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The Theatre Royal Adelphi, Glasgow Green, Glasgow

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A Bill for 'George Barnwell or The London Merchant' and several other pieces at the Theatre Royal Adelphi, Glasgow on Saturday the 15th of January 1848 - Courtesy Ralph Peppers.The Theatre Royal Adelphi was built by David Prince Miller in 1842 and for a short while accompanied the City Theatre on Glasgow Green which would burn down only a year after being onstructed.

In April 1844, just a couple of years after the Theatre Royal Adelphi opened, it was itself the scene of a major incident when, during a packed performance, a fire alarm was raised in the gallery and a panic ensued. The audience rushed for the exits and many people were seriously hurt in the ensuing crush for escape. Luckily no one was killed in the panic but benches and chandeliers were damaged in the rush. The fire alarm itself turned out to have been a false one, and had only been raised in the Theatre because a fire in a nearby printers needed members of the fire brigade seated in the Theatre to attend. One of the injured, an 18 year old lad, later died of his injuries, and one can only hope that lessons were learnt from the event. The Theatre Royal Adelphi was a huge Theatre, constructed from wood, and accommodating around 2,500 people, so it's not surprising that people panicked when the fire alarm was sounded.

Right - A Bill for 'George Barnwell or The London Merchant' and several other pieces at the Theatre Royal Adelphi, Glasgow on Saturday the 15th of January 1848 - Courtesy Ralph Peppers. In the production was, amongst other notables of the time, Arthur Lloyd's future father in law and famous Drury Lane Tragedian T. C. King.

Like the City Theatre, the Theatre Royal Adelphi also had a short life, only lasting around 6 years, before it suffered a real fire, this time on the 15th of November 1848. The fire started in the gallery, rather ironically considering the false alarm four years earlier which had also begun in the gallery. Luckily this time there was no audience in the Theatre as the fire started in the afternoon when a play was being rehearsed on stage. The cast and crew hastily made their escape but despite the quick attendance by the West of England fire Brigades the wooden structure was soon engulfed by flames.

The Theatre was completely destroyed in the fire and was not rebuilt.

The Theatre Royal Adelphi was one of two Theatre Royals in Glasgow for the short time it was open, the other being the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street where Horatio Lloyd, Arthur Lloyd's father performed for many years as principle Comedian.

There are further details on the Theatre Royal Adelphi, by Graeme Smith, below.

 

The Theatre Royal Adelphi, by Graeme Smith

David Prince Miller and the Adelphi Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.David Prince Miller was a showman who came to Glasgow Green in 1839 and was soon prospering by his entertainments - which included drama, drawing the ire of J. H. Alexander of the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street who held the letters-patent for performing drama and felt he had a monopoly. Twice Miller was sent to jail for not having a licence, and bounced back with greater support from audiences than before. He had opened his booth the Sans Pareil Pavilion which could seat about 1200 at a penny a time.

Right - David Prince Miller and the Theatre Royal Adelphi - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

His company could perform Shakespeare`s 'RICHARD III' twenty times in seven hours and in his own words- “we excelled in our art, for at any theatre in the kingdom it would occupy fully two and a half hours….whereas we could perform it in twenty minutes!”

He started his Theatre Royal Adelphi at the end of December 1842 on the Green at Jail Square at the foot of Saltmarket. This was a new theatre, built of wood, and had boxes, pit and gallery. There were four refreshment rooms, and rooms for scenery, stage properties, wardrobe and library. It was always a well-conducted house and could hold 2,500 people. He secured his full dramatic licence in 1844.

There is a playbill for the Theatre in 1844 here.


Marie Taglioni - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Artistes in his theatre, in addition to himself included Fanny Kemble, Sheridan Knowles, Phelps, Robert Wyndham, Horatio Lloyd, Miss Glover, Miss Saker, Mrs Butler, the Misses Cushman, Mrs Warner, Webster and Celeste etc, and the famed Taglioni danced. Dramas, comedies and pantomimes including Baron Munchausen and Aladdin ensured Miller`s continuing popularity.

Left - Marie Taglioni - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In the summer of 1845 the theatre had improvements and an extension, during which Miller and his Company performed at the Adelphi Theatre, Edinburgh but in the spring of 1848 he was sequestrated having been unable to pay the final bills of his building contractors.

The theatre was advertised for lease and taken up by comedian James Calvert, whose company operated one of the “low theatre” booths on the Green – the wooden Royal Hibernian which could hold over 2000 in its raked arena. Prior to coming to Glasgow he had been at the Theatre Royal, Dublin.

Calvert started a new company at the Adelphi, the Glasgow Herald remarking “The place has been beautifully decorated, and the company is respectable in point of ability.”

Unfortunately fire destroyed the Adelphi in November 1848, after a rehearsal of a new piece the “Ocean Monarch” or “Ship on Fire” a drama based on a recent catastrophe near Liverpool.

By the 1870s all the theatres, zoos, and stalls had been removed from the Green.

The above text was kindly written and sent in for inclusion on this site by Graeme Smith, from research for his new book on Glasgow`s Alhambra Theatre, a sequel to The Theatre Royal : Entertaining a Nation.

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

 

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