The Palace Theatre, Halifax

The Palace Theatre – or the Palace & Hippodrome – was a music hall and variety theatre which stood at Ward's End at the junction of Horton Street and Southgate.

Designed by Ernest Runtz of Horsfall's, it was known as

the sweetest theatre in the North

because sugar was added to the mortar so that it would set in the cold of the winter of 1902/3 when the theatre was being built.

It was built by the impresario Frank MacNaughten of the MacNaughten Vaudeville Circuit and was to seat an audience of 2,500. The Halifax Palace Theatre Company Limited was formed and shareholders were invited to subscribe. The £40,000 was raised quickly.

The foundation stone was laid by Alderman Brear on 4th October 1902.

It was built on the cantilever principle and there were no columns in the auditorium. The stage was 60 ft wide, 32 ft deep and the proscenium arch was 30 ft. It had a painted sliding roof.

The theatre opened on 30th July 1903, when F. W. Fleming took part in the special opening production, singing the National Anthem and My Dream by Tosti. There was an audience of 1,300 people. The public opening was on August Bank Holiday, 3rd August 1903. The programme was headed by American comedienne, Miss Julie Mackay.

As a leading theatre on the MacNaughten Vaudeville Circuit, the Palace attracted top stars, including Charlie Chaplin, Florrie Ford, George Formby, Gertie Gitana, Hettie King, Sir Harry Lauder, Sandy Powell, George Robey, Eugene Stratton, and Little Tich.

There was a disastrous fire on 4th May 1934.

In 1937, the capacity was listed as 1450 people.

In 1939, it was featured in the BBC radio series Famous Music Halls.

On 19th January 1952, veteran Lancashire comedian – Clarence (Tubby) Turner [1883-1952] collapsed at the theatre and died 2 days later at St John's Hospital.

Variety was presented until 1957, and repertory was introduced in a bid to boost the box office. A repertory company, the Court Players, gave several productions at the theatre until 1958.

In 1958, O. & C. Estates Limited bought the theatre and adjoining property for £55,000.

In early 1959, there were proposals for Halifax Council to buy the Palace and use it as a civic theatre, and several amateur societies banded together to put in a bid.

With a final performance of The King and I by Halifax Light Opera Society and the Halifax Amateur Operatic Society, the theatre closed on 30th May 1959.

It was demolished in 1960 to make way for a new development of shops and offices.

It was the last surviving theatre in the MacNaughten Vaudeville Circuit and the Circuit then closed.

Managers at the Theatre have included

See William Davidson, Percy Lewis and John Robson

© Malcolm Bull 2024
Revised 15:25 / 15th February 2024 / 5655

Page Ref: MMP11

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