The Metropolitan Theatre, 267 Edgware Road, Paddington
Formerly - The White Lion / Turnham's Grand Concert Hall / The Metropolitan Music Hall
Above - The Metropolitan Theatre in a photograph published in the Illustrated London News, June 1972
Originally on this site was an inn called the White Lion Public House which dated from 1524. In 1836 the White Lion was rebuilt as a concert room called Turnham's Grand Concert Hall, and then in 1862 it was rebuilt again, at a cost of £25,000, with a capacity of 2,000, and opened on the 8th of December that year. On Easter Monday 1864 the building reopened again and this time with a new name; the Metropolitan Music Hall.
Right - A programme for the Metropolitan Music Hall for the week ending Jan 6th 1894 - Kindly donated by Mr. John Moffatt.
Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Metropolitan Music Hall in 1867 - "11th July Attend Annie Adams "benefit" at the "Met". The "lion comiques" are out in force there - Leybourne, Vance, Arthur Lloyd, Nash, Fred French, Walter Laburnum et al . . . "Champagne Charlie" must be the Song of the Hour, though Lloyd's "Not for Joseph" runs a strong counter.' Peter Honri's 'John Wilton's Music Hall' - Arthur LLoyd also performed here in 1892.
In 1896 the Metropolitan music hall was radically restructured. Work began on the demolition of the old music hall in April and most of the building was removed, although parts of the exterior were retained. The foundation stone for the new building, designed by the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham, was laid on Tuesday the 17th of August 1897. The new Theatre would have a new and enlarged stage, new dressing rooms, and exits, and a completely new auditorium, all constructed within the walls of the old music hall, the exterior was also altered and a new facade constructed.
Above - A Sketch showing Frank Matcham's new Metropolitan Music Hall - From the Building News and Engineering Journal, February 25th 1898. The caption for this image reads 'This well-known variety theatre has just been rebuilt. It occupies the site of the previous "Metropolitan," which was erected in 1862 on the same parcel of land occupied by the "Old White Lion," a hostelry originally founded in 1524 when "Padynton" was but a small village on the Edgware-road. So late as the commencement of the present century Paddington numbered scarcely 2,000 inhabitants; to-day it is one of the largest Parliamentary divisions, with two members of Parliament and 120,000 population. Mr. C Gray Hill, of Coventry, was the builder of the present new house, and Mr. Frank Matcham is the architect. The construction throughout is fireproof.'
The ERA reported on the rebuilding of the Met in their 21st of August 1897 edition saying: 'The nobility and gentry of Paddington are well cared for in the matter of entertainment, and the Met, as their local variety temple is called, has for many years applied the discoeuvrement so necessary to every class of the dwellers in this great metropolis. The neighourhood, however, has very much extended since the hall was first established, and for some time it has been felt by Mr Henri Gros, the latest proprietor of the Edgware-road establishment, that his property needed reconstruction. More capital was called into the venture by the formation of a company, including Mr George Adney Payne and Mr Henry Tozer as directors, Mr Gros still retaining his connection with the hall as managing director; and, the preliminaries of the company having been settled, the demolition of the hall vas determined upon. The plans for the building of a more palatial establishment were entrusted to Mr Frank Matcham, who has designed so many of our best halls both in London and the provinces.
A part of the original structure has been preserved, but the auditorium will be completely remodeled. It will contain a large balcony and gallery, built on the cantilever principle, by the adoption of which intervening pillars will be unnecessary. Private boxes of white marble will be erected on the ground floor on either side of the stalls, and the seating capacity of the house will be increased to 3,000. The stage will be enlarged and new dressing-rooms provided, while every attention is being paid to exits and precautions against fire. The decoration of the auditorium will be in Flemish style, and the walls of the entrance will be of white marble, surmounted by Indian ornamentation in rich colours. An entirely new façade is to be erected, additional premises having been purchased on the right of the former house. The work of reconstruction was undertaken three months ago, and it is hoped that the theatre will be completed and ready for opening by the end of November.'
Above - A programme for the Metropolitan Music Hall for the week ending Jan 6th 1894 - Kindly donated by Mr. John Moffatt. On the Bill were Miss Fannie Leslie, Ara, Zebra & Vora, Miss Lucy Clarke, The Harrison Troup, Professor Thornbury, Miss Chrissie Angus, Ted Morris, The Boisset Troupe, Charles Bignell, Charles Deane, Miss Daisy Wood (Sister of Marie Lloyd), The Sisters Belfry, and Edwin Boyde.
The new Metropolitan Theatre was finished a month later than the previous article suggested and in fact opened on Wednesday the 22nd of December 1897 with a variety show. The ERA reported on the opening in their 25th of December edition saying: 'A magnificent theatre of varieties, built with every modern device for comfort and safety, now rears its head. In the new Metropolitan, indeed, everything that architectural skill can plan, everything that artistic taste can suggest, and everything that modern luxury demands have been combined... The exterior is at once imposing and strikingly handsome, from the granite façade to the lofty minarets; and the comments of the crowd that stood opposite the hall on the night of the private view (the 17th inst.) were rough and ready testimonials certainly, but they were highly complimentary.
Mansfield stone of a light terra-cotta colour has been chiefly employed in the front elevation, and the carvings are liberal and artistic. Large spherical and dome-shaped windows, in which stained-glass is effectively used, help to break any unwelcome uniformity of line. Indeed, the whole design, although thoroughly unconventional in treatment, is admirably balanced. Massive and graceful wrought-iron and glass awnings shelter the wide portals at both ends of the building.
Right - Cast details from a Metropolitan Music Hall programme for the week ending Jan 6th 1894 - Kindly donated by Mr. John Moffatt.
The principal entrance leads into a marble vestibule, paved with ceramic mosaic, and has a lofty dome-shaped ceiling modelled and ornamented in true Moorish fashion. Passing by the commemorative foundation stone, the visitor enters through a short inner vestibule, with marble walls, into the theatre itself. The first impression will undoubtedly be that of wonder at the transformation from its old irregular interiordefective in construction and deficient of modern decorative tasteto a strikingly handsome and elegant auditorium. Instead of one gallery there are now two, or, to be more accurate, a balcony and a gallery...
Above - A painting of the exterior of the Metropolitan Theatre by Ian Graham who writes: 'I used to pass by the Met every day on the bus to school and was lucky enough to be taken there as a child a few times. Saddened to see its demolition, I painted this impressionist sketch of the facade in about 1963 (aged 14). I wouldn't claim its very good, but it does bring back memories: the lady on the trapeze over our heads; the conjurer producing an egg from my mouth on stage (not at 14, I hasten to add); and, best of all, wonderful comic songs. - Courtesy Ian Graham.
...Every part of the theatre has been enlarged, and the entrances and exits multiplied. Occupying as it does the same ground space as the old hall, the great increase in the size of the present theatre is a veritable triumph of architectural skill. This is, perhaps, due to the fact that Mr Frank Matcham, the architect, has already designed fifty-three theatres and music halls. The holding capacity of the whole house is upwards of 2,800, On the ground floor there are the fauteuils, stalls, and pit seats; also four private boxes, unique in position and appearance. They are on the level of the stage, whilst, approached by a few steps at their rear, two other handsome boxes flank the proscenium opening somewhat below the balcony level.
Of the two saloons for the convenience and refreshment of the ground-floor occupants, one is charmingly decorated in Burmantoft faience, and the other in walnut panelling, with alternate mirrors and tapestry of an original decorative character, the ceiling being treated in the style of Louis XVI. These saloons are entirely separated from the auditorium.
Left - The back of a programme for the Metropolitan Music Hall for the week ending Jan 6th 1894 - Kindly donated by Mr. John Moffatt.
The balcony and gallery are admirably constructed, the gallery alone affording accommodation for between 800 and 900 persons. The decorations of the interior are by Mr James M. Boekbinder. Undoubtedly the most striking feature is the quartet of pictures in the four coves of the ceiling, charming in colour and treatment. Of great size and beauty, they contain between fifty and sixty life-size figures, graceful and natural in every pose, and are illustrative of " Old English Merrymaking," "An Indian Festival," " French Carnival,' and " Spanish Revelry." Crowning the pictured coves is the magnificent ceilinga veritable chef d'auvre of plastic art. The style adopted in the internal decoration is Flemish Renaissance, the painting being almost entirely in various tints of ivory liberally embellished with gold. The whole of the upholstery, including the tableau curtain, is in two shades of dark crimson. This novel colour scheme gives a welcome sense of delicacy as well as richness, partaking in decorative effect more of the graceful method of the best Continental opera houses than that of any English variety theatre. Indeed, the Continent has been thoroughly explored by architect, artist, and directors themselves for any and every suggestion that would add to the beauty of our latest variety theatre. From Brussels come many of the carvings, from Liege some of the wall decorations, from Vienna some of the appointments, from the Val d'Osnes the allegorical figure in the front of the building. English carpets and English velvets have been chosen, and all that is solid and strong in the building is of British manufacture.
Whilst a gas installation has been provided, electricity is naturally the chief illuminant of the building, and the art fittings thereof have been specially designed to harmonise with the decorative character of the various parts of the theatre. The electric lighting has been installed by that experienced electrician Mr Harry South, of Garrick-street, who has done the work in up-to-date fashion. In the fitting of the stage everything is of the most handy, substantial, and modern construction; and new scenery has been painted by Mr W. T. Hemsley. Every part of the house is of fireproof construction, and in addition to nine separate entrances and exits and to the requisite fire appliances, a safety curtain of iron and asbestos completely isolates the stage from the auditorium. A new departure has been made in the decoration of this curtain. It is painted to represent tapestry with a central picture of the Marble-arch...
Above - A Variety Programme for the Metropolitan Theatre from 1949 - Courtesy Tom Olding
...It was intended to open the new place on Monday last, but at the last moment some minor details were not in order, and the County Council refused to pass the place. However, it was found very easy to put everything right, and the necessary permission was granted to the directorate at noon on Wednesday. In the evening the better parts of the house were crowded by a brilliant and fashionable gathering, and the opening night of the new Met. was celebrated amid much general rejoicing...
Above - A Variety Programme for the Metropolitan Theatre from 1949 - Courtesy Tom Olding - On the Bill were Jay and his Merry Lads, Les Valettos, Bob Andrews, Alfred Thripp, Max Miller, Bob Andrews, Chas Hague, The Harmaniacs, Evelyn Taylor & Shenton Harris, and Terry & Doric Kendal.
...Mr Leon Turner and his capable corps of instrumentalists opened the entertainment with an "Inauguration March," specially composed by him for the occasion, and then that admirable vocalist Miss Lucy Clarke sang the solo of the National Anthem, the audience joining heartily in the chorus. As a matter of course. Mr Henri Gros, the managing director, was called forward during the evening to receive the congratulations of the audience on the splendid house...'
The opening of the Metropolitan Theatre on Wednesday the 22nd of December 1897 consisted of a variety show with the following acts appearing: Tom White and his Arabs, Princess Pauline, Miss Cora Cardigan, Miss Alexandra Dagmar, Mr G. W. Hunter, Mr Harry Atkinson, the Dumond Parisian Minstrels, Miss Marguerite Cornille, Miss Tiny Arnold, Signor Polverini's Animated Photographs, Bob and Jennie Leonard, Miss Rachel Walker, Martell and Taunton, Mr Fred Russell, Miss Florrie Gallimore, Mr Albert Christian, Mr Torn. Costello, Miss Kate Carney, Miss Alice Maydue, Miss Emmeline Ethardo, Mr Fred Leslie's leaping dogs, the Avrignys, Miss Julie Mackey, Miss Rose Hamilton, and the Villion Troupe of acrobatic bicyclists.
Right - A Programme Cover for a production of 'The Whip' at the Metropolitan Theatre in May 1962 - Kindly donated by Edward Beckerleg. Also see Cast Details below. The Whip was first produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1909 and there are more details and images for that production here.
The Metropolitan Theatre was to survive for just one more year after the production of 'The Whip' shown right and below, but in 1963, on Friday, April the 12th, the curtain came down for the last time and the Theatre was closed for its subsequent demolition.
Above - Cast Details for a production of 'The Whip' at the Metropolitan Theatre in May 1962 - Kindly donated by Edward Beckerleg. The Whip was first produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1909 and there are more details and images for that production here.
After the Metropolitan Theatre closed it was however, used one last time by the English movie producer Richard Gordon for the filming of the Theatre scenes in the now cult horror film 'Devil Doll' which was made in early 1963 and released in 1964. The Theatre's dressing rooms and the stage are seen throughout the movie. "One of the luxuries of shooting there on the eve of its destruction", said Gordon, "was the fact that they could make as much of a mess as they wanted, even tear down a wall here or there." After filming the Theatre was then demolished. This film information is courtesy Tom Weaver.
Above - The Last Night at the Met - Good Friday 1963 - Courtesy Peter Charlton.
The last night of the Met was on Good Friday, April 12, 1963 and the all-star bill, compered by Tommy Trinder, included Hetty King, Issy Bonn and Ida Barr from the early days, and in contrast Johnny Lockwood, Mrs Shufflewick, Wyn Calvin, Dickie Valentine, Eddie Reindeer and Ted Ray. Ivan Dozin was the MD. The theatre was packed for the occasion and hundreds were turned away.
The text (Edited) above was kindly written for this site by David Baines BMHS.
Above - Demolition begins on the Metropolitan Theatre in 1963 - Photo Courtesy Peter Charlton.
Above - The death of a landmark: All that remained on September 20th of the famous Metropolitan in Edgware Road were the remnants of these two balconies. Like so many London Theatres and especially Music Halls, the Metropolitan has fallen under the picks and hammers of the demolition workers. - Illustrated London News September 1963.
Recollections of the Metropolitan Music Hall
A visitor to the site, David Baines, says: 'The Metropolitan Music Hall, Edgeware Road was unique in its world. Countless devotees have spent happy hours soaking up the offered entertainment. Soaking is a good word as this was one place where it was possible to enjoy the proceedings from a seat at the bar. Sadly the progress of the M1 motorway necessitated its removal (See note below).
The last night at the Met was a wake. A time to remember the good days and for one more time be stirred by the music and the lights. As we sat waiting for the show to begin I looked at the faces of the caryatids supporting the stage boxes. They looked as serene as ever with no indication of their pending doom. The show was great. Never better. As we sadly exited it was hard to believe this was it. Happily the theatre lives on on film and can be seen in the classic Ealing Studio's "The Blue Lamp" which shows scenes inside during a performance. Cinema historians may also like to know that the legendary cinema The Coliseum in Harrow Road, also features in this film - David Baines BMHS.
A visitor to the site, Robert Daniels, has remarked on the above text saying: 'The theatre was not pulled down to make way for the M1. The M1 is nowhere nearby. The theatre had run out of time. It rumbled along for a few more years as a wrestling hall. It was finally pulled down to make way for a super new Police station, the Paddington Police station, on the apex of Edgware Rd and Harrow Rd. The site of the old theatre lies below the new police station. Adjacent to the police station is the A40 - Marylebone flyover, (not the M1) lying below the flyover is the site of old Paddington Green Police station.' - Robert Daniels.
Another visitor to the site, John West, says: 'Have just seen a revival of the film "The Blue Lamp". The auditorium of the "Met" is shown along with the bar at the back of the stalls, as the two villains strive to establish an alibi. They climb out of a window in the gents in order to do the robbery. This might be the only moving images of the theatre in use. Tessie O'Shea was shown doing part of her act on the stage.' - John West.
Alan Chudley writes on the Metropolitan Theatre
Above - A Programme for 'Stars of Radio' at the Metropolitan Theatre January 29th 1945 - Courtesy Alan Chudley.
I knew this theatre well. It was a delightful theatre to visit, but a difficult date to take a show into. The Stage was triangular in plan and there was very little room on the OP side. On the prompt side there was a large scene dock, later used to store the draperies and scenery from all the Granada houses. Under the stalls floor there were storerooms, these was apparently the stalls area of the old pre-Matcham, Metropolitan.
The stage manager at the Met was Ted Bigney who was also the Stage manager at the Edmonton Empire on the night of Marie Lloyd's collapse there which resulted in her death a few days later. - Alan Chudley.
Above - Programme detail for 'Stars of Radio' at the Metropolitan Theatre January 29th 1945 - Courtesy Alan Chudley.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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