on 15th August, 1819, Charles
Morton's career is the history of music hall. As The Era
(18th January, 1894) expressed
"it is not merely the fact of his having endowed the Canterbury
with the grand style. Again and again - when he established the Oxford,
when he renewed the record of the Alhambra as a variety
theatre, when he assumed his present position as general manager of
the Palace - has Mr. Morton been identified with an epoch in music
it is possible to assess Charles Morton's role in the 'pothouse to
palace of varieties' process, without accepting 'it owes him everything'.
As he remained active in variety theatre
management until his death on 18th October, 1904,
he was regarded with respect as 'Father of the Halls'. He was the
first music hall proprietor to get his advertisements for the Canterbury
Hall accepted by The Times. Whilst encouraging all types of music
and singing - he premiered Gounod's opera'Faust' long before Colonel
Mapleson presented it at Her Majesty's
Theatre ~ he was shrewd enough to know that the comic singers
brought in the crowds. Mackney, Maclagan, and Cowell were his mainstays
in the 'comic department'. Sam
Cowell's weekly salary of £4 at Evans's
swiftly rose to £30, such was his popularity at the Canterbury.
The success of the father-and-son team, Henry and Edward Weston with
their High Holborn music hall, prompted
Morton to move 'up west' and with his brother-in-law Frederick Stanley,
open 'The Oxford' on 26th March,
1861. built on the site of
the 'Boar & Castle' public house, this was the first of four Oxford
Music Halls here between 1861 and 1893
- the first two were destroyed by fire. For six years, Morton and
Stanley ran both halls, their artistes doubling by brougham. Later
Morton extended his entertainment interests by creating a thriving
centre of 'opera bouffe' at Islington's Philharmonic
Hall. Emily Soldene was his star-artiste here.
In 1877, Morton agreed to
become manager of the Alhambra, to bring
that famous Leicester Square hall out of its financial problems following
the Middlesex Magistrates refusal to grant a Music & Dancing Licence
in October 1870. Fire also
destroyed that Alhambra in December 1882,
but it re-opened with Morton's style of variety
presentations on 18th October, 1884.
After he had announced his retirement in 1891,
the Newson-Smith Syndicate persuaded him to return and revitalise
He left his final mark on the Palace Theatre
in Cambridge Circus. Charles Morton's 'starmaking' era pre-dated the
Lion Comiques. It was as established stars that they worked the Oxford.
Text and Image from 'John Wilton's Music Hall' by Peter Honri.