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The Queen's Theatre, Market Street, Wigan, Lancashire

Later - The Queen's Hall

Wigan Theatres

The Queen's Theatre was an entirely wooden building and was situated on Market Street, opposite the Market Hall in Wigan which was built at the same time, in 1876, and designed by Robert Foster, who also managed the Theatre.

The ERA reported on the new Queen's Theatre in their 16th of July 1876 edition saying: - "Wigan already possesses one Theatre of mature age, but it has fallen to Mr Robert Foster-a well-known and successful caterer for the people of this vicinity-to provide one of the handsomest and, from an architectural point of view, the most original kind of public building ever seen here. The site of the New Queen's is exactly opposite the grand new Market Hall at present in course of erection. The exterior shows little pretension to ornament, being, in fact perfectly plain, but very substantial looking. The elegance of the interior is therefore all the more impressive.

The area is very large indeed, and has been used by the designer - Mr Foster himself to best advantage. In the erection of the stage he has been very ably seconded by Mr D. H. Smith. The floor of the pit from the orchestra backwards rises so that everyone has a complete view of every part of the stage, and this principle has been carried out in the boxes. Mr Foster has been fortunate in his decorative artist.

Mr Furnivall Hughes is well known as a scene painter of exceptional attainments. His connection with the New Queens Theatre, Manchester, at a critical period of its existence had much to do with the success that house gained under the able management of Mr Henry. The scenery he has here provided is simply elegant, far from conventional. And very superior to anything of the kind seen in Wigan.

The decoration of the front of house deserves still warmer praise. From the Royal arms over the proscenium to the chaste tinting of the ceiling, together with the tasteful blending of the colours in the backing of the boxes, an effect so pleasant has been created as to be appreciated by all.

We mean no disrespect to the august magisterial minds when we say that up to this week they have not been so appreciative. Although Mr Foster is a well-known citizen of many years’ standing in various prominent positions, his application for a theatrical licence has not met with success. It had not been declined but postponed so often that hope deferred had made more than one heart sad. Mr Pitney Weston, the holder of the licence at the other Theatre, did not oppose, but on the contrary was cordial in his wishes for Mr Forster’s success, and the building is acknowledged by the Borough Surveyor to be suitable for a licence in every way.

There were some hints of what is called “puritanical” influence at work. On Thursday the final appeal was made, and after a little discussion the Magistrates unanimously granted a licence. This decision would have come with better grace at the first application, as the building was fully complete. The Proprietor has been put to very great expense by adjournment after adjournment, and by undertaking alterations which probably nineteen engineering authorities out of twenty would never dream of advising.” The ERA, July 16th, 1876.

The Theatre had a very short life, it was a wooden building, and on Monday February 4th, 1878 the Theatre burned to the ground, the following is a graphic report from the ERA of the 10th of February 1878:- “The Queens Theatre at Wigan was completely burned down last Monday night, the fire being one of the most serious ever known in the district. The Theatre was built entirely of wood, and was opened about two years and a half ago. The auditorium was capable of holding over 2000 persons. The stage was a very large one, and there were extensive dressing rooms. The performance concluded shortly after half past ten, the place was locked up and everybody had left; but about eleven o’clock flames were seen issuing from the roof of the building over the stage. When the firemen arrived the place was one mass of flames. It was found impossible to save the building, and efforts were mainly directed to prevent the flames from extending to the surrounding property, and in this the fire brigade was successful. By twelve o’clock the fire had almost burned itself out. The Proprietor and Lessee of the Theatre was Mr Robert Foster. The cost of the building was about £2000, and the loss is partially covered by insurance” The ERA, 10th of February 1878.

It is interesting to note that the cost of the Royal Court Theatre Wigan, built just a few years later, was over £18,000. The article continues:-

A photograph of the Queen's Hall, Wigan, which was built on the site of the Queen's Theatre - With kind permission Wigan Reference Library. “Mr Arthur Lyle saved his properties, but the other artistes have lost their wardrobes. As soon as the fire was discovered these persons endeavoured to enter the building to save their goods. Many were frantic, but they were dissuaded from risking their lives in so vain an attempt. The utmost sympathy with the sufferers is being expressed locally. Subscription lists are out. The Proprietor of the Alexandra Music Hall (MR W Johnson) most kindly gave a benefit on Friday night; and Mr Edgar, the Proprietor of the Theatre Royal, has generously placed his building at the disposal of the Queen's Company for four nights, where performances are to be given by them under distinguished patronage.

Left - A photograph of the Queen's Hall, Wigan, in about 1950. The Concet Hall was built on the site of the Queen's Theatre and demolished in the 1980s - With kind permission Wigan Reference Library.

We have been asked to state that, in the event of any of the brother artistes of the unfortunate members of the company being disposed to contribute, subscriptions will be gladly received by Mr C J Lancaster, Mr Edgar's Manager at the Theatre Royal”. The ERA, 10th of February 1878.

History was to repeat itself over seventy years later, when the auditorium of the Queens Hall, built on the same site was badly damaged by fire in 1949, but unlike the Theatre, the concert hall was later restored.

A photograph of the auditorium of the Queen's Hall, Wigan - With kind permission the Wigan History Shop - Courtesy George Richmond.

Above - A photograph of the auditorium of the Queen's Hall, Wigan - With kind permission the Wigan History Shop - Courtesy George Richmond.

This article on the Queen's Theatre, Wigan was written, and kindly sent in for inclusion on this site, by George Richmond in 2012. The article is © copyright George Richmond 2012.

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

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