Theatres and Halls in Sheffield, South Yorkshire
The Crucible Theatre - Lyceum Theatre - The City Theatre / Stacey's Circus - Library Theatre - Abbeydale Picture House - Montgomery Theatre - Empire Palace - Adelphi Theatre / Alexandra Music Hall - Adelphi Picture Theatre - Electra Palace / Cartoon / News / Classic Cinema - Britannia Music Hall - Ecclesfield Cinema House / Essoldo - Grand Theatre - Hippodrome / ABC - Palace Theatre - Theatre Royal / Regal Cinema, Attercliffe - Theatre Royal, Tudour Street - Playhouse - Regent Theatre / Gaumont / Odeon - Royal Casino / Surrey Music Hall / Surrey Theatre
Above - The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield in August 2011 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.
The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, was built at a time when Sheffield had lost all its major Theatres and had only one small venue left in operation, namely the Library Theatre.
In 1969 work began on a new Theatre for the City, The Crucible, with a thrust stage and a steeply raked auditorium with a capacity of 900. Attached to the Theatre is a small Studio Theatre with a capacity of 400.
Right - An early Postcard for the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.
The Crucible is now one of Britain's touring venues and a Producing House in its own right, and is also famous for being the home of the World Snooker Championship, screened on TVs all over the world every year.
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Previously on the site - Stacey's Circus / The City Theatre
Above - The Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield in August 2011 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.
The Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield was designed by the well known Theatre Architect W. G. R. Sprague in 1897 and is today the only complete Sprague Theatre still surviving in the Provinces. The Lyceum was built on the site of Stacey's Circus which was destroyed by fire in May 1893, and its successor, Walter Emden's City Theatre which had opened on Boxing Day 1893 but closed in 1897. The Lyceum used the City Theatre's stage house but the stage itself was rebuilt along with the rest of the Theatre, including a wonderful new auditorium constructed on three levels, Stalls, Circle, and Balcony which was reported at the time to be able to accommodate some 3,000 people. The Lyceum Theatre opened on Monday the 11th of October 1897 with a production of Bizet's 'Carmen' by the Carla Rosa Opera Company.
The ERA reported on the new Theatre in their 9th of October 1897 edition saying:- 'This palatial temple of the drama, which has taken the place of the City Theatre, will undoubtedly rank high in the list of beautiful new playhouses which are beginning to adorn the main streets of the principal provincial towns.
The new theatre externally presents a most commanding and ornate appearance, occupying, as it does, an entirely isolated position, with exits into three important thoroughfares, viz., Tudor-street, Arundel-street, and Tudor-place. Mr W. R. Sprague has certainly had a difficult task, but a look at the building shows at once that he has triumphantly succeeded, for in place of the flat, uninteresting elevation of the old City Theatre, the eye of the artistic beholder is gladdened by a bold, classic frontage, with imposing Ionic columns and ornamental designs, symbolical of the high and honourable purpose for which the structure has been erected.
The main architectural feature at the corner of Arundel and Tudor-streets is a lofty circular tower, surmounted by a copper dome, at the top of which, in heroic size, is poised on one foot a fine figure of Fame, who holds aloft a torch. In this will be placed an arc lamp of 500 candle power. The principal entrances are placed at this corner, and an iron and glass awning of artistic designs gives a comfortable and pleasing appearance to the whole. The upper circle, amphitheatre, and gallery exits are in Arundel-street, and there are emergency exits (in case of fire) on to the flat roots of the dressing-rooms, which flank each side of the main building.
The house is on the " two-tier " principle, and is arranged to hold 3,000 persons. No columns have been used, and from every seat there is an uninterrupted view of the stage. There are eight private boxes. On the ground floor, level with the street, are the stalls and pit. The first floor consists of grand circle and upper circle, and above is the spacious gallery, part of which is divided off into amphitheatre stalls. The stalls and circle fauteuils are roomy, and are luxuriously upholstered in crimson Utrecht velvet, the curtains, hangings, valances, and portieres being of the same rich material.
Left - A photograph of the Sheffield Lyceum auditorium after its 1990 refurbishment - Courtesy David Garratt.
The corridors, staircases, lobbies, &c., are of unusual size, and the large space at the disposal of the architect has enabled him to provide a beautiful foyer, with ample accommodation in the shape of retiring-rooms, refreshment buffets, crush-rooms, and all necessary offices. The salle and the charming vestibule have been exquisitely decorated in the style of Louis XIV., the box, circle, and gallery fronts being picked out with lovely and cunningly devised electric lamps. The ceiling and dome is a dream of beauty and chaste colouring, and the proscenium is a fitting frame for the land of fancy, humour, and romance which lies beyond its white and gold columns.
The stage and auditorium are lighted entirely by electricity, but gas is also laid on in case of any temporary failure of the electric light. Little alteration has been made in the stage block, but an entirely new stage has been laid with all the latest improvements in the matter of traps, bridges, &c. The stage measures 72ft. from wall to wall, has a grid 50ft. high, and the opening is about 30ft. by 28ft.
There are large carpenters' shops, property rooms, chorus rooms, and a spacious scene-dock, and Mr John Hart need have no fear of the Actors' Association, as there are twelve comfortable dressing-rooms, well furnished and provided with hot and cold water. In addition to the ordinary act-drop and tableau curtains, there is a steel curtain, which can be lowered at a moment's notice at an alarm of fire, and hydrants have been placed in every part of the theatre. Constructed mainly of steel, stone, and concrete, the building, practically speaking, is perfectly fireproof.
Above - A photograph of the Sheffield Lyceum Proscenium after its 1990 refurbishment - Courtesy David Garratt.
The theatre is the property of the Lyceum Theatre (Sheffield), Limited, and will be directed by Mr John Hart, who so successfully guides the destinies of the Grand, Leeds; the Royal, Bradford; and other leading provincial playhouses. Mr Hart's local representative is Mr T. Hopcutt, who is here well known and highly-respected, and whose duties will be pleasantly arduous on Monday evening, when the first artists to tread the new stage will be her Majesty's servants, the Royal Carl Rosa opera company.
Above - A photograph of the Sheffield Lyceum Auditorium after its 1990 refurbishment - Courtesy David Garratt.
The theatre has been reconstructed from the designs of Mr W. R. Sprague, of Fitzalan House, Strand, London. The building contractors were Messrs Geo. Longden and Sons, of Sheffield. The plastic work has been supplied and the whole of the decorations have been designed and carried out by Messrs De Jong and Co, of London. The furnishing, &c., has been done by Cranston and Elliott, of Edinburgh. The stage has been stocked with excellent new scenery by Messrs E. G. Banks and A. G. Betts, and the beautiful and artistic act-drop reflects credit on the good taste and executive ability of Mr Henry Emden, the well-known scenic artist.'
The Lyceum Theatre opened on Monday the 11th of October 1897 with a production of Bizet's 'Carmen' by the Carla Rosa Opera Company. A serious fire a few years later in November 1899 partially destroyed the Theatre however, helped by the fact that the fire curtain failed to work correctly and fell onto the stage when its supporting ropes failed.
Despite the fire though the Theatre was restored and went on to become one of Sheffield's major Theatres until 1968 when, like so many others at the time, it was converted for Bingo use. This was not a success however and in 1972 the owners submitted a planning application for demolition of the building. This thankfully was refused and the Theatre was put up for sale but there was little interest, partly because of the new Crucible Theatre which had been built next door. The Lyceum remained dark for many years and its future looked bleak. Some work was done on the building however, in order to preserve its structure from dry rot.
Right - A Programme for 'Charley's Aunt' at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield for the week beginning Monday the 14th of November 1921.
Left - A Matchbox Model Van with a Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield banner.
In 1990 the Lyceum was given a reprieve when Sheffield became home to the World Student Games. The stage house was rebuilt, the main entrance was moved, dressing rooms were improved, and the auditorium was completely restored so that the Lyceum was finally back in business again after two decades of neglect. The Theatre reopened in December 1990.
The Lyceum Theatre is now Sheffield's major touring house but is also home to Sheffield's home grown productions too.
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Formerly - Stacey's Circus - Later - The Lyceum Theatre
The City Theatre was built on the site of the former Stacey's Circus which had been destroyed by fire on May the 30th 1893 during the run of the Hardie Von Leer Company's production of the military drama 'On The Frontier'. The replacement City Theatre was designed by Walter Emden for Alexander Stacey and opened with a production of 'A Royal Divorce' on Boxing Day 1893.
The ERA reported on the new City Theatre in their 23rd of December 1893 edition saying:- 'The new City Theatre, erected for Mr Alexander Stacey on the site of the old circus in Tudor-street, is rapidly approaching completion, and the house will be opened to the public on Boxing Day. The foundation-stone was laid on July 28th by Sir Augustus Harris, who highly complimented Mr Stacey on his enterprise in providing for Sheffield a playhouse which, judging by the plans prepared by the eminent theatrical architect Mr Walter Emden, would be second to none for size and elegance in the provinces. The hopes then held out have been more than realised, and Sheffield can now boast a theatre perfect in every detail and about as fire-proof as human ingenuity and forethought can make it.
The building, occupying a large area, is entirely isolated, there being no less than eighteen exits 8ft. 6in. wide. A large scene door opens on to the stage from Tudor-place, and through this a coach-and-four could be driven to the footlights. The main architectural feature is a cupola tower at the corner of Tudor-street, where the broad and convenient main entrances to the circle, stalls, and pit are situated. The amphitheatre and gallery entrances and exits are placed in Arundel-street and Tudor-place, and there are also exits for the gallery occupants on to the flat roofs of the dressing-rooms and storerooms, which flank each side of the main building.
The theatre is a two-tier house. On the ground floor is the pit, seating 600 persons, and pit-stalls for 400. The first floor, divided into dress-circle and side boxes, seats is all 550 persons. Above this is the spacious gallery, which will hold 1,000. In the front of the house there are large and elegantly furnished coffee and smoke rooms for each division of the audience, ladies' retiring-rooms, and all necessary offices, with the latest sanitary appliances. The handsomely designed proscenium, 30ft. in height, measures from pillar to pillar 3l ft. At each side are three prettily decorated private boxes, and an exquisitely designed railing separates the orchestra from the stalls.
The stage, which is 72ft. in width by 34ft. in depth, has a grid 50ft. high. It has been laid by Mr Kewley, and is replete with the latest improvements. The mention of Mr Tollerton in connection with the gas arrangements will be sufficient guarantee as to the efficiency of the lighting.
There are twelve dressing-rooms, with special rooms for ballet, supers, and chorus; and all are large, and fitted with every comfort. Mr Stacey need, therefore, have no fear of the Actors' Association in this respect. There are two property rooms, a spacious scene-dock, and a joiner's-shop, 70ft. by l2ft. Hydrants are placed at convenient positions, and Mr Tollerton's patent sprinklers are also provided.
The auditorium has been lavishly decorated by Messrs De Jong and Co., of London, and nothing finer has been seen in Sheffield than the ceiling and dome. The latter is composed of twelve panels, with exquisitely coloured pictures, in high relief, of children in idealised costumes and attitudes, playing on musical instruments. The borders of the panels and the cornices are all richly coloured and gilded; and in the centre of the dome is a brilliant sunlight. The box fronts are beautifully designed, cherubs and flowers playing the chief part in the decorative scheme. The gallery front is divided into panels with festoons of flowers. Over the proscenium arch are also five panels with beautiful pictures in colours, emblematic of Poetry, Art, Music, Comedy, and Tragedy, with ornamental devices in harmony with the general design of the building. The whole of the furniture and draperies have been provided by Mr A. R. Dean, of Birmingham, and fixed under the personal direction of Mr Windebank, manager. The seats in the circle boxes and stalls are of the latest design in tip-up chairs, being upholstered in rich ruby plush. The draperies of the boxes are in a correspondingly warm tint, and harmonise well with the tone of the surrounding decorations. The pit and gallery seats are comfortable, and the gangways are wide enough to allow of easy locomotion. The entire house is heated by Messrs Newton Chambers and Co., and the asbestos curtain has been fixed by Mr Holt, of Bradford. Messrs George Webster and Tomlinson are the contractors, and the work has been carefully superintended by Mr W. H. May, the indefatigable clerk of the works.
On Monday Mr Stacey applied for a twelve months' licence, and, after an inspection of the theatre, this was unanimously granted, the members of the City Council expressing their unqualified delight at the safety and beauty of the building. The opening attraction will be A Royal Divorce.'
The City Theatre opened with a production of 'A Royal Divorce' on Boxing Day 1893. The Theatre would not last long however, as it closed in 1897 and was then rebuilt to the designs of the well known Theatre Architect W. G. R. Sprague and reopened as the Lyceum Theatre on Monday the 11th of October 1897 with a production of Bizet's 'Carmen' by the Carla Rosa Opera Company. More details on the Lyceum Theatre can be seen above.
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Above - The Library Theatre, Sheffield in August 2011 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.
The Library Theatre, Sheffield was built as a Lecture Theatre inside an existing building next door to Sheffield's Lyceum Theatre (See above). The Theatre was used as an air rade shelter during the war but in 1947 some dressing rooms were included so that the hall could become a legitimate Theatre. Due to its small stage and less than adequate sight lines however the Theatre was redesigned in 1961 when a proscenium arch was added, the stage enlarged, foyer spaces were added, and the auditorium raked.If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact Me.
Formerly - The Electra Palace / News Theatre / Cartoon Cinema
Above - The Cartoon Cinema, Fitzalan Square, Sheffield in 1959, later to become the Classic Cinema - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.
The Fitzalan Square Classic Cinema originally opened as the Electra Palace on the 10th of February 1911 and was built by George Longden and Sons Ltd., for Sheffield & District Cinematograph Theatres Ltd. The Theatre was designed by J. H. Hickton and H. E. Farmer and was constructed on the site of a former wooden building called Wonderland.
The Electra could seat 670 people on two levels, stalls and one curved balcony, and also had a tea lounge on the balcony level and a restaurant in the basement. The Theatre was the first cinema in Sheffield to show continuous film performances, from 3 in the afternoon to 10.30 at night.
The Theatre was altered in 1945 and reopened as the News Theatre. In 1959 it was renamed The Cartoon Cinema, see image above, showing continuos cartoon films and also news films. In 1962 the Theatre was bought by the Classic chain who covered the exterior with metal cladding and removed all the internal decorative plasterwork, the Theatre reopened as a Classic Cinema.
The Theatre was closed on the 24th of November 1982 and after a fire in 1984 the building was demolished to make way for a retail store.
Some of the above information on the Electra Palace was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website.
Above - A Google StreetView image of the Abbeydale Picture House, Sheffield - Click to Interact
The Abbeydale Picture House, Sheffield was built as a Cinema with stage facilities and was opened by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield on the 20th December 1920 with a capacity of 1,500. From 1928 the Theatre was used as a Cine Variety house and in 1930 it was converted for Talkies.
The Theatre closed in 1975 and became an office furniture showroom and warehouse but it was awarded a Grade II listing in 1989 because so much of the Theatre was still intact.
For some years the Abbeydale was home to the Bar Abbey and the Abbey Snooker Club but in 2003 the Friends of Abbeydale Picture House was formed and the Theatre's future began to look a little brighter. They restored the auditorium and built a new stage, and reopened the Theatre in September 2008.
However, the community group's finances eventually failed and the building was repossessed by the bank and in late 2012 it was sold at auction for £150,000. A spokesman for the buyer said that the building 'was not financially viable' to be used as a Theatre again but added 'It's a lovely facility. The intention is to bring it back into public use.'
Above - The Montgomery Hall - Courtesy The Sheffield Christian Education Council
The Montgomery Theatre in Surrey Street Sheffield was built as a meeting hall for the Sheffield Sunday Schools Union (now known as the Sheffield Christian Education Council) in memory of James Montgomery in 1886. It was used as a Theatre apart from a break during the war when it was used by the government. Following a fire in 1971 it was refurbished as a traditional style Theatre. It is a small friendly theatre with 427 seats on two levels. Many Amateur Dramatic Societies and Dancing Schools still consider Montgomery Theatre as their home and the theatre hosts several amateur operatic and dancing school shows each year as well as a couple of pantomimes and several end of year shows for some of the Sheffield Schools.
Text and image Courtesy The Sheffield Christian Education Council who own the Montgomery Theatre.
You may like to visit the Theatre's own website here.
Later - The Empire Theatre
Above - The Sheffield Empire - From a postcard.
The Empire Theatre, Sheffield was designed by the renowned Theatre architect Frank Matcham and opened on Monday November the 4th 1895. Shortly before the Theatre opened the ERA carried a report on the building in their 26th of October 1895 edition saying:- ' This handsome block of buildings is now rapidly nearing completion, and will be opened to the public on Nov. 4th. It is one of the latest of the series of theatres of varieties that have been founded by the energetic Mr. H. E. Moss, of Edinburgh. It is situated in Charles-street and Union-street, and the group of buildings includes large corner shops and premises on each side of the theatre frontage, and six shops, with offices over, facing Pinstone -street, forming altogether a most important addition to the buildings of Sheffield.
Right - A Programme for the New Sheffield Empire Palace - Courtesy Peter Charlton.
The New Empire Palace is the third of those magnificent buildings that have been designed by Mr Frank Matcham, who is the architect for the companies founded by Mr Moss, the other two being the New Empires at Birmingham and at Edinburgh. We are informed that Mr Matcham has in hand plans for two other Empires, one at Cardiff and one at Glasgow. The latter is to be erected on the old Gaiety site in Sauchiehall-street, and is expected to eclipse all similar buildings in the kingdom. The position of the New Empire at Sheffield is a very important one, being in the centre of the city, and close to the new Municipal Buildings. The front elevation towards Charles-street is of Italian Renaissance in design, and is of stone relieved by red brick. The centre facade consists of three arched openings, with a balcony on the first floor in connection with the smoking lounge. This building has above it a massive pediment with panels, introducing the title "Empire Palace," and emblems of the arts and music. Above this are figures holding a flambeau, which will be lighted at night.
The central façade is flanked by two square towers carried up above the centre pediment and terminating in handsome minarets covered with copper, the whole forming an elegant and imposing building well worthy to rank with the other large buildings of Sheffield. The front entrance has an ornamental iron and glass shelter over the pavement, brilliantly illuminated with the electric light. The entrances in Union-street have a similar shelter, and the whole frontages are lighted with powerful arc lamps suspended from ornamental brackets. The principal entrance is from Charles-street. Here archways are formed fitted with ornamental iron gates. Polished wood swing doors open into a vestibule which is designed in Arabesque. The ceiling is of rich design decorated in gold and colours. From the centre of this ceiling is suspended a handsome electrioneer, formed with drops and coloured lights. The vestibule floor is of rich marble mosaic, and marble steps lead up to the doors of the inner vestibule. The walls are covered with rich leather paper, with an Indian painted frieze. To the left of the entrance vestibule above described is the pay office, of polished wood and coloured glass; and a similar office opposite contains the telephones, switches for the electric lights, &c. The formation of the site is such that the patrons of the grand circle and the pit enter almost on levels with their respective seats. A crush-room is provided, from which wide corridors lead to each side of the grand circle and to the private boxes; and wide stone staircases on either side conduct the visitors to the fauteuils.
A suite of offices to the left of the entrance is conveniently situated for the management, and a private staircase is arranged so as to enable the manager to get to all parts of the house in a few seconds. The upper circle, which contains about six rows of seats at the back of the grand circle, is approached by means of a separate staircase to the right of the entrance, and this part of the house is well arranged, and the sight lines are perfect. There is a wide passage way at the back of the top row of upper circle seats, which is continued at the same level along the sides into large open-arched lounges over the private boxes.
At the rear of the upper circle is a raised lounge with an ornamental balcony front, and from this lounge, through a wide opening, flanked with columns with ornamental pediment over, may be reached the grand smoking saloon, which is lofty and of magnificent proportions. Through the casement windows of this may be approached the outer balcony, looking on to Charles-street, already alluded to. The pit is entered from Union-street. This part of the building is lofty and well ventilated, and is fitted up with comfortable seats. At the back is a raised lounge, and in front pit-stalls are placed with raised promenades at the sides. The seats are upholstered in rich velvet, and the floors carpeted. The fauteuils occupy the space in front of the orchestra. There are six rows of luxuriously fitted up tip-up chairs, and at the sides are raised lounges and alcoves with fountains and rockeries, with palms and ferns. The whole of this part of the house is carpeted and fitted with tip-up seats. A large smoking saloon is provided at the side of the fauteuils, richly upholstered and fitted with settees, the whole being beautifully decorated. There are no less than seven exits on the ground level - five from the grand circle and upper circle and four from the gallery. These are all direct, and the passages and staircases are fire-proof, while the doors are fitted with Briggs' panic bolts. The auditorium has been designed on the cantilever principle, a clear and uninterrupted view of the stage being obtained from all parts. The safety of the public has been well considered, and every preventative against accident by fire has been provided in the shape of hydrants, iron doors, and an asbestos fireproof curtain, which entirely divides the stage from the auditorium.
Above - The Auditorium of the Sheffield Empire - From the Moss Empires Jubilee Brochure of 1949
The ventilation has received more than ordinary attention, the fresh air being conveyed into the building by tubes and inlet ventilators. The vitiated air is extracted by shafts formed in the ceilings; and, in addition to this, the architect has provided a large sliding-roof in the centre of the auditorium domed ceiling, which can be worked off on tram lines when required.
The stage is a large one, being 33ft. deep and 64ft. wide, with property-rooms and scene-docks in conjunction. It is fitted up with the necessary traps and bridges, and the usual stage machinery. The grid is placed high enough to take up all scenery. The dressing-rooms are numerous, and fitted with hot and cold water. They are contained in a block of buildings at the rear of the stage, being divided from the same by brick walls, and the only openings are fitted with iron doors.
The entrances to the auditorium, the stage, and the dressing-rooms are heated by hot-water pipes and coils, and the whole building is lighted by electricity. The whole of the raised plaster decorations have been carried out from the architect's designs, and Mr Matcham has certainly excelled himself. He has adopted a bold Flemish treatment, involving much grandeur of design.
The ceiling is divided up by life-size figures playing different musical instruments. They are artistically modelled, and from them spring arches forming a series of panels, over which is a boldly-moulded and enriched cornice surrounding the sliding-roof. From this a series of twenty polished brass electric light pendants is suspended with loops between, and around the outer circle of the ceiling similar pendants occur, throwing a beautiful soft light on the chaste enrichments. The lower part of the centre ceiling is formed into coffered arches with panels running up and forming a base for the figures. These are richly panelled, and the background is painted with sky and birds. In front of the whole a balcony is continued round the entire ceiling, with pedestals containing vases and forms supported by cupids. The ceiling is artistically painted in accordance with Mr Matcham's design, "A Dream of a Carnival," introducing sprites, pierrots, demons, and dancers.
Over the stage opening is a painted panel representing "Music and Dancing," and the coves along the sides of the ceiling are very artistically treated with shaded scroll design. The remainder of the decorations, including the boxes and gallery fronts, are carried out in the same bold, artistic way. The ceiling is supported by eight finely designed and decorated columns, the lower parts being of marble. The proscenium opening is flanked with similar material, and a raised decoration is carried around the whole proscenium and along the front of the stage, giving the appearance of a picture frame. The building is luxurious in its upholstery, the floors of the best parts of the house being laid with thick carpet, and the boxes and stage opening being fitted with embossed green bronzed plush draperies.'
The Empire Palace Theatre opened on Monday November the 4th 1895 as a Variety Theatre and was built for Moss Empires with a vast auditorium capable of seating 2,500 people in great comfort.
The Theatre would later drop the 'Palace' part of its name and be known simply as the Sheffield Empire. Despite being a variety Theatre it was already showing so called 'animated pictures' as part of the entertainment as early as 1896. The Theatre was closed in June 1927 for a six week redecoration, and then in July 1933 it was closed again for alterations and redecoration, and a new Bio Box was constructed at roof level for Follow Spots and film projection.
On the 3rd of August 1942 a major fire destroyed the Empire's stage and was only prevented from destroying the rest of the Theatre by its safety curtain which was down at the time. The Theatre then remained closed for rebuilding the stage and refurbishment for more than a year but reopened on the 6th of September 1943. During the war the Theatre lost one of its two turrets which capped the towers on either side of the facade, and the buildings which had previously been situated either side of the Theatre were also destroyed.
The Theatre was closed on the 2nd of May 1959 after being sold to a developer and was demolished just two months later in July 1959. The site was used for the construction of shops which are still there today.
The Empire Theatre, Sheffield by Donald Auty
This theatre was a big one, a Matcham house with over two thousand seats and on a prime city centre site. The stage area was bombed during the war whilst a performance was taking place and some of Henry Hall's band who were topping the bill that week were killed and injured.
The manager during the fifties was Johnny Spitzer an enormous man. He lived at the Grand Hotel where he had a special deal. He used to have numerous large meals sent over from the hotel during the day and would sit in his office in front of the television set on his desk that was switched on all the time and eat them. The staff wondered what would happen if ever Val Parnell the managing director walked in. He did one day and the assistant manager went into the office to find both Val and Johnny sitting in front of the television and both eating enormous meals.
Maurice Dixon (See note) was musical director and presided over an excellent thirteen piece orchestra. The stage manager was Ernie Fenton and his son the first dayman, they were both smashing people and I had many a lovely week there.
Right - A caricature sketch of Mr Leo Matthew Stewart, one time Acting Manager of the Sheffield Empire - Courtesy Chris Bond whose wife is Stewart's Great Grandaughter, Chris says that Stewart moved to Sheffield sometime after 1901 and died in 1918.
One week I was getting the show out on Saturday night. The bill toppers were Donald Peers and Jimmy James. Jimmy came down onto the stage and called me over to the prompt corner. He asked me to lend him a tenner for his train fare to the next town.
What did you do with the £250 I paid you yesterday I asked him,
this was a lot of money in the mid fifties. I owed it all at the bookies
Jimmy replied. He was a great gambler and went bankrupt through it.
He suffered a stroke whilst on a summer season in Skegness and could
not work any more. He had no money so a benefit performance was organised
for him at the Prince of Wales
theatre in London but the proceeds had to be put into a trust that Jimmy
did not have personal access to because he would have gambled it away.
He was however one of the nicest comics I ever worked with.
The Empire was sold for its prime site value and closed in the late fifties and demolished. Johnny Sptizer was promoted to head of publicity for Moss Empires but still continued to live at the Grand Hotel and eat enormous meals.
Note: The Last Musical Director at the Sheffield Empire was Maurice Newton ( Not Dixon) He was loved by visiting artistes and was always willing to rewrite their band parts which were often almost unplayable. - Alan Chudley.
Above - The Adelphi Theatre, Sheffield - Courtesy Lavonne Wiencek
The Adelphi Picture Theatre, in Vicarage Road, Sheffield was designed by the architect W. C. Fenton and opened for business on the 18th of October 1920.
The exterior was built from red brick with terra-cotta enhancements to the main facade. The auditorium was built on two levels, stalls and one circle, with a seating capacity of 1,350, and a projection room at the back of the stalls.
Right - The former Adelphi Picture Theatre, Sheffield in a photograph taken in October 2009 - Courtesy Rob Cordon
The Theatre was the subject of some restoration and redecoration in the late 1930s but after bomb damage during the second world war, and a brief closure of one month, the building was further renovated in 1946.
The last film presentation at the Adelphi, which had always been an independent Cinema, was a showing of 'The Karate Killers' and 'The Rounders' on the 28th of October 1976.
The Adelphi then became a Bingo Club for many years until it closed in the mid 1990s. It was then converted into a nightclub where live bands also performed on occasions, but closed down in late 2006.
The Adelphi is a Grade II Listed building and still stands today. However this building should not be confused with the former Adelphi Theatre in Furnival Road and Blonk Street, later the Alexandra Music Hall.
Above - The former Adelphi Picture Theatre, Sheffield in a photograph taken in October 2009. The photo also shows the original Burton's menswear premises next door to the Theatre - Courtesy Rob Cordon
Later - The Hippodrome Theatre / Hippodrome Cinema / ABC Cinema
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Grosvenor House Hotel, which was built on the site of the former Hippodrome Theatre in 1963 - Click to Interact.
The Sheffield Hippodrome was built in 1907 and designed by Bertie Crewe. The Theatre, the largest in Sheffield, with a capacity of 2,730, opened as the Hippodrome Theatre of Varieties on the 23rd of December 1907. The Hippodrome's auditorium was constructed on three levels, stalls, circle, and gallery, and at the time its cantilevered circle is said to have used the longest girder that had been utilised in the construction of a Theatre. Either side of the proscenium arch were four boxes, and the auditorium roof could be slid open for ventilation.
The Theatre was one of several large Hippodromes opened by Tom Barrasford in direct opposition to Oswald Stoll, then managing director of Moss empires, and his own Stoll Tour, and was in direct competition with Moss's nearby Empire Theatre. Barrasford died in 1910 and the Sheffield Hippodrome became part of Walter De Frece's "Variety Theatre's Controlling Company", which in 1921 became part of the London Variety Theatres, they went bankrupt in 1928 and were taken over in 1929 by General Theatres Corporation, part of Gaumont British Cinemas.
The Theatre closed in 1931 and it was leased to Associated British Cinemas who installed a projection box at the back of the circle and redecorated the auditorium. The Theatre reopened on the 20th of June the following year, 1932, as the Hippodrome Cinema. It was used primarily for Film showings from then onwards although the occasional live show was still staged on its still intact stage.
In 1938 the Theatre was closed again for redecoration and improvements which were carried out over three weeks, and it was damaged by bombs during the war in December 1940, necessitating closure for repairs, but it reopened in January the following year.
The Theatre's lease came up again in 1948 and whilst ABC vacillated about renewing it, a separate exhibitor who had been running the Tivoli Cinema in Norfolk Street, which had been bombed out in the Sheffield Blitz, jumped in and took over the Hippodrome's lease. They refurbished the Theatre and reopened it on the 26th of July 1948. ABC went on to build a new ABC Cinema on the Stadium plan on Angel Street.
In 1954 Cinemascope was installed in the Theatre and it was also the first Cinema in Sheffield to show 3d Films and one of the first to open on Sundays. In 1959 the Theatre's old Gallery was closed and a few years later so was the whole Theatre. It had been compulsory purchased by Sheffield City Council, along with adjoining properties, and on the 2nd of March 1963 the Theatre's last showing of 'Gone With The Wind' ended the Theatre's career. It was demolished later that year and the Grosvenor House Hotel was built on the site.
The Britannia Music Hall, Sheffield was built in 1869 and demolished after a fire in 1992.
The Ecclesfield Cinema House opened on the 1st of January 1921.
The Cinema closed on the 7th of February 1959 and was totally emptied within a month.
The Cinema was demolished in June 1970.
This information Courtesy Nigel Womersley.
This Theatre was built in 1904 and demolished in 1939.
Formerly The Alhambra Theatre
Above - The Palace Theatre, Attercliffe, Sheffield - Courtesy Maurice Friedman, British Music hall Society
The Palace Theatre was built in 1896 by Martin & Blomfield Jackson. It was reconstructed in 1933 and demolished in 1961.
'The Palace Theatre Attercliffe was in the Attercliffe road about 300 yards down from Burton's Corner, this was the variety house, which closed on 27th June 1955 with a revue; "Strip, Sauce and Spice" Both this and the Theatre Royal (See Below) were at one time Mc Naughton Theatres.
The Palace Attercliffe was opened by Frank McNaughton on 3rd January 1898, as The Alhambra. The theatre was not sucessful under Mc Naughton and was later renamed the Palace and was sold off to J.Allan Edwards of Derby in 1907. The Theatre was sold off again to the Roberto Brothers and converted into a cinema in 1913 .
Much later ( Possibly late 1920 or early 1930s) it was sold to a local architect, Mr Walker, whose sons Speed and Jack reopened it as a Variety house. The architect of the Palace was A Bloomfield Jackson and the Theatre had a seating capacity of 1,600.
I knew it as a number two variety house with many strip shows. Frankly the Palace left much to be desired. It was the bain of touring stage managers; the stage was only 16 feet deep and very badly equiped, the dressing rooms were very poor, however on the plus side the audiences were great from a performers point of view which had an atmosphere like the Met in the Edgware Road and the Glasgow Pavillion, and the eight piece Palace orchestra was renowed for its excellence. The top price in the 1940s was only two shillings. The Palace had many characters on its staff.'
The text above in quotes was kindly sent in by Alan Chudley.
Above - An early Photograph of Attercliffe Road, Sheffield - Courtesy Lavonne Wiencek
Later - The Regal Cinema
The Theatre Royal Attercliffe was about 100 yards from Burton's Corner in Staniforth Road. This later became the Regal Cinema. This Theatre and the Palace Theatre at one time were both Mc Naughton Theatres.
The Theatre Royal, Attercliffe opened on the 26th of July 1897 with; "No Cross, No Crown" as the Peoples Palace and became the Regal cinema in the 1920s. The Theatre was in Pinfold Lane ( now know as Staniford Road) and was just around the corner from the Palace. Both Theatres have been demolished.
The Theatre Royal was at one time a Mc Naughton House. This became
the Regal and when I saw it in the 1950s it had a neon sign Regal on
This information was kindly sent in by Alan Chudley.
The Playhouse was built in 1958 but has since been demolished.
Later - The Gaumont Theatre / Odeon
Above - A photograph showing the Gaumont Theatre, Sheffield at night, formerly the Regent Theatre - Courtesy Amy Payne
The Regent Theatre was built primarily as a Cinema but with stage facilities, and constructed opposite the City Hall on Barker's Pool, Sheffield in 1927 for the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres Circuit. The Theatre was designed by William Edward Trent in the Italian Renaissance Style and opened on the 26th of December 1927 with seating for 2,300 people on two levels, stalls and one balcony. The Theatre was also equipped with a Wurlitzer Theatre Organ and a 150 seat cafe.
The Theatre was taken over by Gaumont British in 1929 but the name wasn't change until the 27th of July 1946 when it was renamed the Gaumont Theatre. Although mainly in use as a Cinema it was still staging live concerts into the 1960s but in October 1968 the Theatre was closed for major alterations, this involved twinning the building with one Cinema in the former Balcony, and another in the former stalls. Live shows ceased after this naturally. In 1979 a third screen was added in the Theatre's former cafe.
Right -A Google StreetView Image of the site of the former Regent / Gaumont Theatre, Sheffield - Click to Interact.
The end came for this Theatre when it was closed on the 7th of November
1985 and demolished soon afterwards for the building of shops and offices
on the site, although a new twin Odeon Cinema was also included in the
new building. This too closed in 1994 and is now a nightclub.
Formerly - Youdan's Royal Casino - The Surrey Music Hall
Above - The Surrey Theatre on fire - From The Illustrated London News of 1865.
There was a place of entertainment on Westbar, Sheffield in 1849 called the Royal Casino, whose proprietor was Thomas Youdan. The Casino was not actually a casino but a Music Hall putting on a variety of acts nightly, except Sundays. Youdan had spent a great deal of money on improving the original premises when he took it over and the place soon became very popular with Sheffield's public. The Royal Casino opened on Saturday March the 17th 1849.
In 1850 the building was redecorated and altered again to include a tier of boxes in the auditorium, and the name was changed to the Surrey Music Hall for its reopening on Monday September the 9th 1850, still under the management of Thomas Youdan. However it wasn't long before Youdan changed the name again, this time to the Surrey Theatre. Sadly the Theatre was destroyed by fire on April the 1st 1865.
The Illustrated London News printed a report on the fire with a brief history of the building in their April 1st 1865 edition saying: [It] is rather curious that the destruction by fire of the well-known original Surrey Theatre, in the Blackfriars-road, should have been followed so soon by that of its namesake at Sheffield.
This building, or cluster of buildings, called a music-hall when it was first opened about fifteen years ago, had been greatly enlarged by Mr. Youdan, the proprietor, and fitted up for theatrical entertainments. Extensive alterations were made last year; the stage was widened, and extended backwards a clear space of sixty feet, while the gallery was made to accommodate 1500 persons. This gallery was of immense strength; and an additional tier of boxes was built, resting upon ranges of hollow iron columns; but, unfortunately, from the very nature of the case, the employment of a vast quantity of wood was inevitable. Scarcely anything more inflammable in the way of buildings can be conceived than the Surrey Theatre was at its re-opening. Row upon row of wooden seats in the pit; tier upon tier of wooden "boxes," covered with light curtains and drapery of various kinds; and the spacious galleries, all of wood, with innumerable jets of gas and great chandeliers, rendered it a matter of certainty that if a fire did break out it would set every effort to extinguish it at defiance.
Beneath the stage was a "mezzanine" floor, and here again was an amazing accumulation of inflammable material; and above the stage, in the "flies," were the usual mechanical appliances for working the scenes. Mr Youdan had added to the other attractions of the place a museum, which was in the basement story near the theatre, and was well stocked with a collection of curious and valuable articles. On the same floor was a large and handsome room for dancing. The entrance-hall, when it ceased to be used as a bar for the sale of beer, was converted into a picture gallery, and was lighted by several very handsome glass chandeliers of the same description as the much larger one that was suspended from the centre of the roof of the main building.
The alterations completed, the theatre was confessedly one of the largest and handsomest in the country, and its reopening drew immense audiences for a time. The fire broke out last Saturday morning at half-past two o'clock. The performance of Friday evening had finished about eleven, and at midnight all the gaslights were extinguished, but it is surmised that some part of the woodwork, probably in the "flies," had been ignited during the performance of the grand fire scene in the play of "The Streets of London," which had been performed there every night for a fortnight past. In less than five minutes the flames burst out of the roof at the rear of the building, and began to spread with such rapidity that the neighbouring houses in Westbar, Spring-street, and Rick's-lane were in great danger. Many of the people living in these houses fled in haste, without even staying to put on their clothes or attempting to save any portion of their furniture. The police and fire-engines were promptly at hand; but, though the fire was prevented from extending beyond the theatre itself, it was impossible to do more. The external walls being solidly built, no such disaster as that which cost the life of Mr. Lorimer at Edinburgh, is to be recorded on this occasion. The fire burnt itself out between four and five o clock, leaving a mere carcass of the building. Our Illustration, from a sketch taken at the bottom of Westbar-green, will give some idea of the scene at the time of the conflagration.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the Illustrated London News April 1st 1865.
Thomas Youdan went on to reopen the old Adelphi Theatre in Furnival Road as a replacement for the destroyed Surrey Theatre, it reopened as the Alexandra Music Hall on the 13th of October 1865, more details below.
Formerly - The Adelphi Theatre
After the fire which destroyed the Surrey Theatre in 1865 Thomas Youdan went on to purchase the former Adelphi Theatre in Furnival Road and Blonk Street, Sheffield and reopen it as a music hall called the Alexandra Music Hall. It opened on the 13th of October the same year.
The Adelphi Theatre had been built in 1837 and was designed by Egan, and is said to have been based on Astley's ampitheatre, capable of staging circus acts. The Adelphi had been closed for some time however when Youdan took it over, and he had to do a substantial amount of work on the building to make it habitable for his eager public, and at great expense too. It was reported in the press of the time that the Alexandra Music Hall could accommodate 3,000 to 4,000 people when it reopened.
The Theatre was unusual in that the stage house was constructed on girders over the outflow from the Rivers Don and Sheaf which ran behind and under the rear of the Theatre. There are some early photographs of the Theatre here.
The ERA reported on the imminent opening of the Alexandra Music Hall in their 24th of September 1865 edition saying:- 'In a Week or two Sheffield will be again able to boast of having one of the finest Concert Halls in the kingdom. Mr. Thos. Youdan, late Proprietor of the ill-fated Surrey Music Hall, has at considerable expense purchased the old Adelphi Theatre, which for some time has been closed, in fact, buried in oblivion. The building outside has a most noble appearance, although being very black, it being entirely surrounded by grinding wheels, furnaces, coal pits, &c., &c., and everything else having an unavoidable tendency to put a removable colour on stone, of which this place is constructed.
The internal fittings have been entirely removed, even to a plank, and very much enlarged. Nothing is to be seen but bricklayers and carpenters, with their continual clatter of trowels and hammers, and may be occasionally seen the worthy Proprietor walking amongst the workmen, with the usual anxious and good-natured look.
The place when finished will have one of the finest prosceniums of any place in or out of town. The gallery will be very capacious, having two splendid promenades extending the whole circle of the place; and the pit will be seventy feet wide, capable of comfortably seating 2,000 spectators, crinoline no object. The scenery is painted by the well-known artist, Mr. Lenox, and the decorations under the immediate superintendence of Mr. H. Bickerstaff, of the Theatre Royal, Manchester. The opening will take place the commencement of October, with a star company such has never appeared before the Sheffield public.'
A visitor to this site, David Buffrey, says:- 'The owner of the Alexandra in the 1860's, Thomas Youdan, had the first ever English football competition named after him - The Youdan Cup. The manager of the Alexander Theatre, Oliver Cromwell (not the famous Lord Protector) in the same period, had the second ever English football competition named after him - The Cromwell Cup. Sheffield Wednesday won the Youdan Cup. The final was held at Bramall Lane, Sheffield and was won by the world's first ever Golden Goal. The trophy is still held in the Sheffield Wednesday trophy cabinet.' - David Buffrey.
In February 1872 a serious incident took place at the Alexandra Music Hall when the Hall's night watchman, Thomas Bradshaw, attempted to kill his wife, who was a cleaner at the Theatre. They were both staying at the Theatre overnight, using the wardrobe room as a bedroom, when the incident took place. When an Official, Charles Mosley, entered the building through a window in the morning he found Mrs. Bradshaw lying on the wardrobe floor, surrounded by blood, with wounds to her head, and nearby a hatchet and a poker, and some of her husband's clothing. The police then searched the building and found Thomas Bradshaw hanging from a rope in the flies above the stage, having committed suicide.
In the 1890s William David Forsdike became proprietor of the Alexandra, which by this time was being referred to as the Alexandra Theatre rather than a Music Hall.
A visitor to the site, Kevin Woodward, has recently sent in some photographs of a Silver Dance Purse or Necessaire with an engraved inscription on the front which reads:-
The Purse is hallmarked for Sheffield in 1898.
The pantomime Cinderella appears to have been produced at the Alexandra Theatre in 1897 and was probably revived for the following year under the Forsdike's Management.
Right - A Silver Dance Purse or Necessaire with an engraved inscription to Mrs W. D. Forsdike, wife of William David Forsdike, proprietor of the Alexandra Theatre, Sheffield in the 1890s - Courtesy Kevin Woodward.
If you have any more information on William David Forsdyke and his wife or their time at the Alexandra Theatre please Contact me.
Above - A Silver Dance Purse or Necessaire with an engraved inscription to Mrs W. D. Forsdike, wife of William David Forsdike, proprietor of the Alexandra Theatre, Sheffield in the 1890s - Courtesy Kevin Woodward.
The Alexandra Theatre was in business for many
years but finally closed in 1914
and was subsequently demolished for road widening.
The Adelphi Theatre / Alexandra Music Hall / Alexandra Theatre, should not be confused with the later Adelphi Picture Theatre in Vicarage Road which opened in 1920.
The Theatre Royal, Sheffield was altered in 1901 by the renowned Theatre architect Frank Matcham when the stage was enlarged, new dressing rooms added and eclectic lighting was installed . The Seating Capacity was around 2,500 and the Proscenium opening was 28 ft with a Stage depth 39ft.
Right - Advertisement for 'Sherlock Holmes' at the Theatre Royal, Sheffield in November 1921 - From a Lyceum Theatre Sheffield Programme.
The Theatre Royal was burnt out in December 1935 and demolished the following year.
There are some images of the Theatre Royal before and after the fire by doing a search here.
Some of the above info was kindly sent in by Alan Chudley.
For more information on Sheffield's entertainment history you may like to visit the Sheffield Cinemas, Theatres & Music Halls Forum here.
Many of the details and dates for past Theatres in Sheffield were gleaned from the Theatres Trust Guide.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.