Arthur Lloyd.co.uk
The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

The Royal Court Theatre, Roe Street, Liverpool

Formerly - Cooke's New Circus / Ducrow's Royal Ampitheatre / Royal Court Theatre, Queen's Square, Great Charlotte Street

First Theatre - Present Theatre

Liverpool Theatres Index

A Google StreetView Image of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - Click to Interact.

Notice of forthcoming productions at the Royal Ampitheatre, Liverpool - From the Liverpool Mercury of Jan 15th 1870 - Courtesy Brent Fernandez, whose ancestor, James Fernandez was on the Bill in the bottom advertisement.The Royal Court Theatre which stands in Liverpool's Roe Street today was built for Robert Arthur Theatres in 1938 and designed in the Art Deco Style by the Liverpool Architect James Bushell Hutchins. The Theatre opened on the 17th of October 1938 with a production of Lee Ephram's new Musical Comedy 'Under Your Hat'.

There is much more information on this 1938 Theatre further down on this page, however, the present Royal Court Theatre was actually built on the site of a previous building first known as Cooke's New Circus, a Circus building which could accommodate some 3,000 to 4,000 people. This opened on the 27th of February1826 and was situated on what was then Queen's Square at the junction with Great Charlotte Street.

In 1840 the building became known as Ducrow's Royal Ampitheatre under the management of Andrew Ducrow, and the venue went on to stage mostly drama for the next 40 years until it was sold to Sir David Radcliffe in 1881 for £20,000. Radcliffe had the auditorium gutted and rebuilt to designs by the local architect Henry Summers and the building reopened as the Royal Court Theatre on the 10th of September the same year, 1881.

Right - Notice of forthcoming productions at the Royal Ampitheatre, Liverpool - From the Liverpool Mercury of Jan 15th 1870 - Courtesy B.F, whose ancestor, James Fernandez was on the Bill, shown at the bottom of the advertisement.

A programme for George Edward's production of 'San Toy' at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool with Ada Reeve, for September the 23rd 1901 - Courtesy Roy Cross - Click to see entire programme.In 1884 the Theatre was sold to the famous Carl Rosa Opera Company and it reopened on the 31st of March the same year with a production of 'The Ticket of Leave Man'.

In 1896 Robert Arthur became Manager of the Theatre and was very successful there, although his success was interrupted by a fire which seriously damaged the building in January 1897.

However, he was able to reopen the Theatre in the amazingly short time of 5 days with a pantomime. There is more on Robert Arthur's tenure below.

Left - A programme for George Edward's production of 'San Toy' at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool with Ada Reeve, for September the 23rd 1901 - Courtesy Roy Cross - Click to see entire programme.

Howard & Wyndham took over the Theatre in the early 1930s along with Moss Empires but they then closed the Theatre in April 1933 despite it being very popular with local audiences. A new Company called ''The Royal Court Theatre Company' then took over the Theatre but by August the same year it had gone over to Variety and ran as such until fire destroyed the building on the 22nd of September 1933.

The Theatre was demolished 5 years later in 1938 for the building of the new, and present, Royal Court Theatre. There is much more information on the present Royal Court Theatre further down on this page.

The first Royal Court Theatre - From The Arthurian Annual of 1904

The original Royal Court Theatre - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Above - The original Royal Court Theatre - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Images of the first Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.THE past season at the Court Theatre, Liverpool, has been one of the, if not the, most successful since the Theatre passed into the hands of Mr Robert Arthur. Of productions for the " first time on any stage " there have been two, one by Mr and Mrs Kendal of a play entitled OUR PEOPLE, and quite lately THE MISTRESS OF THE ROBES, a fantastic rhymed comedy by Miss Clo Graves, produced by Miss Ellen Terry. Notable engagements have been, Mr George Alexander with his two latest successes IF I WERE KING and OLD HEIDELBERG; Mr Lewis Waller with MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE; and Mr Martin Harvey with a repertoire of plays. Musical pieces of all kinds have a great attraction for Court Theatre patrons, and old friends such as SAN TOY, A COUNTRY GIRL, FLORODORA, LA POUPEE, THE BELLE OF NEW YORK, and the D'OYLY CARTE OPERA CO. have been warmly welcomed.

Right - Images of the first Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Newly decorated throughout, Mr Arthur confidently looks forward to welcoming to this charming playhouse crowds of playgoers to witness his new Christmas production, with which he hopes to emulate last year's success, SANTA CLAUS JUNIOR.

The Spring Season at the Court Theatre, Liverpool, will be notable at any rate for one engagement which Mr Robert Arthur has made, that of Sir Henry Irving, who on his return from America will bring here his wonderful production of DANTE, and the visit of the famous actor will be eagerly looked forward to by his host of admirers. Musical comedy again will delight lovers of the lighter form of entertainment, two or three of Mr George Edwardes' sumptuous productions being again and again in evidence. THE BELLE OF NEW YORK and the Gilbert & Sullivan Operas will pay return visits; a new opera, AMORELLE, with Miss Stella Gastelle, will be brought here by Mr C. P. Levilly of La Poupee fame, and that clever little lady, Miss Ada Reeve, who made herself such a favourite here last Christmas will be seen in a new production.

MR ARTHUR LAWRENCE, the acting manager of the Court Theatre, Liverpool,.MR ARTHUR LAWRENCE, the acting manager of the Court Theatre, Liverpool, comes of a family of doctors, and originally intended to follow the profession of his forefathers.

Consequently, on leaving school he entered the Leeds Medical School, where he remained for a couple of years, migrating thence to Guy's Hospital in London. During that time he was an assiduous playgoer, and in 1886 the fascination of the stage proved stronger than medicine, and he accepted an engagement to go on tour. He played all sorts of parts in all sorts of plays up and down the country, and eventually became business manager to Mr Edward Compton with whom he remained years, and at the conclusion of that engagement was recommended by Mr Compton for the position he now happily holds with Mr Robert Arthur at Liverpool.

The above text and images in this section are from the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill whose Grandfather was Andie Caine 1869 1941.

Images for the first Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

The First Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - From 'Annals of the Liverpool Stage' by R. J. Broadbent 1908

Above - The First Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - From 'Annals of the Liverpool Stage' by R. J. Broadbent 1908

A Sketch of the original 1881 Court Theatre, Liverpool - From 'The Playgoer' 1901 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

Above - A Sketch of the original 1881 Court Theatre, Liverpool - From 'The Playgoer' of 1901 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

A scene from 'Aladdin' at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1906-1907 - Courtesy Alun Pugh

Above - A scene from 'Aladdin' at the original Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1906-1907 - Courtesy Alun Pugh

A scene from 'Aladdin' at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1906-1907 - Courtesy Alun Pugh

Above - A scene from 'Aladdin' at the original Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1906-1907 - Courtesy Alun Pugh

The Second and Present Royal Court Theatre

The 1938 Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - From a Programme for 'The Chocolate Soldier'

Above - The 1938 Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - From a Programme for 'The Chocolate Soldier'

A Programme for 'The Chocolate Soldier' at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool.A Programme for 'The Way of the World' at the Royal Court, Liverpool in November 1956.The Royal Court Theatre which stands in Liverpool's Roe Street today was built for Robert Arthur Theatres, and designed in the Art Deco Style by the Liverpool Architect James Bushell Hutchins. The Theatre could accomodate 1,612 people when it first opened on the 17th of October 1938 with a production of Lee Ephram's new Musical Comedy 'Under Your Hat'.

The Theatre was built on the site of the previous Court Theatre which had been destroyed by fire on the 22nd of September 1933.

Right - A Programme for 'The Way of the World' at the Royal Court, Liverpool in November 1956. And A Programme for 'The Chocolate Soldier' at the 1938 Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool.

The new Royal Court Theatre was constructed with an auditorium on three levels consisting of Stalls, Grand Circle and Balcony, and the Theatre was fitted with a basement lounge bar which was said to have been a replica of the main lounge of the Ocean Liner The Queen Mary.

The Entrance Hall of the new Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1938, from the Theatre's Redevelopment Brochure - Courtesy Ros Merkin.

A Staircase at the new Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1938, from the Theatre's Redevelopment Brochure - Courtesy Ros Merkin.

The Auditorium of the new Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1938, from the Theatre's Redevelopment Brochure - Courtesy Ros Merkin.

Above - The Entrance Hall, Staircase, and Auditorium of the new Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1938, from the Theatre's Redevelopment Brochure - Courtesy Ros Merkin.

The House Tabs and Proscenium of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1980, shortly before the conversion of the Theatre into a Concert and Cabaret Venue - Courtesy Ted Bottle.The Stage Newspaper reported on the new, and soon to be opened, Royal Court Theatre in their September the 29th 1938 edition saying:- 'On Monday evening, October 17, an event long-awaited by Liverpool theatre-goers takes place. Robert Arthur Theatres, Ltd., will then open the magnificent new Royal Court, which they have erected on the site of the former building, which was destroyed by fire in 1933. As an opening attraction the theatre will see the premiere of "Under Your Hat," the new musical comedy that is to bring Cicely Courtneidge and Jack Hulbert together again on the stage, an event awaited by a wider public than Liverpool's.

Right - The House Tabs and Proscenium of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1980, shortly before the conversion of the Theatre into a Concert and Cabaret Venue - Courtesy Ted Bottle.

The new theatre occupies an area of 1,252 square yards. It is a fire-proof structure with a steel frame and floors and roofs of reinforced concrete. The design, by J. B. Hutchins, a Liverpool architect, is beautiful as well as being imposing. The elevations are faced in warm-coloured bricks with contrasting stone dressings in cream, and the exterior is an ornament to a city that already possess many fine buildings. The auditorium is so designed that there are no pillars, and the curve of the circles is so slight that a clear and undistorted view of the stage can be obtained from any point. The stalls will accommodate 703 persons, the grand circle 403, and the upper circle 494, and as there are two boxes, each seating six, the total capacity of the theatre is 1,612 seats, every one of which is bookable.

The stage has been designed to give facilities for every type of production, with all modern appliances installed. The stage is 62 ft. wide and 45 ft. deep. By an elaborate system of counterweights, no fewer than 87 sets can be handled. There are 74 sets of ball-bearing counterweight gears operated front the fly gallery on the prompt side, and seven double-purchase ball-bearing counterweight lighting batten sets controlled from the 0.P. fly gallery.

The original Grand Master lighting board is still in situ at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 2012 - Courtesy Jason Barnes.The system of lighting is comprehensive and flexible, and it is claimed that Covent Garden is the only theatre in the country that can equal it. The connected load on the stage is more than 300 kilowatts.

Left - The original Grand Master lighting board which was still in situ at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 2012 - Courtesy Jason Barnes.

There is a primary lighting system for all parts of the building, supplemented by a secondary system from a storage battery, should there be any failure of current. Current is also supplied for the lighting of the outside of the theatre and for the motors driving the ventilation plant. The latter is on the most modern lines, air being drawn in above the roof, warmed, washed, and circulated at an even temperature throughout the theatre. Air is constantly circulated and can be controlled at will; and a particularly striking feature of the installation is the fact that air is removed at 85 per cent of the volume introduced, thus keeping the theatre under a pressure of 15 per cent, which is sufficient to neutralize any draught that might be caused by opening doors.

An old Strand Carbon Arc  Followspot still in the Limes room of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 2012 - Courtesy Jason Barnes.A revolving stage has been fitted, its turntable being more than 34 ft. in diameter and its hub supported on a steel tower. There are nineteen dressing rooms, all fitted with wardrobes, dressing tables, wash basins with hot and cold water, and separate emergency exits. In addition to the usual refreshment rooms, the basement of the theatre has been turned into a licensed restaurant which will be opened an hour or so before each performance begins to offer snacks and other light refreshments to patrons.

Right - An old Strand Carbon Arc Follow spot still in the Limes room of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 2012 - Courtesy Jason Barnes.

Stewart Cruikshank intends to run the theatre in connexion with the existing chain of Robert Arthur theatres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, etc., "Operette," "St. Moritz," "Plan for a Hostess," "Victoria Regina," and a Christmas pantomime are already arranged for.

The newly-appointed manager of the theatre is C. H. Mason, who has been transferred to Liverpool from the Royal, Glasgow, where he was manager for two years. For seven years previously he was business manager for Leslie Henson and Firth Shephard. His stage manager is A. Waldie.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Stage Newspaper, September the 29th 1938.

A report on the Gala opening night of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - From The Tatler, 26th of October 1938.

Above - A report on the Gala opening night of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool - From The Tatler, 26th of October 1938.

The Auditorium of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1980 shortly before the conversion of the Theatre into a Concert and Cabaret Venue - Courtesy Ted Bottle.Although the auditorium and stage, with its original revolve and fly tower, remained intact for the rest of the Royal Court Theatre's life, in 1980 the Theatre was converted into a concert venue and then in 2005, after extensive refurbishment, into a comedy club, known as the Rawhide Comedy Club, which had cabaret style seating, tables in the auditorium, and a bar fitted into the rear of the former stalls. In this form the Theatre had a capacity of 1,250.

Right - The Auditorium of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1980 shortly before the conversion of the Theatre into a Concert and Cabaret Venue - Courtesy Ted Bottle.

The Rawhide Comedy Club was later moved into its own home in the downstairs bar of the Theatre whilst the main house, with the stalls still in its cabaret style form, with tables and easy access for waiters etc, was used for Comedy, Concerts, and Plays which were often produced in house.

In October 2008 a competition was launched to give the Theatre a new lease of life. The Royal Court Trust said that their wish was:- "To upgrade, conserve and restore this valuable cultural asset in the heart of the city, following its year as European Capital of Culture. Working with a wide range of public sector agencies, the local community, actors, audiences and staff of the building, the Trust seeks inspiration to create a great new cultural resource in the heart of Liverpool. The Trust is passionate about the building. The theatre has a great history, warmth and vibrancy. We want to work with someone who can embrace all of this and has a genuine empathy for the city and its people. The winner is to be announced in February 2009." The Royal Court Trust.

An Elevation for the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpoool, by the Studio Three Architects Ltd created for a competition for the regeneration of the Theatre in 2009 - Courtesy Mushtaq Saleri RIBA

Above - An Elevation for the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpoool, by the Studio Three Architects Ltd created for a competition for the regeneration of the Theatre in 2009 - Courtesy Mushtaq Saleri RIBA.

In December 2011 the Trust had received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to begin work on renovating the Theatre and it was said that they would be undertaking a £10.6m campaign as part of that project. The refurbishment stages for the Theatre can be seen here.

Today the Royal Court's future looks very promising indeed, in April 2018 Arts Council England announced that the Theatre would become a National Portfolio Organisation. This was described as: 'a huge lift for the recently renovated Liverpool theatre, giving it the same national status as other venues in the city such as Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. As an NPO at Band 1, Liverpool's Royal Court would receive annual revenue funding from the Arts Council of over £225,000 per year until 2022.' - Arts Council England.

You may like to visit the Royal Court Theatre's own website here.

James Bushell Hutchins - Architect of the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool by Jill Armsby

James Bushell Hutchins taken not long before he died

Above - James Bushell Hutchins taken not long before he died when he was staying at Uplands, with his Niece Norah Moon. James (wearing spectacles and a dark suit) is on the right of the photos, with Norah Moon next to him - Courtesy Jill Armsby, Great Niece of James Bushell Hutchins.

James Bushell Hutchins in a photograph which must have been taken just before his mother diedJames Bushell Hutchins was born at 43 Liverpool Road, Manchester, on 02 July 1876. His father, Samuel, who was born in Huyton, was a publican who worked for Threlfall's Brewery. The family were back in Liverpool, at 282 Great Howard Street, by 1885, as James's mother, Jane Hutchins (formerly Bushell), died there on 28 April.

Right - James Bushell Hutchins in a photograph which must have been taken just before his mother died - James is the boy standing behind his sister, Amy Selina, to the left of the picture - Courtesy Jill Armsby, Great Niece of James Bushell Hutchins.

James Hutchins' wife Florence - Courtesy Jill Armsby, Great Niece of James Bushell Hutchins.James married Florence Sutton (Shown Left) in Birkenhead on 07 July 1898 by which time he was working as a surveyor's assistant. In 1901, aged 24, he gives his occupation as architect and surveyor. They had three children, Minnie, Dorothy and James Stanley and lived first at 13 Ashford Road, Birkenhead, and then at Riversdale, Vaughan Road, New Brighton.

Left - James Hutchins' wife Florence - Courtesy Jill Armsby, Great Niece of James Bushell Hutchins.

When Minnie married in 1919 they had moved to 13 Percy Street in Liverpool (near the Anglican Cathedral). James had his own architectural practice at 11, Lord Street, Liverpool, throughout the 1920's and 1930's, so it was from this address that he designed the Royal Court Theatre. My uncle, Fred Moon, youngest son of his sister, worked for him as his draughtsman. About 1930 James also had built a house for himself called Cranford at 193 Menlove Avenue, overlooking Calderstones Park.

1941 was not a good year for James. Florence was killed on 09 June 1941 when she was a passenger in a car driven by her son in law, which collided with a bus. She was a very beautiful woman ( I have a studio portrait of her taken by E. Chambre Hardman - Shown Above Left) and her death hit James hard. Lord Street was badly damaged in the May Blitz so James had to move his practice to 10 Victoria Street and this is where it remained until his death. A lot of his work during the war involved seeing that bombed warehouses were made safe. James died on 01 December 1953 in a nursing home near his daughter, Dorothy's home, Uplands, on Cartmel Fell in Cumbria.

James Bushell Hutchins taken not long before he died

Above - James Bushell Hutchins taken not long before he died when he was staying at Uplands, with Norah Moon. James (wearing spectacles and a dark suit) is on the right of the photos, with Norah Moon next to him - Courtesy Jill Armsby, Great Niece of James Bushell Hutchins.

Considering his humble background James did rather well for himself, I think. And he was a very kind and generous man - my mother and her siblings used to reminisce about the goose and the barrel of apples which he gave to their family each Christmas.

The above text on James Bushell Hutchins and the illustrating photographs were kindly sent in by Jill Armsby, Great Niece of James Bushell Hutchins.

See also James Bushell Hutchins on the Theatre Architects Page.

Other Pages that may be of Interest