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Pavilion Theatre and Wonderland, Whitechapel Road, Stepney

Pavilion Theatre - Wonderland

See also in this area - Wilcox's Music Hall


The Pavilion Theatre, 191-193 Whitechapel Road, Stepney

Other Names - Royal Clarence Theatre / Eastern Opera House / New Royal Pavilion Theatre

A detail from a printed (photolithographed) card showing the Pavilion Theatre, Whtechapel Road, circa 1900 - Courtesy Fred Cooper.

Above - A detail from a printed (photolithographed) card showing the Pavilion Theatre, Whtechapel 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 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 Google StreetView image of the site of the Pavilion Theatre today - Click to Interact.

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.


The Royal Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel - From The Illustrated London News of 1856 - Courtesy Ian Munro.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.

This first Pavilion Theatre was destroyed by fire on the 13th of February 1856.

Destruction of the Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel.

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 Theatre was then rebuilt as the New Royal Pavilion Theatre in 1858 by Temple G. Tenney to the designs of the architect G. H. Simmonds. It is known that in 1865 the Theatre had a stage of 70' by 58' and could accommodate 3,500 people.

The Theatre was reconstructed in 1874 by the architect J. T. Robinson and by 1892 this Theatre was known to have 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 Theatre was altered again in 1894 by the architect Ernest Runtz.

The Pavilion Theatre closed its doors for the last time in 1934, was damaged by bombs in 1940 and demolished in 1962.

A printed (photolithographed) card published by M&A Roberts of 293 Whitechapel Road, showing the Pavilion Theatre, Whtechapel Road, circa 1900 - Courtesy Fred Cooper

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).'

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.

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.

If you have any more information or images for the Pavilion Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.


The Wonderland / Rivoli Cinema, 236-7 Whitechapel Road, Stepney

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

 Ready to Pass in at Wonderland.

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.

In 1867 a new Theatre was built on the site called the New East London Theatre, also later known as the East London Theatre and the Jewish Theatre. This Theatre burnt down on the 16th of March 1879.

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 1957.

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.

If you have any more information or images for Wonderland that you are willing to share please Contact me.