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The Hippodrome, Queensgate, Huddersfield

Later - The Essoldo / Tudor Cinema

The Huddersfield Hippodrome in May 2009 - Courtesy John West

Above - The Huddersfield Hippodrome in May 2009 - Courtesy John West

The Side elevation of the Huddersfield Hippodrome in May 2009 - Courtesy John West The Huddersfield Hippodrome was built by the architect W. Cooper in 1905 by converting a former riding shed which was itself originally built in 1846.

A few years later in 1909 the Theatre was the subject of some alterations and at this time the stage was known to have been 26ft deep by 56ft wide, but in 1926 the Theatre had some furthur alterations which saw the auditorium significantly enlarged and at the same time the stage house was completely rebuilt and had a scenic workshop added.

Right - The Side elevation of the Huddersfield Hippodrome in May 2009 - Courtesy John West

The original auditorium, with a capacity stated in 1912 as being around 2,000, was built on two levels, stalls and one semicircular balcony, the ends of which joined boxes which flanked the 26 foot wide proscenium. Dressing rooms were provided beneath the stage.

The Side elevation of the Huddersfield Hippodrome in May 2009 - Courtesy John West

Above - The Side elevation of the Huddersfield Hippodrome in May 2009 - Courtesy John West

In the 1960s a serious fire destroyed much of the Theatre including its original auditorium. The stage of the Theatre was then converted into a Cinema, and the main auditorium walls were lowered and later converted for Cinema use too. The original facade of the Theatre was in the industrial classical style built in stone but this has since been modernised and reclad in Westmorland slate. The fly tower has now been chopped off and all in all the Theatre looks rather sorry for itself.

The Side elevation of the Huddersfield Hippodrome in May 2009 - Courtesy John West

Above - The Side elevation of the Huddersfield Hippodrome in May 2009 - Courtesy John West

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

 

Lawrence Batley Theatre, Queen's Square, Queen Street, Huddersfield

Formerly the Queens Street Chapel

The Lawrence Batley Theatre was opened in 1994 and was a conversion from a former Wesleyan Chapel called the Queens Street Chapel, which was built or designed, or perhaps both, by Joseph Kaye in 1819. The Chapel closed for business in 1970 and the building was then taken over for use as an arts centre which ran there from 1973 to 1975 when it was closed down due to serious repair work that needed doing on the building.

In 1978, after the repair work was carried, out the building became a squash court, and by 1978 it was also in use as a Disco in the evenings.

In 1994 the building was converted into a Theatre by the architects of the Kirklees Theatre Trust who consequently owned and managed the Theatre, which on its opening was named the Lawrence Batley Theatre. The auditorium is built on three levels and has a capacity of between 423 to 477 depending on its configuration.

There is also a small cabaret space in the basement with a capacity of 150.

You may like to visit the Theatres own Website here.

 

Palace Theatre, 30 Kirkgate, Huddersfield

Later - The Palace Continental / Gala Bingo / Chicago Rock Café

The Huddersfield Palace during its Bingo years in 1985 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Huddersfield Palace during its Bingo years in 1985 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

A 1942 war time variety poster for the Palace Theatre, Huddersfield which to save money was printed on the reverse of a larger poster - Courtesy Tony Craig whose mother Jessie Jewel was on the Bill along with Albert Whelan and others.The Palace Theatre, Huddersfield was originally built as a Music Hall by Horsfall & Sons with decorations by J. Binns & Sons of Halifax. The Theatre, which had a bioscope box included in its design, opened in 1909 and had an auditorium with a capacity of 1,614, with an unusual Pit area which was more steeply raked than the Stalls. The stage was 30 foot deep by 60 foot wide and the fly tower was fitted with 28 hemp lines.

In January of 1936 the interior of the Theatre was completely destroyed by fire but by the Easter of the following year, 1937, it had been rebuilt, this time by Roland Satchwell and Ernst Roberts. The new Facade was built in a slightly similar design to the original but overall the exterior remains much unchanged from it's earliest inception. The new auditorium was built on three levels, Stalls, Dress Circle, and Upper Circle, and there was an orchestra pit, full stage and fly tower, and 9 dressing rooms.

Right - A 1942 war time variety poster for the Palace Theatre, Huddersfield which to save money was printed on the reverse of a larger poster - Courtesy Tony Craig whose mother Jessie Jewel was on the Bill along with Albert Whelan and others.

In 1959 the Theatre was converted into a cabaret theatre and then in 1969 an inevitable Bingo conversion took place. Bingo ran in the building for many years but in 1997 the building was converted by the HSB partnership, into a Chicago Rock Cafe and nightclub by boarding over the orchestra pit, leveling the stalls to stage level, and adding a mezzanine level. The Dress Circle and Upper Circle were left intact however, and the fly tower and grid still remain. The dressing rooms were bricked up but so much of the building remains in its 1937 form that given the will it could be converted back into a Theatre again in the future.

It is possible that The Huddersfield Palace is one of only two surviving works of Roland Satchwell and Ernst Roberts. The other survivor being The Alexandra in Birmingham which is still operating and was built on a larger scale.

 

The Stage of the Huddersfield Palace during its Bingo years in 1985 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Stage of the Huddersfield Palace during its Bingo years in 1985 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

The Auditorium of Huddersfield Palace during its Bingo years in 1985 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Auditorium of Huddersfield Palace during its Bingo years in 1985 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

The Stage and Auditorium of the Huddersfield Palace during its Bingo years in 1985 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Stage and Auditorium of the Huddersfield Palace during its Bingo years in 1985 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

 

A Google Streetview Image of the Huddersfield Palace - Click to Interact.In 2010 the building was under threat of total demolition due to Phase 2 of the Kingsgate shopping centre construction plans which had been on hold for some time due to the recession. However, the Theatre is unlisted despite advise from the Theatres Trust, and its future is uncertain.

In 2011 The Palace Theatre Restoration Trust was set up to save the building and return it to theatrical use and their website can be found here.

Right - A Google Streetview Image of the Huddersfield Palace - Click to Interact.

In February 2012 a planning application was submitted by the current owner to convert the Theatre into 23 student apartments, with a communal laundry and gymnasium, partially retaining the existing bar and restaurant. Meanwhile metal thieves entered the Theatre in June 2012 and did thousands of pounds worth of damage to the building.

In October 2014 the Theatre was converted into Student apartments. A visitor to the site, Phill Danielson, writes:- ' Unfortunately Roland Satchwells fine Art Deco interior is gone forever, including the auditorium ceiling and the plasterwork on the front of the circle and gallery, which was exactly the same as seen currently in the Alexandra Theatre. Birmingham which Satchwell rebuilt in 1935. In fact the Huddersfield Palace was really a scaled down version of the Alexandra, with reuse of the same molds etc. I was allowed a tour round, and it was sad to see the safety curtain still up on its mounts, unmoved for 50 years, awaiting specialist removal. The good news is that Roland Satchwells Art Deco frontage and the original outer walls have been saved, and the iconic frontage is to be fully restored.' - Phill Danielson.

Neil Sean Interviews Ann Montini about her and her husband Alan Scott's involvement with the Huddersfield Palace here.

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

 

Grand Picture Theatre, 10 - 12 Manchester Road, Huddersfield

Later - The Sheridan Rooms / Eros / Ivanhoes

The Facade of the former Grand Picture Theatre, Huddersfield in 2009 - Courtesy John West

Above - The Facade of the former Grand Picture Theatre, Huddersfield in 2009 - Courtesy John West

The Grand Picture Theatre was designed by the architect Clifford Hickson, of the Company Stocks, Sykes and Hickson, as a single screen cinema, and was built in the French Renaissance / Greek Revival style. The Theatre opened on the 14th of March 1921 with a capacity of 878 and a proscenium opening of 28' 6".

The Theatre was later taken over by Union Cinemas, who later became part of the Associated British Cinema (ABC) chain of Cinemas.

The Grand Picture Theatre closed for the last time as a Cinema on the 6th of June 1957, and then in the 1960s became a concert venue for Jazz and Rock bands called the Sheridan Rooms. The building was later converted into a Nightclub known as Eros, later renamed Ivonhoes, but even this closed in the early 1990s. Subsequently the interior of the Theatre was demolished and turned into a Supermarket although the exterior remains to this day.

The Facade of the former Grand Picture Theatre, Huddersfield in May 2010 - Courtesy Charles Bowman

Above - The Facade of the former Grand Picture Theatre, Huddersfield in May 2010 - Courtesy Charles Bowman

A Detail of one of the crests on the Facade of the former Grand Picture Theatre, Huddersfield in May 2010 - Courtesy Charles Bowman

Above - A Detail of one of the crests on the Facade of the former Grand Picture Theatre, Huddersfield in May 2010 - Courtesy Charles Bowman

Some of the information for this Theatre was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website.

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

 

Rowley’s Theatre of Varieties / Rowley’s Empire, St Peter's Street, Huddersfield

J. W. Rowley was probably the most successful music-hall performer to come from Huddersfield. As well as long career as a performer he was also involved in management for about a decade in the late-nineteenth century. He bought the Circus of Varieties, described as a ‘large and spacious building’ in late 1885 and, ‘after a complete alteration of the inside’, opened it as a music-hall on Boxing Night (The Era, 8th January 1886).

Also known as Rowley’s Theatre of Varieties in the local press, the building was at best modest – ‘a wooden erection … built in the old fair ground in St. Peter’s-street’. The local authorities deemed it unsafe at one point and only renewed its licence after improvements had been made to the gallery (Huddersfield Chronicle, 4th & 21st January and 27th September 1888).

During the first two years it enjoyed mixed fortunes, notwithstanding ‘a clever aquatic entertainment’, closing briefly on a number of occasions and also in 1889 providing a venue for a circus (The Era, 23 February 1889). The hall was also hired out on a regular basis to the local Young Men’s Christian Association for Sunday services.

In early 1890 the theatre re-opened as a music hall but more important were the ‘structural alterations and decoration [which were] tasteful and substantial’ in the early summer, and the appointment of the talented James Rolmaz as manager. The music hall re-opened in late August and was ‘crowded to excess’ (Huddersfield Chronicle, 26th August 1890). The opening programme contained Irish knockabouts, a conjuror and an animal act but the leading figure was the well-known Huddersfield tenor, Walter Stockwell. The following months saw ‘crowded houses’ which ensured ‘the continued popularity of Rowley’s’ (Huddersfield Chronicle, 4th November 1890). The key to success was a combination of variety and quality. The programme was changed on a weekly basis, though popular figures like Stockwell and Ella Dean were kept on or re-booked.

Rowley and Rolmaz showed a keen awareness of the preferences of their audiences. They were aware, for example, that ‘high-class sentimental singing’ was only modestly received whereas comic songs were ‘vociferously applauded’ (Huddersfield Chronicle, 18th November 1890) Sentimental singers did not disappear entirely. Ella Dean, with whom Rowley had worked on a number of occasions earlier in his career, appeared a number of times but she developed her act to become in due course a well-regarded male impersonator. However, Irish singers and comedians, such as Messrs O’Connor and Brady, appeared on a regular basis, along with comic vocalists (including Rowley himself on occasions) and American ‘nigger’ minstrels. The popularity of sport was catered for by the appearance of sporting songsters, footballers, local wrestlers and national figures, such as the boxer Jim Mace. Press references to an ‘immense audience’ and ‘crowded houses’ bear witness to Rowley and Rolmaz’s acumen.

Rowley also exploited his links with the locality in a number of ways. He organised charity football and cricket matches as well as donating the proceeds of certain performances, most frequently to Huddersfield Infirmary, on a number of occasions and he gave opportunities to local artists, such as Joe Villiers, a music-hall singer from nearby Crosland Moor, and Pim Pim ‘the ex-street tumbler who was unearthed in the pit at Rowley’s’. There were even special local entertainments such as the 1890 Christmas pantomime, written by Rolmaz, entitled ‘The Prince of Paddock’ [a part of Huddersfield] with local references to ‘the Castlegate Militia’, ‘Fair Daisy of Damside’, and to the prowess of the town football team! (Huddersfield Chronicle, 30th December 1890). In fact Huddersfield FC had also been featured in a ‘football ballet’ presented by the town’s more prestigious Theatre Royal!

However, the Theatre of Varieties under Rowley attracted national figures, not least T. W. Barrett in 1891, whose ‘song on the woe of the football player was very well received’ and Charles Chaplain Snr., in 1892.

A sketch of T. W. Barrett, and Charles Chaplin's 'The Girl was Young and Pretty' - Courtesy David Taylor.

Above - A sketch of T. W. Barrett, and Charles Chaplin's 'The Girl was Young and Pretty' - Courtesy David Taylor.

Rowley also tapped into wider, more national themes. This was most dramatically demonstrated in July 1891 when the theatre re-opened after a break of several weeks. A ‘company which, for variety and excellence [was] hard to excel on any provincial stage’ was assembled but the highlight was ‘the introduction of three heroic survivors of the Light Brigade, immortalized in Tennyson’s poem’. Rolmaz, a song-writer best known for ‘Where did you get that hat?’ (See Note 1) wrote a special song praising the Balaclava heroes and sung that night by Master Herbert Bray. The song combined patriotism and sentimentality, as the opening verse shows:

He’s only a pensioner! an old man blind and lame;
He’s only a pensioner! who won a hero’s name;
He fought at Balaclava and made the Russians fly,
But now when he’s old, he’s left in the cold, to starve or to die.

The sheet music was sold for 1d., for the benefit of the Balaclava Heroes Fund (Huddersfield Chronicle, 13th July 1891).

Generally speaking the Theatre of Varieties was a great success, though occasional shows were deemed to be merely ‘average’ and some acts ‘poor’ – at least in the opinion of the Huddersfield Chronicle’s theatre critic. Very occasionally there was a minor disaster, as, for example, when one of the two Ziletos fell heavily to the floor of the theatre from his trapeze. Rowley also showed good judgement in converting the theatre to a circus for the summer. More significantly in September 1892 he applied for and was granted a dramatic licence. Sketches such as ‘My Wife’s Baby’ had been performed very occasionally in previous years. Matters did not change dramatically in the next two years. ‘Matrimonial Bliss’ was performed twice (once in 1892 and once in 1893) and between 1893 and 1895 four other sketches, ‘The Sailor’s Return’, ‘Only A Slave’, ‘The Mad Barber’, and ‘Captured’, which, in November 1895, was advertised (somewhat enigmatically) as ‘The Tragedy Comedy Farce’ were performed. Variety acts predominated much as before with the ever-popular comedians, singers, dancers and magicians interspersed with novelty acts – one-legged dancers, one-armed cornet players, contortionists and gymnasts; not to mention scantily-clad women, such as Nita and Nikita ‘the Beautiful Lady Athletes, the Acme of Grace and Elegance. The most unique show of its kind in the world’! (The Era, 2nd January 1892).

In early 1896, the theatre, ‘having undergone a thorough cleaning, reconstruction of seating, and most elaborate decoration’, re-opened as Rowley’s Empire Theatre (Huddersfield Chronicle, 29th February 1896). Plays became more important but, despite the change in emphasis, there were clear elements of continuity in the overall programme offered. Singers, comics and dancers were at the heart of performances. Established favourites such as Walter Stockwell, Ella Dean, by now ‘a male impersonator of the first rank’, and Carrie Heaton were ‘vociferously encored each night’ (The Era, 11th April 1896). And there was also ‘the ever green J W Rowley’. Still ‘a popular favourite in his native town’ he delighted the crowds with his repertoire, not least the old favourite ‘Going Down to Derby’ [sic - See Note 2] during which ‘he showed in the acrobatic display with which he always accompanies this [song] that he is still as smart and agile as of old’ (Huddersfield Chronicle, 22nd September 1896). ‘Over’ Rowley, as he was popularly known, remained a trouper!

Another element of continuity, the Irish entertainer, if anything became more important. John S Chamberlain, the ‘celebrated Irish comedian, in the typical Irish character Thady M’Grath; Williams and Brown, ‘The Hibernian Eccentrics’, appearing under the somewhat ambiguous tag-line ‘Still alive and working’; and Miss Kitty Nolan, ‘the Emerald Queen’ were popular figures who appealed to the sizeable Irish population in Huddersfield.

The Irish dimension was even more apparent in the plays (and their reception) that were put on at Rowley’s Empire. As the theatre critic of the Huddersfield Chronicle noted: ‘any reference to the wrongs of unhappy Ireland is always certain to attract a sympathetic cheer from the habitués’ of the Empire (Huddersfield Chronicle, 25th August 1896). The stirring Irish drama ‘Lord Edward, or ‘98’ was well received but, much to the concern of the same critic, there was a most enthusiastic reception for Mr O’Grady’s drama ‘Famine’. It was his hope that the play was ‘a very much exaggerated picture of the callous wickedness of the typical Irish landlord’! (Huddersfield Chronicle, 25th August 1896). Irish ‘wrongs’ were the subject of ‘My Native Land’ which appeared later the same year. The hero, a young Irish tenant farmer, with a wife and child, was finally rescued by ‘a typical Yankee lawyer’. In the final scene, the hero, standing with his family under an American flag, finds the ‘sympathy and protection which is denied him in his native land.’ The ‘drama … was well performed’ and the popular response was vociferous, though the local press account concluded, somewhat sniffily, that ‘the pleasure of those present was considerably interfered with by “the rowdy element” in the pit’ (Huddersfield Chronicle, 24th November 1896).

However, Rowley’s offered a wider range of ‘sensationalist’ plays. ‘The Conscript’, set in the Crimean War, highlighted the unacceptable face of Tsarist Russia with scenes both ‘pathetic and blood-curdling in the extreme’; ‘The Scarlet Brotherhood’ dealt with ‘the plotting and devilry of [Russian] Nihilists’ while the villain of ‘Jack o’ Hearts, or Cremation and Crime’ was a dastardly Spaniard. The latter combined ‘tragedies and horrors of the most revolting and blood-curdling description’ with ‘bits of comedy’, much to the concern of one local critic who questioned ‘the advisability of introducing so much that is brutal and sensational into any stage representation’. The popularity of the play suggests that local audiences were less concerned with this dereliction of moral duty! Indeed, The Era was quite unequivocal: the play was full of ‘thrilling situations [which] just hit the taste of the patrons of this house’ (The Era 24th October 1896).

There was also a strong American influence. Arizona Joe’s company presented ‘The Prairie Flower’, which featured in its cast Wash-by, a Chinaman, Juimbo, a Negro and a villain who was a colonel in the Texas army. The presence of a Mexican band added to the sense of the exotic; ‘Gold Lust or Gunpowder Plot’ which also featured a Mexican band, was best remembered for ‘the sensational and realistic explosion of gunpowder’ in Act 4; while in ‘Black Hawks’ the ‘chief attraction is the wonderful shooting with rifles of Colonel Bruce, otherwise Arizona Joe’. In addition, the latter play also contained ‘some capital songs, dances [and] musical performances’! (Huddersfield Chronicle, 8th September, 20th October, 3rd & 28th November and 1st December 1896).

Most ‘sensationalist’ plays, such as ‘When London Sleeps’ and ‘Shadows of a Great City’, were set closer to home. The former was judged to be ‘one of the most sensational plays seen in Huddersfield’. The heroine survived numerous plots against her. On one occasion she was rescued from an Indian pyre (that happened to be part of an exhibition in town) while the play reached a climax with a dramatic escape from a burning building in which the heroine walked along a telephone line! Thankfully the leading lady had previously been a slack-wire performer in a circus. Notwithstanding the triumph of justice the local theatre critic felt ‘When London Sleeps’ was ‘not a pleasant drama and one or two of the scenes cannot be said to be altogether of a moral tendency’. Nonetheless, he conceded that the play ‘bristles with sensation’ and was met with ‘a great deal of enthusiasm’ (Huddersfield Chronicle, 6th October 1896).

‘The Serpent’s Coil’, with George Swindale, its villainous detective and his electric desk, was performed several times but perhaps the most popular play was ‘The Scales of Justice’. It was ‘a drama such as those attending the Empire love [with] two murders and a robbery in the first act’ as well as a convict revolt in Act 3. For much of the play ‘justice lags while villainy is triumphant’. However, in time-honoured fashion, ‘Justice is meted out at last in a manner which must secure the applause of all’ (Huddersfield Chronicle, 25th & 29th September 1896).

Rowley’s son, Fred, had taken over as manager in 1892, on the departure of the talented Rolmaz, before becoming proprietor and general manager in 1897. On the surface Rowley’s Empire remained very popular but behind the scenes all was not well. Strikingly, there was an air of desperation about some of the advertisements appearing in The Era. Rowley felt it necessary to stress ‘The Beautifully Decorated and Brilliantly Lighted Stage large enough for any production’ and the fact that Earl Rosebery [had] addressed over 5,000 people in Rowley’s Empire’ (The Era 28th March 1896 & 9th May 1896).

Rowley’s losses mounted, (totaling some £25, 000 over ten years) and at the end of 1897 he sold the theatre to the Robinson Brothers. A J Rowley continued to perform but Fred, his son, was reduced to advertising for a post as ‘General Acting or Assistant Acting Manager’ (The Era 5th February 1898).

The demise of Rowley’s Empire was a sad loss to the town. The man maintained strong local links and regularly, over the years, he had made donations to local charities. He had an eye for the big occasion, notably the grand concert he put on to celebrate 59 years of Victoria’s reign – for which he was thanked by the Queen – and he remained ‘the people’s idol here’, a very popular performer in his own right. Unfortunately, this did not guarantee economic success. Nor did his splendid theatre long outlive him. Purchased by Northern Theatres Co. Ltd., there was little change to the range of entertainments on offer. Walter Stockwell, ‘the old favourite’, and by now more a comedian than singer, hosted a number of variety shows while there were a range of popular melodramas, such as ‘The Face at the Window’, ‘The Streets of London’ and ‘The Two Hussars’ (a military drama set in the Crimean War), as well as more unusual plays, such as the Cuban military drama ‘The God of War’ which was performed in January 1899. Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were introduced in 1900 but the theatre did not survive long, being demolished in 1904.

The above article on Rowley's Empre, Huddersfield, was written by David Taylor and kindly sent in by him for inclusion in 2014.

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

Note 1 - J C Heffron, the original singer of ‘Where did you get that hat?’ appeared at Rowley’s in May 1891. The song is also attributed to the American James Sullivan. Rolmaz also wrote ‘A new hat now!’ a sequel to ‘Where did you get that hat?’ A domestic comic song ‘She’s the Boss. I’m the Slavey’ was another of his hits.

Note 2 - This mention of the song 'Going Down To Derby' may well be a reporting error. Rowley sang the Arthur Lloyd song ‘Going to the Derby’ on a number of occasions however. Incongruously, at least in terms of the Yorkshire audience, this was a cockney song! Rowley was well-known for performing standing somersaults on stage to the cry from the audience: ‘Over, Rowley’ – hence his nickname.

 

The Theatre Royal, Ramsden Street and Bull and Mouth Street, Huddersfield

Also known as - The Old Philosophical Hall

The Theatre Royal, Huddersfield - From a Postcard

Above - The Theatre Royal, Huddersfield - From a Postcard

A poster for a 'Dramatic Season' at the Theatre Royal, Huddersfield whilst under the ownership of John Hudspeth. Mentioned is a Benefit for Miss Marie Bramah and Mr John Hudspeth, and the pieces included 'Luke The Labourer', 'The Irish Emigrant', 'Coleen Bawn', and 'Sentenced To Death'.The first Theatre Royal, Huddersfield was built on a site which was next door, and to the right of, the present Library's entrance on Ramsden Street, which was itself built in 1937 by E. H. Ashburner. The Theatre was in existence since the early 1840s, probably opening in 1841, but the building was actually primarily built as a Lecture Hall by the Philosophical Society and consequently was never the most satisfactory of Theatres, despite the fact that it was altered and improved several times over the years. Early theatrical productions included concerts, dramas and plays, along with amateur productions.

In 1859 the Theatre was re-erected by the builder John Yondon to the designs of Mr. Cocking, with decorations by John Brook. The Theatre was said to more closely resemble other Theatres in Britain with better exits and entrances to all levels and an auditorium on three levels, stalls and pit, and two galleries supported by beams and pillars. The New Theatre Royal opened on the 24th of September 1859.

The Theatre had a checkered history and despite the Easter 1860 production which included the burlesque 'Kenilworth' followed by a pantomime with Brinsley as the low comedian achieving full houses, by the end of the season it was soon entertaining audiences of less than 30 people resulting in the Lessee, Herr Teasdale, closing the Theatre without notice suddenly on the 21st if April 1860.

A new Lessee, W. S. Thorne, then took control of the Theatre and produced a number of Opera productions between July and September the same year. Thorne then reopened the Theatre on Monday the 1st of April 1861 with a Pantomime production.

Right - A poster for a 'Dramatic Season' at the Theatre Royal, Huddersfield whilst under the lesseeship of John Hudspeth for the 28th of January 1876 and following days. This was very early in the new lesseeship of John Hudspeth, who took over the Theatre on the 1st of January 1876. Mentioned on the Bill is a Benefit for Miss Marie Bramah and Mr John Hudspeth, and the pieces included 'Luke The Labourer', 'The Irish Emigrant', 'Coleen Bawn', and 'Sentenced To Death'.

On the 15th of February 1880 the Theatre was destroyed by fire and a new Theatre was then built on the same site by J. A Love of Southport to the designs of the architect B. E. Entwistle. Construction began in August 1880 and the new Theatre opened on the 11th of April 1881 with a production of 'As You Like It' with Miss Wallis playing Rosalind.

The Theatre's main frontage of square stoned Ashler was on Ramsden Street and was 60 foot wide with six entrances, including access to the Dress and Upper Circles through a spacious Vestibule of 23 foot by 18 foot. The Boxes were approached from a handsome staircase in the Vestibule. The side elevation on Bull and Mouth Street was in hammer dressed stonework, 118 foot in length, and provided entrances to the Stalls and Stage, and exits from the Pit and Gallery.

The stage, which was on street level, designed for easy access, was 55 foot wide with a proscenium opening of 26 foot by 28 foot high and had two tiers of boxes on either side, two on each tier. The Grid was 47 foot high. The Dress Circle could accommodate around 120 people and the Upper Circle around 130. The Upper Circle also had its own smoking lounge, refreshment bar, and crush room. The Gallery and Pit could each accommodate around 1,000 people. Underneath the Pit was a room designed for Band Practice.

The proscenium was embellished with bas relief ornaments and above the stage was a large fresco painting illustrating Shakespeare's comedy and tragedy with a figure of Shakespeare himself in the centre. The auditorium ceiling consisted of 16 panels with figures representing Music and Drama. The Act Drop for the new Theatre was painted by George Tweddell and represented a party of merry makers embarking on board a large gondola.

The Theatre Royal, was demolished in 1961 by the Huddersfield Corporation, allegedly because it was in a dilapidated condition. A new Market Hall was built on the site.

 

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Huddersfield in a photograph taken during the week of the very last show (Sailor Beware) at the Theatre before its closure and eventual demolition - Courtesy Anthony Hartwell.

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Huddersfield in a photograph taken by Harry Atkinson for the owners Nita Valerie and her husband during the week of the very last show at the Theatre (Sailor Beware) before its closure and eventual demolition - Courtesy Anthony Hartwell - Harry Atkinson was a Huddersfield photographer who photographed a great many stage and film artists.

A visitor to this site, Alan Bonser, says:- 'The Theater Royal was owned by Nita Valerie and her husband, Peter Bernard, who were my grandparents. My brother and I spent many vacations from school in Huddersfield even after my grandfather died in 1962 (even though IMDB states that he died in 1960). Even though I was around 5 years old, my mother used to take us to the theatre to see the shows' - Alan Bonser. If you have any more information on Peter Bernard and Nita Valerie, and their time at the Theatre Royal, or Peter Bernard's daughter "Bunty", please Contact me and I'll pass it on to Alan.

Another visitor to this site, Tamara Malcolm, says:- 'Jack Woolgar, actor at the Theatre Royal Huddersfield for 7 years, (I performed there for 4 months Jan 1957) donated one of the last remaining Caryatids that decorated the Circle and Upper Circle of the TR to Chipping Norton Theatre in 1973. We called her Ethel and she has been in pride of place top centre of the proscenium arch since then, always shining in new gold leaf.' - Tamara Malcolm.

 

The Theatre Royal, Huddersfield
From 'Memories of Show Business' by Percy G Court, 1953.

A Programme for 'Peace Comes to Peckham' at the Theatre Royal, Huddersfield, October the 25th, 1948.Our next town was Huddersfield - at the Theatre Royal. This theatre had a small plant of electrical equipment and here we were able to recharge our batteries (six in number). These batteries were used - you will remember in the scene with the "SAFE" and the means by which it was opened. The method of use was fixing wires to the batteries - and from them a wire to a carbon which was held in a rubber folder - leaving about six inches bare. An ordinary large file, bound round at its "tang" with rubber is held in the right hand, the carbon with the left, as each hand touches the iron plate over the key hole of the safe: a shower of sparks and flashes of light are helped by the fuse wires melting - this was very spectacular and effective. It held the audience - spellbound. 'Memories of Show Business' by Percy G Court, 1953.

Right - A Programme for 'Peace Comes to Peckham' at the Theatre Royal, Huddersfield, October the 25th, 1948.

The Theatre Royal, Huddersfield was demolished in 1961 by the Huddersfield Corporation, allegedly because it was in a dilapidated condition. A new Market Hall was built on the site.

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

 

The Cambridge Arms / Cambridge Music Hall, Upperhead Row, Huddersfield

Under the proprietorship of Mr Allen Hoyle, the Cambridge enjoyed a checkered history for just over a decade from the late 1850s to the late 1860s. Hoyle invested several thousand pounds in expanding his establishment in the late 1860s when it could boast an auditorium that held c.1000 people.

In 1857 Hoyle had taken over the Black Swan, renaming it the Cambridge Arms Music Saloon and advertising it as a 'Temple of Harmony', complete with a 'first-class pianoforte' to be played by 'the eminent pianist' Mr. Wilson, a man known for his performances in both Glasgow and Sunderland. A regular performer was the comic vocalist and mimic, B C (Ben) Hoskins, described as 'the merriest son of Momus', who brought 'deafening shouts of applause at each appearance'. Other artists included McCarthy and Hales 'the Second to None Comic Duettists, Female Burlesque, Vocalists and dancers' who appeared for a month in 1865, and the sisters, Wilhelmina and Rosa Arklington, 'the one a Sentimental Serio-Comic and Characteristic Singer; the other an Operatic Characteristic and Transformation Danseuse'! According to Era in August 1865 'a most agreeable hour may be spent at this [the Cambridge] the only place of amusement open in Huddersfield'. It continued, in somewhat convoluted language, to describe 'the company [as] being decidedly more than usually attractive and very numerous'. Throughout the 1860s the Cambridge offered a range of entertainments. Singers, dancers and comics (of varying descriptions but many Irish) were the mainstay while 'Negro entertainments', some described as refined, were a regular feature. Gymnasts and trapeze artists, such as 'the Great Pedanto! The Daring Pedanto' from America were to be found along with performing animals but 'The Sensation of 1867' was to be 'Madame Conrade and her Celebrated Troupe of Females Artistes … in their Grand Entertainment of Poetic Groupings [and] Classical Statuary'.

(Cambridge Arms - Mr. Nat Ogden, comic singer; Messrs. Wells and Edwards, Nigger melvelists; Miss Lizzy Wright, serio-comic and sentimental; and Mr. Hamer, tenor, appear every evening, to the satisfaction of the numerous patrons of the establishment. During the Easter hollidays extra entertainments are announced; also, the first appearance of Mr. W. Hall, wizard, singer, and ventriloquist. Mr. B. C. Hoskins is re-engaged. The musical department is under the direction of Mr. J. W. Lord. First violin, Mr. J. S. Robinson. - From the Era, 31st March 1861.)

Despite the positive comments in the Era the Cambridge had a reputation as 'a den of iniquity' and Hoyle appeared in the local magistrates' court on several occasions facing charges associated with selling alcohol outside licensing hours and permitting gambling and prostitution on his premises. Matters came to a head in 1869. In March of that year Hoyle announced the forthcoming appearance of the seemingly innocuous Mr & Mrs White, 'Negro Comedians, Vocalists, Instrumentalists and Dancers'. Their act was to be Hoyle's downfall. Two of the local police visited the Cambridge and in some detail described how the Whites had assumed the characters of the “lady” and the “negro servant” and in the following performance 'the man left the stage 14 times, the woman twice' while 'the stage was vacant once' before the curtain dropped. Later a “ticket of leave man” and another person were on stage involved in a conversation which the police claimed was a performance under the relevant act (7Vic.8 section 11). Despite a spirited claim by Hoyle's defence that it was not clear whether 'the performance or conversation could be called a drama, tragedy, comedy, opera or pantomime', the magistrates found in favour of the police case and fined Hoyle £5. The Era was sufficiently concerned to run a short piece under the heading: HOW FAR DOES THE THEATRICAL LICENCE EXTEND? It was clearly worried that a £5 fine had been imposed merely 'for permitting the mere conversation jargon so common with Niggers to take place on his boards without a licence.' Hoyle appealed to the magistrates at Quarter Sessions in the October. The police evidence stressed the immoral nature of the 'performances' at the Cambridge. The Huddersfield detective, Walter Pazan recounted how he had visited the Cambridge on several occasions 'and had seen, more than twice, as many as six or seven prostitutes and five or six thieves present'. Furthermore, he 'had witnessed the performers making indecent signs on the stage and [had] heard indecent songs'. Worse, according to fellow-officer, Inspector James Whelan, 'one of the performers was a woman in male costume [who] went amongst the audience and asked the visitors to stand treat'. The magistrates saw no reason to overturn the decision of the local magistrates in Huddersfield. By the time of this appeal Hoyle had suffered a second, more serious blow. After thirteen years his licence was not renewed. At the Brewster Sessions in August 1869 the Town Clerk objected to the renewal of Hoyle's licence for the Cambridge, citing his prosecutions for permitting gambling and prostitution and his most recent prosecution for 'permitting stage plays of an immoral character, without a licence'. The magistrates ignored the ambiguity and upheld the Town Clerk's objection.

By December 1869 the fixtures and fittings of the Cambridge were sold. Hoyle himself was soon declared bankrupt and, in an ironic final twist, the Cambridge itself was put up for sale and purchased by the teetotallers of Huddersfield, who renamed it the British Workman. As an alternative and uplifting venue for the working men of Huddersfield it was a very short-lived venture.

The above article on the Cambridge Arms / Music Hall, Huddersfield, was written by David Taylor and kindly sent in by him for inclusion in 2013.

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The Argyle Music Hall, Manchester Road, Huddersfield

The Argyle Music Hall provided an alternative to the Cambridge Music Hall during the mid 1860s. Its proprietor, Mr Jonas Luke Hellawell had run the Prince of Wales Music Room in 1863 before moving to the Argyle in the following year. The ERA, 30 September 1866, described it as:- 'this beautiful hall' and again praised its entertainment which 'continues to be good'. However, despite having a company that was 'the best we have seen for some time', success proved to be elusive and it appears to have gone out of business in late 1867.

During its three years' existence the entertainment it provided was dominated by a variety of singers, including a variety of 'nigger' musicians. In 1864 'the Great Ben Ray and his Little Wonder, Master Ben Ray, the Smallest and Youngest Negro travelling' made an appearance while a year later Mr and Mrs Nash 'Negro vocalists and dancers' were described as 'exceedingly clever in their performances [which] never fail in securing the hearty applause of the visitors'. Another popular group of 'Nigger Vocalists' were the Brothers Graham, billed as 'natives of Huddersfield' and presumably blacking up for the occasion. There were various serio-comic and sensation comic vocalists while other singers included Mark Floyd with 'his Great Transformation Dances and Sensation Comic Songs' and Mr D Lyons, the 'Giant Comic Vocalist' (he was allegedly seven foot tall) while Madame Frankland, the 'Queen of Scottish Song' appeared alongside 'Master Frankland, the Infant Rarey and his wonderful performing pony'.

Dancers were another staple. Patrons in January 1866 were able to enjoy the 'Glorious Success of the Little Feather Family, the Greatest Comic Dancers in the World'. In addition, there were gymnasts and the like, such as the Ricardo family 'the most Classical Gymnasts and Dancers of the Day' or Professor E Redmond, who received 'thunderous applause for his astounding feat “Bio Dy Nimics” [that] delighted audiences' in the winter of 1864. There were also a variety of comedy and novelty acts including Liskard the musical Clown who 'brings music out of anything and everything and balances almost any article that can be produced' and Mr Levi, who as well as being 'the Sensation Comic Vocalist' was also a 'Great Skate, Spade and Stilt Dancer'.

Unlike the Cambridge Music Hall, the Argyle did not fall foul of the law. On one occasion the two music halls were both referred to as dens of vice and iniquity, a charge stoutly denied by Hellawell, who, in a letter to the local paper, stressed the respectability of the artists that he booked. Hellawell was not a complete paragon of virtue and was named in the election bribery scandal of 1866 when friends of Lieutenant-Colonel Crosland were accused of 'bribery, treating, intimidation and other corrupting means and influences'. Crosland's election was upheld by the parliamentary Select Committee that looked into the allegations and it is unlikely that Hellawell's involvement had any direct impact on the failure of the Argyle Music Hall. Its demise and the fate of Jonas Hellawell is something of a mystery. In March of 1867 it was advertising the arrival from London of a 'grand Spanish Ballet Troupe' but within months the business had failed and the 'furniture, stock in trade and other effects' of the Argyle Music Hall were sold off in early August of the same year.

The Argyle Rooms remained on Manchester Road and although there was talk of extensive alterations in late 1869 there is no evidence of a new musical hall or similar place of entertainment being opened there in the early 1870s.

The above article on the Argyle Music Hall, Huddersfield, was written by David Taylor and kindly sent in by him for inclusion in 2013.

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The Gymnasium Hall, 31 Ramsden Street, Huddersfield

The Gymnasium Hall enjoyed a chequered history as a theatre in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Described as 'the largest and handsomest Room in town' (Huddersfield Chronicle, 21st October 1854), its long-time proprietor was Professor (sometimes simply Mr) Le Blanc. He offered 'Classes for Hygiene and Medical Exercises, Fencing and Broad Swording' and subsequently 'Dancing and Deportment'.

Le Blanc clearly had aspirations to offer 'superior' entertainments. There were Grand Dress Concerts, a concert of works by Byrde, Gibbons, Handel, Bach, Corelli, Mozart and Mendelssohn, extracts from Italian Opera (dress circle seats 7s 6d), Drawing Room Operas, readings from Shakespeare, and in the summer of 1858 Charles Dickens' reading of Christmas Carol! (Huddersfield Chronicle, 28th August 1858).

His ambitions were well illustrated by his engagement of Thiodon's Royal Allied Exhibition of Arts, or the World in Miniature, which offered a 'GRAND FASHIONABLE NIGHT … under the distinguished patronage and presence of the Magistrates of Huddersfield' (Huddersfield Chronicle, 11th July 1857).

There were also educational entertainments, such as Grieve and Telbin's Diorama of the events of the Crimean War and Henry Russell's Life in America and Negro Life in Freedom and Slavery, though the latter was advertised as an entertainment with 'several new songs'.

Other acts at the Gymnasium Hall unambiguously appealed to a more popular audience. The Sisters Sophie and Annie, with their 'celebrated Mimic and Musical Entertainment' 'Sketches from Nature', were regular performers. In addition, there were several phrenologists, magicians, ventriloquists and marionettes, as well as comedians, Christy's Minstrels, and other singers, and unashamedly sensationalist acts such as Moffatt and Zeleski's Petite Classical Entertainment Troupe' with the 'Extraordinarily Educated Quagga' and General Tom Thumb.

Success appears to have been elusive for in the summer of 1863 the Gymnasium Hall was put up for sale (or long let) allegedly offering 'a first-rate opportunity for a man of good taste with a little capital' (Huddersfield Chronicle, 13th June 1863). Le Blanc was unable to find a buyer (he remained proprietor until the early 1870s) and his choice of a theatre manager, William Vernon, was little short of disastrous. Vernon found himself before the local magistrates on various charges of not paying the artists he had engaged. In one particularly farcical appearance – even the Clerk of the Court referred to a “Comedy of Errors” or “The Manager Distressed” – Vernon faced two charges of non-payment of wages and a third charge from Le Blanc (Huddersfield Chronicle, 5th March 1864). In his defence Vernon informed the court that 'his nightly takings have been from 5s to 6s, and on one night they were as low as 1s'. 'Business,' he continued, 'was very bad – two theatres in the town – a most disastrous season.'

Notwithstanding such set-backs, Le Blanc sought to enhance the theatre by adding a further 200 seats (making a total of 1,000) and an orchestra pit and later magnesium lights. Matters improved somewhat in the following years as the Gymnasium saw a number of popular music-hall style performers on stage. The best-known figure was the Lion Comique The Great Vance, who appeared in October 1869. The established favourites, Sophie and Annie returned after a break of a few years, while Christy's Minstrels appeared on a number of occasions. American 'Nigger Minstrelsy' was a staple of mid-Victorian popular entertainment across the country. In 1872 the (genuine!) Virginia Female Christy's made a two-night visit, offering 'pathetic ballads, chaste and racy dialogues, Ethiopian eccentricities [and] grotesque plantation extravaganzas' (Huddersfield Chronicle, 13th April 1872).

Dioramas – particularly with spectacular representations of the Lisbon earthquake and the battle of Sedan – remained popular and could be presented as educational. The same could not be said of the show in April 1869 featuring the 'Beautiful Circassian Lady, Zoebida Luti' along with the 'Renown Siamese Twins' and Miss Anne Swan, the twenty-year old 'Largest Woman in the World', allegedly eight foot tall and thirty-one stone!

Le Blanc's long-term ambitions resurfaced when he applied for – and was granted – a theatrical licence in February 1873. The magistrates' reasoning was somewhat perverse. Having determined that there was no need for a second theatre in Huddersfield, they granted the application because of Le Blanc's impeccable record. The theatre briefly closed to be 'adapted for theatrical and musical entertainments'.

In 1873 Le Blanc and his new manager, J. W. White, engaged the Operetta and Concert Company whose programme included excerpts from Offenbach, an adaptation of Goethe's Faust and of Schiller's poem 'The Storm of Thoughts'. The following year saw Wilson Barrett's London Company's East Lynne and Mr. Clarence Holt's readings from Shakespeare and Dickens. But the popular 'music hall' dimension was not entirely abandoned. Indeed, the Huddersfield Chronicle praised the Gymnasium's 'versatile and elaborate programme, embracing many of the favourite songs and music-hall attractions of the time' (Huddersfield Chronicle, 18th March 1876). In February 1874 another 'swell', George Leybourne, famous for his rendition of Champagne Charlie, made his Huddersfield debut.

Le Blanc was succeeded as proprietor and manager by the talented White whose resident company travelled to local villages such as Holmfirth and Marsden to broaden the appeal of the Gymnasium Music Hall but his positive impact came to an end in August 1876 when he moved to the town's Theatre Royal.

The late 1870s were years of decline for the Gymnasium, notwithstanding the successful appearance of Mr. Charles Rayard, a vocalist but also 'the only One-legged pedestal dancer in the world'! Complaints were made about the unprincipled management of the theatre – artists unpaid and false claims made – and even the opening of a swimming pool within the theatre could not stop the rot. In 1880 The Era said there was no music-hall in Huddersfield. In fact, the Gymnasium stumbled along for a few months. In January 1882 the champion dancer, Tom Wood, came for a season, even engaging at his own expense a troupe of Irish female singers and Negro comedians but to no avail. Probably the largest audience that year was the 600 or so Irishmen who attended a lecture on peasant rights in Ireland. References to the Gymnasium, in the local press and The Era dry up after 1881 and its last days are shrouded in obscurity.

The above article on the Gymnasium Hall, Huddersfield, was written by David Taylor and kindly sent in by him for inclusion in 2014.

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Assembly Rooms, Huddersfield

Assembly Rooms, - An extra Christmas concert was given here on Thursday, the 21st instant, by the members of the Huddersfield Choral Society, when the oratorio selected for performance was Handel's Messiah. The principle vocalists were Madame Tonnekor (soprano), Miss Crosland (contralto), Mr T. W. Hanson (tenor), and Mr Richard Garner (base).
The orchestra was unusually strong, numbering nearly 200 performers, under the leadership of Mr H. C. Cooper (solo violinist), Mr. J. Wood playing the trumpet solos, and Mr. R. S. Burton officiating as conductor. The audience was only tolerably large. - From the Era, 31 Dec 1871.

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Fountain Music Hall, Huddersfield

Fountain Music Hall - (Proprietor, Mr C. Cartlidge.) - Thursday, 21st inst., was set apart for the benefit of Miss Warde (pianist), when the following artistes gave their services. Miss Kate Lascelles, Mr E. Cartlidge, Master C. R. Cartlidge, Mr J. Battersby, and Mr Shakespere Hurst (reader and reciter). - From the Era, 31 Dec 1871.

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Prince of Wales, Huddersfield

Prince of Wales - Mr. E. D. Davies, Irish comic singer, is fulfilling a short engagement. He is an old favourite in this town, and is in full possession of his wanted humour. Mrs. Sherratt, dancer; Miss O'Brien, and Miss Parker, vocalists, are also still here. Miss Smithson adds lustre to the circle by her superior performance on the piano, and the rendering of a selection of Operatic songs. - From the Era, 31st March 1861.

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The Navigation Tavern, Huddersfield

Another Concert Room, at the Navigation Tavern, is to open on Easter Monday; Proprietor, Mr. A. Waterhouse. The room is spacious, fitted up with a stage, scenery, &c., nicely decorated, and well adapted for the purpose. - From the Era, 31st March 1861.

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Frank Matcham, the renowned Theatre architect designed a variety theatre for Huddersfield but sadly this was never built.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Huddersfield in 1871

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.