Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Winter Gardens Theatre, New Brighton

Albert Douglas, a member of the well-known theatrical family, came to Merseyside on business in 1907, and realising how little entertainment there was in Wallasey, decided to stop. With Mr H.E Jones as a partner, he leased the Conservative Hall in Atherton Street and renamed it Alexandra Hall.

In February 1908 the name was changed to the Winter Gardens, and palms were placed round the auditorium to justify the appellation. In 1909 a limited company was formed to purchase the building, and alterations on a major scale were commenced in March of that year. A 'Circle' was provided, and an entirely new stage measuring sixty feet by thirty-three feet was installed, with adequate new 'flies' and a modern electric lighting system. 

During the Great War the theatre remained open and in spite of many difficulties made a modest profit. In 1919 Albert Douglas became sole manager director, with his eldest son A.C Douglas as general manager. It was not unusual for London success to visit New Brighton before going on to Liverpool, and from 1919 onwards many famous stars appeared.

In 1924 the younger side of the management wanted to rebuild the theatre on modern lines, but this was vetoed by the older side. However, in 1929 all the directors agreed on rebuilding and work was commenced in February 1931. Read more on History of Wallasey

Lowry refers to the Winter Gardens in his novel Ultramarine when Dana reads in Janet's letter; "On Saturday I went to the Winter Gardens alone and saw - what do you think? So This Is London!...." (Pg. 169). There is no record of whether Lowry actually saw the play or whether Tess Evans saw the play either. To date, no record of the play being performed at the Winter Gardens in New Brighton has been discovered. We must assume Lowry was familiar with the theatre on his trips to New Brighton to meet Tess Evans especially as the theatre was near to the railway station.

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