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Victory/The Theatre, Paisley

Photograph Courtesy of www.arthurlloyd.co.uk

The Theatre opened 1890. Designed by Bertie Crewe and WGR Sprague. Later known as the Victory. Closed 1959; demolished 1967.

Brickwell's Theatre opened its doors in October 1890 to the specifications of the joint proprietors Henry Thomas Brickwell and his brother William, who became managing director until his death in 1893. H. T. Brickwell had extensive experience of touring Britain and had become lessee of the town's Royalty Theatre. Brickwell's Theatre, so named to 1893, was one of the first Theatres designed by architect Bertie Crewe in his own name, after leaving the employment of architect Walter Emden.

The ERA newspaper in March 1890 anticipated the opening of Mr Brickwell's New Theatre, which they thought would be called the New Royalty Theatre (because until now Brickwell had operated the previous Royalty in Old Sneddon Street) and his architects Bertie Crewe and William Sprague provided advance information:- "The building will be to all intents and purposes entirely isolated, standing, as it will do, facing New Smithhills, with its back to the River Cart. (in later years when the river flooded, its water covered the dressing room floors!) The elevation shows a very artistically designed structure of red brick, ornamented with white stone facings.

The 1600 accommodation of the house is as follows - stalls, which may be entered from either side, 50, circle 60, upper boxes 130, while the pit will hold 600, the private boxes 20, the gallery 400, and standing room may be found for 300 more.The entire building is constructed on the fire proof principle - stone and cement. The ventilation has not escaped notice, for exhaust tubes of great diameter will be placed over the several portions of the house where they will be found most necessary, such as the stage, centre ceiling of auditorium, and over the gallery. Over the stage sprinklers will be so arranged that should by misfortune any fire take place in the scenery an instant flow of water will be directed all over the area.  The lighting will be both by gas and electricity, and during winter hot-water pipes, supplied from a boiler outside the building, will considerably add to the comfort of the audience. The front of the house will be well supplied with retiring and crush rooms, and in the matter of dressing-room accommodation the actors will, we are pleased to say, be well looked after. Complete workshops and scene-dock are to be built on one side of the stage, but cut off from the main building, so that all danger from accident may be carefully avoided. The dimensions of the stage are as follows depth, 56ft. width, 58ft. proscenium opening 25ft., height of gridiron 42ft., from which it will be seen that any company on the road can be accommodated as regards scenery." - The ERA, March 1890.

The ERA later added further information as the opening in October drew near:- "One of the unique points in the new Theatre is that the money-taker controls the whole house, another is that the stage may at short notice be converted into a 42 ft. circus ring. There are to be three tiers the dress circle, upper circle, and gallery and each part has its lounge, refreshment, and smoking rooms. The Theatre is French Renaissance in style, the hangings are to be of peacock-blue plush. The dome is very handsomely painted and plastered to represent a balcony, flowers, and sky.  Among the companies who will first appear is Charles Wybrow's Paul Jones. The Arthur Rousbey Opera Co., and Mr. Osmond Tearle and Co. are also booked. At Christmas a pantomime will be produced by Messrs. A. and P. Milton on a gorgeous and extensive scale." - The ERA, 1890.

 

And at its opening in October 1890:- "Mr Brickwell's new Theatre at Paisley was opened on Monday, when a large and most fashionable audience assembled, filling the building to its utmost capacity. Mr Clarke, the manager, makes a good representative for Mr Brickwell, being a most courteous, obliging, and deservedly popular gentleman. The company which had the honour of opening the Theatre was Mr Charles Wybrow's, with Paul Jones, which found much favour with the audience, the cast being good all round. At the close of the performance loud calls were raised for Mr Brickwell, who appeared before the curtain and addressed the audience, thanking them for the manner in which they had shown their appreciation of his efforts, and assuring them that nothing would be left undone to place before the public of Paisley a round of entertainments deserving of their support.

 The building is of brick throughout, fronting the street with stone, and inside is composed entirely of concrete and iron, thus reducing the danger of fire to a minimum. The inside measurement from the back of the stage to the back of the pit is over 100ft., and the width varies from 490ft. to 53ft. The stage is separated from the auditorium by iron doors and an iron curtain. There are six separate entrances to the stage, one of the six large enough to allow a carriage and pair to pass through. At one side is a large room for the storing of stage furniture, and in connection with the stage, but entirely separate from it and the auditorium is a large room for storing scenery. In a corner near the footlights is an apparatus for controlling the entire lighting of the building, and in the same corner is a large hydrant, to be used in case of fire. Underneath the stage, but separated entirely from it by iron doors and concrete walls and ceiling, are seven dressing-rooms-large, airy, well lighted, and fitted with wash basins and mirrors. At each side of the stage are two private boxes, each capable of holding eight persons. The fronts of the boxes, dress circle, and gallery are beautifully moulded with stucco, and coloured with nice soft tints, while on plain spaces between the figures the names of Shakespeare, Goldsmith, Johnson, &c. have been inscribed. The stalls, dress circle and upper circle behind the dress circle are fitted with tip up chairs covered with crimson plush. The inside of the Theatre has been beautifully decorated, and the dome has been hand-painted in a highly artistic style, the subject of the picture being "The Muses." All the passages and stairs are carpeted, and handrails fitted up on each side.

Bailie Smith in proposing the health of Mr Brickwell and success to the new Theatre, said that although to many of them Mr Brickwell was personally a stranger, he had still had a considerable theatrical connection with Paisley, having been lessee of the old Theatre for seven years. He had done his best with the limited means in the old Theatre to cater for the public, and he had no doubt that now he had such a splendid Theatre he would rise to the occasion." - The ERA, October 1890.

 

E. H. Bostock, chairman of the Bostock Circuit, promptly bought the Paisley Theatre  in 1919 for variety, pantomime and some repertory to obviate the rebuilding of his nearby Hippodrome.

At the end of August 1919 The Stage reported:- "In three months Mr. E. H. Bostock has effected a transformation of the Paisley Theatre house from a structural and an artistic point. The Theatre originally seated about 1,400 persons, but in improving the accommodation Mr. Bostock has sacrificed 400 seats.  The dress circle and the old upper circle have been merged into one, and been fitted with 200 comfortable tip-up chairs. The stalls also have been extended, taking in part of the pit; 232 tip-up chairs now form the stalls. The seating in the pit has been overhauled and new seats with back rests have been fitted in the gallery. What was known as the Compton Comedy bar has been converted into a lounge, and a new and more spacious bar built as an adjunct to the south gable. The upper circle bar has been converted into a lounge and light refreshment bar also for service as a waiting-room. A new system of heating is being completed, and for this a chamber has been built. The electric lighting has been considerably improved.

Part of the stage has been relaid, and additions and improvements made in the lighting arrangements there. New scenery has been painted by Mr. Hinchey, whose work is known to the Paisley patrons. His new act drop calls for special praise. Every part of the house has been redecorated. The colour scheme is of rose, gold and grey. The dress circle and stalls have been carpeted and draperies and palms add to the general effect." - The Stage, August 1919.

The Bostock bill of fare ensured packed houses twice nightly. Around 1929 the Bostock Circuit in Scotland and England reviewed their many Theatre and cinema sites in light of the arrival of the Talkies. Some properties were expanded to modern cinemas, and others remained as they were but increasingly would be operated by others outwith the Bostock Circuit and its management team. In September 1930 the first external lessee, Leslie Lynn of the Millport Entertainers, was appointed but the Bostock family would continue to own it until its closure in 1959. He was also appointed lessee of their Hamilton Hippodrome and Blantyre Picture House.

A Programme cover for the Victory Theatre, Paisley in the late 1930s - Courtesy the University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive.Leslie Lynn had trod the boards in towns and in resorts as a comedy ventriloquist, forming his own concert parties. He also now operated cinemas in Kilwinning, Millport and Alloa. Following his death at the end of 1932 the Theatre was leased by Bostock in 1933 to Victoria Circuit Ltd of Glasgow whose managing director was W. W. Thomson, with other venues in Central Scotland. Alec Ascot was one of his successors and producer of many shows in the Theatre. He was a comedian and, partnered by singer Frances Whyte, performed in towns and holiday resorts in the 1920s and 30s, and in London's Palladium as a feed to Dave Willis. The financial and guiding hand of this expanding circuit was Willie Galt variety agent-extraordinaire right up to the 1950s.

The Theatre was renamed the Victory Theatre. Variety, revues, and pantomime took pride of place, and local productions the Paisley Musical & Operatic Society, the Paisley Opera Club and drama companies including the Paisley Plays Club, and the Paisley Scouts Gang Shows.Headliners in the 1930s onwards included Tommy Morgan, Charlie Kemble, George West and Dave Willis; to be followed in later decades by Renee Houston, Jack Milroy and Johnny Beattie.

In the early 1940s having just left school a young Jimmy Logan was an assistant stage manager at Paisley Theatre for two years including seasons of the talented Logan Family headed by his father Jack Short. Jimmy recalls that much of his time front of house was that of a chucker-out! A recording of Jack Short and his entertaining Logan Family can be enjoyed by clicking the Video Thumbnail Shown Right, with special thanks to John Short. In the 1940s and into the 1950s variety, revues and pantomime were joined by seasons of repertory including the Fraser Neale Company headed by Tommy Lorne's daughter.

Later in the 1950s it changed to week-ends only and finally closed in 1959, another victim of television. It was demolished in 1966 to make way for a central redevelopment and today's Piazza shopping centre straddling the River Cart, which in the original 1959 town centre plans was proposed to include a Theatre-cum-cinema, but did not materialise.

 

The above sections of text on the Paisley Theatre were kindly written for the Arthur Lloyd website by Society Member  Graeme Smith in September 2017.

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