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The Royal Alexandra Theatre, 85 ½ Hope Street, Facing Along Gordon Street, Glasgow

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This theatre featured strongly for a short time in the 1860s, in the period of change in the city`s entertainment when new theatre buildings were appearing and owners jostled for position and power. It faced westwards along Gordon Street, where the Central Station entrance is today, and occupied a building which was formerly used for circuses, dioramic exhibitions, Christy Minstrel entertainment and occasionally for political meetings. The circuses from 1839 onwards included Batty`s equestrian company, Quaglieni`s Grand Cirque, and Franconi`s Hippodrome.

An advertisement for the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Glasgow from the Glasgow Herald of the 2nd of August 1869, which mentions the Grand English Opera Company performing at the Theatre and Morison Kyle's tirade against theatre monopoly. Also there is a mention of Horatio Lloyd`s appearance at the Alexandra Theatre. The tragedian Charles Cooke took the lease and sublet it in 1869 to Alfred Davis and his wife, who previously yran the Prince of Wales theatre (formerly the Milton Colosseum) in Cowcaddens – but it had caught fire and was shut awaiting rebuilding.

The Hope Street building, near the foot of that street (and not to be confused with the Alexandra Music Hall within James Baylis`s new Royal building at the top of Hope Street), was remodelled and opened on 17th March 1869 containing accommodation for 1,200 with a gallery at the east end on wooden pillars, pit, amphitheatre, pit stalls, orchestra stalls, private boxes and omnibus boxes. The stage was the same size as the Prince of Wales but the proscenium was higher.

Right - An advertisement for the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Glasgow, from the Glasgow Herald of the 2nd of August 1869, which mentions the Grand English Opera Company performing at the Theatre and Morison Kyle's tirade against theatre monopoly. Also there is a mention of Horatio Lloyd`s appearance at the Alexandra Theatre.

The Glasgow Herald remarked:— “The ornamentation is quiet, but very pretty. It consists of neutral tints, relieved by scarlet spandrils and panels, with squares of gold beading and centres of flowers. The boxes are draped with pale green satin and white lace. The house is lit by eight gasaliers and the act drop represents a view of Venice”. The Glasgow Herald.

The opening week was a comedy and farce, and plays followed. However Alfred Davis`s debts followed him from the Prince of Wales and he was sequestrated. Charles Cooke took over in July, and appeared in a number of plays. His opening presentation featured Edith Sandford, from the Imperial Theatres Russia, in her own Company and on her own horse in an equestrian drama Firefly.

An advertisement for the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Glasgow from the Glasgow Herald of the 5th of October 1869In the summer the new Theatre Royal was shut and having some alterations inside by William Glover and George Francis which encouraged one of the city`s music sellers Morrison Kyle of Queen Street to seek a licence to stage opera performances in the City Hall.

Above Left - An advertisement for the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Glasgow, from the Glasgow Herald of the 5th of October 1869.

But following representations by Glover & Francis the city magistrates declined his application. Furious at such monopoly Kyle with the support of Charles Cooke successfully presented three weeks of the Grand English Opera Company from Covent Garden under Henri Corri. He engaged Mr Lloyd, Comedian (late of the Theatre Royal) for two weeks making his first appearance with the Opera Company on Saturday 14th August.

An advertisement for the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Glasgow from the Glasgow Herald of the 2nd of August 1869.The seasonal pantomime was Robinson Crusoe and more plays were staged including the national drama Rob Roy. Unfortunately the building was destroyed on 25th March 1870 by a fire which broke out in the front wing, away from the stage and dressing rooms. Nothing remained and nothing of the wardrobe nor of the orchestra`s equipment, but the Theatre Royal kindly put on a benefit evening for the sufferers.

Right - An advertisement for the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Glasgow, from the Glasgow Herald of the 2nd of August 1869.

The above text was written by Graeme Smith and kindly sent in for inclusion on the site in August 2009, and is from his new book on the Alhambra Theatre, a sequel to his book on 'THE THEATRE ROYAL: Entertaining a Nation', Details here...

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