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The Empire Palace Theatre / Empire Variety, Lyn Street, West Hartlepool

The opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.The Empire Palace Theatre was built for Richard Thornton by the Theatre Architects and brothers William and Thomas Milburn. The Theatre officially opened on the 13th of December 1909 with a production of 'The Toreador' by the West Hartlepool Amateur Operatic Society.

On the 20th of December the Theatre began it's true intended use as a Variety Theatre with, as stated in the opening Souvenir Brochure, shown right, 'High-Class Vaudeville.'

Right - The opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.

Richard ThorntonThere now follows a message from the Theatre's original owner, Richard Thornton, followed by a complete description of the building and its design from the opening Souvenir Brochure, shown right - Kindly sent in for inclusion on this site by Cliff Reynolds.

The Enterprise

For some years past Mr. Richard Thornton, who has long been connected with the modern Music Halls in Newcastle, South Shields, Sunderland, and many other places, has considered that a large and rising County Borough like West Hartlepool should have a first-rate Variety Theatre, conducted on the best principles, and furnished with the best talent. To find a suitable site was a matter of considerable difficulty, but after much negotiation the present site, which is practically an island, was secured: and the present theatre, which is one of the finest in Great Britain, is the result...

 

West Hartlepool Empire Palace Theatre

Description of the Building

William and Thomas Milburn, architects of the Empire Palace Theatre,  West Hartlepool

Above - William and Thomas Milburn, architects of the Empire Palace Theatre, West Hartlepool

Management details from the opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.The site of the Theatre is in the heart of West Hartlepool, the principle parts of the house opening on to the busiest portion of Lynn Street.

The elevation into Lynn Street is a high imposing front in Renaissance design, and carried out by Marmo.

Visitors to the Theatre are protected from the elements by a verandah of handsome design, extending over the footpath.

Right - Management details from the opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.

The grand staircase is quite open on to the street, and is carried out entirely in Pavonezzo marble, the steps being in white Cecilian.

The inner hall is approached from the top of the marble stairs by two mahogany swing doors, with a pay box in the centre. From the inner hall approach is made by terrazzo staircase on to the floor of the grand saloon, which is a fine square apartment with "IONIC" columns, forming it into the shape of an octagon, and the ceiling carried up in the form of a dome. The whole is handsomely decorated in white, green, and gold, and has an oak floor. The corners are upholstered with comfortable seating. This saloon is to be used as the waiting room for those using the stalls, dress circle, and boxes.

A roomy corridor leads from the grand saloon to the crush room, which is immediately behind the dress circle, and which has direct approach to the refreshment buffet, private boxes, and seats in the circle.

 

Opening Night Details and Future Attractions - From the opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.

Above - Opening Night Details and Future Attractions - From the opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.

 

Frank Allen, Director and assistant managing director Moss Empires Ltd., and Harry Esden, General Manager, also general manager Empire Theatre, Avenue Theatre, and Theatre Royal, Sunderland - From the opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.The auditorium is nearly 80 feet wide at the curtain line and 80 feet in depth, so that no difficulty has been found in giving the seating the right curve for good sight lines in every part of the house.

The ceiling of the auditorium is particularly handsomely decorated in fibrous plaster enrichments, with gold outline and ornament, keeping to the Renaissance feeling.

Left - Frank Allen, Director and assistant managing director Moss Empires Ltd., and Harry Esden, General Manager, also general manager Empire Theatre, Avenue Theatre, and Theatre Royal, Sunderland - From the opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.

There is a large oval opening in the roof which is covered by a sliding roof worked from the stage, which it is expected will materially assist the ventilation and comfort of the house.

The stage boxes are specially arranged on a principle which has been found to be successful in Mr. Thornton's Sunderland Empire, the boxes being practically open on every side, made to face the stage, and sloping down from the circle to the level of the stage.

Geo F. Thompson, Resident Manager, late of the South Shields Empire - From the opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.The pit is very roomy and comfortable, having a good slope, and approached by two doors from a large waiting room, which will practically hold all persons waiting for seats.

The balcony also has a waiting room and separate entrances and exits.

The gallery is behind the balcony, and is approached from waiting rooms, and has separate exits.

Right - Geo F. Thompson, Resident Manager, late of the South Shields Empire - From the opening night Souvenir Programme for the Empire Theatre, West Hartlepool in 1909 - Courtesy Cliff Reynolds.

The stage is particularly roomy, and is furnished with all the latest appliances as to scenery, electric equipment, and fire extinguishing apparatus. The dressing rooms face into Freeman Street, and have separate staircases, all fireproofed.

The whole of the tiers and floors in the auditorium are carried out in concrete on steel.

The stage is shut off from the auditorium by a a fireproof curtain, which can be dropped from practically any part of the stage at a moment's notice. The stage is also shut off from the auditorium and the dressing room block by fire-proof doors.

The whole of the fibrous plaster work inside has been carried out with a white ground and gold decorations, the wall panels being filled with green tekko. The upholstered work is also green, whilst the whole of the floors are carpeted with a golden brown carpet, the prevailing idea in the decorations being to keep the colouring quiet and restful, relying upon the architectural treatment of the ornament for general effect.

Contractors who built the Empire Palace Theatre, West HartlepoolAmple provision is made against fire by the provision of fire hydrants with instantaneous couplings and hose lengths at various parts of the house, although it is anticipated that these will never be required, as the whole of the floors and tiers are fireproof, so far as the main construction is concerned.

Great care has been bestowed on the ventilation of the house, fresh air inlets being provided in various parts of the building, with ventilating truncs at the rear of each tier, coupled up in each trunk with electric fans to draw out the foul air from the back of each portion of the building. The main roof is also fitted with large foul air extractors.

The electric light installation is of the most up-to-date character, being wired on the three-wire principle. The stage is lighted with the latest apparatus, and the lighting of the auditorium is very brilliant, the pendants being of chaste design in harmony with the surroundings. The lamps are all metal filament lamps, and shaded with cut glass shades.

Mr. A. E. Hopper, A.M.I.C.E., of Newcastle, has acted as Consulting Engineer with respect to the electric light installation.

The Theatre has been designed and the erection superintended by Messrs. Wm. & T.R Milburn, F.R.I.B.A., of Sunderland, who also carried out Mr. Thornton's Sunderland Empire.

The building has been supervised from the beginning by Mr. Harry Barker, as Clerk of Works.

The building has been erected, including the pulling down of existing buildings, in the remarkably short space of seven months, and special mention should be made of the following firms, who have all contributed to this piece of construction (shown in image left M.L.).

 

The Empire Palace Theatre was converted to a Cinema in 1956 but only two years later, in 1958, the Theatre, along with so many others all over the country, was demolished.

 

Alexandra Music Hall, Hartlepool

Also known as The People's Music Hall

The Alexandra Music Hall was built in 1866 and is thought to have been in operation until 1871.

The Alexandra Music Hall has since been demolished.

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

 

 

The Alhambra Palace of Varieties, Hartlepool

Also known as The Alhambra Theatre and Opera House

The Alhambra Theatre was built in 1890 by Richard Knill-Freeman and Robins.

There were alterations to the building in 1896 and again in 1899.

The Theatre has since been demolished.

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

 

 

The Theatre Royal, Hartlepool

The first Theatre Royal in Hartlepool was built in 1854.

The Theatre was altered in 1899 by W. McDonald and again in 1910 by R. C. Stanfield, and yet again in 1921 by Kitching, Lee and Atchinson.

The Theatre was demolished in 1969.

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

 

 

The New Theatre Royal, Hartlepool

The New Theatre Royal was built only 14 years after the first Theatre Royal in Hartlepool in 1868.

The Theatre was converted into a Music Hall in 1871.

The Music Hall was refurbished in 1904 and alterations were carried out to the Theatre's Circle in 1913.

The Theatre was demolished in 1968.

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

 

 

The Victoria Music Hall, Hartlepool

The Victoria Music Hall was built in 1859.

The Hall was altered by the architects Thomos Angelo Moore and Sons in 1863.

The Victoria Music Hall was demolished in 1900.

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

 

 

The Town Hall Theatre, Raby Road, Hartlepool

The Town Hall Theatre was built in 1896 and is still in use to this day. For much more information on this Theatre you may be interested in visiting this website which has information and many images of the Theatre.