Theatres and Halls in Peckham, London
Later - The Peckham Hippodrome / Hippodrome Picture Palace / Gaumont Cinema
The Crown Theatre was situated in Peckham High Street and designed by the well known Theatre architect, Ernest Runtz. The Theatre opened on the 31st of October 1898 with a production of 'The Sign of the Cross' with Wilson Barrett in the lead role.
Two days before the Theatre opened the ERA printed a review of the Theatre in their 29th of October edition saying: - 'A very large number of visitors were welcomed by Mr Isaac Cages, the managing director of the Crown Theatre Company, at the private view on Friday afternoon of the handsome new building which has been erected in High-street, Peckham, from Mr Ernest Runtz's beautiful designs.
Right - A programme for 'Little Red Riding Hood' at the Crown Theatre, Peckham. Billed as the sixth annual pantomime but undated apart from opening on Boxing Day, possibly 1904. In the cast were Alice Lloyd, Florence Yorke, Lena Wilton, Miss, Levens, Fanny St. Claire, Tom McNaughton, Will Johnson, Arthur Lawrence, Justin & Mantell, the Sisters Lunelle, James Howard, the four Royal Welshmen, and the strangely named Mr. Don't Breathe.
Refreshments were served on the stage which, like the auditorium, was densely crowded; and general admiration was expressed at the handsome decorations and excellent arrangements of the new theatre, which, we understand, will hold, at popular prices, nearly £200.
Entering by the crush room, which is 20ft. 6in. by 19ft., and is panelled in oak and with mosaic floor, on the left is the box-office, and immediately facing the same is the staircase to the grand circle and balcony, while opposite the entrance doors is the stairway to stalls.
Above - A Plan of the Crown Theatre, Peckham - From the Academy Architecture and Architectural review of 1898.
Leading from the crush room is an antique saloon, 35ft. by 31ft., decorated with genuine antique Flemish carved oak wainscot, a magnificent specimen of eighteenth century wood carving.
Left - The Crown Theatre and the local Police Station, High Street Peckham in a 1905 postcard - Courtesy Graham Hoadly.
The walls above are decorated in a self-coloured rich red flock, for the display of stags' heads, old armour, ancient halberds, &c. The bar fittings have been designed in keeping with the period, and the old oak furniture is a feature of the equipment of the room. A quaint fireplace is at one end of this chamber and a bow window with leaded casements at the other. An attempt has been made to give this room a mediaeval effect. The general equipment also presents many interesting specimens of old porters, brasses, &c. The artistic furnishing and drapery have been supplied by Messrs Wolfe and Hollander, of Tottenham-court-road.
Returning to the crush room, a short but broad staircase leads to the orchestra and pit stalls - thirteen rows in all - and there is an emergency exit from the opposite side leading into Stafford-street and a subway or lounge under the orchestra giving access to the saloons. There are the usual stage boxes.
Right - A programme for 'Mother Goose' at the Crown Theatre, Peckham. Billed as the ninth annual pantomime but undated apart from opening on Boxing Day, possibly 1907. In the cast were Tom McNaughton, Fred McNaughton, Alice Lloyd, J. M. Campbell, Violet Loraine, Eddie King, Dora Poole, Lena Verdi, Leon Dubois, William Phillips, Chris Zietz, H. A. Watman, Ida Thorpe, J. F. Mells, J. Rutland Menell, A. B. Henderson, Leonard Russell, Edna Knollys, H. J. Wood, and Ernest Rees.
Ascending the stairs to the grand circle level, one reaches first the foyer (32ft. by 20ft. 6in.), having at the High-street end an open balcony with French casements, between which is a fountain. The foyer in treated in modem Renaissance style, and is columniated on two sides. There are ample retiring-rooms leading from it, and it is furnished in the Sheraton style; it is intended mainly for the use of ladies and for the service of tea and coffee, and no smoking will be allowed here. At the staircase end is a lofty saloon, of the same dimensions as the antique saloon below; the dado and counter front are of luminous vitreous mosaic, giving a charming mother-o'-pearl effect. The walls are covered with rich brocaded paper, and a modelled frieze and ceiling complete the scheme. The furnishing here is also of the Sheraton type.
The grand circle tier consists of eight rows of seats with ample gangway or lounge, the latter arcaded with ornamental loggias at each angle, wherein are the fire hydrants and exhaust ventilating fans. There are four roomy private boxes, and two communication stairs to the stalls.
Left - The Crown Theatre, High Street Peckham in a 1905 postcard - Courtesy Graham Hoadly.
The amphitheatre and gallery are approached from Stafford-street, and consist in all of nine rows, with two large private boxes. There is a spacious saloon, 26ft. by 21ft., with open balcony for use in the summer months. The pit is approached by a flight of seven steps down from High-street, and consists of seven rows of upholstered seats with backs. There is on the east side a commodious saloon decorated in the Japanese style, and with retiring rooms therefrom.
It has been the desire of the architect, Mr Ernest Runtz, in designing the auditorium to avoid all garishness. He has endeavoured to give refinement to the decoration, and to convey also an idea of comfort and rest to the eye. The scheme of colour ranges from deep blue to neutral green, with old rose draperies and upholstery. The box and circle fronts are in ivory and gold, and are modelled in low relief. The mural decoration consists of a wall paper, especially designed by Mr Argent C. Breden, having the "Crown" intertwined with a flowing design. The stage boxes being of marble, and the superstructure is of turned and modelled pilasters, with detached colonettes in the rococo style, carrying a deep coffered arch. The "Imperial Crown suggested the decorative treatment on the auditorium ceiling. The four panels symbolise the colonies (India, Africa, Australia, and Canada); over each shine the rays of the sun which never sets on the Queen's dominions and Cupids hold crowns over each colony...
Above - A Plan of the Crown Theatre, Peckham - From the Building News and Engineering Journal 29th April 1898.
...On the panels India is represented by a potter and his wife in the foreground, and an elephant in the back ground. Africa is represented by an Egyptian preparing to cross the desert. Australia by a gold-digger, With native attendant and kangaroo, Canada is represented by moose-hunting. The remaining panels represent "Art," "Music" (a woman with lyre and birds), "Poetry" (a woman with scroll, books, and a star of inspiration), and "Drama," (a woman with dagger and poison-cup).
Right - An undated programme for 'Dick Whittington' at the Crown Theatre, Peckham. In the cast were Claire Romaine, George Bellamy, Gurney Delaporte, Fred Eastman, Edwin Boyde, Charles F. Cooke, Ethel Negretti, Woodhouse & Wells, Harry Bristow, Brois. Conquest Jun, Ella Rundall, Ethel Denny, Aurelie De Loriere, and over 100 auxiliaries.
The proscenium is of marble and modelled plaster, having over it a painted frieze, 37ft. in length, representing "Peaceful Britannia," with Scotland and Ireland on either side, indicative of a "United Kingdom," and surrounded by "Abundance, Flora, Music, Poetry," on the one side, and "Literature, Art, Science, and Botany," on the other. The paintings have been done by Mr Charles Buchel, silver medallist of the Royal Academy, 1897. The dimensions of the auditorium are: width, 62ft.; depth, 58ft.
The stage is 40ft. deep and 38ft. across. The grid is 62ft. above the stage level, and the mechanical appliances are thoroughly up to date. There is a paint-room (top-lighted), with wells, &.c., below the floor, 26ft. deep, two full-sized paint-frames and a smaller one, and an artistes' room. This is cut off from the stage by a fire-proof curtain On the prompt side is a property-room, 25ft. by 12ft., similarly isolated, and on the O.P. side is a comfortable green-room. The stage entrance is on the prompt side, and leads to eight large dressing-rooms; on the 0. P. side are six dressing-rooms, heated by hot water, and made extremely comfortable.
The stage-manager has a room to himself, and the carpenters and orchestra are seperately accommodated. The exterior of the building is designed in Spanish Renaissance. The material used is terra-cotta and red brick. There are two exits to every part of the house, and twelve exits in all throughout the theatre. All the staircases and tiers are of fireproof material, and a complete system of hydrants is installed. The electric light is adopted throughout the house, and ventilation is secured by electric exhaust fans. For warming the theatre there is an adequate low-pressure system with radiators. Mr Ernest Runtz and Messrs Colls and Son, the contractors, are surely to be congratulated on the successful result of their labours.'
Above - A Sketch of the Crown Theatre, Peckham -
From the Building News and Engineering Journal 29th April 1898.
The caption for this image reads 'The building, of which Mr.
Ernest Runtz is the architect, is now in course of erection in the
The Building News and Engineering Journal reported on the Crown Theatre, Peckham shortly after it had opened in their 4th of November 1898 edition saying:- 'A new theatre, embodying the results of good planning and many recent appliances, has been erected at Peckham High-street, and was opened last Monday with Mr. Wilson Barrett's performance "The Sign of the Cross."
The Crown Theatre occupies a conspicuous site, with an area of 14,000sq.ft., placed between two side streets. Viewed from the street, it presents an imposing front of red brick and terracotta, the latter being confined to the upper arcaded part of the facade and to the angles and corner cupolas. The main block in front is unpierced by windows except two pedimented openings which light the balcony on the grand circle level. The entrance on the western side forms a recessed wing, and is entirely of terracotta, supplied by Doulton and Co., with relieved ornament on the spandrels of upper windows. Corner flat octagonal cupolas, with consoles at angles, emphasise the main front, which in its elaborate pierced parapet presents a Spanish Renaissance character.
The auditorium abuts on the High-street, and the stage is placed from west to east in the rear, by which a great width of stage is given suitable for spectacular effects. Leading from the crush-room, which is 20ft. by 19ft., panelled in oak with mosaic floor, we enter an antique saloon 35ft. by 21ft., decorated with real Flemish carved oak wainscot, a fine specimen of 18th-century wood-carving, with the walls over of a rich red flock. The orchestra and pit-stalls are reached from the crush-room by a short wide staircase. There are 13 rows of stalls, with an emergency exit on the Stafford-street side, and there is a lounge under the orchestra.
Ascending to the grand circle level by a flight of stairs, we pass a foyer 32ft. by 20ft. 6in., with open balcony along the main front. This is treated handsomely in a Renaissance style. The foyer for ladies is furnished in the Sheraton style, and there are several good retiring rooms adjoining. At the staircase end a lofty saloon of the dimensions of that below is seen, the dado and counter-front decorated with luminous vitreous mosaic, giving a rich mother-o'-pearl effect, and the walls are covered by a rich brocaded paper, with a modelled frieze and ceiling.
A few steps from foyer leads us to the grand circle tier, with eight rows of seats; a wide gangway, or lounge, with loggias at the angles for fire hydrants, &c., make a pleasing feature. Several roomy private boxes are provided, and two communication stairs to the stalls.
The amphitheatre and gallery are reached from Stafford-street, and are of nine rows and two private boxes. A large saloon 26ft. by 21ft., and open balcony and lavatory accommodation are provided. Descending again, we find the pit is approached by a short flight of seven steps from High-street level, and there are seven rows of comfortable seats with backs upholstered in red plush. A large saloon decorated in a Japanese style is on the east with retiring rooms.
Mr. Ernest Runtz, the architect, has been successful in his general scheme of decoration, which is bright without being tawdry; he has given a restful colour to the eye by his choice of tints, which may be described as a bluish or neutral green, with red-coloured draperies and upholstery in the same key. The circle and box-fronts are in two shades of ivory enriched by gold, with low relief ornamentation. The square auditorium ceiling looks strange, perhaps a little conflicting with the curved lines of centre fronts; but it is certainly unique, and the arrangement of the panels between radiating stiles and centre is pleasing, and produces a rich effect. The decoration is suggested by the "Imperial Crown " of the Queen-Empress and her dominions. We see the colonies represented in four panels, with cupids holding the crown over each. Other panels represent Art, Poetry, Music, and the Drama. A deep moulded cornice and stencilled frieze runs round. The proscenium is also decorated in modelled plaster, with marble plinth and jambs, and there is a painted frieze and emblematic subjects introduced, designed by Mr. Charles Buchel, silver medallist of the R.A., whose work contrasts very favourably with other decorations of the kind.
The auditorium has a width of 62ft. and a depth of 58ft., and the stage is 138ft. across and 40ft. in depth, while the grid is 62ft. above the stage-level. Mr. Isaac Cohen, past master in stage craft, is credited with the stage design and equipment. An inspection of this portion of the building shows a complete arrangement of the adjuncts and mechanical appliances, which are quite up-to-date. A very complete electrical installation by Messrs. Strode and Co., Osnaburgh street, has been carried out.
The stage entrance is on the prompt side, and there are eight large dressing-rooms, and on the O.P. side six dressing-rooms heated by hot water, lavatory basins, hot and cold supply, a paint room, with wells below the floor 26ft. deep, artists' rooms, and every facility for perfect production.
The building is fireproof throughout; every tier and staircase is of fire-resisting materials. The exits and other constructioned details fully comply with the regulations of the L.C.C., two exits being provided (12 in all) to every part of the house. The constructional ironwork has been supplied and carried out by Messrs. Dennett and Ingle, Whitehall. Messrs. G. Jackson and Sons executed the modelled plaster-work. The general contractors are Messrs. Colls and Sons, of Coleman-street, the architect being Mr. Ernest Runtz. The ventilation is effected by electric exhaust fans, and low-pressure heating with radiators is employed.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the Building News and Engineering Journal, 4th of November 1898.
The Building News and Engineering Journal also published a small article about the Crown Theatre, Peckham, along with an image of the Grand Circle Foyer and Decorative Panels (Shown Right) in their 10th of March 1899 edition saying:- 'We published a perspective view of this important addition to the playhouses of London in the BUILDING NEWS for April 29, 1898, when we gave a plan of the building.
Right - The Grand Circle Foyer and Decorative Panels at the Crown Theatre, Peckham - From The Building News and Engineering Journal, 10th of March 1899.
The great feature of the arrangement is the unusual width of the stage, which is 140ft., so contrived as to lend itself to spectacular effects. The saloons have been well-arranged, and the decorations are of a thoroughly substantial and handsome kind. The retiring and dressing-rooms are hygienic and ample. Mr. Edwin 0. Sachs has written a descriptive account of the work, of which, as an authority on theatres, he entirely approves. He says that the exterior, treated in a style of the Spanish Renaissance, he considers admirably adapted to the purposes of such a building, while the materials, i.e., brick and terracotta, are equally suitable. He warmly refers to the decorations, which embody suitable references to the name borne by the establishment - viz., the "Crown" Theatre.
We give to-day Mr. Charles Buchel's four panels representing the colonies "India," "Africa," "Australia," and "Canada." The same artist painted the frieze over the proscenium of the house, as well as the spandrels illustrating "Art," "Music," "Drama," and "Poetry."
The general interior photographic view shown on our plate gives the grand circle foyer, from a silver print by Messrs. Bolas and Co. Messrs. Dennett and Ingle did the constructional ironwork, the terracotta was made by Messrs. Doulton and Co., Messrs. Strode and Co. provided the electrical installation, and Messrs. G. Jackson and Sons the plastic decoration. Mr. Ernest Runtz, F.R.I.B.A., is the architect; Messrs. Coils and Son were the builders.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the Building News
and Engineering Journal, 10th of March 1899.
Above - The Crown Theatre, High Street, Peckham - From an early Postcard.
The Crown Theatre was later renamed the Peckham Hippodrome, and from 1912 it was converted for use as a Cinema and renamed the Hippodrome Picture Palace.
Sadly this beautiful Theatre was demolished completely in the 1932, only 32 years after it was built, to make way for the building of a new Cinema, called the Gaumont.
The Gaumont Cinema itself closed in 1961 and the building was then converted for use as a Bingo Hall. Bingo ran for many years until even that ceased to be commercially viable and the building was then demolished to make way for a block of flats named Gaumont House which is still standing today, (see photograph below.)
Above - Gaumont House, Peckham High Street in July 2008, which was built on the site of the former Gaumont Cinema, and previously the Crown Theatre, the Peckham Hippodrome, and the Hippodrome Picture Palace - Photo M.L
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Above - An early photograph of the Peckham Picture Playhouse - From The Cinema News and Property Gazette of January 29th, 1913.
The Picture Playhouse was situated on the corner of Rye Lane and High Street, Peckham and built for Popular Entertainments Ltd. The Theatre opened on the 19th of January 1911 with seating for 700 people and was equipped with two Gaumont projectors, a piano, and a Mustel Organ. It was managed by Sidney Still who had previously managed the Electric Palace in Brixton. The Picture Playhouse operated continuous performances from 2pm till 11pm with a change of programme Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays. Prices in 1913 were stated as being 3d, 6d, and 1s.
Right - The Cinema News and Property Gazette, January 29th, 1913.
The Cinema News and Property Gazette carried a report on the Peckham Picture Playhouse in their January 29th, 1913 edition saying:- 'One of the most popular cinema theatres in the suburbs, and one which is bringing in a steady flow of prosperity for its owners, is the Peckham Picture Playhouse (otherwise known as the Three P's), situate on the corner of Rye Lane, Peckham. Mr. Sidney Still, the energetic and popular manager, informed me that nothing in the way of films was too good for Peckham; in fact, he said, the more you give them the more they want.
At the time I visited Mr. Still was celebrating the second anniversary of the opening, and by way of a treat was giving his patrons an extra strong bill of fare. When I mention that "Kings of the Forest" and "Father" were included in the same programme, his statement is fully borne out.
Mr. Still entered the cinematograph profession some four years ago, when he took over the management of the Electric Palace, Brixton, where also he had charge of Fun Land, which was an annexe to the Electric Palace. From there he journeyed to his native town - Peckham - and on June 4th, 1911, took over the Picture Playhouse, where he has remained to this day.
I might also mention that Mr. Still first came under the banner of Messrs. Sedger and Laurillard at the old Hengler's Circus during the time they were running the Great Wrestling Tournament.
I took this opportunity of asking Mr. Still for his opinion of the proposed Managers' and Picture Musicians' Association. He informed me that it was the finest move yet made, and he congratulated The Cinema upon being the first trade journal to voice such a matter, and he is looking anxiously forward to the time when it will be a fait accompli.
Mr. Still spoke highly of the Essanay productions, and stated that Mr. Anderson is easily a first favourite among his patrons. I also learnt from Mr. Still that he intends showing "Les Miserables" for a week in February, three times daily. Here, again, the inhabitants of Peckham have another treat in store. The Playhouse patrons have, indeed, everything that goes towards the making of an ideal cinema from the finest films and a courteous manager down to the polite attendants that wait upon them.' - The Cinema News and Property Gazette, January 29th, 1913.
The Picture Playhouse seems to have had a very short life and is stated elsewhere to have closed in 1917.
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Some archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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