Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 06, 2018
Webpage updated: October 06, 2018




The Gaiety Theatre at 193/194 Union Street, Plymouth, was due to open on September 1st 1919 but because the decoration had not been completed the opening was delayed until Thursday September 4th 1919.  It was owned by the Gaiety Theatre Company.

Designed in the renaissance style by Mr E H H Barron of Plymouth and constructed by Mr F T Stanbury, the Gaiety was described as having "class", possibly because of its use of iridescent glass and ornamental leaded windows.  The entrance foyer was flanked on either side by staircases finished with white and green terrazzo steps and oak hand rails, giving access, through an imposing arched opening, to the circle, which was wholly constructed of reinforced concrete.  The Manager's office was on a mezzanine floor off the circle stairs and over that were the 'retiring rooms for the staff'. From here an iron spiral staircase led up to the operating room. Above all that were two domes with panelled surfaces.

The concealed lights, which were controlled by a dimmer switch, and the projection equipment were supplied by means a gas engine and generator in the basement, both being duplicated in order to eliminate the possibility of a breakdown. These had been installed by Messrs Lord & Shand of Plymouth.

'All the seats are of the latest tip-up type, roomy, well sprung and with shaped backs', continued the opening press report, which also drew attention to the natural slope of the building towards the screen at its rear.

Advertised as 'The New Picture Playhouse', the Gaiety's continuous performance ran from 6 until 10.30pm. Prices were: circle 2/3d; reserved 1/9d; fauteuils 1/3d; stalls 9d, all inclusive of tax.

At the inaugural performcance an orchestra played 'chosen selections' and Miss Daisy Maye, contralto, and Mr Vosper, baritone, 'sang well'.  They were followed by a 'dainty play' entitled "Love Rules the World", which starred Miss Gladys Hulette, and then Miss Lilian Walker in "The Grain of Dust", which had 'direct speech sub-titles'.  The show concluded with comedies from Mutt and Jeff, and Winkle. 

The Gaiety was managed by Mr Gilbert Smith.  In 1922 Mr Horace Jones took over and he held the licence although in September 1923 Mr Harry Knowles became the owner of what the press described as 'a cosy little house'.  It was taken over by Messrs H B Mather Cinemas Ltd in 1931.

On July 8th 1936 the licence was transferred to new lessees, Messrs W E and E J Pope. They ran small cinemas in Tavistock and Wadebridge as well as the Carlton at Okehampton.   Consequently the Gaiety was renamed the Carlton Theatre after it had been re-seated during the summer of 1936.