Pavilion Theatre and Wonderland, Whitechapel Road, Stepney
See also in this area - Wilcox's Music Hall
Other Names - Royal Clarence Theatre / Eastern Opera House / New Royal Pavilion Theatre
Above - A detail from a printed (photolithographed) card showing the Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel Road, circa 1900 - Courtesy Fred Cooper.
The Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel first opened on Easter Monday, the 16th of April 1827, with a production of the 'Military Recreation' 'Advance Guard'. The Theatre opened under the management of Wyatt and Farrell, who at first were unable to get a licence for the Theatre but operated it without one anyway. The opening production was written by Farrell who had written a number of earlier pieces too. The opening night also included productions of 'Friends at Court' a 'Spanish Recreation' written for the event by I. H. Amherst; 'Kiss In The Ring', a 'Terpsichoral Recreation', and a 'Petit Recreation' entitled 'Speculation, or Visitor's Wanted'. In the productions were Jackson Chapino, Mr. prior, Mr. Goff, Mr. Shoard, Mr. Nicholson, Mr. J. Jones, Mr. Marquis, Mr. Conquest, Mr. Chapman, Miss Webb, Miss Burrell. Miss Ross, Miss Recki, Miss Boyle, Miss Brown, and Mrs. Beverly.
The main body of the Theatre was constructed on the site of several former dwelling houses on the street then known as Baker's Row, which is today called Vallance Road. Contemporary reports state that the Theatre was situated at Baker's Row, however the main entrance to the Theatre would later be situated on the Whitechapel Road when the Theatre was rebuilt in 1858.
The Pavilion's opening Bills in 1827 announced that the Theatre had a spacious centre chandelier of beautiful Variegated Glass designed and executed by Mr. Simmonds of Crown Street, and illuminated with gas; Ornamental appendages by Mr. J. Richardson; and Ornamental Brass Decorations by Mr. T. Richardson. The Theatre had a new Act Drop depicting scenes from the Royal Pavilion and Chain Pier in Brighton and was painted by Mr. P. Phillips of the Royal Surrey Theatre. The ceiling, proscenium, and lower circle boxes were designed and painted by Mr. Linguard. The burnished gold ornaments were by Mr. Aglen and assistants. The upper Circle was executed by Mr. Matthews. Scenery painted by Mr. Coyle, and the interior of the boxes were decorated under the direction of Mr. H. Phillips and assistants. The architect responsible for the whole Theatre was Mr. J. Lewis. Prices for the Theatre at its opening were Boxes 4s, Pit 2s, Gallery 1s, doors opened at 6 and the entertainment commenced at 6.30.
A contemporary writer in 1851 remarks that:- 'The Royal Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel Road, is a neat theatre at the eastern extreme of the metropolis; and, being subject to little competition, it has proved a successful speculation. The entertainments are much varied; for, though under the same restrictions as other minor theatres, it is less liable to obstruction in consequence of its great distance from the patents. The performance commences at half-past six; boxes, two shillings; pit,one shilling; gallery, sixpense.'
Right - The Royal Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel - From The Illustrated London News of 1856 - Courtesy Ian Munro.
Sadly this first Pavilion Theatre was destroyed by fire on the 13th of February 1856, see report below.
Above - Destruction of the Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel. - Early in the morning of the 13th, this theatre was entirely destroyed by fire. The cause is unknown, and some attribute it to the spontaneous combustion of oily tow or lamp-black in the painting loft. 'The Builder' 16th February 1856 - Courtesy Ian Munro.
The Rebuilt Pavilion Theatre of 1858
The first Pavilion Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1856 but it was soon rebuilt and reopened as the New Royal Pavilion Theatre in 1858. The Theatre was built by Temple G. Tenney to the designs of the architect G. H. Simmonds.
It is said that in 1865 the Theatre had a stage of 70' by 58' and could accommodate upwards of 3,500 people.
The Rebuilt Pavilion Theatre of 1871
The Theatre was reconstructed again in 1871 by the architect J. T. Robinson. The Building News and Engineering Journal reported briefly on this in their 22nd of September 1871 edition saying:- 'The New Pavilion Theatre, Mile End, was reopened on Monday last, after great alterations and improvements, under the direction of Mr. J. T. Robinson, architect, of Haverstock-hill. The decorations have been executed by Messrs. Pashley, Newton, Young, & Co., and the large new sunlight has been fitted up by Messrs. Hulett & Co, of High Holborn. The theatre will now seat more than 4,000 persons.'
The ERA also reported on the new Pavilion Theatre, and in greater detail, in their 17th of September 1871 edition saying:- 'Reflective persons who mingle with the streams of people which pour along the great Eastern thoroughfare between Aldgate and Mile-End, especially in the evening, when the tide of traffic is at its highest, cannot fail to ask "Where do all these thousands dwell?" and " How do they live?".
Many of them go through more open and pleasant neighbourhoods beyond the Whitechapel road, but multitudes of them reside thereabouts. A large proportion of the inhabitants of this populous locality work hard, fare meanly; and live in small, scantily furnished, and unsalubrious abodes, and therefore need recreation of a cheerful and elevating character more than any others of the people of London.
Mr. Morris Abraham has spiritedly and successfully laboured to supply this want during the last sixteen years at the popular place of amusement which was first known as the "Effingham," but which, since it was enlarged and improved a few years ago, has been called the "East London."
He has now become Lessee of the "Pavilion," which was erected in 1857 in the place of its predecessor, which was destroyed by fire. Under the direction of Mr. John Douglass this place did well for a while, but it has not known prosperity of any long continuance lately. There are good reasons for believing that success will attend the new Management. Mr. Abrahams has begun his enterprise in a manner which shows that he expects, and means to deserve, that large measure of public support which is necessary to render the carrying on such a vast concern profitable.
The edifice has been greatly altered and improved, and has been embellished and furnished in a style which proves that neither pains nor expense have been spared in executing the design of making the place one of the most beautiful and comfortable Theatres in the Metropolis. Few would imagine from the narrow, plain frontage in the Whitechapel-road that a splendid Theatre, capable of accommodating more than four thousand persons, was situated behind it. Attention is attracted to the place by fine lamps and illumination devices, the light of which can be seen from afar.
The entrance lobbies are brilliant and inviting. Mirrors, gilding, and lively colours meet the eye before the gay boxes are reached. The Theatre, it will be remembered, is approached by an unusually long tunnel-like passage. This has been transformed into a lovely glittering arcade. On the left-hand side are numerous recesses; in these are placed plants and flowers, behind which are mirrors. Looking-glass, surrounded by gilt frames, is used to ornament the pilasters between the alcoves and the opposite wall. The corridor is lighted by about a dozen crystal gaseliers, which hang from the ceiling of it. Another splendid gasalier sheds its radiance in the Entrance Hall. These were executed by Mr. Morris Defries.
A magnificent sunlight, fixed near the pretty ceiling of the Theatre, most effectively illuminates the interior. This has been supplied and put up by Messrs. Hulett and Co., of High Holborn. The decorations, which have been executed by Messrs. Pashley, Newton, Young, and Co., of Red Lion-square, are of a chaste character, and give the place an elegant rather than a gorgeous appearance. White, pink, French grey, and mauve are the principal colours which have been used. These quiet, delicate hues are relieved by a tasteful and not too lavish employment of gold.
The panels of the gallery front are ornamented with devices representing a quiver containing arrows and a flambeau placed across each other obliquely. A kind of gilded lattice work forms the chief portion of the embellishment of the front of the box tier. In the centre of this is a medallion of Shakespeare, and on either side the effigies of other dramatic authors are placed. The ornaments are very creditable to Mr. H. Spry, who designed them for the firm before named. The private boxes are fitted in the most luxurious style. They have scarlet silk velvet curtains, and the floors are covered with expensive Brussels carpet. The seats in the stalls and open boxes are stuffed and covered with red leather. Linoleum has been laid down in the box passages and the walls of the same are covered with striped crimson paper. Mr. Williamson, of Oxford-street, has had charge of the upholstery department.
An entirely new stage and proscenium have been constructed. The former is sixty feet deep, and has been lade with ample and excellent mechanical appliances by Mr. J. H. Watson. The proscenium is an exceedingly elegant one. At the crown of its arch are the Royal Arms of Great Britain, set with tags and skilfully emblazoned. A new beautiful act-drop, representing an Italian lake and mountains with a vineyard and houses, and forming a picture in a frame, surrounded by the semblance of roped crimson curtains, has been painted by Messrs. Gordon and Harford.
Spacious refreshment saloons, comfortably furnished and tastefully adorned, have been provided. The transformation of the place has been effected in an admirable manner under the direction of J. T. Robinson, Esq., of Haverestock-hill, who has officiated as architect and surveyor.
The Theatre opens on Monday next with a new drama by Mr. E. Towers. Messrs. Rogers, Fenoulhet, Smythes, and Cracknell are the scene painters. The company is to consist of the popular East London performers, with the addition of other able artistes. Mr. Isaac Cohen is to be the stage-director of the new establishment.'
In Chapter 25 of Ernest A. E. Woodrow's 1895 Concert-Halls and Assembly-Rooms the boxes of the 1871 Pavilion Theatre are mentioned briefly when he talks about the boxes at the Buda-Pesth, Somossy Orpheum, saying- '...these are somewhat similar in arrangement to what used to be called the omnibus boxes in the London theatres frequented by our forefathers, the last survival of which was destroyed when the Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel, was rebuilt last year.' ( Details below).
By 1892 the Theatre was said to have had a capacity of 2,650 with 174 in the Stalls, 436 in the Pit, 417 in the Dress Circle, 690 in the Grand Circle, and 85 in the Boxes.
The Rebuilt Pavilion Theatre of 1894
The Theatre was rebuilt again in 1894 to the designs of the architect Ernest Runtz. Shares were issued to the public to finance the rebuilding. The Prospectus for this was published in the Stage Newspaper on the 15th of March 1894, entitled 'The Drury Lane of the East' (See image, and a transcription of the most interesting details, below.)
The company has been formed to acquire that well-known and successful establishment, the Pavilion Theatre, Mile-end, together with adjoining properties.
The Pavilion Theatre is situated in the very centre of one of the most densely-populated districts of London, for the inhabitants of which it has afforded uninterrupted entertainment for upwards of thirty years.
The present market rental value of the property as it now stands, without improvements, but with the additional ground to be acquired, has been valued by Messrs. C. C. and T. Moore, of 114, Mile end-road, E., at £2,200 per annum. The vendor has contracted to grant a sub-lease of 42¾ years, less 10 days, from the 29th September, 1894, at the rent of £1,400 per annum.
The premium for the granting of the sub-lease at the rental of £1,400 and the reversion to the goodwill in September next (the value of which is not included in Messrs. Moore's report) is £21,000, of which the vendor will take £10,000 in Ordinary Shares of the company and £4,000 in Six per Cent. Preference Shares or cash, at the option of the directors.
The £10,000 to be raised by the debentures will be partly expended in the improvements and additions to the theatre and premises, full equipment of modern machinery, new scenery, wardrobe, and properties, and providing such an amount as is required as working capital.
(a) The beneficial interest in the lease to the company £16,775. (b) The value of the goodwill £21,000. Total value £87,775. Note. - The capital issue of the company is £81,100. Mr. Phipps also states that were the property in the market it would be eagerly sought after.
The directors have succeeded in securing the services of Mr. Isaac Cohen as manager for a period of five years. Mr. Cohen has been identified with the Pavilion Theatre in this capacity during the whole of the present lessee's tenancy, viz.. 20 years. The fact of this engagement is a sufficient guarantee that the character of the entertainments will be as successful as hitherto.
For the purpose of comparison, it may be stated that the seating accommodation of some of the principal theatres in London is about as follows; Drury Lane. over 3,000; Princess's, 2,500; Pavilion, 2,700; Adelphi, 2,083; and the Gaiety, 1,176.'
The Prospectus was successful and the Pavilion Theatre was duly rebuilt to the designs of the Theatre Architect Ernest Runtz, reopening with a production of the Pantomime 'Babes in the Wood' on the 29th of December 1894.
The ERA reported on the changes to the Theatre in their 22nd of December 1894 edition saying:- 'The new and very handsome Pavilion Theatre, Mile-end, will be opened on Boxing Day. The old house, re-erected in the November of 1858, was closed for rebuilding last September. The entrances, exits, and passage ways are ample, there being a separate approach from the main road for stalls, boxes, and grand circle, new ground having been acquired for the pit entrance.
The ceiling of the gallery has been raised several feet. The auditorium seems much larger than before. The decorations are in cream, gold, and blue, the latter hue being employed for the greater portion of the upholstery, including the drapery of the private boxes. The tableau curtain is of plush, and its folds are, when raised, just visible within the proscenium border. The whole of the auditorium has been reseated. Mr Ernest Runtz, the architect, may be warmly congratulated on his work.
The drop curtain is adorned with a striking picture of the Tower Bridge, painted by Mr J. Harker. Rooms for ladies and children only, in which fruit and non-intoxicants will be sold, will supply a long-felt want. In each of the general refreshment rooms there will be a temperance bar.
A great extension has been made in the stage. The roof has been carried 33ft. higher, and on the west side a painting room on the ground level has been added. Adjacent are commodious dressing-rooms, and at the rear of the stage are other dressing-rooms with fireproof floors. In the basement there is a room for the orchestra, with music store and emergency exit. Iron circular staircases have been provided. The electric light is utilised behind the curtain, the auditorium being illuminated by incandescent gas burners.
The terra-cotta frontage of the building in the Whitechapel road is grand and imposing, and a circular opening above the first floor will allow of scenes from the drama in course of representation, or public announcements, being displayed by the aid of a magic lantern. The orchestra will be a strong one, with Signor G. D. La Camera as conductor.'
Above - A printed (photolithographed) card published by M&A Roberts of 293 Whitechapel Road, showing the Pavilion Theatre, Whtechapel Road, circa 1900 - Courtesy Fred Cooper who says: 'The view is of Whitechapel Road, looking east towards the Mile End Road, and the most prominent buildings are the Pavilion Theatre (with the Pavilion Refreshment Rooms to its left), and, further to its left, the building that I believe was, until recently, the Academy Drama School. Further along the road are the premises of A. Lacy, Chemist, then the gable end sign of 199, London Distillery Company. The Academy Drama School Building was, I believe, built in 1898. The street scene is a busy one with lots of horse-drawn vehicles (omnibuses, carriers' carts, pedestrians) but no sign of a single motor vehicle (so I presume around 1900 or thereabouts).'
The Pavilion Theatre closed its doors for the last time in 1934. The Theatre then stood empty for many years until it was destroyed by bombs in 1940, and then finally completely demolished in 1962. Harold P. Clunne wrote briefly on the former Theatre in his book 'The Face of London' in 1957 saying:- 'On the north side of Whitechapel Road, which also contains the principal shops, stood until 1940 the Pavilion Theatre at the corner of Vallance Road, which was principally devoted to Jewish drama. It was originally built for a floorcloth factory, but in 1828 it was converted into a commodious house of entertainment. On 10 February 1856 it was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt in the following year. The southern end of Vallance Road leading from Whitechapel Road to Bethnal Green Road has been destroyed in the air raids of 1940 and so also has the Pavilion theatre.' - From 'The Face of London' by Harold P. Clunne 1957.
Above - A Google StreetView image of the site of the Pavilion Theatre today - Click to Interact. Note that the buildings next to the Theatre in the early photograph above are still there today and the site of the Theatre itself is vacant in this StreetView image.
A visitor to the site, Ian Munro, whose Great Aunt was the much loved Music Hall favourite Marie Lloyd, has recently sent in some information and images relating to the Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel. He says:-
'The Pavilion Whitechapel was owned by my family for many years, and The Builder in 1858 recorded that the developer at that time was my Great Grandmother Elizabeth Munro. The architect of the 1894 works was her son-in-law, Ernest Runtz. The land in what was Baker's Row was in the possession of her father, Charles Connaughton, in 1851. The Munro family had financial interests in a number of music halls, quoted in my grandparents' wedding announcement in The Era, 29th of April 1899 as being in Middlesbrough, Southampton & Hastings, and my grandfather Donald was a Director of the Pavilion, Whitechapel, and the Crown Theatre Peckham, both designed by Ernest Runtz. Marie Lloyd acquired the tenancy of a pub in Hastings for her father, John Wood. My grandmother, Daisy Wood, was Marie's sister. An academic in Italy has put up a biographical website which can be found here. I have put up on my website a page summarising information on Marie Lloyd and the site generally may be of passing interest.' - Courtesy Ian Munro.
Some archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
If you have any more information or images for the Pavilion Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Previously - The East London Theatre / Earl of Effingham Saloon / New Garrick Theatre / Effingham Saloon / Effingham Theatre / New East London Theatre / East London Theatre / Jewish Theatre / Wonderland / Rivoli Cinema
Above - Ready to Pass in at Wonderland.
There have been four buildings of entertainment on the site of The Wonderland, in Whitechapel Road. The first was a saloon called the Earle of Effingham which was built in 1834. This was later converted into a Theatre with a capacity of 2,150 and ran variously under the names of the New Garrick Theatre and the Effingham Theatre until 1867.
A new building was built on the site in 1897 and opened as The Wonderland, designed for the production of Yiddish plays, and also as a museum and exhibition hall. The building later became a Boxing Hall, and later still a Drill Hall.
Later on the site arose the Rivoli Cinema which was destroyed along with the Pavilion Theatre in the same road, during the Second World War.
"Retracing our steps along Brick Lane to Whitechapel Road, we note the blitzed ruins of the Rivoli Cinema on the south side of the street which stood next to St Mary's, Whitechapel, Underground Station. It occupied the site of Wonderland, a famous East End boxing resort, which was destroyed by fire about forty years ago."
Text in quotes above is from 'The Face of London' by Harold P. Clunne
To those amusement-seekers who may prefer to take their variety entertainment in a rough-and-ready form there are still such haunts as that Whitechapel resort fancifully named "Wonderland." In this big hall are provided entertainments of the most extraordinary description. They include little plays, songs, and sketches, given first in Yiddish dialect and afterwards translated into more or less choice English by, as a rule, a Hebraic interpreter. This interpreter often improves the occasion by calling the attention of kind - and mostly alien - friends in front to certain side shows consisting of all sorts of armless legless, skeleton, or spotted " freaks " scattered around the recesses of this great galleryless hall. When once the "freaks" have been examined, or the "greeners" and other foreign and East-End "sweated" Jew toilers have utilised the interval to indulge in a little light refreshment according to their respective tastes, the Yiddish sketches and songs - comic and otherwise - are resumed until closing time.
It is, however, on its Boxing Nights (which in this connection means Mondays and Saturdays) that "Wonderland" is to be seen in its most thrilling form. Then it is indeed difficult either to get in or to get out. In the first place it is hard to get in because of the great crowds of hard-faring - often hard-faced - East-End worshippers of the fistic art. In the second place, if you do contrive to get in you speedily find yourself so hemmed in by a sardine-like packed mob that all egress seems hopeless...
Text above text is extracted from 'Music Hall London' by H. Chance Newton - Click for the whole article.
Anderton & Haslam at Wonderland 1896
A visitor to the site, Stephen Smith, has recently sent in some information about Wonderland whilst researching the firm of Anderton and Rowland who were amusement caterers that still travel in the West Country today. He has discovered that Messrs. Anderton & Haslam set a show up for six weeks from Christmas Eve 1896 - 1897 in Wonderland when it was being managed by Mr J. Woolf. They advertised that there were "Spaces to let for side shows, shooting saloons, stalls, phonographs, automatic machines, etc." Wonderland marked the zenith in the show's history and the event was reported in The Era thus:
"The enterprising caterers for popular amusement, Mesrrs Anderton and Haslam have been doing literally 'roaring' trade at Whitechapel this Christmas with their untamable lions, side shows and variety items... and what a sight it is to see the seething crowd of Eastenders thronging round the submissive camels and oscillating elephant on the floor of the gaily decorated hall! We confess we are lost in admiration of that elephant. He is evidently a philosopher. The cries of the showmen, the music and the laughter, and applause move him not; and when he is used as a pair of steps to fix the net for the expert trapeze performance of the Brothers Bloomfeld he is still steady and stoical. The 'improving' character of such a menagerie as Anderton & Haslam's assisted by their excellent and instructive catalogue, can hardly be over-estimated."
Stephen's research notes that along with the circus were a number of supporting side shows, including Miss Beatrice, the 'Queen of the Midgets' and the tattooed man with 397 designs on his body: As the crowd were taken around the cages in the menagerie they were furnished with fascinating facts about their occupants. For example the racoons 'have been known to carry their food upwards of three miles to wash it.' A journalist present in the crowd added the comment: "We fancy some of the Whitechapelites whom we observed would object to carrying themselves, let alone their food, three hundred yards for a similar purpose.
Reynold's newspaper also visited Whitechapel in January 1897: "The talk of London is Captain Rowland with his untamable lions appearing afternoon and evening with Anderton & Haslam's Double Menagerie and Circus. The Greatest Performance in London."
The Illustrated Police News remarked that: "Whilst Islington people have their World's Fair, folks who inhabit London's eastern hemisphere possess a kindred resort on a smaller scale in Mr J. Woolf's house of entertainment. Shooting galleries and all sorts of side shows have done a roaring trade. The great attractions, however, are Messrs. Anderton & Haslam's menagerie and circus. Holiday makers never tire of gazing at wild beasts behind the bars, and the ugly snarls of tigers or hyenas draw the crowd away from other inmates of the dens, camels and vultures and serpents, but of course the centre of interest is the cage where Nero, the the forest lion, stalks up and down waiting for the tamer; Mr Arthur Rowland. This young man figures largely in the programme, not only with the lions but with the ponderous elephant.
Punch remarked: "Herr Fritz has some wonderful talking donkeys and performing dogs, and Mdlle Levita manipulates snakes with the art of an Indian Charmer."
Stephen continues: "The Whitechapel show proved a huge success, with over 45,000 people passing through the turnstiles by New Year and the press proclaiming it "The greatest show ever seen in London at the price of admission."
Professor Anderton reported to The Era during the run of the show: "Thanks to all friends for their kind congratulations." There were still several weeks to go and he was eager for the success to continue, so he advertised for more acts, saying: "Wanted startling novelties that work on raised platform, nothing too big... live and let live our motto, good luck to everybody."
Anderton & Haslam at Wonderland in 1896 - Courtesy Stephen Smith.
Some archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
If you have any more information or images for Wonderland that you are willing to share please Contact me.