The Palace Theatre, Manchester 1910 to 1920.


In December 1912  in the middle of a variety performance the Palace Theatre put on a short play called ‘The Loss of The Titanic‘ as well as a film of the National Picture News Weekly.  It must have been incredibly emotional as footage was shown of the sinking of the Titanic which had only happened a few months prior.

Sadly the Manchester Central Library Archives + do not have many programmes from the 1st World War period but in October 1914 there was a variety show with both Vesta Tilly and a Mr R Hardwick singing Patriotic Songs.


Did you know the song ‘It’s a long way to Tipporary‘  was the first hit song of World War One which was allegedly written for a 5-shilling bet in Stalybridge, Tameside by Harry Williams and Jack Judge in 1912.

Also on the same bill were husband and wife singing act, Amelia Stone and Armand Kalisz. Armand was a French  born silent film actor who died in Hollywood in 1941.

In 1916 there was a play called Potash and Perlmutter, written by Montague Glass who was a Mancunian along with co-writer, Charles Klein.  This play ran on Broadway prior to being performed in the UK. It was about two Jewish tailors who worked together in business in New York.

Potash and Perlmutter

There was a panto ‘Cinderella’ put on in 1918, written by  Lauri Wylie, a renown playwright and his brother Julian. Julian was also known as ‘The King of Panto’ as well as being a famous producer in London.


They originated from Southport and co-wrote many panto’s in their time. I realise the below version of Cinderella isn’t the one they put on in 1918 but it’s an interesting version from 1899 in silent movie format.

In 1919 the play ‘Sleeping Partners’ which was written by the noted playwright and actor Seymour Hicks was performed.  He also starred in it alongside Isabel Elsom who later went on to become a famous Hollywood silent actress and in later years she appeared on Broadway and in several films with Jerry Lewis. She starred with him in ‘The Errand Boy’ in 1961 as shown in the below picture.



The Palace Theatre 1904 – 1910

In 1904 the World famous Scottish performer, Harry Lauder appeared on stage in his kilt and sporran! I have discovered that beside being well known as a comedian and singer, he wrote the song ‘I love a lassie’. He was at one time, the highest-paid performer in the world.

In 1907 there were two unusual acts that appeared during this period, the first was The Eight Lancashire Lads, who were a troupe of young male clog dancers  from Wigan  As they became more successful, they recruited other members such as Charlie Chaplin   who got his first professional break with them at the age of ten. Another famous British comedian Nat Jackley was also in their act but at a different time.

eight lancashire lads

The other unusual act was Dandy George and his wonderfully trained dog called Rosie.  He was a music hall star, his real name Albert George Spink, in 1927 they appeared in a short movie called “Dandy George and Rosie”, this was made by the DeForest Phonofilm sound on film process, sadly the company’s sound movies did not take off nor was it chosen to make the first talkie ‘The Jazz Singer‘   Here is some rare footage   showing a preview of the award-winning and popular showcase of the historic DeForest Phonofilms with its story of the pioneering work done in the development of the sound-on-film process. Sadly I couldn’t find anything with Dandy George and Rosie but this is a truly amazing discovery.


Another artistes to appear was the famous opera singer, Lempriere Pringle,

1909 saw the theatre put on a play ‘The Conversion of that Surge’ a one act comic play, which was in keeping with the ethos of this theatre.  Amongst the actors in the play was Franklin Dyall,  the father of Valentine Dyall.  Another interesting fact about him was that his father Charles Dyall, was the first curator of the Liverpool Walker Art Gallery.  three generations of noted Dyall’s. This is the playbill from a 1929 movie he starred in



The Palace Theatre 1900 to 1903

pal 1

The Palace Theatre was well known for the its reputation of putting on variety shows in this era.  In 1902 the amazing Florrie Fforde appeared. She was known as ‘the Queen of the sing-along music hall in her day.’  If she was a star today she would have had many No 1 hits.  Below you can hear her singing some of her famous songs, I’m sure most people will know these songs and will be able to sing along with her

Also appearing in the same year were the The Poluski Brothers , a popular music hall comedy double act who started out as tumblers and musical clowns with Duffy’s Circus in the 1870’s.  Another famous artist appeared in that same year was the famous Hollywood icon W C Fields, this must have been at a very early stage of his career.

In 1903 ‘Whimsical Walker‘, the world famous clown appeared at the Palace Theatre. An interesting fact is that in 1886, he appeared in a Command Performance with his singing donkey before her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle. In commemoration of this visit the Queen presented Mr. Walker with the beautiful diamond tie-pin.

whimical walker

Another stunning star to appear in 1902 was  Marie Lloyd, who enjoyed fame with her renditions of so many music hall numbers and her career spanned over 40 years,

1903 saw a very unusual act on the stage of the Palace theatre, it was George Hackenschmidt , a professional Wrestler who put on a  demonstration bout on stage of his wrestling skills. In 1905 he went on to become the first World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion. He died at the grand old age of 90 in London. I wonder who was his partner when he displayed his skills on stage.


Harry Randall, the famous comedian appeared in August 1903 treading the boards and in December that year he went on to play the second pantomime dame in Humpty Dumpty at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.  The main pantomime dame was Dan Leno.  How unusual to have two pantomime dames in one panto.

Another interesting act Chung Ling Soo ,  who was an American magician, his real claim to fame was that he died after a bullet catch trick went wrong.


In 1903 Will Conray, a comic who changed his stage name to Harry Champion and then went on to gain fame as a composer, singer and cockney comedian whose songs appealed to his many working class audiences, he was another artiste who appeared at The Palace Theatre, Here he is singing one of the songs he is famous for which he also wrote.

The Palace Theatre, Manchester 1891 to 1900

1 manchesrer palace theatre.docx

It opened with a flourish on June 8th 1891 with a ballet called ‘Cleopatra’  in addition was a Variety Show, which was true to the name give to the theatre ‘The Palace of Varieties’. The well known Salford architect Alfred Derbyshire designed it  but in 1896 the talented theatre architect Frank Matcham was commissioned to put in a pass door so that the manager did not have to go outside in the rain and snow to reach the backstage, as well as other minor alterations.


The theatre didn’t really appear to put on anything other than variety shows.  In 1895 Lockhart’s Troupe of Performing Elephants’ were on the stage,  I wonder how they kept them in check or how the stage would stand their weight.   It really must have been a sight to behold.

lockhart_s troupe of performing elephants_

In 1896 the theatre put on a pantomime called ‘Blue Beard Junior’ which starred ‘Little Tich’ and J J Dallas.

In 1897 the Graceful Gertrella , the world famous trapeze artiste tripped the  boards in the theatre.

graceful gertrella

The celebrated music hall singer and comedian Gus Elen appeared at the Palace Theatre in 1898

At the turn of the century in 1900 saw Vesta Victoria,  the famous singer and comedian who’s repertoire included ‘Daddy wouldn’t buy me a bow-wow and ‘Waiting at the Church’. Another great act in that year was Fred Karno, who I really didn’t realise was an actually person who had his own comedy company; plus the fact that he spotted the young talents of Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Will Hay, Sandy Powell and Fred Emney.  In the same year Hadj Lessik who was famous for his gun juggling act also appeared the theatre.

The advent of the start of the movie business enabled the theatre to put on news movies on the Gibbons Bio-Tableaux’s showing films of ‘The War of the Golden Stool‘and ‘Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland’.

queen victoria

The Amphitheatre on Spring Gardens in 1819 and its connection to the Peterloo Massacre


This is the earliest picture of the amphitheatre in 1819 long before it became the Queen’s theatre.  In 1810 Robert Bradbury re-opened this as The Bradbury Amphitheatre which by 1819 had changed its name to the Minor Theatre.

It  was situated on the corner of Spring Gardens and Fountain Street, with its main entrance on Fountain Street.

At present I am cataloging the theatre playbills and came across this very interesting one for an amateur performance in aid of of a Public Charity.  It seems to have been given permission by Colonel L’Estrange, who a few months earlier had given the order to attack the people and rescue the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry in the  Peterloo Massacre.

hospital 1

What really caught my attention was that it was in aid of The Manchester and Salford Lock Hospital and Asylum. I was intrigued by this as I had never come across this before.  On further investigation I discovered it was the Manchester and Salford Lock Hospital and Dispensary which was founded for patients with venereal disease. It was an  independent voluntary hospital which opened in 1818. The Lock Hospital occupied two houses in Cumberland Street.  The Hospital lacked popular support due to the nature of the cases it took, and often struggled financially.   Attempts to establish an asylum for prostitutes failed, then the Ladies Committee established the Manchester and Salford Asylum for Female Penitents. This was an independent asylum, but the two charities collaborated closely.  In 1823 the Hospital moved to cheaper premises in Bond Street, then to Lloyd Street in 1832, and again in 1843 to premises on Deansgate. In 1873 the Hospital finally acquired a large site in Duke Street which was off Liverpool Road, where it remained. There was a slight improvement in the financial position by the 1850s when an appeal resulted in the opening of a convalescent ward and workroom for female in-patients. This possibly reflected changing public attitudes, particularly with regard to prostitution.  In an attempt to increase public support, the name of the Hospital was changed in 1878 to Manchester and Salford Lock and Skin Diseases Hospital. Separate premises were taken for the treatment of skin diseases in Dale Street in 1884, and four years later the two branches separated completely. The Hospital reverted to its original name in 1890. The Hospital remained a small institution, and could not address satisfactorily the huge problems of venereal disease in an ever increasing population. In 1916 the hospital became an approved institution. This development supported the work of the Hospital and enabled it to build a male inpatients ward in cottages on Stone Street. The name of the Hospital was changed again in 1920, to St Luke’s Hospital. No reference to venereal disease remained.

Another interesting fact was that  prostitution in 1820 did not just refer only to women who sold their bodies for sex. It was more often to refer to women who were living with men outside of marriage, women who had had illegitimate children, or women who perhaps had relations with men, but for pleasure rather than money.

An amazing find about the good people who at that time wanted to help these ladies of the night or day and try to reform them!!

The Forum Theatre, Wythenshawe, Manchester


This Theatre opened on 3rd November 1971 in Wythenshawe, besides being a major theatre in one of Manchester suberbs it featured a main hall, meeting rooms, leisure centre and library but by the mid 1990’s it had closed down as a theatre.  It was an extention of the Library Theatre and was run by their production team.

The directors in this theatre were mainly Howard Lloyd-Lewis who sadly died in a car crash in 1986; also Roger Haines and Paul Kerryson.  all three of them were involved with both the Library and the Forum Theatres.


In 1971 a play written by Colin Wellard ‘Say Goodnight to Grandma’ was on, it starred Colin Wellard, Susan Jameson and Ken Farrington. In 1972 Peter Adamson, who gained fame as ‘Len Fairclough’ in Coronation Street as did Ken Farrington appeared in a play.

1974 saw the a production of ‘Lock up your daughter’ by Lional Bart and Laurie Johnson also that year Richard Griffiths appeared in an Alan Ayckbourn‘s play

The Panto in 1979 was a bit different as it was written by folk singer, comedian and  the multi-talented Mike Harding ‘the Witch that nicked Christmas’ . I have seen many  of his plays and loved them all, I was sad to find that this was one I hadn’t seen but I can imagine how different it must have been. This was typical of the shows that were put on at the Forum.

I remember going to see the wonderful story teller in ‘An evening with David Kossoff and sitting spellbound listening to the dulcet tones of his voice and being carried to off in my mind to far off  places.

In the 1980’s they put on a suberb array of shows including ‘Roll on 4 O’Clock’ (which starred John Jardine,  Jack Smethurst and Glynn Owen)’ Oh What a lovely War; What the Butler Saw and Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett.  Bury’s  own Victoria Wood starred in ‘Talent’ which she wrote.  Another Manchester icon Foo Foo Lamour, famous as the top drag queen of the North-West  whose club was re-known for its great party nights appeared in ‘the Rocky horror show’

In 1985 they put on the musical ‘Follies’ written by Steven Sondheim and among the cast was Meg Johnson and David Scase.

In 1991 the play ‘Driving Miss Daisy’starring Stephanie Cole which had previously gained fame as a film.

In Feb 1991 both Roy Hudd and Barbara Windsor appeared in a Music Hall show.  A Manchester tribute to ‘The Good Old Days’ which was filmed at the Leeds City Variety Theatre.

Finally an apt tribute to Roy Hudd and the Theatre!!