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The Palace Theatre of Varieties, Gold Street, Northampton

Formerly - The Crow & Horseshoe Inn Music Hall / Thomas’s Music Hall / The Alhambra Music Hall / The Temperance Hall of Varieties / The Star Hall of Varieties / The Theatre of Varieties - Later - The Palace Vaudeville Theatre / The Picture House / Vint's Palace / Vint's Picture Palace / The Majestic Cinema

Northampton Theatre Index

The Majestic Theatre, Northampton, formerly the Palace Theatre - Courtesy Paul Bland

Above - The Majestic Theatre, Northampton, formerly the Palace Theatre - Courtesy Paul Bland

 A poster for 'The 3 Demons' at the Palace Theatre of Varieties, Northampton in November 1907 - Courtesy Chris Glazebrook.The Palace Theatre of Varieties, which was situated on Gold Street, Northampton, had a long and involved history. The Theatre opened in the last month of 1901 but was actually a reconstruction of a former Music Hall which had first opened in 1855 as part of the Crow & Horseshoe Inn, and whose proprietor was William Thomas. It was known as Thomas’s Music Hall from at least 1859. Thomas eventually went bancrupt and sold the Hall to Robert Higgitt who renamed it the Alhambra Music Hall on the 16th of October 1869.

A Temperance Movement then acquired the Hall but it went back to being a Music Hall when Charles Clarke reopened it in November 1878 as the Temperance Hall of Varieties. This name was later changed to the Star Hall of Varieties. The Music Hall was again sold on in 1880, to T. S. Muddeman who reopened it in November the same year as the Theatre of Varieties. Muddeman was an auctioneer and dabbled in all kinds of things until he eventually went bankrupt. The Music Hall's fortunes changed again when it was leased to R. L. Capell, who was an ironmonger on Gold Street and in May 1891 he began using the building as a warehouse.

Right - A poster for 'The 3 Demons' at the Palace Theatre of Varieties, Northampton in November 1907 - Courtesy Chris Glazebrook.

Happily this wasn't the end of the building's entertainment history though as its fortunes changed again when it was acquired by W. McWilliam who had the building completely reconstructed in 1901, and reopened as the Palace Theatre of Varieties on Monday the 23rd of December the same year with a Music Hall production. The Theatre was constructed and decorated by H. W. Hanwell, of Abington Street, Northampton, with an auditorium which was capable of seating around 850 people in some comfort.

The Building of a new Theatre in the Provinces. Northampton's Palace of Varieties as it will appear.

Above - The Building of a new Theatre in the Provinces. Northampton's Palace of Varieties as it will appear - From Black & White Budget, September 1901.

A Postcard depicting Gold Street and Vint's Palace, Northampton - Courtesy Paul Bland.An article in the Stage Newspaper of the December the 26th 1901 reported on the new Theatre saying:- 'That a first class-house of varieties is needed in Northampton there can be no doubt; it is, therefore, satisfactory to note that the town is at length in full possession of a capital palace erected on the site of a former music hall, which had not been used for its original purpose for many years.

Left - A Postcard depicting Gold Street and Vint's Palace, Northampton - Courtesy Paul Bland.

It is situated in Gold Street, one of the borough's busiest thoroughfares. The house is being run by a private London syndicate, under the managership of Mr. W. McWilliam, and when it opened its doors on Monday a large audience found a bright, cosy, and well-equipped hall. Its seating capacity is about 850. Orchestra stalls and pit stalls occupy the ground floor; a balcony runs right round, and at the far end is a well-appointed gallery, the whole looking on to a capital proscenium.

A Postcard depicting Gold Street and The Palace Theatre, Northampton - Courtesy Paul Bland.A handsome scheme of decoration has been carried out with much artistic feeling. The ceiling is done in decorated panels of cream and gold - the prevailing colours throughout - with a very fine Tynecastle frieze beautifully enriched with cream and gold.

Right - A Postcard depicting Gold Street and The Palace Theatre, Northampton - Courtesy Paul Bland.

Below this the walls are done with Japanese leather; the balcony front contains fine specimens of modelled plaster and lincrusta Walton panels treated in gold, forming a pretty contrast to the red plush of the seating and general furnishing. Electric light is installed all over the house, and the seating and furnishing are done with the same lavish hand that directed the other appointments.

The whole of the work of reconstruction and decoration has been admirably carried out by Mr. H. W. Hanwell, of Abington Street, Northampton, who is known far and wide as an artistic and clever decorator, and in this instance he has certainly accomplished in a wonderfully short space of time and artistic and harmonious treatment which it would be difficult to surpass.

Among the structural work - also entrusted to Mr. Hanwell - is an elaborate entrance hall in Gold Street, which includes marble steps, a Mosaic floor, and elliptical arches of electric light. Outside there is an elaborate electric light sign while inside smoke rooms, lounges, and cloak rooms are also provided. The building is heated throughout with hot water. The reconstruction has been carried out under the supervision of Mr. Latham A. Withall, F.R.I.B.A, F.S.A., London.

A Postcard depicting Gold Street and The Palace Theatre, Northampton - Courtesy Paul Bland.The seating and upholstery have been done by A. R. Dean, Limited, of Birmingham, the electric lighting by Mr. W. Mansell, of Northampton, and the heating arrangements by Mr. Ambrose Marriott, of Hingham Ferrers.

Left - A Postcard depicting Gold Street and The Palace Theatre, Northampton - Courtesy Paul Bland.

For its size it is claimed to be "one of the most beautiful and comfortable theatres in the Kingdom," and from what we saw on Monday the estimate is correct. The dressing-rooms are comodious and comfortable.

The opening programme was an attractive one, and included Mr. Tom Brantford (American comedian and mimic), the Three Castles (statuary dancers), Frank Gerald in A Breach of Promise (a laughable absurdity), Evelyn Vaudray and P. L. Julian, Stebb and Trap (eccentrics), Sylvia Love (comedienne and dancer), Carl Howard (the crazy juggler), and Walter Gibbon's Bio-Tableaux, which amongst other interesting scenes, introduces the famous local football match, Saints v. Leicester.

The scenery emanates from the brush of Mr. Ernest Howard, which speaks for the excellence of the undertaking. An excellent orchestra has been engaged, under the direction of Mr. Walter Ashton, with Mr. J. A. Twist as leader. A good deal of the adjoining property, we learn, has been purchased by the syndicate with a view of enlarging the hall etc. when occasion demands.'

The above text in quotes was first published in The Stage, December 26th 1901.

In 1903 the Theatre came under new management and the previous manager, Henry Kemble, was given a benefit variety performance in his honour. The Stage Newspaper reported on the event saying: 'Owing to the change in the proprietorship of the New Palace, Northampton, Mr. Henry Kemble (who retired from the management on Saturday) took a benefit last Thursday, when the room was packed in every part and great enthusiasm prevailed. During a break in the programme (which consisted of forty-one turns), Mr. Leoni Clark, amidst hearty applause, made a presentation to Mr. Kemble of a purse of gold, which had been contributed to by members of the profession and others. Mr. Kemble expressed great regret at leaving Northampton, and thanked every one heartily for the kindness shown to him and the artists. Whilst in Northampton Mr. Kemble has done much to remove the sturdy prejudice which had hitherto existed in the borough against music halls. Thursday's huge programme was compiled by Mr. Leoni Clark, who is to be complimented on its quality and the excellence of its arrangement.' - The Stage, 15th October 1903.

Vint's Palace, Northampton - 'Always an Up to the Minute Program' - Courtesy Paul Bland.The Theatre was acquired by Fred H. Anderson in 1907, and then, under new ownership in 1910, it was renamed The Palace Vaudeville Theatre. Two years later the Theatre became a Cinema called The Picture House, which opened on the 24th of December 1912. However, this venture failed when the Company running the Cinema went bankrupt and the building was taken over by Leon Vint. Vint renamed the place Vint's Palace and reopened it on the 22nd of September 1913 as a Music Hall with film shows, this was managed by F. E. Orten who had previously been running Vint's Palace in Carmarthen.

Right - Vint's Palace, Northampton - 'Always an Up to the Minute Program' - Courtesy Paul Bland.

The name later changed to Vint's Picture Palace and it was during this period that an article, carried in the Stage Newspaper of April 2nd 1914, reported that Leon Vint had been robbed of £23 15s 10d by three young men who had broken into Vint's Picture Palace between 11pm and 7am on the previous Saturday night, Sunday morning, and stole a bag containing most of the money from a cupboard in Vint's office, and the rest from a drawer in his desk. The men were subsequently caught and remanded in custody.

On the 24th of December 1919 the building became a Cinema proper and was renamed The Majestic Cinema. This was later acquired by Associated British Cinemas Ltd (ABC), but after they had built the Savoy, in Abington Square, they closed the Majestic in 1937.

And so the complicated history of this early Music Hall finally came to and end and the building was subsequently demolished in 1950.

A visitor to the site, Ken Noakes, says:- 'My grandfather Arthur Herbert Pollard was the pianist in the orchestra pit of the Majestic from 1920-1928/9, playing twice nightly and three times on Saturdays, accompanying the silent movies. He was thrown out of work, of course, with the advent of the talkies. He later became a piano teacher. He was well-known in the town as a pianist and composer. I'm still trying to find out more about my grandfather, who became a composer later on.' - Ken Noakes. If you can help Ken please contact him via the site's contact form.

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

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