinderella' at Christmas time. However, in March 1909 the Theatre's fixtures and fittings were advertised for sale by auction, see cutting shown right, and it closed as a Theatre soon afterwards.

Right - An advertisement for the sale of the fixtures and fittings of the Grand Theatre, Edinburgh in 1909 - From the Era - Saturday 13th of March 1909.

The building was then converted into a Riding Academy and Skating Rink but was later converted for Cinema use, reopening as the Grand Picture House in December 1920. The Cinema had seating for over 1,600 people.

A Google StreetView Image of the site of the Grand Theatre / Cinema, Edinburgh in 2017 - Click to Interact.Cinema use continued for many years until it was eventually closed in 1960 and the building was then converted for Bingo. Many years later still the former Theatre was converted into a Nightclub. Sadly the building was seriously damaged by a fire in 1993 and was subsequently demolished, residential housing stands on the site today.

Left - A Google StreetView Image of the site of the Grand Theatre / Cinema, Edinburgh in 2017 - Click to Interact.

A photograph of the building, taken in 1986, can be found on the Scottish Cinemas site here.

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

About Weldon Watts

From his Obituary in the ERA, 18th October 1902

Mr Weldon Watts, the managing-director of the Newcastle and Gateshead Theatres Company, died at Harrogate on Wednesday morning. He was taken ill about a fortnight ago with paralysis, and the end was not unexpected. The deceased gentleman up to the time of his death was proprietor of the Theatre Royal, Stockton; Grand Theatre, West Hartlepool; co-proprietor of the Empire, Bristol; managing-director of the Grand Theatre, Byker; Metropole Theatre, Gateshead; and the Queen's Theatre, Gateshead. Up to some time ago be was connected with the Metropole Theatre, Glasgow; the Gaiety Theatre, Birmingham; the Grand Theatre, Hebburn; Royal Opera House, Margate; Theatre Royal, Kilburn; and the Opera House, Crouch-end. He was also connected with the Tivoli Theatre, Edinburgh, and in partnership with a number of travelling companies.

The deceased gentleman was a native of Ireland, and about forty-five years of age only. He became actively engaged in theatrical pursuits on Tyneside in 1893, when in that year he opened the Queen's Theatre, Gateshead. Previous to this he was general manager of a theatre at Sheffield. So successful was his venture in Gateshead, under the exceedingly able management of Mr Sidney Bacon, that he built the Metropole Theatre in Jackson-street, in that town.

Turning his attention to Byker and Heaton, he erected the Grand Theatre In Byker, which, like the Metropole, has been a great success. He was elected a member of the Town Council of Gateshead, but, finding his extensive business still increasing, he was obliged to abandon municipal affairs, and accordingly retired, after sitting as a member for three years. His remarkable business aptitude and exceedingly winning manner commanded the esteem of all his colleagues in the Council, and of hosts of friends in all parts of the country. In religion be was a Roman Catholic, and in politics a Conservative.

The deceased gentleman, who resided at Jesmond, leaves a widow and two children, having married a daughter of Councillor Criup, of Sunderland. His somewhat sudden demise will come as a shock to his many admirers; in fact, to all who had the pleasure of his personal acquaintance. Since Mr Watts left Newcastle for Harrogate his duties have been fulfilled by Mr Sidney Bacon, manager of the Metropole Theatre, Gateshead, who has acted as managing-director of both theatres protem.

The above text is from Weldon Watts' Obituary in the ERA, 18th October 1902.

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