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#298628 - 8th Mar 2009 7:20pm Birkenhead's Music Halls *****
uptoncx Offline
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Registered: 24th May 2008
Posts: 683
Loc: Wirral
Much of this information has already been posted, but it is spread out across several threads. This thread consolidates and expands on this information. (includes information posted by chriskay, derekdwc, BMW joe and bert1).

1. The Claughton Music Hall

The first music hall in Birkenhead was the ‘Claughton Music Hall’, this was on the corner of Claughton Road and Atherton Street. It opened on 21st January 1862. On the Atherton Street side of the building were the carved and painted heads of the composers Weber, Handel, Beethoven, Haydn and Mendelssohn. Lower down, over a corner doorway was Donizetti, whilst Queen Victoria was over the main doorway. The building seated 600.

The hall was used for many purposes, perhaps the most unusual being the first council meeting of the newly incorporated Borough of Birkenhead which took place there in 1877.

An organ was installed in 1882 by William & Frank Hall of Rock Ferry. The company only built three organs before going bankrupt in 1884. The other two organs were at All Saints’ Church Oxton, and St Michael’s Church Claughton.



The music hall became a cinema called the ‘Claughton Picture House’ in 1914.

In 1952 it was sold to Woodhill Entertainment and reopened, following refurbishment, in September 1952 as the ‘Astor Cinema’.

With audiences dwindling, an attemp was made in 1956 to boost the number of customers by redecorating the building and opening it as the towns first Continental Cinema. This venture failed and the cinema closed.

In 1957 the building was bought by Mr Harry Rogers who opened it a year later as the ‘Charing Cross Social Club’ and the ‘Astor Tombola Club’, Birkenhead’s first bingo hall.

The Astor closed early in 1981. No buyers were found and the building was demolished in March 1982, because it had become 'unsafe'.

The Claughton Music Hall was, therefore, also the last of Birkenhead's music halls to be demolished.

A few parts of the music hall still survive, the organ which had been bought by St Luke’s Church, Tranmere is now in private ownership (although much reduced in size from 17 to 3 stops).



Also, The five carved 'composers' stones were rescued and put on display outside a builders yard on the Queensferry to Mold Road. They were bought for £700 and shipped to Cork in Ireland.

2. Argyle Theatre

The Argyle Theatre, the most famous of Birkenhead’s music halls, opened on 21st December 1868. It was owned by Dennis Grannell who also ran the Rotunda music hall in Liverpool. In 1876 the theatre was improved and the name was changed to the Prince of Wales Theatre.



Mr Grannell’s nephew, Dennis Clarke took over the theatre in 1891 and changed the name back to Argyle.

The theatre had seating for about 800, with pillars in the auditorium and long, narrow galleries running down either side



The theatre was tremendously successful, and all the major stars appeared there, Harry Lauder appeared at the Argyle many times. Also appearing at the Argyle were Charlie Chaplin, W C Fields, G H Elliot, George Formby, Stan Laurel, Vesta Tilley, Hetty King, Marie Lloyd, Webster Booth, Donald Peers and many more. Flanagan & Allen first performed ‘Underneath the Arches’ at the Argyle.



The Argyle was, in 1896, the first theatre outside London to feature the Bioscope (moving pictures). Electric cables had to be run through Birkenhead to enable the film to be projected onto a sheet.

On the 14th April 1931 the Argyle became the first music hall to broadcast live on radio, this was followed by many broadcasts to Britain, the Empire and Europe and then the first live broadcast from a theatre to the USA.

Denis Clarke died in 1934 and his son Tom Clarke took over the theatre, later being joined by his brothers Gerard and Herbert.

On the 21st September 1940, the Argyle Received a direct hit from a German bomb, the ensuing fire destroyed the auditorium and stage area. The Clarke brothers rescued many records and other documents from the blazing building, their last act before leaving was to fly the Union Jack from the theatres flag pole.



There where many plans for re-building the Argyle, but the costs involved in complying with the more modern building and safety regulations put the cost beyond the reach of the Clarke family, and in 1971 the site was sold to Beatties. The theatre was demolished in 1973.



Many of the fittings were rescued from the building, some of these were used in the ‘Argyle’ public house in the Grange Precinct.


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#298630 - 8th Mar 2009 7:33pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: uptoncx]
Mark Online   Reading


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Registered: 9th Nov 2003
Posts: 20966
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Wow that's amazing. (5 Stars from me)
Excellent job putting that into a Thread.
Lots of information i didn't know of there smile

happy
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Wow Wirral History is coming along Great! Wirral History

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#298632 - 8th Mar 2009 7:38pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: uptoncx]
bert1 Offline

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Registered: 27th Nov 2008
Posts: 7829
Loc: tranmere
Excellent Upton, great pics.
_________________________
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Come yourself,
Don't send Jesus,
This is no place for children.


Bertieone.

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#298675 - 8th Mar 2009 10:38pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: bert1]
SoundLad Offline

Are you SoNutz?
Forum Master

Registered: 22nd Aug 2007
Posts: 2987
Loc: Birkenhead, United Kingdom
Uptoncx fantastic fella happy i enjoyed reading that..
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#298679 - 8th Mar 2009 10:48pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: SoundLad]
MissGuided Offline

Awesome
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Registered: 18th Jul 2008
Posts: 9995
Loc: Back of the wardrobe
Nice to have it all in one place smile Great stuff!
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#298683 - 8th Mar 2009 10:50pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: SoundLad]
chriskay Offline
Forum Veteran

Registered: 25th Oct 2007
Posts: 4868
Loc: shropshire
My gran used to love going to the Argyle, she had many memories of the acts she saw there. There's one listed , G.H Elliott, born in Birmingham, that she remembered who couldn't use his stage name today; "The Chocolate Coloured Coon". Alert the PC police!
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#298822 - 9th Mar 2009 10:19am Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: chriskay]
uggla Offline
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Registered: 6th Feb 2009
Posts: 509
Loc: Bromborough
fantastic first post here
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#298826 - 9th Mar 2009 10:30am Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: uggla]
PaulWirral
Unregistered


Rated the topic 5 stars too. A very good read...

...I hope you continue the "series" of Music Halls.

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#304081 - 24th Mar 2009 11:13pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: ]
uptoncx Offline
Veteran

Registered: 24th May 2008
Posts: 683
Loc: Wirral
3. Tranmere Music Hall

The Tranmere music hall opened on 15th November 1879, it was located on Old Chester Road and was a large hall with accommodation for an audience of 1,200. Its first owner was Mr J.M Harrison.

Many of the performances were by local groups and performers, the Liverpool Mercury of 4th May 1887 reported on the excellent performance of the Mikado by the Rock Ferry Amateur Operatic Society to a ‘very large’ audience.

In the early 1900s the hall was sold to a professional photographer and entrepreneur from Liverpool, James R Saronie.



Mr Saronie adapted the hall for showing films, and it was re-named Saronie’s Coliseum (later shortened to the Coliseum). Many of the films shown at the Coliseum were of local events filmed by Mr Saronie himself.

As in other music halls, the films were supported by live performances, Mr Samonie also introduced a local talent contest, the audience made it clear which acts they didn’t like often throwing things at the performers.

After the first world war, the Coliseum was taken over by Cheshire Picture Halls Ltd. The first advertised ‘talkie’ was Weary River starring Richard Barleness on 8th November 1929.



The cinema was bought by S M Super Cinemas Ltd in the 1930s, and in 1954 it was sold to Essoldo Circuit Ltd.

In 1958 the Manager of the cinema was found to have taken nearly £2,000 of his employer’s money to pay off his gambling debts.

The Coliseum closed on 1st December 1962, there was talk of it being converted into a Bingo Hall, however this didn’t happen and the building remained empty until 1965 when it was sold to Saunders Brothers who converted it into a furniture store.




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#304095 - 25th Mar 2009 12:12am Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: uptoncx]
diggingdeeper Offline

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Registered: 9th Jul 2008
Posts: 9559
Loc: Birkenhead
I think the Coliseum was between Southwick Rd and Crofton Road, finally got knocked down sometime after 2003.
_________________________
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When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. Socrates

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#304098 - 25th Mar 2009 12:25am Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: diggingdeeper]
uptoncx Offline
Veteran

Registered: 24th May 2008
Posts: 683
Loc: Wirral

Yes, sorry, I missed out that it was just about midway between Crofton Road and Southwick Road (number 218).

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#304189 - 25th Mar 2009 8:35pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: uptoncx]
uptoncx Offline
Veteran

Registered: 24th May 2008
Posts: 683
Loc: Wirral
4. Ohmy’s Circus \ Gaiety Music Hall \ Metropole Theatre \ Hippodrome Theatre

On November 18th 1887, Mr Joseph Ohmy appeared before Birkenhead Magistrates charged with “Performing stage plays without a license”. Mr Ohmy ran a circus on Conway Street, the building was described by the prosecution as “a wooden structure without any sanitary arrangements whatever for either sex. Smoking was allowed all over the building”.

The prosecution described an evening show at the circus “There was an orchestra with a band of seven instruments. The performance commenced with an overture lasting about 10 minutes. The majority of the acts were accompanied by the orchestra. There were eight ladies on horseback who danced to tune of the Lancers, one of the items was an act entitled the Ghost of Birkenhead, performed by three clowns. The evenings entertainment concluded with a farce entitled The Prince of Rock Ferry”.

In his defence Mr Ohmy stated that he had “no stage or scenery, or anything of the nature of a theatre”.

The magistrates convicted Mr Ohmy, and he was fined £2. The prosecution had been brought by Mr Joseph Vowles, joint lessee of the Theatre Royal in Argyle Street.

Following improvements to the building, Mr Ohmy applied for a theatrical license for his circus on December 30th 1887. This was opposed by the “proprietors of the Theatre Royal”, however the magistrates granted the license, but only for a period of 2 months, and on condition that he did not sell “intoxicating drinks of any sort”.

During 1888 Mr Ohmy and four others paid around £7,000 for a new 1,200 seat theatre to be built in Grange Road (opposite Stafford Street). As well as being a part owner Mr Ohmy would be a tenant for twelve months at a rent of £500 per year. The lease would be renewable each year. The building would house the circus for part of the year, and be used as a normal theatre for the rest of the year. It was named “Ohmy’s Grand Circus”.

On December 20th 1888 Mr Ohmy was granted a theatrical license for six months, subject to some small alterations in the building, and the prohibition of smoking in the building. Mr Ohmy was also granted a license for the Sale of intoxicating liquors.



This venture, however, was not successful and Mr Ohmy did not renew his lease after the initial 12 months and left in February 1890. Following the departure of Mr Ohmy, Mr Eric Brammell took over the lease and changed the name of the theatre to the Gaiety Music Hall.

Nine years later, in 1898, the lease was taken over by Mr W.W.Kelly, who again changed the name of the theatre, this time to the Metropole Theatre. The theatre produced Melodramas performed by touring companies.



The theatre was sold to the De Frece Circuit Syndicate in 1908 and closed for several months for refurbishment. No expense was spared in creating one of the most luxurious theatres in the North of England. The stage was enlarged, electricity was installed throughout and a modern lighting system was provided.

The theatre re-opened on the 7th December 1908 as the Hippodrome Theatre.



In 1916 the Hippodrome was taken over by Dennis J Clarke (of the Argyle Theatre). About 1929 a film called Simba was shown at the theatre, this was unusual as it had a synchronised talkie introduction explaining how the film was made.



In 1932 the Hippodrome was converted into a “First Class Picture Theatre” with a 500 sq foot screen and utilising a back projection system. It re-opened on 31st October 1932.



The final performance was on 10th March 1934, following the Sale of the theatre to the Birkenhead and District Co-operative Society for their new department store.

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#304196 - 25th Mar 2009 9:00pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: uptoncx]
diggingdeeper Offline

Wiki Guardian

Registered: 9th Jul 2008
Posts: 9559
Loc: Birkenhead
I've looked at these pictures and the co-op building and it looks like they didn't knock it down but just converted it - I know you didn't say it was knocked down uptoncx but some sources say it was. In the 70s (I think) they changed the face of the co-op building but it was very similar to the last picture of the hippodrome above.
_________________________
In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. Socrates

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#304222 - 25th Mar 2009 10:38pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: diggingdeeper]
bert1 Offline

Wiki Veteran

Registered: 27th Nov 2008
Posts: 7829
Loc: tranmere
Originally Posted By: diggingdeeper
I've looked at these pictures and the co-op building and it looks like they didn't knock it down but just converted it - I know you didn't say it was knocked down uptoncx but some sources say it was. In the 70s (I think) they changed the face of the co-op building but it was very similar to the last picture of the hippodrome above.


This may help DD from my book Birkenhead 1877-1974


Attachments: Viewing Permissions May Apply. Click Me
coop.jpg


_________________________
God help us,
Come yourself,
Don't send Jesus,
This is no place for children.


Bertieone.

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#304230 - 25th Mar 2009 11:08pm Re: Birkenhead's Music Halls [Re: bert1]
diggingdeeper Offline

Wiki Guardian

Registered: 9th Jul 2008
Posts: 9559
Loc: Birkenhead
No .. looking at maps it is definately not the case.

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