From the Keighley
News 29 April 1961
Keighley Losing a Theatre which many famous woman and men had
first theatre in Keighley, The
Queens Theatre and Opera House, was open on 27 March 1880. It
was originated and founded by Abraham Kershaw, who came to Keighley
from Huddersfield, and followed the occupation of piano tuner with
Barwick and Brothers, who at that time were in the market.
At the time Keighley stood very low in the estimation of the
theatrical profession and performances of the music hall type were
the only ones to meet with any success. Legitimate and melodramatic
companies generally preformed in the Drill Hall to a very small
audience, and few repeated their visit.
Music-hall entertainment was provided at the Britannia Hall, where
soon after his arrival to Keighley Mr. Kershaw became the pianist.
He acted in this capacity for many years before, with half a dozen
others he joined in establishing a company for supplying the regular
supply of entertainments at the Britannia Hall under the title of
Grand National Concert Hall Co, Mr. Kershaw acted as manager.
As the project did not meet with the anticipated success, the other
partners withdrew, leaving Mr. Kershaw to carry on alone, which he
did with considerable success over the next five or six years.
PURCHASE OF LAND
In 1876 he bought 700sq yards of land in Queen Street, planes were
prepared by Mr. J B Bailey, and the theatre was opened at Easter
Built of wood it had the ceiling divided into panels by ornamental
beams, in the centre of each panel was a richly stenciled centre
piece, and the theatre was illuminated by starlight's of six burners
each. It had side balconies, a dress circle, spacious stage and
The arrival of Keighley's first theatre was not meet with much
enthusiasm. The initial performance took the form of a concert at
which the principles were Mr. Charles Blagbro, Miss Emilie Norton,
Mr Walker Singleton, and Mr. Denbigh Cooper, together with the Leeds
The expenses of this entertainment in printing and salaries amounted
to over £15 and to meet this was received £8.3s.6d. The
performance of the Taverner's Opera Co. the following week. were
"worthy of a larger audience" and as business continued to
be bad, the first session came to an abrupt end after just seven
It was in August that the theatre reopened with a combination
company for the first fortnight, which lost £70, and although Mr.
Kershaw persisted for a while it became increasingly clear that
Keighley people had no wish to be educated up to drama. The visit in
May of Mr. Wilson Barrett's Company, which include well known names
Y.C. Arnold, Miss Cissie Wood, Mr. John Speakman and Mr. Luigi
Lablanche drew ridiculously low receipts of £23.10s.9d. in the
week. Yet at Whitsuntide Sam Hague's Minstrels netted £125 in two
performances. Mr. Kershaw then let the theatre to Mr. T.R. Nugent,
who meet with no greater success. On regaining control Mr. Kershaw
unsuccessfully appealed to the guardians in the reduction of the
assessment of the building, whereupon he offered it to General
Booth, of the Salvation Army. It was eventually used as a place of
worship at a rental of £130 for the first year, and £150 for the
second. The Army occupied it for two and a half years and after Mr.
John Ingham of Bradford had used it as a musical hall for six
months, it passed back to Mr. Kershaw early in 1885. That another
Mr. Kershaw made another attempt to establish drama in the town,
this time with more satisfactory results. When in December 1886, he
decided to retire, endeavours were made to form a company to take
over the theatre, but although good profits had been made in the
previous two seasons the company was never floated. RECONSTRUCTION
It was in July 1887, that the theatre passed into the control of Mr.
Edward Darbey, actor and author of several plays. With the close of
the winter season of 1888-9 the building was virtually pulled down
and an improved structure erected and opened on August 26 1889.
Striking changes where made to the inside and out, and the main
purpose was to lower the pit and give direct entrance from the
street. The frontage of the building was of stone, and the felted
roof was coved by slates. Decorations in the lobby and staircase
were of verdantique and jasper marble. The opening performance was
by the Hansby Company in "Dorothy" . Even the new building
soon became in adequate with the result that the new Queens Theatre,
the third and present building was opened on the 3rd of February
1900, by the then Mayor Ald. H.C. Longsden.
After the opening a concert was given by the Leeds Kentucky Amateur
Minstrels in aid of the Keighley and District Patriotic and Hospital
Funds. The architect of the new building, which at that time was one
of the finest theatres in the North, was Mr. Frank Matcham.
Mr. Kershaw was responsible for the building of the new theatre, and
when his new partner, a Mr. Manning, wanted a less expensive scheme,
Mr. Kershaw paid him out and resumed partnership with Mrs. Kershaw.
After two years Messrs Caron and Granville took over and the theatre
was at various times in the next few years owned by George
Elphinstone, Carson and Kendal and George S Holmes before it was
bought by the late Mr. Francis Laidler in 1913.
Until it's closer the theatre belonged to Yorkshire Theatre Ltd. And
many famous artists trod the boards. Charlie Chaplin and Gracie
Fields made their early performances there, the former with Fred
Karno and the later in "Mr. Tower of London".
Another who appeared in repertory there before she came a star was
Eileen Herlie, while the late Raymond Lovell went via repertory at
Keighley to the London Stage, and Brenda De Banzie, who played
opposite him in the same company, is now a film star.
In the old days the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company paid annual visits,
there was the O'Mara Opera Company and the Shakespearian companies
that were brought by Frank Benson, Henry Baynton, and Forbs
Robertson, Sybil Thorndike, Lewis Casson, Phyllis Neilson Terry,
Bransby Williams, Sidney Fairbrother and Clemence Dane were amongst
the stars to have appeared there.
Musical plays and comedies were regularly presented by George
Edwards, Robert Courtneidge and Macdonald and Young, whilst amongst
he stars of the Variety stage were George Chirgwin, Henry Champion,
Charles R. Whittle, Jack Pleasants, George Formby, Will Hay, Tommy
Handley, Flanagan and Allen, Ted Ray, Max Miller, Dorathy Ward,
Albert Whelan, and hundreds more. Among the famous who spoke from
stage were General Booth, Salvation Army, and Horatio Bottomley.
Managers who many people will remember were Jabez Wood, J. Austin
Walshaw, Harry Leighton, Capt. Dunbar and William Greene, While for
many years Walter Marston was the stage manager before he was
succeeded by Earnest Paul, Jack Knowles and Harry Williams.
- Queens Theater, Town Field Gate. Closed
Taken from, Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter
Sellers: Still, it was a peculiar kind of worship, since Peg
alternately doted on and abandoned the boy according to her own
needs. She gave him whatever he wanted when she was there, but then
she went off on tour and left him in the care of one of the aunts.
Peg and Bill did bring Pete along with them sometimes, but their
care of him was still sporadic, not to mention risk-prone. In the
midst of a fierce Yorkshire winter, with Peg and Bill appearing in
something called The Sideshow and the child being carted back and
forth between a chilly rooming house and the Spartan dressing rooms
of the Keighley Hippodrome, Pete developed bronchial pneumonia.
Lloyd, opening night at the Hippodrome
of the people who played at the Hippodrome.
Amateurs - K.A.O.D.S
Sandy did a marathon 24 hour piano playing at
Queen’s Theatre, Keighley non stop.
Longest Playing Record AKA Piano Playing… 1959 British
Be Shy Girls Taken
We opened at the Hippodrome Keighley
which is now a car park and the show was called Don't Be Shy Girls.
The opening chorus started in a black out and the dancers sang
whilst lighting up their faces with torches that they held in their
hands and then they did a dance routine in full lighting. Keighley
was one of the first theatres to dispense with a pit orchestra and
we were accompanied by an Hammond organ, piano and drums that
sounded a bit thin.
Dave was short of money and it was obvious. We had no scenery, I had
to borrow what I could from the theatre which did not have much in
the way of stock drapes and scenery, so the show looked to say the
least a bit scrappy. We ran for two weeks in Keighley and business
was not good.
1944 played her first straight part, in Hindle Wakes at
the Hippodrome, Keighley, before joining the Harry
Players for three years. Peggy Mounts professional
dramatic debut was Monday 13th August 1945 playing Ada in
a production of Hindle Wakes at The Hippodrome Keighley.
She remained with Harry Hansons Court Players who were
regulars at the Hippodrome until her departure in 1947
when it seems she was replaced by Patricia Pilkington.
Feb 1889 The death of an actress, Isabella
Macclesfield from the effects of a puncture wound in the chest,
received whilst playing in "Eviction" at Keighley's
21st March 1889 A visit of the Manchester
Opera Company to
the Queen's Theatre, Keighley
1st Dec 1889 Great demonstration of railway servants in the Queen's
bottom of the bill at the Hippodrome Theatre Keighley week
commencing 25 April 1955 for 6 nights. She was then 18.
The rest of the artistes appearing that week seemed to
have slipped into total obscurity such as Jack
Lancashire comic. The Four
Graham Brothers the
atomic comics & Bunty
St. Clair (staircase
dancer) among others. Entrance was 3/6d - 2/9d - 1/9d
& 1/- (5p) in the Gods.
article that appeared in Lytham St.Annes Express 6
September 1962 "Jack Storey commented,
"I was a real pleasure to entertain someone from the
old music-hall days. I only hope that someone will
remember me when I an 76!". Jack Storey played Mother
Goose in Mother Goose at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
1952/53. Jacks catch phrase was, "Well, yer do, don't
Dotrice, an actor known for his Tony Award-winning
Broadway performance in the revival of A Moon for the
Bryan, comedy legend.
Owen, best remembered by a wider audience for writing
the screenplay of The Beatles' debut feature film A Hard
Modley, variety entertainer and comedian, played many
times in pantomime at the Alhambra in Bradford. albertmodley.co.uk
Thorndike, Dame Agnes Sybil Thorndike, she became
better known as an actress on the stage, but first trained
as a classical pianist. sybilthorndikescrapbook
Pilkington, who would later change her name to Patricia
by the New Britannia Lodge of Oddfellows in
October 1858. The Great Keighley Shaving Match was held in
the Brittannia Hall.
Professor Carrodus shaving 70 men in 60
minutes, Professor J T Carrodus of High Street shaved
seventy men in sixty minutes before a paying audience
accompanied by one of his children playing classical pieces
on the flute.
Professor Carrodus' elder son who was nick
named "The Swiss Boy" was one of the leading
musicians of his day There is a commemorative plaque on the
stairs of Keighley library.
He was orchestra leader at
Convent garden for many years.
it became a music hall run by Abraham Kershaw
who would later open the Hippodrome.
It had many uses over time, Salvation Army
citadel, dance hall, especially during the wars.
Storage & snooker hall.
following is reproduced from The Era newspaper 2 March 1873.
It is an advertisement from a musical duo seeking bookings:
SAM COLEMAN and WILL DIAMOND
The celebrated American Comedians. Immense hit with Colemans new
songs and Diamond's Banjo & Bones solos. Always something new.
Theatre of Varieties Stafford March 10th. At liberty March 24th.
All letters and telegrams for terms address to Maurice de Frece our
Agent 1 Murray St Liverpool.
PS. Keighley on no account.
Insurance Man, an Alan Bennett film, about Franz Kafka as a
young man. Scenes were filmed in a tannery in Keighley.
used to have eight cinemas,
Russell Street - Market Street - Oxford Hall - Cosy Corner, Low
Street. -- Palace, Low Street - Picture House, North Street -
Regent, North Street, where the Town Hall Livery Stables used to be.
- The Ritz/ABC Cinema, Alice Street In 1950 these were the
prices being charged for admission at the cinemas and theater: Cosy
Corner 5d. 7d. 9d. 1/-. Hippodrome 9d to 3/-. Oxford,
stalls 1/- circle 1/3d Saturday: stalls 1/5d circle 1/9d
Palace 1/3d 2/3d Booked seats 1/6d 2/9d Regent 1/3d 2/3d Ritz 1/3d
1/9d 2/3d 2/9d
The last & largest to be built in the town.
It underwent numerous tests for it's fire proof
properties. Opened Monday 28th February 1938. The
organ as removed in either 1964 or 1965
and taken to Malsis School. Closed 2nd February
1974. 1976 the Keighley Betting & Gaming
Committee granted a licence for a bingo club run
by E.M.I. cinematreasures.org
Cosy (Flea Pit)
Alfred Firth converted Weatherheads Sale room
in 1912 into the Cosy Cinema. Sound was
installed in 1930. Cinemascope was installed in
1954. Closed 1957
The Theatre De Luxe in Market Street
was opened by John Watson of Keighley two days
before the Cavendish Street enterprise on 8th
December 1910. This became the Empire during
1920. reopend in 1921 as the Market Cinema.
Regent open in 1920. It was the first cinema
to open on a Sunday and the first event was 23rd
March 1947. Closed Saturday 5th December
1964, re opened the following Thursday as Star
Bingo & Social Club. Closed 1969, left empty
for a few years until 1973 when it was once more
open for bingo, but closed again. In 1976 E.M.I
applied to re open for bingo, but the
application as refused due to objections from
Oxford & Cavendish. It then became a home
decorating centre, then in 1983 opened as
Champers nightclub. Closed 1996. Purchased by
Honeycomb Leisure who opened it as 101
Russell Street, Palace Pictures, Premier
Pictures Palace, Russell Street Cinema.
Opened on the 27th December 1909, closed May
Situated over a drapers shop, as meant to
open July 1911 but there were delays so opened
7th August. Shopkeepers Fred & Clara Simpson
formed the Imperial Picture Palace Company. They
lived on Malsis Road & made films in their
home to show at the cinema. The Hall closed
The Hall reopened August 1914, the manager was
Mr L Phillips.
1929 fitted with an Harrisons sound system,
later replaced by Western Electric.
By 1935 it was under the same management as The
Picture House on North Street. Both of these
were taken over by the Essoldo group Nov 1954.
Closed 13 June 1959.
Tom Leigton bought it and opened it as a bingo
hall in 1961. Badly damaged by fire 20th
November 1973 but continued for a few more years
& as still operating as a bingo hall in
Palace, Cavendish Street
This eventually became known as the Palace
& much later the Cavendish Cinema.
Walter Pallister had also opened the
Picture Palace in Russell Street, he was also
responsible for the Picture Palace in Cavendish
Street opened 10th December 1910. There was
a fire in 1911. Closed in 1952, reopened
||Keighley Picture House
Keighley Picture House re opened July 1996
showing the film "Mission Impossible"