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Theatres in Hebburn, South Tyneside

The Theatre Royal / Grand Theatre - The Gem Theatre

The Theatre Royal, Carr and Lyon Street, Hebburn

Formerly - The Grand Theatre / Royal Kino

The Theatre Royal, Hebburn after the fire in 1950.The Theatre Royal, Hebburn originally opened as the Grand Theatre on the 1st of February 1897 with a production of the Pantomime 'Cinderella'. The Theatre was built for Weldon Watts & Company and designed by Benjamin F. Simpson, with construction by John Rowell & Son, Ltd., of Gateshead, for the Contractor Alexander Pringle. The Theatre was situated on the junction of Carr and Lyon Streets with Berwick Street, adjoining the Ellison Arms Hotel, and on a site which was formerly occupied by houses and business premises. The main entrance to the Theatre was situated on Lyon Street.

Right - The Theatre Royal, Hebburn after the fire in 1950, details below.

The ERA reported on the newly opened Grand Theatre in their 6th of April 1897 edition saying:- '...The theatre has been constructed and fitted up on the most modern lines with the very latest Improvements, whilst the peculiarity of the site affords numerous exits and entrances for the audiences in case of alarm and most comfortable dressing-rooms for the artists. The main approach to the circle is very elaborate, the steps being of white marble. At the top of the staircase are ladies cloakrooms and gentlemen's retiring rooms, whilst to the left is the first-class refreshment bar. The chairs in the circle are all tipup and covered with terra-cotta plush. There are two boxes at the sides, which are elegantly furnished. The ceiling has been decorated in a most masterly fashion, and, being high, at once dispels any fear of stuffiness. The theatre is capably of seating about 1,500, and is fitted throughout with electric light, nothing else being used on the stage. The seating and internal decorations have been executed by Messrs A. R. Dean and C.O. (Limited), Birmingham. The building has been most expeditiously erected by Mr Alexander Pringle, contractor, Gateshead, to the designs and under the direct superintendence of Mr Benjamin F. Simpson, F.R.I.B.A. architect, Newcastle.' - The ERA, 6th February, 1897.

An advertisement for the opening of the new Theatre Royal, Hebburn - From the Shields Daily Gazette, Monday the 6th of August 1900.In 1900, not long after the Theatre had first opened, it was bought by Arthur Jefferson, father of the now well known Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame. Jefferson already had several other Theatres in Newcastle and South Shields at this time and would go on to run quite a large circuit of Theatres during his career. Having acquired the Grand Theatre Jefferson quickly closed it and set about refurbishing and altering the building for a reopening as the now renamed Theatre Royal on the 6th of August 1900 with a production of the burlesque 'Little Red Riding Hood'.

Left - An advertisement for the opening of the new Theatre Royal, Hebburn - From the Shields Daily Gazette, Monday the 6th of August 1900.

For the reopening as the Theatre Royal Jefferson had added two new exits, added new refreshment bars, altered the position of the Box Office, added a new dressing room beneath the stage, and another one behind the auditorium box on the north side of the building, he also added a new Band room and Paint Frame, and a new stock of scenery, and had the Theatre entirely redecorated in cream, blue and gold to the designs of Alexandra Craig.

Fire fighters pictured in the shell of the Theatre Royal Hebburn after it was destroyed by fire in October 1950 - From the Shields Daily News, 7th of October 1950.The Theatre on its reopening still seated 1,500 people, as it had done when it first opened as the Grand Theatre a few years earlier, however, provisions for the comfort of its patrons had been improved and the local press described the new scheme of decorations as "Cheerful and Bright".

The Theatre subsequently went on to entertain the people of Hebburn and surrounding districts for the next 50 years, and under several different owners and guises, at one point around 1912 it was renamed the Royal Kino for a while showing early Kinematograph pictures along with variety shows. Sadly, however, on October the 6th 1950, whilst under the management of the Dawes Brothers who had run the Theatre since 1927, a disastrous fire destroyed the building.

Right - Fire fighters pictured in the shell of the Theatre Royal Hebburn after it was destroyed by fire in October 1950 - From the Shields Daily News, 7th of October 1950.

Ten fire engines and 70 fire fighters tackled the blaze but by the morning all that was left of the Theatre was the brick shell of the building. The Theatre was never rebuilt or reopened but was instead demolished. The adjoining Ellison Hotel was also gutted in the fire but was rebuilt and reopened, however, it was closed again some years later.

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The Gem Theatre, Albert Street and William Street, Hebburn

Formerly - The Gem Picture Theatre

The Gem Theatre, Hebburn, closed and borded up before its demolition in 1974.

Above - The Gem Theatre, Hebburn, closed and borded up before its demolition in 1974.

The Gem Picture Theatre was situated on the corner of Albert Street and William Street, Hebburn and opened on Monday the 14th of May 1912. The Theatre was built primarily as a Cinema but it also had stage facilities for variety shows with a proscenium opening of 29 feet and stage depth of 15 feet. There were three dressing rooms for artists. The Gem Theatre was designed by W. H. Kelvey and could seat over 1,100 people on its opening. The Theatre's exterior was in the Tudor Style of red brick with two quare towers on its corners surmounted with turrets.

The Stage Newspaper reported briefly on the opening of the Gem Theatre in their 16th of May edition saying:- 'HEBBURN-ON-TYNE — Gem (Proprietors Messrs. John Weddle and Co.; Manager, Mr. John G. Middleton). — There was a large number present at the opening of the New Gem Picture and Variety Theatre on Monday evening. The house has a seating capacity of 1,200, and Mr. John G. Middleton, in addition to his duties at Jarrow, is taking over the management. The opening programme is of excellent quality.' - The Stage Newspaper, 16th May 1912.

The Jarrow Express reported on the opening too, in their 17th of May 1912 edition saying:- 'The programme provided here this week contained the following interesting pictures. For the first three nights The Man from the Foothills, Of the Deepest Dye, Billy's Reformation, Allevard les Bains, an educational picture, Chumps, A Timely Rescue. The programme was changed last night for The Brotherhood of Man, Willie Distributes his Strength, Fairy Iris, Wrecked Lives, a 2,600 feet picture. Specialities have been given each evening by The Marzellos, in their comedy three bar act, and Annie Fletcher. Last night the proceeds of the second house were given to the Hebburn Hall Accident Infirmary. There will be a matinee for children to-morrow (Saturday). - The Jarrow, 17th of May 1912.

The Jarrow Express also reported on the building itself in their 17th of May 1912 edition saying:- 'The new picture theatre which has been erected for "The Gem Theatres, Ltd.," in Albert-street, Hebburn, was opened on Monday evening. The new Gem theatre is built on a commodious scale and has seating accommodation for 1,100 persons. Every attention has been paid to the comfort of patrons, and no pains have been spared to ensure an enjoyable performance being witnessed.

The new hall occupies a site which is admirably adopted to the purpose, and which, being bounded by streets on three sides, admits of most convenient arrangements for ingress and egress. A central entrance gives access to the best seats, which are provided in an end gallery to accommodate 260 persons, and a side entrance in William-street gives convenient access to the seats in the pit. Every convenience is provided in the way of lavatory accommodation and artistes' ante-rooms, and the platform is sufficiently spacious to admit of performances on a large scale.

The building, which is running on the twice nightly principle, has been erected in a substantial manner with external facings of red brick and terra cotta dressings. The design is of plain bold character, the chief features of the exterior being two corner towers, a glazed verandah to the main entrance and a large arched panel in the centre of the gable in which has been placed the name of the theatre in illuminated letters. There are also four large arc lamps hanging outside.

A pleasing appearance has been given to the interior by an arched ceiling, circular-shaped gallery, and a proscenium front of ornate design, beautified by decorations in fibrous plaster and colour. The floor of the pit is laid to a gradual fall, and the Gallery has been constructed to a steep pitch to ensure a clear and uninterrupted view, and the seating both in the pit and the gallery has been set to radiating lines so every person will directly face the proscenium. The gallery is supported on cantilever girders, thereby dispensing with view obstructing columns.

The building is heated by hot water, lighted by electricity, and special provision has been made to ensure effective ventilation. The architect was Mr H E Kelvey, of South Shields and Manchester, who has had considerable experience in this class of work which was carried out by local contractors. The terra cotta work was executed by the Hathem Station Brick and Terra Cotta Co., the structural metal work by the Alnwick Foundry and Engineering Company. There were large attendances at the opening performances on Monday night.'

The above text was first published in the Jarrow Express, 17th of May 1912.

Around 1930 the Gem Theatre was equipped with Western Electric Sound for the showing of the new 'Talkie' pictures, and in 1938 the Facade of the Theatre was altered by George Young. Closing in May 1964 with a final showing of the films 'Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed' and 'Blueprint for Robbery' the Theatre was then tuned over to Bingo by the Noble Organisation. Sadly even this ended in 1974 when the building was closed and demolished by the local Council who had purchased the building for construction of housing on the site.

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