Building Name

Reconstruction: Palace of Varieties (Palace Theatre) Oxford Street Manchester

Oxford Street
GMCA, England
New Build

In his reconstruction of 1913 Bertie Crewe retained the stage and basic shell of Darbyshire’s 1891 theatre building. Although the stalls of Darbyshire's theatre were already below street level it does nevertheless appear that Crewe may have been influenced by Richardson's Opera House, Manchester, in the design of his auditorium. Again there are two very large, slightly curved balconies of sixteen rows each, with the entrance foyer partly formed within the void of the first balcony. It also appears that Crewe may have been influenced by the Graeco-Roman style of the Opera House. His London Opera House (dem) and Shaftesbury Theatre of 1911 were both in an extremely opulent version of the French Renaissance style whereas the Palace and also his Golders Green Hippodrome, both of which opened in December 1913, are distinctly Graeco-Roman. But Crewe was no academic, as were Richardson and his partners. He was, however, a well-practised theatre architect and a comparison between the design of the Palace and the Opera House will clearly show this. Partly as a result of a more robust interpretation of the Neo-Classical repertoire, but also due to the more satisfactory overall proportions of the auditorium, the Palace is vastly superior theatrically. A major contributory factor is the way the wide, though not too deep, auditorium relates to the wide proscenium. The side walls are impressively articulated by ranges of boxes under curved and draped canopies, separated by giant fluted Ionic columns. The high ceiling has a central, coffered saucer-dome.

Following threats of closure to both the Palace and the Opera House in 1979, the Palace was chosen in early 1979 as Manchester's large touring theatre for the future. The initiative was taken by Mr Raymond Slater who purchased the building from Moss Empires. The Manchester Palace Theatre Trust was formed and a major restoration scheme put in hand. This included the acquisition of land and office buildings at the rear, allowing the stage to be extended by twenty feet. The fly tower was extended by twelve feet. Dressing rooms facilities were considerably enlarged and improved, and the orchestra pit was enlarged to accommodate 110 musicians. The first computerised box office system in Europe was installed

1896 Alteration: altered structurally; redecorated   Frank Matcham - Architect

1913 Alteration: auditorium reconstructed  Bertie Crewe – Architect

Reference           David Hilton VS Newsletter May 2001