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Richmond Theatre

Victoria Palace Theatre. Listed Building. Architect: Frank Matcham. Built in 1911 for the variety magnate Sir Alfred Butt (1878-1962). The British Listed Buildings site gives the location as both Victoria Street and Allington Street, Westminster, London SW1E 5 SW1H 0NP. Bradley and Pevsner suggest that the theatre may have reused “walls from the Royal Standard music hall (1886) The front is all ‘Penteliko’ and ‘Keramo,’ white faience products of Gibbs and Canning ” (723-24; quoting without acknowledgment from British Listed Buildings). [Click on these images and those below to enlarge them.]

Left: A perspective view of the theatre. Right: The golden ballet dancer that surmounts the cupola. The British Listed Buildings site, which provides an unusually detailed description of this Grade II structure, explains,

The period c1880-1914 saw a massive boom in theatre construction, and in particular new 'variety theatres' for popular entertainment. These continued the music hall repertoire but were funded by entrepreneurs rather than licensed victuallers. The impetus for this new generation of theatres came from tighter safety regulations, coupled with a moral drive to separate popular entertainment from the consumption of alcohol, and led to the demolition of many older music halls built from the 1840s onwards, which were essentially drinking halls. The new music halls (the term endured well into the C20) were indistinguishable from drama theatres in their design, providing family entertainment in comfortable, fully-seated accommodation, opulently decorated, with no drinking in the auditorium. Construction declined in the 1920s however in the face of competition from the talking movies. The Victoria Palace Theatre belongs to the very end of the boom period, and was London's last great variety house.

British Listed Buildings provides multiple reasons for assigning a Grade II listing to the Victoria Palace, the first of which is that it is “a fine and exceptionally well-preserved theatre designed by Frank Matcham, the master of late Victorian/Edwardian theatre design.” Other grounds for such a listing include the Edwardian Baroque's faience fašade, sculpture, and cupola, “lavish array of interiors” with original fittings and craftsmanship plus its “historic interest as one of the capital's most renowned variety theatres, now a major musical venue. . . It continues the tradition of entertainment on this site since the 1830s, possibly the longest such in London.”

Some of the sculpture and the base of the cuploa mentioned by the listing. Neither British Listed Buildings nor Bradley and Pevsner identify the sculptor or sculptors.

Garlanded swags, a woman's face, and oval multi-paned window between a pair of ceramic columns.

Bibliography

Bradley, Simon, and Nikolaus Pevsner. London 6: Westminster. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

Victoria Palace Theatre, Westminster,” British Listed Buildings. Web. 20 September 2011. [English Heritage Building ID: 207421]


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Last modified 29 September 2012