02 December 2011
December has arrived and it’s a month of discovering Places of Entertainment. This week we’re on a mission to unearth music halls, theatres and cinemas – are they still performing or have they retired from the stage and been transformed into something else?
London is full of hidden theatrical gems such as Chats Palace, an old Carnegie library now transformed into a thriving community arts space and theatre, or the Troxy Cinema, a stunning example of 1930 Art Deco architecture. But it’s this very plain 1950’s building that has been to date my most surprising theatre discovery. On the outside of the building is a plaque which if you stop and read tells you that on this plot the Alhambra Theatre stood.
Opened in 1854 it was originally called The Royal Panopticon of Science and Arts. Two years later it was closed and opened as the Alhambra Theatre, a popular music hall. It was built in a Moorish style, with fenestration, towers and a dome. It’s main entrance dominated Leicester Square and its secondary entrance was on Charing Cross Road.
The Alhambra Theatre was knocked down in 1936 and in its place stands the Odeon Cinema and the pictured building above a 1950’s glass number! Not quite the grandeur of old, but there is a hint of the old building. A friend works on the top floor and out the window you can see Moorish style alcove on the building opposite. I’d like to think it is a little piece of the past left behind to remind us.
Looking forward to hearing of your theatrical gems hidden away across the UK and sharing our other finds with you…
Post by Claire Horan, Project Manager, Discovering Places.
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