OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
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©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 25, 2017
Webpage updated: May 28, 2021

        

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NEW PALACE THEATRE OF VARIETIES

The New Palace Theatre of Varieties.
From a postcard.

Although Plymouth's New Palace Theatre of Varieties is located in Union Street, Plymouth, it is no longer a theatre but has a Grade II* listing.

It was built jointly by Messrs United Counties Theatres Ltd and the Livermore Brothers as a replacement for the Palace of Varieties at the St James's Hall.  The building was designed by Mr William Arber of Messrs J T Wimperis & Arber of 25 Sackville Street, London, and cost £95,000.  The managing director was Mr Alfred Moul and the manager was Mr E J Dexter.

The New Palace Theatre of Varieties,
the last building in Plymouth before East Stonehouse, during the 1960s.
© the late Gilbert Corran.

After a private viewing on Friday September 2nd 1898, the New Palace Theatre was opened on Monday September 5th 1898.

In the early hours of December 23rd 1898 fire destroyed the stage and the front of the auditorium.  It reopened on May 22nd 1899.

Welcome to the New Palace Theatre of Varieties.
©  Plymouth Library Services.

In September 1911 the New Palace Theatre and the Grand Theatre were sold to a syndicate formed by Mr G Hamilton Baines of the Theatre Royal, Cardiff.  The ownership was to change many more times over the years.

Take a seat in the lounge while we wait for the performance to begin.
©  Plymouth Library Services.

All manner of entertainment, from vaudeville to the occasional film, were staged at the Palace.

The New Place Theatre of Varieties was purchased by Mr Thomas Hoyle (1860-1932) in 1913.  He sold it again in 1920.  In July 1924 the then owners of the Theatre, the Messrs Provincial Vaudevilles Limited, sold the Palace to Mr John Tellam, then owner of the Alhambra Theatre at Devonport.  Within weeks it had been bought back by Mr Thomas Hoyle (1860-1932), who owned it until his death in 1932 and then by his widow, Mrs Mary Hoyle, until her death in 1945. 

Between 1936 and his death in 1944 the musical director of the Palace Theatre Orchestra was Mr Gordon Davies.  His replacement was a Mr J Freer.

While rehearsals were being held on the afternoon of Monday November 8th 1937, dressing-rooms 7 and 8 caught fire and were totally destroyed, along with the furniture and props in them.  The flames were prevented from spreading to the auditorium by the quick thinking of the musical director, Mr Gordon Davies, who quickly lowered the safety curtain and called the fire brigade.  The Plymouth Fire Brigade under Fire-Superintendent R J Smith attended.  The only casualty was Ambulanceman A E Drake, who was overcome by smoke while searching for any trapped casualties.  Luckily most of the damage was caused by the water used to extinguish the fire.

You can sit in the Stalls, the Circle or the Upper Circle ("The Gods",
or maybe you would like a Private Box.
©  Plymouth Library Services.

At the height of the Plymouth Blitz the widow of Mr Thomas Hoyle, its most well-known owner, was credited with keeping Plymouth's spirits up by presenting a full season of Shows in 1941.  After the destruction in 1941 of the nearby Grand Theatre and the Theatre Royal, the Palace Theatre continued to host the Palace Pantomimes every Christmas until it closed.

Following the death of Mrs Hoyle the Theatre was put up for auction on Thursday May 24th 1945.  The auctioneer was Mt Norman P Hamley, of Messrs Peter Hamley and Sons.  Bidding started at £40,000, by Mr R Heath, and finally reached £77,000, the purchaser being a Mr Saul Samuel Silver, of Exeter.

After competing with many potential new owners who wanted to turn the Theatre in to a cinema, a syndicate of local businessmen acquired the New Place Theatre in October 1945.  The syndicate comprised Mr C H Knapmean, of Ivybridge; Mr F A Westcott,of Newton Ferrers; Mr H T Langsford, of Tavistock; and Messrs C H Pearn and S Roseman of Plymouth.  The only non-Devonian in the team was Mr Gerard A W Heath, of London, who had dealt with bookings for the theatre since 1933.  Mr W M Baxter was appointed company secretary and Colonel T R McCready made their solicitor.  They planned to stage musical comedies, plays, ballets, operas, revues and variety shows.

Mr Rowland Percy Green (1886-1946) continued his role as theatre manager and lived with his wife, Ethel, and son, Rowland Patrick Green, in the manager's flat off Phoenix Street.  However, Mr Green had suffered a long illness and retired in March 1946.  He died at the Prince of Wales's Hospital on Sunday June 2nd 1946 and after a service at the Anglican Church of Saint Catharine of Alexandria he was buried at Efford Cemetery on Thursday June 6th 1946.

Miss Vera Lynn, who has died today, Thursday June 18th 2020, at the grand age of 103 years, made what at the time was claimed to be her first personal appearance in Plymouth on the stage of the New Palace Theatre on Monday November 27th 1950.  The show was called "Sincerely Yours in Person, Vera Lynn".  She was given 'an enthusiastic reception', said the Western Morning News.  Miss Lynn concluded the show with one of her most popular songs "Yours".  Supporting acts were Olgo, the memory man; Tony and Ruby, aerial acrobatics aided, or perhaps not, by Byl and Byl with their own comedy acrobatics; Jack "Hubert" Watson, a former Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer when stationed in Plymouth during the War, who presented a monologue; Rey Overbury, musician and acrobatic dancer; the Martell Sisters, jugglers; Beb and Belle, with their dancing duet; and right at the bottom of the cast list, Morecambe and Wise.  There were two performances a day, at 6 and 8,30pm and unreserved seats could be had for one shilling and three pence or one shilling and sixpence on Saturdays.  Otherwise the reserved seats cost 4 shillings, 3s 6d, 3 shillings and 2 shillings, or sixpence more each on Saturdays.

In fact on December 1st 1950 she denied that it had been her first visit to Plymouth and said it took place in 1938.  No trace has been found in that year but certainly on Monday July 31st 1939, for that week, she appeared on stage at the New Palace Theatre of Varieties with the Bert Ambrose Octette.

  

The Safety Curtain will rise, the Orchestra will play the Overture
and the show will begin.
©  Plymouth Library Services.

When the Band of the Devonshire Regiment struck up the Regimental March of the Regiment "We've Lived and We've Loved Together" at the New Palace Theatre on the afternoon of Sunday December 10th 1944 the entire audience stood up in tribute to the Regiment.  The concert was in aid of the Plymouth Pre-Service Training Units (Army Cadet Force, Sea Cadets Corps and Air Training Corps) and was attended by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Mr H J Perry, Lord Astor, Admiral A N Dowding. Major E Stanley Leatherby, representing the Devon Army Cadet Force, and Colonel Hartley.  Bandmaster L Bradley ARCM conducted the Band.  The Regimental March was followed by Rossini's "William Tell Overture" and Lehar's "Gold and Silver".  Bandsman Aikman was the soloist in Ketelbey's "The Clock and the Dresden Figures", which was followed by an instrumental  selection "Gems of Sullivan" and a selection of Irish songs from tenor Mr Denis O'Neil.  In the second half of the programme Bandsman Willows played two violin solos but the principal attraction was Miss Cherry Lind, the locally born star of BBC Radio, who had just returned from entertaining the troops in France and Belgium.  The Regimental Band brought the concert to a close with Parry's "Jerusalem".

In the evening the Miss Cherry Lind and Mr Denis O'Neil were once again guests in the 137th performance of the forces concert organised by Mr P Cole, the City's entertainments manager, for the Lord Mayor's Services Welfare Fund.  The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman H G Mason, attended this one in person.  The concert was compèred by Plymothian Mr Harry Grose, who also entertained the audience with his conjuring tricks.

Laurel and Hardy, the famous comedy duo, were booked to appear live at the New Palace Theatre for the week of Monday May 17th 1954.  On the first night Mr Oliver Hardy was not well but after taking some penicillin took to the stage as usual.  On the Tuesday evening, however, he was found to have a temperature of 103.4 degrees and was sent to bed by his doctor.  That was Mr Hardy's last performance on stage and his partner, Mr Stan Laurel, had to give up the act.  Mr Oliver Hardy died at home in the United States of America on August 7th 1957. 

The first of the New Palace Theatre's many closures came in February 1959, during the run of that season's Palace Pantomime, "Little Miss Muffet".

It managed to get a Second Life between 1962 and 1965; and a Third Life between April 1977 and May 1980 but finally closed in 1983, when it became a disco.  All efforts to restore the Theatre to its former glory have so far failed.

 

  "Little Miss Muffet" at the New Palace Theatre was the author's first visit to a theatre.