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.