Later - The Oxford Theatre / The New Oxford Theatre / Lions' Corner House
Introduction - The Oxford Music Hall of 1861 - The Oxford Music Hall of 1869 - The Oxford Music Hall of 1873 - The Oxford Music Hall of 1893 - The Oxford Music Hall of 1896 - The Oxford Theatre of 1921 - Lions' Corner House
Above - The Oxford Street entrance to London's Oxford Music Hall
The Oxford Music Hall in Oxford Street, and later also in Tottenham Court Road, London had a long and involved history. It was first built as a Music Hall and Supper Room by the contractors Holand and Hannen for Charles Morton and his brother in law, Frederick Stanley, whose earlier (1852) Canterbury Music Hall was the first purpose built Music Hall for this kind of entertainment.
The Oxford, which seated around 1,800 people, was originally designed by the architects Finch Hill and Parare who would go on to design Weston's Music Hall in 1857, the Britannia Theatre in 1858, and the Sun Music Hall in 1864, amongst many other Theatres and Music Halls in London.
Right - A Programme for The Oxford Music Hall in 1917 - Generously donated by Mr. John Moffatt - Click for details.
The Oxford was built on the site of an old coaching inn called the Boar and Castle in Oxford Street. The Inn had been out of use since the coming of the railways some years earlier. The Oxford Music Hall first opened on Tuesday the 26th of March 1861 with a 'Grand Inaugural Concert.' The Hall would have opened on the Monday but Morton and many other owners of Music Halls at the time had agreed not to open their premises on that day because of the sad occasion of the funeral of the Duchess of Kent taking place.
The Oxford would go on to be restructured and rebuilt on several occasions, details of which follow in chronological order.
The Daily News reported on the new Oxford Music Hall in their 27th of March 1861 edition saying:- 'The entrance to the building from Oxford-street is through a bold Corinthian portico, thence by a passage, 12 feet wide, 38 feet long, and 16 feet high; the architectural treatment of which consists in detached Doric columns, supporting the entablature, over which spring semi-circular arches. These features divide the entrance into bays, which have a pleasing appearance, seen in perspective from the street. The floor is laid with coloured tiles, the pattern following the leading architectural lines. At the end of the entrance passage is the plaid staircase; this portion of the building is particularly attractive, both for its vastness and architectural treatment; the stairs are of stone, with moulded faces, and start on either side, by which access is given to the gallery.
The Music-hall is a large, lofty, well-proportioned room, measuring 94 feet in length, 44 feet in width, and 41 feet high. The width we have stated as 44 feet, which only presents the dimensions in width between the columns which support the roof ; beyond them there is a promenade 6 feet wide, making the total width 56 feet. The ceiling is coved near the wall, and springs from the top of an ornamental entablature, supported on Corinthian columns. These columns are not placed, as in other buildings, at an equal distance from each other, but are arranged in pairs, leaving a larger opening between each pair, thereby affording more seeing room. The lines of the columns are carried across the ceiling by ribs, the centre portion of which is enriched by projecting ornaments of elegant design and careful execution; these ribs are further connected together by a large centre flower fixed in a deep recess. The ceiling ornaments are generally perforated, to allow an easy escape for the heated air, through which perforations it is admitted into the roof, and escapes thence to the open air by means of louvre boarding fixed on the upper part of the roof. To supply the necessary cold air, numerous windows have been left in the outer walls, by which means the supply can be readily regulated.
The proscenium has a bold and imposing appearance. The Corinthian columns appear, by contrast with the Ionic columns, much larger than if isolated. This portion is lavish in architectural ornament, but all is in such good taste that nothing appears out of place. The large looking-glasses, reflecting at the back of the proscenium the whole of the room, add richness to the general effect.
Left - The Oxford Music Hall Frontage with Dan Leno and George Robey on the Bill.
On the right there is a promenade, or picture gallery, the whole of which is visible from the hall. The bar, on the opposite side of the Music-hall, has Ionic columns standing out boldly from the wall; and between the base of each column is the counter.
The whole arrangements, both for appearance and working, have been well studied, and evince great care and knowledge of the requirements necessary in a place of entertainment of this kind. Considerable attention has been paid to the lighting. The glass chandelier in the hall is remarkably elegant, while the lighting is effected by crystal stars. The decorations are of a delicate and tasteful description, and the ventilation appears to have been well attended to.
The inauguration of the building last night was signalised by a concert in which, in addition to a numerous corps of excellent singers, Miss Parepa, Miss Poole, Mr. Swift, and Mr. Santley, took part.'
The above (edited) text in quotes was first published in the Daily News, 27th March 1861.
The ERA also printed a report on the opening in their 31st of March edition which duplicates most of what the Daily News reported but of the performance itself they said:- 'The Concert which inaugurated the opening, was supported by Miss Poole, Mdlle. Parepa, Mr. G. Kelly, Mr. Santley, Mr. Swift, Mr. George Genge, and many other ladies and gentlemen, who sang several pieces of a popular character, and were received with the highest demonstration of applause. The only novelty in the programme of the evening was a ballad. "Upon the wide wide sea," written by Mr. C. Mackay, and composed by Mr. Frank Mori, and sung, for the first time in public, on this occasion, by Mdlle. Parepa, who was warmly cheered. Miss Poole gave "Wapping Old Stairs," for the sweet and artless singing of which she stands alone, and Messrs. Swift, Santley, and George Genge also did much to enhance the enjoyment of the audience. Miss Rosina Collins, the violinist, played the "Carnival de Venice" with her usual skill. The conductor was Mr. Jonghmans, and Mr. E. L. Hime officiated as accompanyist.'
The Oxford went on to entertain the Music Hall crowds successfully for 7 years until it was seriously damaged by fire on Tuesday the 11th of February 1868. This was the first such fire in a London Music Hall but it certainly wouldn't be the last. Such was the extent of the fire that very little but the outer walls survived.
The fire started around 3am and was noticed by a fireman who was engaged to keep an eye on the building. He discovered that some of the Hall's gallery seats, which were stuffed with cocoa nut fibre, were on fire. Within minutes the flames took hold and local police outside noticed that smoke was rising from the roof of the building. Whilst they were investigating the cause, flames suddenly erupted from the roof. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade in nearby Crown Street were alerted and arrived within 15 or 20 minutes with 15 steam and manual engines and around 50 firemen but despite their efforts they would be unable save the building. Within an hour the roof had collapsed and although they worked to extinguish the fire it would take them over three hours to get it under control, by which time there was very little left of the interior except the private boxes beside the gallery which had surprisingly escaped almost unaffected.
Right - A Programme for The Oxford Music Hall in 1917 - Generously donated by Mr. John Moffatt - Click for details.
The Oxford had however, been insured for the sum of £16,000, although it had cost £23,000 to build, but Charles Morton, the proprietor, who had been asleep in the building at the time of the fire and was alerted by the fireman, told the press upon looking at the remains of the building that he was confident that because the outer walls survived the fire he could have the place rebuilt and opened within a month or five weeks hence. Not such an amazing claim when you consider that these building went up in a remarkably short time in those days, due to the plethora of cheap labour available, and most probably 24 hour construction.
The artistes and musicians whose belongings were stored in the Hall at the time lost a great deal of their belongings although the musicians fared better than the artistes. A Benefit in the form of a Grand day and night Fete was held at the rebuilt Crystal Palace in Sydenham Hill the following month on the 2nd of March 1868 to help all those who had suffered from the result of the fire. All the big names of the day appeared at the Benefit which shows the regard they had for Morton, the Oxford, and the people who had lost so much in the fire.
As it turned out however, Morton gave the Oxford up after the fire and went on to open the Philharmonic in Islington instead, which like the first Oxford Music Hall was also designed by Finch Hill and Parare.
Above - Oxford Circus in 1894
But the Oxford Music Hall did rise from the ashes eventually and was reopened by its new owners, M. R. Syers and W. Taylor, on 9th of August the following year, 1869. The ERA reported on the new building in their 15th of August edition saying:- 'All the modeling, colouring, and gilding is in excellent taste, and the lighting is perfect as anything can possibly be. The entrance hail is, in its new dress, exceedingly pretty, and the accommodation on the ground floor of the building is everything that could be desired. We perceive the new Lessees have not provided carpet or matting for the floor in any part of the building, and we can but think they are in the right, as the occupants of the stalls and area do not, as a rule, show themselves sensible of this attention to their comforts. The privilege is more frequently coarsely abused than valued as it should be. A sanded floor is more in the style of most Music Hall audiences than one luxuriously carpeted.'
Of the opening performance the Penny Illustrated said in their 21st of August 1869 edition:- 'Restored to all its original brilliancy of decoration, the Oxford Music Hall is again to be included among those places of entertainment which allow visitors to enjoy certain privileges unknown to establishments identified with the drama. The new proprietors, Syers and Taylor, have provided a sufficiently varied programme to suit the requirements of a general public and whilst the musical portion derives its chief importance from a cantata called "The Apple of Discord," pleasantly illustrative of the famous mythological legend, a remarkable gymnast, who excites the admiration of the spectators by swinging in an inverted position over their heads, duly sustains the reputation acquired by the hall as the scene of marvelous acrobatic exploits. The humours of negro minstrels are prominently conspicuous in a combination of all the diversified forms of amusement held in favour by the frequenters of these establishments; and the new management would appear to be fully aware of the energy and liberality requisite to conduct their enterprise to a profitable Issue.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the Penny Illustrated, 21st August, 1869.
After the opening the Oxford continued with the success it had earned in the first building, and when Taylor left, Syers continued running the place on his own. However, disaster was again to blight this much loved Music Hall when on the morning of Friday the 1st of November 1872 the building was again partially destroyed by fire. All that remained this time were the Vestibule and the two Saloons which flanked the Hall, all else was a smoldering heap of destruction. The ERA on the 3rd of November put it like this: 'The floor of the noble Hall was one confused heap of charred timber, broken glass, iron rods, twisted gas pipes, battered sun burners, fractured slabs of marble, shattered musical instruments, half-burnt chairs, fallen plaster, disfigured ornaments and debris which it is impossible to describe. The stage, the balcony, the private boxes, the massive pillars which formed such prominent features in the architectural beauties of the Oxford, all presented a scene of desolation and disfigurement. Above, nothing stood between us and the sky but the blackened rafters, from which dangled the iron rods used as supports for the trapeze apparatus, generally brought into use in the course of an Oxford entertainment.'
Despite the destruction caused by the fire the Oxford was again rebuilt, and this time on an enlarged site which included a new side entrance in Tottenham Court Road. The Music Hall reopened on the 17th of March 1873 and the ERA reported on the new building in their 23rd of March edition saying:- 'The first glimpse of the interior reveals that some important changes have been made, and that without in any degree altering the graceful outlines which in their classic beauty always satisfied the most fastidious eyes. Among the changes and improvements may be mentioned a splendid promenade in place of the boxes, at the back of the balcony. This makes a most agreeable lounge for those who prefer freedom of action and wish to gossip with their friends between the pauses of the entertainment, and from this spot the best view of the stage and the performances can be obtained, while the appearance of the Hall from this point is quite dazzling.
Right - A Programme for The Oxford Music Hall in 1917 - Generously donated by Mr. John Moffatt - Click for details.
A new stage of much larger proportions than the old, with a handsome proscenium, an elegant scene in the back-ground, and a charming drop-scene, painted by Mr. G. A. Gordon, attracts especial notice. The footlights are sunk to the level of the stage, and the orchestra placed somewhat beneath it. The stage altogether is fitted for entertainments of the highest class, and by its increased width displays the performers to much greater advantage than hitherto.
Private boxes are made at each end of the balcony, and fixed appliances are let into the ceiling, so as to avoid the unsightly appearance which is caused by making holes in the roof for gymnastic performances.
In point of colour and decoration the Oxford may vie with any building in the kingdom. The prevailing tint is light blue, the relievo ornaments white, with stencilled decorations upon the walls, and choice salmon tints filling up the spaces. Mr. Homann, the accomplished decorator of the Mausoleum of the late Prince Consort, has executed this portion with exquisite skill. Considering the short time Mr. Homann has had for the work the effect is remarkable. The building operations have been conducted by Messrs. Holland and Hannen, under the superintendence of Mr. E. L. Paraire, one of the original architects.'
With its newly enlarged structure and improved facilities the Oxford Music Hall continued on successfully into what Mander & Mitchenson said in their book 'The Lost Theatres of London' is considered the 'Golden Age of the Music Hall'.
The musical director at the time of this incarnation of the Oxford would later go on to become the proprietor of the Hall but he would sell it to one James Kirk in October 1891 for the sum of £27,100. Kirk however, would not hold onto the Hall and he sold it the following year to a syndicate which had been set up by H. Newson-Smith in order to run a number of London Music Halls, including Arthur Lloyd's regular and preferred venue, the London Pavilion, and also the Tivoli on the Strand.
Also See: Ernest Woodrow's Article on the reconstructed Oxford Music Hall Here
Above - An Engraving showing the Oxford Music Hall - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, Published 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.
The new owners of the Oxford decided that the Hall was too old fashioned compared with their other Halls and Theatres and was in need of some modernisation. Consequently they closed the Oxford on the the 4th of June 1892 and the building was subsequently demolished to make way for a new building on the same site. All the previous rebuilds of the Oxford had been constructed around the remains of the original but this time the building was to be started from scratch. The Furniture and fittings of the old Hall were auctioned off on Wednesday June the 15th.
The ERA reported on the sale in their 4th of June edition saying:- 'The whole of the well made Fittings and Planned Furniture sold in consequence of the rebuilding of the premises... consisting about 200ft. run of Iron-framed Seating, covered in Crimson Plush, with Brass Divisions, and about 500ft. of Stained ditto on Iron Standards, the range of Ten Boxes with Curtains and Fittings complete, Mahogany Marble-top Counters, Beer Engines, Bar Fittings, &c. The Gilt Wood and Papier-mache Proscenium Front. 50 Console and Chimney Glasses, 9 Pairs of Mahogany Folding Doors with plate glass panels, Gas and Electric Light Fittings, also the capital planned Furniture, Forty Ebonised frame bent wood Chairs, 200 Cane seat ditto, a Grand Pianoforte in rosewood case, two 7-octave Cottage Pianofortes in walnut cases, Settees and Easy Chairs covered in crimson select, amber plush, and Persian pile, Brussels Carpets, Ebonized Coffee and other Tables, a small quantity of Household Furniture, and a Variety of Effects. May be viewed two days prior, and Catalogues had on the premises, and at the offices of the Auctioneers, 187 and 189, Oxford street, W.'
Above - A Plan of the Oxford Music Hall - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, Published 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.
The foundation stone for the new Oxford was laid on Tuesday the 15th of August 1892 by the Music Hall's original owner Charles Morton, and the new Music Hall, which was designed by Wylson and Long, opened on the 31st of January 1893. The ERA reported on the occasion (reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres of London') which is worth reprinting here as not only does it give a nice description of the new Hall but also gives a detailed revue of the kind of varied entertainment one could experience in Music Halls at the time. The ERA said:- 'Music hall entertainment has never been enshrined in a more beautiful interior than that which the public saw for the first time on Tuesday evening, when the new Oxford opened amidst much eclat, after a closure which commenced on June 6th last year...
Above - A Ground Plan for the Oxford Music Hall - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, Published 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.
...The opening of the doors was eagerly awaited by a large crowd both at the new Tottenham Court Road entrance and in front of the iron-gated vestibules in Oxford Street, and soon after seven o'clock the house was packed. The survey of the chaste decorations of gold, electric blue, and pale pink; of the plush-covered stallsin a pretty shade of green to match with the handsome tableau curtainsand of the graceful outlines of the dress circle proved at once that the new building was aesthetically perfect...
Above - A Plan for the 1st Level of the Oxford Music Hall - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, Published 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.
...What is of even more consequence, however, to the public and to the directorate is the fact that there is a splendid view to be obtained from every part of the house, which is built on the cantilever principle, entirely doing away with the necessity for supporting pillars. Palms, exotics, and bouquets added to the beauty and brilliancy of the scene, and when Mr. W. G. Eaton's orchestra of eighteen good men and true began to play the first bars of `God Save the Queen,' and the curtains parted disclosing the company on the stage, grouped round an immense floral horseshoe, the deafening shouts from the gallery for some minutes prevented Miss Ethel M'Alpine, the well-known operatic vocalist, commencing her solo. Quiet was soon restored, however, and the whole of the vast audience stood while the National Anthem was sung. 'The Queen,' we should add, had a mixed reception.
The programme, of course, on such an occasion reached festival proportions. Though many of the higher lights of the music hall are still enlivening pantomime, enough, and more than enough, stars were anxious to lend importance to the first programme by appearing. We missed Albert Chevalier, Herbert Campbell, and Dan Leno, the former, unfortunately, too indisposed to appear, and the two latter being prevented from appearing by their engagements at Drury Lane. They will, however, seek the suffrages of audiences here later on.
Miss Marie Lloyd (Shown Left) for a short time doffed the red cloak of Miss Riding Hood to sing 'Oh, Mr. Porter,' and to take the earliest opportunity of reviving in the new building the triumphs won in the old.
Left - A signed postcard of Miss Marie Lloyd from the Rose Burlingham collection - Courtesy The estate of Bob Capon.
Miss Lucy Clarke, too, whose excellent singing was such a feature of the Oxford entertainments last year, made her re-entree to the London variety boards, and sang with her wonted charm and expression 'You and I.' Mr. Charles Godfrey celebrated the occasion by introducing for the first time a scena which tells with eloquent force a tale of filial devotion. An aged and suffering Siberian captive wins his liberty by the exertions of his daughter, who throws herself at the feet of the Tsar, and obtains her father's pardon. The selection was welcomed with much cordiality.
Another novelty was Miss Fannie Leslie's song which skits the threatened invasion of the hooped skirt, which was such a familiar feature of John Leech's sketches in Punch some thirty years ago. Miss Leslie wore the dreaded addition to feminine costume, the skirt being of pink silk, and a green jacket fitting close to the figure. Perhaps the good-natured satire of the song will do more to help John Strange Winter's crusade against crinoline than hundreds of protests in newspapers. Let us hope so.
There were comedians in galore. Mr. James Fawn sang his well-known patent medicine ditty, Mr. G. W. Hunter roused the house to laughter in 'All the comforts of a home,' Mr. Tom Leamore repeated his song concerning 'Mary Ann,' Sam Redfern contented himself with a short excerpt from his budget, which fetched the house; Brown, Newland, and Le Clercq played once again their funny and extravagant travestie Black Justice, and the Brothers Home put plenty of bustle into their boxing business, which is supposed to illustrate street life. Harry Pleon, who came late, and who appeared in all the sober respectability of evening dress, treated the audience to a burlesque of the Dagonet ballad; Mr. J. C. Rich contributed his Winder man,' and Mr. Edwin Boyde, who sang a medley, proved once again that he gets more like his father, Mr. J. W. Rowley, every day. Mr. Tom White created a genuine diversion with his 'School up to Date,' and the ventriloquial entertainment of Mr. F. W. Millis was much appreciated. Among the ladies Miss Nellie Navette scored with a plantation song and dance. Another NellieMiss Richardssang 'Where are you going to, my pretty maid?' with piquancy and spirit; Miss Kate James, droll, demure, and dainty, had a big recall for 'Simple Maiden,' a similar honour being paid to Miss Millie Hylton for her 'Rowdy-Dowdy Boys;' Miss Peggy Pryde exhibited her inherited gifts for comedy; the Three Sisters Levey, three fine specimens of womanhood, were heartily welcomed; the Sisters Tilley created something of a sensation by their vigorous dancing and high kicking in skirts; Miss Flo. Bilton looked pretty in an elegant black costume; Miss Florrie Robina appeared as an extra turn; Miss Lily Burnand entertained in lively fashion; Miss Minnie Cunningham danced prettily; and Miss Bessie Bellwood set the house in a roar with 'Good Old Boss.'
The specialities included the Ethardos, in their posturing entertainment entitled Bric-a-bracs ;' Mr. Evans and Miss Luxmore, in musical selections on the bells; the Two Macs, in a knockabout show; and the Mitsutas, Japanese acrobats, in an extraordinary and daring exhibition of tumbling. The principal musical attractions of the programme were Mr. Howard Reynolds, who played a cornet solo; Seeley and West, who play several instruments; and the Stavordales, with a selection on banjos. Other entertainers were Harry Champion and the Sisters Belffrey.
Right - A Programme for a 'Grand Matinee' at the Oxford in 1913 - Courtesy Derek Jenkins whose Grandfather, George Seymour Blakeman, was the Stage Carpenter at the Theatre at the time - Click to see the whole programme.
At the conclusion of the entertainment loud calls for 'Brighton' were heard; and that gentleman speedily came to the footlights. He said that their kind reception had robbed him of the power to express his thoughts as he would wish to do. Speaking on behalf of the directorate of the Oxford, Limited, he assured them that the programmes presented would be the best possible. Talent would roll up on that stage like waves upon the seashore. He ventured to hope from the enthusiasm exhibited that night that the Oxford had entered upon a successful career, and concluded his speech by calling for three cheers for the directors, an invitation that was heartily responded to. Mr. Adolph Tressider came from the Pavilion to stage-manage, and kept up the supply of artists at lightning speed. Some excellent 'cloths' have been furnished by Mr. Ryan, the view of Dover and the Horse Guards especially being truthful reproductions of well-known scenes.'
Also See: Ernest Woodrow's Article on the reconstructed Oxford Music Hall Here
Above - A postcard depicting Oxford Street around the 1930s
After the new building was opened it was found that the stage was inadequate and plans were submitted just two years later, in July 1895 and then again in June 1896, to extend it, the work was completed by October 1896.
Then in 1901 the Theatre was further enhanced when its 1893 architect's Wilson & Long were brought in again to redecorate the Theatre and enlarge the stage, the Building News and Engineering Journal reported on this in their 6th of September 1901 edition saying:- 'Under the superintendence of Messrs. Wylson and Long, the house has been redecorated from floor to ceiling, the whole of the seating has been changed, new carpets and upholstery have replaced the old, the stage has been considerably enlarged, and in most important extension in Hanway-street made to the building in the shape of an additional exit for the audience, and a stage entrance for the artistes and workers, whilst a new duplex electric-lighting installation has been provided, the circuit being so distributed that should one source of supply break down the business can be carried on by the alternative supply without interruption. The internal appearance of the theatre is striking; the tones of the wall and ceiling decoration are kept subdued, ivory and gold being the prevailing colours, whilst the draperies and upholstery are of a deep rich crimson. A new feature in theatre decoration has been introduced in the use of art metal. The whole of the pillars are incased with hammered and repousse copper, and the dadoes on the ground floor and balcony contain panels of rich gold metal. The existing saloons have been redecorated, and a new foyer in the balcony level has been commenced. A new and larger box office in the western entrance replaces the former inconvenient one.' - The Building News and Engineering Journal, 6th of September 1901.
The Oxford went on to provide Music Hall entertainment for many more years even though by the turn of the century this kind of entertainment was giving way to Variety in most Music Halls and Theatres, but by 1913 even the Oxford had changed its policy by becoming host to reviews and musicals.
C. B Cochran took over the building in 1917 and put on Bruce Bairnsfather's 'The Better 'Ole' which was a war time extravaganza which ran for a staggering 811 performances. It was at this time too that the building began to be known as the Oxford Theatre, rather than the Oxford Music Hall, and on the 25th of September 1920 it was closed and converted into a Theatre proper.
Reopening as the New Oxford Theatre on the 17th of January 1921 the Theatre staged 'The League of Notions' with the Dolly Sisters which would go on to run for 360 performances. The ERA reported on the new Oxford Theatre (reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres of London') after visiting the Theatre for a preview of the building on January the 7th 1921 saying:- 'Before reaching the auditorium of the house, now radically altered, the visitor has to pass through the successor to the former Oxford saloon, a tastefully adorned lounge or drawing-room, reached by a short passage with walnut panelling, and ornamented with old furniture, with china displayed in cabinets, and with carefully chosen pictures, amongst which one notices works by Francois Boucher and Jean Baptiste Huet. This charming lounge is but the first of the many novelties to be found at Mr. Cochran's beautiful playhouse.
Right - A sketch of the auditorium of the Oxford's Theatre.
The dominant note of the decorations carried out so artistically by White, Allom, and Company, may be described as being of dove grey, with gold, with regard to the fronts of the two circles and of the boxes, to which have been added four, with canopies of stretched silk. In these and elsewhere the draperies are of material which might be termed rose-tinted, as well as deep cerise or crimson.
Along the dress-circle are hung eight crystal lights, with floral screens or shields, and there are others, of pattern somewhat different, in front of and behind the upper circle. The Oxford pit has disappeared, and with it any coign of vantage for standing room, for the whole of the floor of the house, or parterre, has been converted into comfortable stalls, priced as much as 24s. (tax included) for the evening performance of The League of Notions. From these and from the front rows of the dress circle (with charge the same), may be had the best view of the proscenium and of the beautiful dome, which will form the chief glory of the auditorium, of the New Oxford. With the apt elimination of almost every trace of plaster, the proscenium has been skilfully caused to form a single line virtually with that of the boxes and the circles, and if one looks beyond or above any section of the rose-and-white tableau curtain may be observed a globe placed above two medallions of classical design, with, beneath them, the masks of Comedy and Tragedy.
We have reserved for final consideration the blue dome, adorned with golden rays and lighted by some eight or nine silvery and seemingly bewinged stars of varying sizes, from which comes the main illumination of the interior of the house. Some of these glass stars, of butterfly shape, were being joisted into their allotted positions on Friday, when one was enabled to form the opinion that when their installation is complete and in full working order few more beautiful sights will be presented to playgoers here than that formed by this star-irradiated Oxford dome, the hue of which approximates more nearly to turquoise than to sea-green. To glance at this dome alone thousands are likely to visit Mr. Cochran's new local habitation at the corner of Oxford Street.'
The above (edited) text in quotes was first published in the ERA, January 8th 1921 and reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres of London'.
After the opening production of 'The League of Notions' had finished it's run of 360 performances Cochran went on to stage his first pantomime, 'Babes in the Wood.' A review came next, 'Mayfair and Montmartre,' and this was followed by Jack Buchanan in 'Battling Butler in 1922 which ran for 238 performances. Following this in 1923 the Theatre went over to showing films for a season before Cochran put on a series of Lilian Baylis's Old Vic Shakespeare productions. After this a series of various productions were tried at the Theatre, none of them very successfully, and at the end of the run of 'Turned Up' in May 1926, a musical which, by the way, very few turned up to see, the Theatre was closed for the last time.
The building was then sold to J. Lyons who wanted to build a new Corner House on the site. The Theatre was subsequently demolished and the new Oxford Corner House opened the following year in 1927. And so ended the most remarkable 65 years of the Oxford Music Hall and Theatre.
Right - The Tottenham Court Road entrance of the J. Lyons' Corner House, built on the site of The Oxford Music Hall and Theatre in 1927.
The Corner House was eventually bought by Mecca and converted into a Restaurant in the style of their earlier transformation of the London Trocadero.
Later still the building was used for a variety of shops including Richard Branson's Oxford Street Virgin Megastore which opened in 1979 and was situated near to where he set up the Virgin Record Store chain in 1971.
Left - The Tottenham Court Road entrance to Richard Branson's Virgin Megastore in October 2004, which was originally built as a Lyon's Corner House on the site of the former Oxford Music Hall / Theatre - Photo M.L.
In November 2011 the building was renovated for a new retail development. During the work some early platerwork details were revealed (see photo below) which at the time of writing were a bit of mystery. Was this a remaining fragment of the Oxford Theatre or the Lyons Corner House? If you know please Contact me.
Despite this find it's unlikely that most people passing by would ever realise that the site of this building was once home to one of London's best loved and most popular Music Halls.
Above - During building work on the site of the Oxford Music Hall some early plasterwork details have been revealed which at the time of writing are a bit of mystery. Is this a remaining fragment of the Oxford Theatre or the Lyons Corner House? If you know please Contact me - Photo M.L. November 2011
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
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