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The Alston Street Theatre or Playhouse, Grahamston, Glasgow

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Drawing of the Alston Street Playhouse. - Courtesy Graeme Smith

Above - Drawing of the Alston Street Playhouse. - Courtesy Graeme Smith. (The Theatre is the largest building on the right just behind Argyle Street)

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Within the old Boundary of the burgh of Glasgow the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street was the first purpose built theatre, but only a few hundred yards away (and outwith the technical control of the burgh magistrates was the village of Grahamston (now submerged under Glasgow Central Station in the heart of the city).

Glasgow's magistrates were not keen to have a permanent theatre in the royal burgh; there were some very large wooden ones and smaller penny geggie booths around Glasgow Green, but Baillie John Miller, after whom Miller Street is named, had no compunction. He owned the area around Grahamston Brewery just across the boundary of the royalty which was St Enoch's Burn where now sits Mitchell Street known then as the Malt Dubs. He sold land to the promoters of Glasgow's first main Playhouse theatre, in Alston Street named after his son-in-law James Alston.

John Jackson was invited by five of Glasgow's wealthy Virginia and West Indies merchants William McDowall of Castle Semple; William Bogle of Hamilton Farm; John Baird of Craigton; Robert Bogle of Shettleston; and James Dunlop of Garnkirk to come from the Canongate Playhouse in Edinburgh to help open a theatre in Glasgow, which he did at Alston Street in 1764 installing a colleague Mr Beatt as manager. The theatre was designed and built by the architect John Adam, and a statue of William Shakespeare was placed on its front. A favourite actress was Mrs Bellamy.

In due course John Jackson became the lessee and manager in 1780. Shortly after that, fire engulfed the building but it was not rebuilt and the remaining walls were refitted and used as the South West Granary. Much later the streets in Grahamston became the underground arches to Central Station. Jackson looked for new premises and bought land in Dunlop Street to build there, opening as the Theatre Royal Dunlop Street in 1782.

Above text is courtesy Graeme Smith from his book THE THEATRE ROYAL: Entertaining a Nation, Details here.

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