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Theatres and Halls in Plymouth

Theatre Royal and Drum Theatre - First Theatre Royal / Royal Cinema - Palace Theatre - Grand Theatre - Andrews' New Picture Palace / Gaumont Palace / Odeon / Boulevard

See also in this area - Devonport Theatres

 

The Theatre Royal and Drum Theatre, Royal Parade, Plymouth

The Theatre Royal, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Theatre Royal, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

 

The Theatre Royal, Royal Parade, Plymouth was built in 1982 and designed and constructed by Sound Research Labs Ltd and the Peter Moro Partnership. The building contains two auditoriums, the main Theatre which houses 1,296 people and the smaller Drum Theatre which seats 192. The main Theatre also has an ingenious auditorium ceiling which can be slid into place to hide the upper circle level providing a more intimate space, seating 800.

In 1992 the Peter Moro Partnership added a workshop, rehearsal room, and office space to the complex.

You may like to visit the Theatre's own website here, which states that 'The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the largest and best attended regional producing theatre in the UK and the leading promoter of theatre in the South West.'

 

The First Theatre Royal, George Street, Plymouth

Later The Royal Cinema

A lovely 1920s tinted Postcard depicting George Street Plymouth showing Derry's Clock, and the Theatre Royal

Above - A lovely 1920s tinted Postcard depicting George Street Plymouth showing Derry's Clock, and the Theatre Royal

 

A very early Bill for the recently built Theatre Royal, Plymouth for a production of 'Mountaineers' and 'Raising the Wind' on May the 4th 1815 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.The original Theatre Royal, George Street, Plymouth, not to be confused with the current Theatre in the Royal Parade, was constructed by John Foulston and George Wightwick. Work began on the building in 1811 but it didn't finally open until the 23rd of August 1813. The Theatre seated 1,200 on four levels, Stalls and Pit, Dress and Upper Circles, and a Gallery and Boxes.

Right - A very early Bill for the recently built Theatre Royal, Plymouth for a production of 'Mountaineers' and 'Raising the Wind' on May the 4th 1815 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

The stage of the original Theatre Royal, Plymouth was furnished with all the latest modern fixtures and fittings.

According to one historian, 'In the 1820s and 1830s epidemics of cholera and smallpox, transportation to America, and nonconformist hostility from increasing groups, led to a decline in support of the theatre.

Programme for 'The Messenger Boy' late 1800s - Click for detailsBy 1820 the Theatre, 'from its size and beauty and being so seldom filled,' had acquired the title of "The Theatre of Splendid Misery."'

Left - A Programme for 'The Messenger Boy' at The Theatre Royal Plymouth in the late 1800s. A musical by James T Tanner and Alfred Murray. - Click for details. This play was later performed at Daly's Theatre, London in 1901 (Now a VUE Cinema multiplex.)

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at this first Theatre Royal, Plymouth in 1856, 1857, and 1871 (See details below.)

 

An early Bill for 'The Heir at Law' and 'Of Age To-Morrow' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on February the 25th, 1815. - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond. A Bill for 'The Mountaineers' and 'Raising the Wind' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on May the 4th , 1815 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

Above - An early Bill for 'The Heir at Law' and 'Of Age To-Morrow' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on February the 25th, 1815. And a Bill for 'The Mountaineers' and 'Raising the Wind' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on May the 4th , 1815 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

 

An early  1810s Bill for the Officers of the Garrison performing in the play 'Poor Gentleman', 'Mad Tom', and 'Turnpike-Gate' at the first Theatre Royal, Plymouth - - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.This first Theatre Royal on George Street, Plymouth was destroyed internally by fire on the 13th of June 1878. The ERA reported on the destruction and plans for the Theatre to be rebuilt in their 23rd of June 1878 edition saying:- 'Few occurrences during the past quarter of a century in Plymouth have caused so much sensation and controversy as the disastrous fire which swept away nearly the whole of the interior of the Theatre last week.

Left - An early 1810s Bill for the Officers of the Garrison performing in the play 'Poor Gentleman', 'Mad Tom', and 'Turnpike-Gate' at the first Theatre Royal, Plymouth - - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

Nearly every one has been asking "Will the Corporation rebuild the Theatre?" for there are Mawworms who have been for many years endeavouring to turn the Theatre to what they term "religious occupation."

All fears, however, were set at rest to-day by the unanimous vote of the Council not only to restore the Theatre, but to do it in such a manner as to make the building bear comparison with any Theatre in or out of London. For this purpose they have engaged the services of the celebrated architect, Mr C. J. Phipps, to immediately draw up plans. The amount for restoration is not to exceed £5,000, but it was plainly shown that the house could be rebuilt as it was for £3,000. This wise step of the Council is owing to the esteem in which Mr Newcombe is held for the manner in which he has conducted the Theatre for nearly forty years. Men are already at work clearing away the debris, and it is confidently asserted that the Theatre will be ready for performances by Christmas...

 

A 1920s Postcard of George Street and the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

Above - A 1920s Postcard of George Street and the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

An early Bill for 'The Poor Gentleman' and 'The Turnpike Gate' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on March the 18th, 1815 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond....It appears I was wrong in stating that Mr Newcombe was fully insured, as he is only insured for £1,500; whereas he estimates his loss in wardrobe, properties, scenery, &e., at over £10,000. The Theatre was insured by the Corporation for only £2,500. Mr Eldred and his company have also sustained a severe loss, the whole of their wardrobe and other valuable accessories being consumed. Last night (Wednesday) they took a so-called benefit at the Mechanics' Institute, Devonport, but the receipts did not reach sufficient to pay one half of the expenses, and in the course of one of Mr Eldred's impersonations he facetiously remarked that last week he found it very hot in Plymouth, but that night it was a regular frost in Devon-port.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 13th of June 1878.

Right - An early Bill for 'The Poor Gentleman' and 'The Turnpike Gate' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on March the 18th, 1815 - Courtesy Gerrard Shannon and George Richmond.

So undeterred by the fire and destruction of the interior of their first Theatre the owners did soon set about rebuilding the auditorium of the Theatre Royal, this time with an auditorium created by the well known Theatre Architect, C. J. Phipps.

The Theatre reopened some six months later in January 1879. The ERA printed a report of the reopening of the Theatre in their 5th of January 1879 edition saying:- 'From the ashes of the old house, from the charred and distorted and grotesquely commingled mass which the fire of June 13th left behind, there has arisen - we speak of the interior only - as stately a Temple of Thespis as almost any town can boast.

 

The Theatre Royal, Plymouth from a postcard, undated. Starting with the lowest tier we enter the pit door on a level with George-street. Here are double doors leading into a passage six feet wide, sloping to the pit and pit stalls, which are on a slightly lower level than before. In this passage, also, are other double doors, which will be opened every night at the close of the performance, and will, of course, immensely facilitate egress.

Right - The Theatre Royal, Plymouth from a postcard, undated. Back of card reads: 'The Theatre Royal is owned by the Municipal Authority of Plymouth. Besides the Theatre the building contains an excellent Hotel. Derry's clock is the gift of a former Mayor of Plymouth and is generally regarded as a landmark of the town.'

The first five tiers next the orchestra are appropriated as pit stalls, and in the rear of these are fourteen rows of pit seats proper. They are comfortable seats with backs, and inasmuch as the slope of the pit is considerably greater than in the old Theatre the chance of everyone seeing the performance with ease is much increased. The slope now is as much as an inch and a half to the foot, and consequently no one will have much difficulty in seeing over the head of his neighbour in front.

 

The Theatre Royal, Plymouth from a postcard, undated

Above - The Theatre Royal, Plymouth from a postcard, undated.

A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, PlymouthFrom the extra, projection of the dress circle above and the increased sloping of the pit floor below it might be imagined that those of the audience who found themselves crowded into the extreme back of the pit would have but a limited range of vision; Such, however, is not the case. People standing at the extreme back of the pit can see everything on the stage, and nearly to the top of the scenery.

Right - A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

On the opposite side to the entrance is an additional exit for the pit, six feet wide, leading up to the passage from the gallery, which will be used should necessity arise. This passage also opens into gentlemen's retiring room and refreshment saloon; and there is a ladies' retiring room adjoining. A private staircase at the left hand corner of the pit leads to the dress circle. The proper public entrance to the dress circle is, as formerly, under the portico adjoining the Royal Hotel. This entrance, which before conducted the audience to both the dress and upper circles, is now utilised for the dress circle only. For the upper circle the door beyond, in the centre of the portico, is specially appropriated, and the way up to the upper circle is through another staircase.

A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.Entering by the dress circle door we come to the old saloon at which tickets were taken, and at the further end of which we now find the ladies' cloak room. The external corridor of the dress circle remains, and there are four doors into the auditorium. From each of these doors there is a wide and perfectly free avenue running down between five rows of seats, formed by arm-chairs, handsomely upholstered in maroon cloth, and affording accommodation for 150. At the end of either side of the dress circle are three private boxes, and in the proscenium there is a private box in each tier, making twelve in all.

Left - A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

A great improvement in the ventilation of the dress circle is obtained by ventilating shafts in the ceilings of each tier of seats. The two broad circular staircases which formerly led from the dress circle corridor to the upper circle were no longer needed when the dress circle possessed a special entrance, and have been done away with. One small private staircase now leads from the dress circle corridor to the saloon opening into the upper circle.

A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth in 1910.The upper circle is on an entirely new mode of construction, and if it has lost anything in appearance - which is questionable - it has gained much in convenience and comfort. The encircling corridor of the old upper boxes is removed entirely - they are, in fact, no longer "boxes" in the strict sense of the term.

Right - A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth in 1910.

The seats are encircled by a boarding, over which those who prefer it, or who may wish for a change, may see the performance standing, a low footboard being provided for those who need their stature artificially added to. Between the seats there are no divisions at all - only wide avenues like those of the dress-circle. The seats are the comfortable armchairs which were formerly in the dress-circle. Ladies' and gentlemen's retiring rooms are attached to the corridor.

A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth in 1921.The gallery is entered, as formerly, from the side of the Theatre next the Athenaeum - only higher up the street - by a door which is really external to the walls of the Theatre proper. Here a double door leads into a tolerably long passage eight feet wide. The gallery has two staircases at opposite sides running right from the top to the street. The gallery is now so arranged that every one, even those at the extreme sides, can see; the seats at the sides being on a higher level than those in the centre, with strong barriers. There are retiring rooms and conveniences connected with the gallery.

Left - A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth in 1921.

 

A programme in the form of a fan, for 'The Thief' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth for the week beginning on Monday March the 21st 1910 - Click to see the whole programme.The decoration of the house is such as will render its appearance one of great brilliancy. The box fronts are of extremely ornamental design, executed in patent fibrous plaster by the patentees, Messrs Jackson and Son, of London. The ceiling and cornices are moulded in the same material.

The proscenium is formed by Corinthian pillars, surmounted by a figure and an arch; the tympanum over the drop-scene being filled with an artistic allegorical figure piece. The arts - painting, sculpture, music, dancing, architecture, and comedy, and tragedy - are represented, surrounded by nymphs. This is a splendid piece of work, fully justifying its prominent position. It was painted by Mr William Harford, of London. On either side of this figure piece are panels, decorated with a vase of flowers standing before a cabinet, on a gold ground. These were specially painted by Mr Fouracre. All the other painted decorations have also been executed in excellent style by Messrs. Fouracre and Watson, of Stonehouse, from designs of the architect.

Right - A programme in the form of a fan, for 'The Thief' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth for the week beginning on Monday March the 21st 1910 - Click to see the whole programme.

Generally the tone of the decorations is gilt ornament on a cream ground. The ceiling is Raphaelesque ornament in colours, on a light cream-coloured ground. The back walls of the proscenium are draped with paper of a sage green, with, red flowers.

 

 

A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

Above - A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

The auditorium is lighted by a powerful sun-burner, by Messrs Strode and Co., of London; who have also put up the footlights and special gas-fittings for the stage. The stage arrangements and accommodation are very much improved. The stage opening is twenty-eight feet wide, the width between the walls of the stage being sixty feet, and the depth is upwards of fifty feet from the footlights. The act drop and drop curtain were painted by Mr George Gordon, of London; who has also supplied some portion of the scenery.

A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Above - A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth in 1910.Off the stage is a commodious scene dock, repertoire room, and four small dressing-rooms for principal performers. The general dressing-rooms occupy the wing of the building formerly used as the Theatre house, and are outside the walls of the Theatre. They are numerous and commodious, and possess the advantage of external light and ventilation. Hardly any Theatre possesses dressing-rooms better arranged.

Left - A postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Plymouth in 1910.

Programme for Theatre Royal Plymouth - 1932 - Click for detailsThe works were commenced on the 22d August, and within the space of four months have been completed. The architect was Mr C. J. Phipps, F.S.A., who has made Theatre building a speciality, and has undoubtedly given Plymouth the advantage of many year of study and experience. He has been unremitting in personal attention to the work, having been at Plymouth two days a week for the last six weeks.

Right - A Programme for 'The Price of Wisdom' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth in 1932 - Click for details.

The cost of the restoration, according to contracts with the Plymouth Corporation, was as follows:— Mr S. Clarke, builder's -work, £5,784; Messrs Fouracre and Watson, gilding and decorative work, £470; scenery and fittings customarily provided by the landlord (estimated at), £325; total, £6,579. The amount in which the old building was insured, and which was received from the Royal insurance Company, was £2,500. In consideration of the many improvements there were in Mr Phipps's plans Mr Newcombe, the Lessee of the Theatre, offered to pay £125 a year in addition to his present £500.

The above text was first published in the ERA, 5th of January 1879.

Early coloured postcard showing George Street and the Theatre Royal, Plymouth which was probably commissioned by Moon's Pianos.

Above - Early coloured postcard showing George Street and the Theatre Royal, Plymouth which was probably commissioned by Moon's Pianos, which, at its peak, had 5 shops in total all over Devon & Cornwall. The business was sold in about 1963, and the shop in Plymouth is now a Mcdonalds Burger Bar.

 

A Google Street View of the same view as the postcard above today.The George Street Theatre Royal, Plymouth was completely demolished in 1937 to make way for an ABC Cinema called The Royal which was designed by William R Glenn. The newly built Royal Cinema opened on Friday July 15th 1938. Ironically in 1954 the Cinema was converted for stage use and renamed the Theatre Royal again. The Cinema / Theatre was renamed the ABC Plymouth in 1958 but continued to stage live shows alongside Cinema. In 1976 the Cinema was tripled and has had several changes of name and ownership since. Part of the site of the old Theatre Royal is now a car park.

Right - A Google Street View of the same view as the postcard above today.

 

Arthur Lloyd at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth

The Theatre Royal Plymouth was the first true theatre which Arthur Lloyd played in. His father was a comedian of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Theatres on the old “circuit” days. Arthur wished to follow in his footsteps, and was put out, as it were, when he was only sixteen years of age, with a celebrated manager of his time, Mr J. R. Newcombe, and was sent to his theatre at Plymouth. He remained two seasons with him, playing, of course, only very small parts, being, in fact, “general utility.” After two seasons at Plymouth the young comedian went back to Glasgow.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth in 1856, 1857, and 1871.

 

The Palace Theatre, 121-123 Union Street, Plymouth

Also known as The New Palace Theatre of Varieties / Academy Nightclub

The Palace Theatre, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Palace Theatre, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

 

The Palace Theatre of Varieties, Plymouth - From a Variety Programme for the Theatre on September the 25th 1905.The Palace Theatre on Union Street, Plymouth was built for the Livermore Brothers in 1898 by the architects Wimperis and Arber as a Music Hall and Variety Theatre, and formed part of a development which also included an Hotel called the Grand Western Hotel. The Theatre opened as the New Palace Theatre on Monday September the 5th 1898 with a variety show. The auditorium consisted of stalls and pit, grand circle, gallery, and eight stage boxes, four on each side of the proscenium, and was built on the cantilever principle with a capacity of some 2,500 people.

Right - The Palace Theatre of Varieties, Plymouth - From a Variety Programme for the Theatre on September the 25th 1905.

A week after the Theatre opened the ERA printed a review of the building and the opening night production in their 10th of September 1898 edition saying:- 'Long before the opening, a crowd of interested spectators on Monday stood gazing at the magnificent building erected at Plymouth as a palace of varieties; and as 7'0 o'clock approached the mass grew so that traffic in Union-street was difficult, and the police had to assist in its regulation.

The exterior of the theatre was brilliantly illuminated with fairy electric lights. In a very few minutes after the doors were opened the hall was well filled in every part, and was very crowded before the evening's entertainment was half through. There was a brilliant assemblage of all classes, and the enthusiasm was intense.

At 7'30 to the minute the musical director, Mr Frank Reed, gave the rap-tap, and the massive plush Union Jacks which form the drop curtains were drawn aside, revealing the Princess Ladies' Orchestra from the Promenade Pier on the stage in their pretty blue costumes. The two bands played the opening bars of the National Anthem, and then the ladies sang the verse, joined in heartily by the audience. A terrific outburst of cheering was raised at its conclusion...

 

A sketch of the New Palace Theatre, Plymouth - From the ERA, 10th of September 1898

Above - A sketch of the New Palace Theatre, Plymouth - From the ERA, 10th of September 1898 - To see more of these Sketches click here.

 

...The interior of the new building, with its first-class appointments in every direction, presented an exceedingly attractive appearance. The corners of the wide stage were effectively decorated with foliage plants. The use of the electric light, together with the admirable system of ventilation, served to keep the house comfortably cool.

A Variety Programme for the New Palace of Varieties Theatre for September the 25th 1905.An excellent programme had been arranged, the first turn of which was Leopoldine, a lady who is very clever on the parallel bars and flying rings and kindred implements. Mr Harry Conlin immediately installed himself a popular favourite by his really humorous patter and smart songs. Arthur Vining and Nellie Coleman helped to pass the time pleasantly along, and then Emmie Ames came on in gorgeous array with songs that had a soupcon of warmth in them. Walter Stockwell caught on immensely, and the Floradors provided a comical musical sketch. The Cassons also had a domestic sketch of considerable merit, and Fred Darby weighed in with some trick skating. The Marvellous Craggs were encored again and again for their wonderful acrobatic work, which they made most interesting. The Sisters Levey were very chic, and their dashing turn was one of the features of the evening.

Left - A Variety Programme for the New Palace of Varieties Theatre for September the 25th 1905.

The building is constructed on the latest and most scientific principles. There are two tiers above the ground floor, and these are constructed with massive cantilevers, so that there is not a single pillar or post to obstruct the view. On the ground floor the seats are built on the graduated rise, each of course, in this case, being higher than that in front, thus affording all a good view of the stage. The seating is on modern principles; the stalls being immediately behind the orchestra, and the ordinary pit seats behind that again. The entrance to the stalls is by means of an electrically lighted subterranean passage, fitted with mirror panels, so that the occupants of stalls are able to reach their seats without any difficulty.

In the main entrance there is a gorgeous marble staircase, with marble pillars leading up to an elaborately furnished sitting out room, and thence to the grand circle and promenade; and above that, approached by other entrances, is the ordinary gallery. There are refreshment saloons on each floor, smoking-rooms, and lavatories, and everything for the comfort of the audience that is to be found in other first-class establishments.

The artists' dressing-rooms are said to be far more commodious than is ordinarily the case, and the proprietors are to be congratulated on their thoughtfulness, which will, no doubt, be properly appreciated. The plush curtain is a very handsome and appropriate one; and the red, white, and blue scheme of colour is carried out in the eight stage boxes, four on each side of the proscenium, the hangings being in red, white, and blue; and, again, in the stalls and the grand circle above it. Particularly striking are the historical paintings in the dome of the ceiling and over the proscenium, and the series of medallions around the front of the grand circle and the gallery.

A Frieze depicting sailing ships runs around the top of the Palace Theatre, Plymouth - Courtesy Richard Lawrie.

Above - A Frieze depicting sailing ships runs around the top of the Palace Theatre, Plymouth - Courtesy Richard Lawrie.

A scene of the Spanish Armada Leaving Ferrol is depicted in painted tiles on the exterior of the Palace Theatre, Plymouth - Courtesy Richard Lawrie.In a naval, military, and historic town such as Plymouth is, nothing could be more appropriate than the decorative scheme adopted by the architects, Messrs Wimperis and Arber. Over the upper stage boxes are quaint-looking poop-lanterns, which look like the sterns of the "wooden walls of old England," the three deckers; and below are crossed anchors, the centres being occupied by figure-heads of battleships.

Left - A scene of the Spanish Armada Leaving Ferrol is depicted in painted tiles on the exterior of the Palace Theatre, Plymouth - Courtesy Richard Lawrie.

A fine painting above the proscenium represents the knighting of Sir Francis Drake by Queen Elizabeth. The medallions around the grand circle and gallery fronts are all excellent portraits of naval and military heroes. Soldiers and sailors will certainly feel quite at home in the New Palace Theatre of Varieties. The battle pieces in the dome include the old Victory and the Spanish Armada incidents. The foyer is painted ivory white, and contains a fine painting of the meeting of Blucher and Wellington. The foyer is beyond question one of the handsomest out of London.

Quite a novel form of announcing the turns has been provided. A clock face with the twelve Roman numerals is fixed at each side of the stage, and the number of the turn is illuminated by electric light, all the rest being in darkness. The orchestra is a large and very good one. There is seating accommodation for 2,500.

A Variety Programme for the New Palace of Varieties Theatre for September the 25th 1905At a convenient point in the programme, the Messrs Livermore came before the curtain and had a hearty greeting. Mr L. C. J. LIVERMORE, managing-director of the Palace, said: - Ladies and Gentlemen, - welcome, welcome, welcome; thrice welcome to the new Palace. "The long looked for come at last," is a quotation that may well be applied to this venture. I think you will admit, and I think we all shall admit, that although we have had to pass through a period of considerable difficulty and delay, now we are here it was worth while waiting a little longer for. I can assure you this venture has caused your humble servant many weary, sleepless nights, but I am proud to think the result has met with your approbation. I cannot make a big speech; somehow, whenever I want to I always forget what I ought to say. Please accept the will for the deed. We are proud and pleased to see you here to-night, and it will not be our fault in the future if we do not deserve your very kind approbation. It is needless for us to explain to you, as we have been before the public a good many years - more than I care to recall - I may almost say from childhood - at any rate, something under a thousand years. But I think we are well known enough to you in Plymouth for the character of our entertainments, and now we have a much better chance to introduce to your notice even better talent, for the simple reason that we can take more money and can afford to give you better class.

Right - A Variety Programme for the New Palace of Varieties Theatre for September the 25th 1905

Mr Livermore then introduced Mr Arber (Wimiperis and Arber), the architect, who has had the building under his personal supervision.

Mr ARBER, who was loudly cheered, after thanking them for the warmth of their greeting, said it was patent to everyone they were pleased with what he had done. The hall was certainly a beautiful one, and he would challenge the whole of the kingdom to produce a better. Of course he would not have been able to do this but for the money which was at the back of it. His instructions were to give the town - or the three towns - a hall that they would be proud of, and he thought they would agree that those instructions had been more than carried out.

Mr L. C. J. LIVERMORE desired to add to what he had already said that a large fortune had been spent there, and it rested with them to say whether it had been wisely spent. His knowledge of Plymouth led him to think it had. Everybody who knew nothing about it was saying "It will never pay." That rested with the public, and if they patronised the new hall as they should there was nothing the directors would not do to give them satisfaction.

In response to repeated calls Mr E. J. Dexter, manager, came forward and was warmly received. He said It has been a warm day for me, I have been here since seven o'clock, but the warmth of your reception removes all the tired feelings. I have been appointed as manager here on behalf of Messrs Livermore Brothers and the other directors, and it will be my pleasure to do everything I can for you during the coming season. I may say I have travelled all over the world, and seen all the most beautiful theatres on the Continent, but only two that I can recollect would beat this one, and they are the Opera House, Berlin, and the Opera House, Paris. This is one of the finest palaces in the world. There is not the slightest doubt that if you give us your patronage you will have the best talent that money can provide.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 10th of September 1898.

 

The Palace Theatre, Plymouth during the run of 'The Shadow' in 1929 - Courtesy Nigel Dutt whose Grandfather Amar Dutt alias Linga Singh, toured the country up and down with his "spectacular illusions" from 1910 until he died while on a date at West Bromwich.

Above - The Palace Theatre, Plymouth during the run of 'The Shadow' in 1929 - Courtesy Nigel Dutt whose Grandfather Amar Dutt alias Linga Singh, toured the country up and down with his "spectacular illusions" from 1910 until he died while on a date at West Bromwich.

Sadly the original lavish auditorium and stage house were completely destroyed only three months after the Theatre opened by a serious fire on the 23rd of December 1898. The fire started at night on stage but as the safety curtain had not been lowered for the night the fire spread quickly to the auditorium. The ERA reported it in their 24th of December 1898 edition saying:- 'The new Palace Theatre of Varieties at Plymouth was seriously damaged by fire on Friday morning. The flames broke out shortly before midnight, and within an hour and a half, owing to a strong south-east wind, the whole of the stage, scenery, and dressing-rooms from the ground to the roof were demolished. The first signs of fire were discovered between half-past twelve and a quarter to one o'clock. The usual performance had taken place in the evening, and a large audience had been present to witness the programme, which included, among other turns, a naval spectacular scene representing the Battle of Trafalgar. When the house was closed, at the end of the performance, everything seemed safe as usual. Firemen were on duty in the house while the performance was in progress, but no one bad been left in charge. The fire was, therefore, first seen from the outside. A glare was perceived by a policeman near the stage entrance. Every effort was directed to prevent the spread of the flames to the auditorium, but unfortunately it was utterly impossible to gain access to the fireproof curtain. From the first the fierceness of the flames cut off access to the stage. If this curtain could have been lowered the area of the fire might have been at once restricted. The effect of the fire was to utterly destroy everything connected with the stage, and to do an immense amount of damage to the auditorium. All the beautiful scheme of decoration, upon which a large amount of money was expended, has been irretrievably ruined. Happily the facade and the grand staircase, which are among the most striking portions of a very fine building, escaped destruction. In the rest of the house the damage was very great. The fire is believed to have been caused by some combustibles used in the Battle of Trafalgar scene.

Our deepest sympathy is due to those who, at such expense and with such taste and liberality erected the beautiful building which is now so seriously damaged. Fortunately the main building remains intact, the whole damage being to the interior, and the management expect to be able to reopen in seven or eight weeks. Mr L. C. J. Livermore received a telegram conveying news of the disaster at his London residence at three o'clock on Friday morning, and caught the 5'30 train for the scene of the outbreak. The following artists were to have opened at the Palace next Monday :— Fred and Lillie Harrison, Joe Darby, Eno, Ted Hanley, Gregory Troupe, Sylvo, George Lashwood, Clarke and Nassau, and Fothergill Family, in sketch Battle of Trafalgar.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 24th of December 1898.

The ERA, 4th of February 1899 - Click for the Grand Theatre

Side elevation of The Palace Theatre, Plymouth in 2008 - Courtesy Richard Lawrie.The stage house and auditorium were subsequently rebuilt but the auditorium, which had been so lavish when the Theatre opened three months earlier, was in a far simpler form (as shown below.)

Right - Side elevation of The Palace Theatre, Plymouth in 2008 - Courtesy Richard Lawrie.

The Theatre reopened on Monday the 22nd of May 1899 and it is remarkable how quickly the building was restored and refurbished. The ERA printed a small piece about the opening in their 27th of May 1899 edition saying:- 'AMID every manifestation of rejoicing on the part of a large holiday audience on Monday the Palace Theatre, Plymouth, reopened, after a closure of several months. The place, it will be remembered, was seriously damaged by fire on the morning of Friday, Dec. 23rd last, when all the beautiful scheme of decoration by Messrs Wimpenis and Arber, the well-known architects, was irretrievably ruined. Happily, however, the noble facade and the grand staircase, which are among the most striking portions of the fine building, escaped destruction. The beautiful painting above the proscenium, representing the knighting of Sir Francis Drake, which was totally destroyed, has been replaced by an allegorical group, and the newly hung plush curtain has cost £300. The manager is Mr James Wynes, who comes with considerable experience from the Empire Theatre, Manchester; and Mr B. De Freer has been appointed assistant-manager. Mr Lechmere C. J. Livermore, one of the managing directors of the renovated Palace, appeared before the curtain during the course of Monday evening, and made a happy and graceful little speech.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 27th of May 1899.

 

The 1899 Auditorium of the Palace Theatre, Plymouth in 1982 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The 1899 Auditorium of the Palace Theatre, Plymouth in 1982 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Seven years later there were furthur alterations when a sliding roof was installed in 1906.

The Theatre was refurbished in 1949 but closed in 1954. Furthur refurbishment and an enlarged stage enabled the Theatre to reopen again in October 1956 but this was to be short lived.

The building was converted for Bingo in 1961 and then had a varied life of occasional Theatre use and Bingo for many years until it was once more refurbished in 1978 and reopened as a live Theatre again.

In 1982 the new Theatre Royal opened in Plymouth and this was a major blow for the old Palace, sadly the building's short revival to live Theatre was to end the following year and in 1983 the Theatre closed and was converted for nightclub use as the Dance Academy.

The Palace Theatre, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Palace Theatre, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

 

The Palace Theatre is currently empty and disused and is rapidly falling into disrepair. Although the Theatre is still standing it is hoped that this major Grade II listed building will one day be restored to its former glory and returned to live theatrical use. The stage of the Palace Theatre is 28 foot deep by 60 foot wide with a Proscenium opening of 29 foot, 6 inches, and the grid height is 58 foot.

Right - A video showing the terrible state of the Plymouth Palace Theatre in 2013 from the Plymouth Herald.

In 2013 Dave Welsh took on a 27 year lease for the Palace Theatre and set up a not for profit company called the Plymouth Palace Project Ltd. The building has since been made water tight and it is hoped that in time the estimated £10 million cost of restoring the Theatre to its former glory will be found. More details and images from the Plymouth Herald here.

 

The Palace Theatre, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Palace Theatre, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

 

The Grand Theatre, Union Street, Stonehouse, Plymouth

Later - The Grand Theatre and Picture Palace

A Google Street View of the site of the Grand Theatre, Plymouth. To the right of this picture is the Public House which bears the name Grand Theatre itself but was established in 1847, many years before the Theatre was built.

Above - A Google Street View of the site of the Grand Theatre, Plymouth. To the right of this picture is the Public House which bears the name Grand Theatre itself but was established in 1847, many years before the Theatre was built. - Click to Interact.

Poster for a Revue called 'All Smiles' at the Grand Theatre, Plymouth on Monday the 21st of November 1927 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen.The Grand Theatre opened on the 26th of December 1889 with a production of the pantomime 'Cinderella' and was built for Mr Henry E. Reed, who had previously been running the Theatre Royal, Plymouth until he lost the lease on the building. The Grand was designed by H. J. Snell and building began on the 11th of July 1889. The Theatre was constructed on the opposite side of Union Street and just down the road from the New Palace Theatre, which had itself opened a year earlier.

The ERA printed a report on the Theatre in their 28th of December 1889 edition saying:- 'Mr Henry E. Reed terminated his lesseeship of the Plymouth Theatre Royal early in the present year, and determined on building a theatre for himself. A site was obtained, plans were prepared by Mr H. J. Snell (an architect of considerable repute in the west), and the building operations were entrusted to Mr S. Roberts, who undertook the task of constructing the new Grand Theatre in the short space of sixteen weeks, which was accomplished by working night and day.

Right - A poster for a Revue called 'All Smiles' at the Grand Theatre, Plymouth on Monday the 21st of November 1927 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen.

The theatre, which was opened on Boxing Night, is in the modern Italian style, three stories high, with a central pediment. The frontage in Union-street is eighty-five feet long, and its depth about 140ft. The main entrance to the dress-circle is in Union-street, and is thirteen feet wide, with a handsome portico. There are also pit and gallery exits into the same street. The entrances to the pit and gallery are in Battery-street. With exits the theatre is uncommonly well supplied, the exacting requirements of the County Council being complied with to the minutest detail, and it is estimated that a crowded audience could, in case of panic or fire, be discharged into the streets in about two minutes.

Internally the theatre has a very handsome appearance. The stage is 48ft. long and 60ft. wide, the proscenium arch being 27ft. clear, with a water curtain having four-inch pipe connections attached to the high pressure main service.

The stage is fitted with all the latest appliances. Provision has been made for the scenes to be carried right up into the flies, thus obviating the necessity for roller-cloths, &c. An iron staircase on the prompter's side reaches the flies, a great advantage in communicating with the machinists. The scene-dock and property-room is on the o. p. side. The mezzanine, which is reached by an iron spiral staircase, is fitted' with every modern appliance in the way of slides, traps, &c.

The dress circle holds 170 persons. All the upholstering is in ruby plush. There are ten private boxes, all elegantly furnished, the carpets being Brussels and the curtains old gold silk and silk plush, relieved with crimson and gold trimmings and tassels. The stage boxes are adorned with fluted columns and Corinthian capitals. The dimensions of the auditorium are: - From the proscenium wall to the back of the circle 52 feet, and to the back of the pit and of the gallery 60 feet in each case. The amphitheatre is divided from the gallery, and is capable of holding about 180. All the seats here are covered with ruby plush, and the occupants have the advantage of the use of the handsome foyer adjacent. The gallery is commodious, and affords an excellent view of the stage. The pit is equally well designed, and fitted with comfortable seats with hacks. Several refreshment rooms have been provided, all being fitted with modern appliances. A 2,000 candle power "sunlight" is fixed under the dome. Great attention has been paid to the dressing-rooms, these being more numerous and better fitted up than is usually the case. The opening night was fixed for Thursday, when the pantomime of Cinderella, from the pen of Mr G. V. Keast, was to be produced.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 28th of December 1889.

 

The site of the Grand Theatre, Plymouth today - Courtesy Caroline BlomfieldAs mentioned above, the Grand Theatre opened on the 26th of December 1889 with a production of the pantomime 'Cinderella'. Inside the auditorium, seating was provided in orchestra, dress circle, and balcony levels. The stage was 48 feet deep and 60 feet wide.

The Theatre was renamed the Grand Theatre and Picture Palace in 1909, when variety and films were programmed. By 1927, it was offering Revue shows, and it operated as a successful Theatre until 1930.

On the 14th of May 1930 it was reopened as a full time cinema. Independently operated, and showing three films a day.

Sadly the Theatre was damaged by German bombs during the Blitz in March 1941 and closed, never to reopen.

The building was then used as a warehouse for many years and was demolished in 1963.

Left - The site of the Grand Theatre, Plymouth today - Courtesy Caroline Blomfield. The Public House next door bears the name Grand Theatre but was established in 1847, many years before the Theatre was built, although outlasting the Theatre. In 2013 the Pub is closed and its future is uncertain.

There is a picture of the Grand Theatre and some information on the building here.

 

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share Please Contact me.

For more information and images of Theatres in Plymouth you may like to visit this website.

 

The Gaumont Palace, Union Street, Plymouth

Formerly - Andrews' New Picture Palace - Later - Odeon / Boulevard / Millenium Complex

The former Gaumont Palace Theatre, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

Above - The former Gaumont Palace Theatre, Plymouth in June 2011 - Photo M.L.

The Gaumont Palace opened on the 16th of November 1931 with a showing of the films 'The Ghost Train' and 'Almost a Divorce'. The Theatre was built on the site of the former New Picture Palace which was built for Arthur and Horace Andrews and had opened on Monday the 1st of August 1910 with a capacity of 1,500. The Picture Palace was demolished in 1930 and the new Gaumont arose on its site.

The Gaumont Palace had its own Compton organ and an auditorium on two levels, stalls and one circle, which could accommodate 1,462 people. In 1937 the Theatre was renamed to the more simple Gaumont.

The Gaumont closed on the 2nd of December 1961 so that it could be reconstructed, out went the stalls and in came a dance hall in its place, and a new cinema in the former circle which was extended forward and could seat 1,043 people. The Theatre reopened as the Odeon on the 10th of September 1962.

Closing on the 9th of April 1980 the building was later converted into a roller disco, opening in December 1980. This wouldn't last long however, and in 1987 the building was converted into a nightclub called the Boulevard, later renamed the Millenium Complex, which closed in August 2004. After this the building stood vacant for a number of years and was added to the Buildings at Risk Register. An attempt to restore the building for nightclub use in 2012 was refused planning permission.

In May 2013 'God TV' took a 25 year lease on the former Gaumont Cinema and set about restoring the building to it original designs. In June they began work on the interior of the building. The work is expected to take about a year and a half and it is hoped it will be in business in 2014. The Plymouth Herald says:- 'The broadcaster wants to use it as a religious centre for worship and large-scale events which would then be shown on the channel to 250 million homes worldwide.' You may like to read the Plymouth Herald article on all this here.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share Please Contact me.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.