Jump to content

The Empire Theatre


Recommended Posts

Sheffield History

THE EMPIRE THEATRE

LOCATION

Charles Street & Pinstone Street

INFORMATION

Opened - 1895

Closed - May 1959

Demolished - 1960

The following is taken from "Northern Music Hall" by Frank Graham & G.J.Mellor.

Horace Edward Moss (later, Sir Edward Moss - knighted in 1906) founded the largest and most successful chain of variety theatres in the world. At its peak it controlled 33 music halls. He died aged 60 in 1912. In 1877 aged 25 his first hall was a tiny place called the Gaiety in Chambers Street, Edinburgh. In 1895 Moss, Thornton and Co turned to Sheffield where another Empire began to be built in Charles Street (previously the site of Walter Coopers Alhambra Music Hall).

Larger than the Birmingham Empire, Sheffield Empire would hold 3000 people, built at a cost of �65,000. A prospectus issued in 1895 described it as 'The finest in the Country' built in the popular Moorish style. It opened on 4th November 1895 with a big one-nightly bill. As a result of the Empire's opening, several small halls in the West Bar district went out of business.

The Grand taken over by Frank McNaughten opening with the virtually unknown 'two houses a night' system as a counter attraction to the expensive bills staged at the Moss' house.

A skiffle competition was held at the Empire theatre in which our group the VESPAS competed .It was hosted by Jim Dale (folk singer).

The last panto (1958) at the Empire was Babes in the Wood and starred Edna Savage and Laurie London - both big names at that time.

The Empire was demolished in 1959.

Laurel & Hardy played the Empire theatre around 1950 (Exact date when I've found it)

STAFF OF THE EMPIRE THEATRE

Founder/Chairman/Managing Director - Sir Edward Moss

Owner/Managers - Frank McNaughten, Frank Allen, Johnny Spitzer

Carpenter - Frank Cooper

ARTISTS WHO PERFORMED AT THE EMPIRE THEATRE

Laurel & Hardy

Bill Haley

Lonnie Donegan

Tommy Steele

Jewel & Warris

Kathy Kirby

David Whitfield

Max Wall

Tony Bennett

The Dayton Family

W.Fullbrook & Co

Charles Norton

Queen & Le Brun and Co

Edith Fink

Cordua and Maud

Bert Weston

The Findens

George Lashwood

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Theatre Manager during the 50s & 60s was Johnny Spitzer. A gentleman of rather large girth who had a reputation as a bit of a ladies man.

I went to the last performence,before closure, to see Albert Modley. He did his famous 'tram drivers' routine on his drum kit. Lovely evening and a great Yorkshire artiste. The evening was sponsored (admision by free ticket) by Smedleys Peas.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sheffield History

Good stuff - thanks for posting it !

There's a bit about Mr Spitzer in the Grand Hotel section - I'll copy it across to here..

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

I saw the last pantomime at The Empire - yes it was Babes in The Wood. Taking part in the show was 'Kirby's Flying Ballet' (the performers 'flying' around on almost invisible ropes/wires). They were dressed as butterflies and 'flew' from the stage to the front row of 'The Gods' (Upper Circle). It was an awsome sight for a schoolboy. I remember looking up and seeing wires disappearing through holes in the lovely ornate ceiling. There was also a pipe band on the show - the pipers made their entrance from the rear of the stalls. Pure Magic - where did it all go? Oh, I forgot to state that Shirley Bassey also appeared at The Empire, as did Wee Willie Harris, Lonnie Donegan, Jill Day, The Most Brothers and Ronnie Hilton.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

found this on a site called Vaudeville Postcards

so you can add Harry Secombe to the list of who appeared at the Empire

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest sweetdexter

Excellent - many thanks !

I used to take trumpet lessons from the trumpeter in the Empire pit orchestra.

I cannot remember his name but I used to take the bus to Gleadless where he lived ,for my lessons

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...
Guest pete_s

Heres another picture from the early 1900s.

Has anyone noticed that it was called "The Empire Palace"?

The manager during the 40s and 50s, Johnny Spitzer lived at The Grand Hotel where my father worked. They were great pals and for my 4th or 5th birthday my parents and I were treated to a free show. We had a box!!! and top of the bill was the illusionist Dante. After the show I was taken to the manager's office and presented with a birthday cake and a signed photo of Dante.

What a night for a little 'un!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw the last pantomime at The Empire - yes it was Babes in The Wood. Taking part in the show was 'Kirby's Flying Ballet' (the performers 'flying' around on almost invisible ropes/wires). They were dressed as butterflies and 'flew' from the stage to the front row of 'The Gods' (Upper Circle). It was an awsome sight for a schoolboy. I remember looking up and seeing wires disappearing through holes in the lovely ornate ceiling. There was also a pipe band on the show - the pipers made their entrance from the rear of the stalls. Pure Magic - where did it all go? Oh, I forgot to state that Shirley Bassey also appeared at The Empire, as did Wee Willie Harris, Lonnie Donegan, Jill Day, The Most Brothers and Ronnie Hilton.

I went to see Lonnie Donegan at the Empire. It was my birthday and I went to purchase the tickets only to ask for the wrong date mum was not pleased but a quick telephone call to the empire sorted it out. and the right dated tickets supplied I wonder if the same would happen today at the Arena.

Saw him a year later at Yarmouth what a great show.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

I would be very interested to know if anyone has any detailed biographical info on John Spitzer, the old Empire manager. He was a great character, but I don't think he ever courted personal publicity, and when he died at the Grand Hotel (I have forgotten the year, but poss late 60s) I don't recall that his obits were very informative. I have a feeling that he came to Sheffield around 1952, and at the time was the youngest manager the theatre had ever had. He stayed until the theatre closed, then was Moss Empires rep in the region. There was not show biz personality who came to the area that John didn't know.

Incidentally, among the acts I saw at the Empire in the 1950s and really enjoyed were Chic Murray, the Scottish comedian, Jimmy Young, Jimmy Sacca & the Hilltoppers, and G.H. Elliot.

I also remember Leslie Welch, the memory man coming in about 1956. He failed to anwer a question I put to him on football, but he was so smooth tongued he whipped onto the next item and made it look as if I had got my question wrong!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

I would be very interested to know if anyone has any detailed biographical info on John Spitzer, the old Empire manager. He was a great character, but I don't think he ever courted personal publicity, and when he died at the Grand Hotel (I have forgotten the year, but poss late 60s) I don't recall that his obits were very informative. I have a feeling that he came to Sheffield around 1952, and at the time was the youngest manager the theatre had ever had. He stayed until the theatre closed, then was Moss Empires rep in the region. There was not show biz personality who came to the area that John didn't know.

Incidentally, among the acts I saw at the Empire in the 1950s and really enjoyed were Chic Murray, the Scottish comedian, Jimmy Young, Jimmy Sacca & the Hilltoppers, and G.H. Elliot.

I also remember Leslie Welch, the memory man coming in about 1956. He failed to anwer a question I put to him on football, but he was so smooth tongued he whipped onto the next item and made it look as if I had got my question wrong!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

THE EMPIRE THEATRE

LOCATION

Charles Street & Pinstone Street

INFORMATION

Opened - 1895

Closed - May 1959

Demolished - 1960

The following is taken from "Northern Music Hall" by Frank Graham & G.J.Mellor.

Horace Edward Moss (later, Sir Edward Moss - knighted in 1906) founded the largest and most successful chain of variety theatres in the world. At its peak it controlled 33 music halls. He died aged 60 in 1912. In 1877 aged 25 his first hall was a tiny place called the Gaiety in Chambers Street, Edinburgh. In 1895 Moss, Thornton and Co turned to Sheffield where another Empire began to be built in Charles Street (previously the site of Walter Coopers Alhambra Music Hall).

Larger than the Birmingham Empire, Sheffield Empire would hold 3000 people, built at a cost of �65,000. A prospectus issued in 1895 described it as 'The finest in the Country' built in the popular Moorish style. It opened on 4th November 1895 with a big one-nightly bill. As a result of the Empire's opening, several small halls in the West Bar district went out of business.

The Grand taken over by Frank McNaughten opening with the virtually unknown 'two houses a night' system as a counter attraction to the expensive bills staged at the Moss' house.

A skiffle competition was held at the Empire theatre in which our group the VESPAS competed .It was hosted by Jim Dale (folk singer).

The last panto (1958) at the Empire was Babes in the Wood and starred Edna Savage and Laurie London - both big names at that time.

The Empire was demolished in 1959.

Laurel & Hardy played the Empire theatre around 1950 (Exact date when I've found it)

STAFF OF THE EMPIRE THEATRE

Founder/Chairman/Managing Director - Sir Edward Moss

Owner/Managers - Frank McNaughten, Frank Allen, Johnny Spitzer

Carpenter - Frank Cooper

ARTISTS WHO PERFORMED AT THE EMPIRE THEATRE

Laurel & Hardy

Bill Haley

Lonnie Donegan

Tommy Steele

Jewel & Warris

Kathy Kirby

David Whitfield

Max Wall

Tony Bennett

The Dayton Family

W.Fullbrook & Co

Charles Norton

Queen & Le Brun and Co

Edith Fink

Cordua and Maud

Bert Weston

The Findens

George Lashwood

Just for the record re managers at the Empire, Frederick Neate was manager from 1931 to 1943, L.E. Pierrepont was manager from Jan 1944 until he resigned in late 1952; Fred Neate returned in December 1952, but, sadly, he died suddenly in late January 1954 at the age of 51. I would think that Johnny Spitzer came after Neate's second spell (but this needs checking) , and, of course, he was manager right up to the time the theatre closed.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

found this on a site called Vaudeville Postcards

so you can add Harry Secombe to the list of who appeared at the Empire

Dobberd, can you say what year this bill is for?

Link to post
Share on other sites

According to their website 1954

OK, 1954 it is then.

A time when black and white minstrels were still P.C. and acceptable.

The "Sensational Skylons" have presumably named themselves after that unusual tower structure at the Festival of Britain just 3 years earlier. Don't know what sort of act they were but with a name like that circus acrobats comes to mind. (Think it says Trapeeze Thrills in the small print underneath)

Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, 1954 it is then.

A time when black and white minstrels were still P.C. and acceptable.

The "Sensational Skylons" have presumably named themselves after that unusual tower structure at the Festival of Britain just 3 years earlier. Don't know what sort of act they were but with a name like that circus acrobats comes to mind. (Think it says Trapeeze Thrills in the small print underneath)

They were, as you thought, a trapeze act. They were part of the support for The Charlie Drake Show at the Gaumont around 1962. They trapeezed (?) out over the audience and broke the world record for 'arm twists' at every performance. (it was always the same number though)

Link to post
Share on other sites

THE EMPIRE THEATRE

LOCATION

Charles Street & Pinstone Street

INFORMATION

Opened - 1895

Closed - May 1959

Demolished - 1960

The following is taken from "Northern Music Hall" by Frank Graham & G.J.Mellor.

Horace Edward Moss (later, Sir Edward Moss - knighted in 1906) founded the largest and most successful chain of variety theatres in the world. At its peak it controlled 33 music halls. He died aged 60 in 1912. In 1877 aged 25 his first hall was a tiny place called the Gaiety in Chambers Street, Edinburgh. In 1895 Moss, Thornton and Co turned to Sheffield where another Empire began to be built in Charles Street (previously the site of Walter Coopers Alhambra Music Hall).

Larger than the Birmingham Empire, Sheffield Empire would hold 3000 people, built at a cost of �65,000. A prospectus issued in 1895 described it as 'The finest in the Country' built in the popular Moorish style. It opened on 4th November 1895 with a big one-nightly bill. As a result of the Empire's opening, several small halls in the West Bar district went out of business.

The Grand taken over by Frank McNaughten opening with the virtually unknown 'two houses a night' system as a counter attraction to the expensive bills staged at the Moss' house.

A skiffle competition was held at the Empire theatre in which our group the VESPAS competed .It was hosted by Jim Dale (folk singer).

The last panto (1958) at the Empire was Babes in the Wood and starred Edna Savage and Laurie London - both big names at that time.

The Empire was demolished in 1959.

Laurel & Hardy played the Empire theatre around 1950 (Exact date when I've found it)

STAFF OF THE EMPIRE THEATRE

Founder/Chairman/Managing Director - Sir Edward Moss

Owner/Managers - Frank McNaughten, Frank Allen, Johnny Spitzer

Carpenter - Frank Cooper

ARTISTS WHO PERFORMED AT THE EMPIRE THEATRE

Laurel & Hardy

Bill Haley

Lonnie Donegan

Tommy Steele

Jewel & Warris

Kathy Kirby

David Whitfield

Max Wall

Tony Bennett

The Dayton Family

W.Fullbrook & Co

Charles Norton

Queen & Le Brun and Co

Edith Fink

Cordua and Maud

Bert Weston

The Findens

George Lashwood

Laurel and Hardy appeared at the Empire twice,week commencing June 30th 1952,and week commencing March 15th 1954, I remember it very well,saw them on both occasions and especially the long time waiting in the queue to get in!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

Just for the record re managers at the Empire, Frederick Neate was manager from 1931 to 1943, L.E. Pierrepont was manager from Jan 1944 until he resigned in late 1952; Fred Neate returned in December 1952, but, sadly, he died suddenly in late January 1954 at the age of 51. I would think that Johnny Spitzer came after Neate's second spell (but this needs checking) , and, of course, he was manager right up to the time the theatre closed.

Albert Modley, the comedian, was one of those Empire regulars who had a great affection for the place, and I am fairly sure that he made his farewell appearance there around the time it closed --there is a famous picture of him sitting in the stalls looking rather pensive and sad!

Modley appeared in pantos at the Empire in 1941-2, 1946-7, 1951-2 and 1953-4. I also have a note of him being there in June 1957.

Incidentally, I have always been under the impression that Modley was from Barnsley, and, in a piece in the old Sheffield Morning Telegraph in 1976, he refers to himself as a Yorkshire lad. Yet Wikipedia claims he was born in Liverpool on March 1st 1901. Can anyone throw any light on this?

Link to post
Share on other sites
dunsbyowl1867

Albert Modley, the comedian, was one of those Empire regulars who had a great affection for the place, and I am fairly sure that he made his farewell appearance there around the time it closed --there is a famous picture of him sitting in the stalls looking rather pensive and sad!

Modley appeared in pantos at the Empire in 1941-2, 1946-7, 1951-2 and 1953-4. I also have a note of him being there in June 1957.

Incidentally, I have always been under the impression that Modley was from Barnsley, and, in a piece in the old Sheffield Morning Telegraph in 1976, he refers to himself as a Yorkshire lad. Yet Wikipedia claims he was born in Liverpool on March 1st 1901. Can anyone throw any light on this?

As mentioned

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest tsavo

You're right OCL Albert Modley was the last artist to top the bill at the Empire. I was in the audience for the final show, which was sponsored by Smedleys Peas...and the seats were free! Modley did the tram driver routine for which he was famous. Don't know where he was born, but he'd studied tram drivers and took them off to perfection.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

You're right OCL Albert Modley was the last artist to top the bill at the Empire. I was in the audience for the final show, which was sponsored by Smedleys Peas...and the seats were free! Modley did the tram driver routine for which he was famous. Don't know where he was born, but he'd studied tram drivers and took them off to perfection.

I have now had confirmation from the Albert Modley website (run by his family) that he was definitely born in Liverpool, but the family moved to Ilkley when he was young --how young I am not sure. As I have said, Albert regarded himself as a Yorkshireman, so he might have been little more than a babe when he went to Ilkley. The Barnsley link mystifies me, and I am sure there must be a good explanation.

When I spoke to him by telephone in Jan 1977, he said that technically he was retired, and added: "but I still keep puttin' me tram in t'shed...I still do occasional nights these days."

What a pity he was never persuaded to write an autobiography.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

I have now had confirmation from the Albert Modley website (run by his family) that he was definitely born in Liverpool, but the family moved to Ilkley when he was young --how young I am not sure. As I have said, Albert regarded himself as a Yorkshireman, so he might have been little more than a babe when he went to Ilkley. The Barnsley link mystifies me, and I am sure there must be a good explanation.

When I spoke to him by telephone in Jan 1977, he said that technically he was retired, and added: "but I still keep puttin' me tram in t'shed...I still do occasional nights these days."

What a pity he was never persuaded to write an autobiography.

By the way, I wonder of anyone has access to any of the old year books/annual registers that were published by the local papers pre war --and indeed until the late 50s? The reason I ask is that these year books used to include a list of all the shows at the Empire and Lyceum (and perhaps the Playhouse) in the previous year. It would be interesting to have some of those lists tranferred to the Empire and Lyceum threads.

I am hoping that sometime in the not too distant future I might be able to find out when in 1938 Jack Hylton appeared at the Empire --it may have been in April or May.

Can anybody help?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

By the way, I wonder of anyone has access to any of the old year books/annual registers that were published by the local papers pre war --and indeed until the late 50s? The reason I ask is that these year books used to include a list of all the shows at the Empire and Lyceum (and perhaps the Playhouse) in the previous year. It would be interesting to have some of those lists tranferred to the Empire and Lyceum threads.

I am hoping that sometime in the not too distant future I might be able to find out when in 1938 Jack Hylton appeared at the Empire --it may have been in April or May.

Can anybody help?

And another thing...anybody see the legendary Scots comedian Chic Murray at the Empire?

"I went to this hotel, the sign outside said 'dogs must be carried'. I thought where the hell am I going to find a dog at this time o' night?"

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

Just for the record re managers at the Empire, Frederick Neate was manager from 1931 to 1943, L.E. Pierrepont was manager from Jan 1944 until he resigned in late 1952; Fred Neate returned in December 1952, but, sadly, he died suddenly in late January 1954 at the age of 51. I would think that Johnny Spitzer came after Neate's second spell (but this needs checking) , and, of course, he was manager right up to the time the theatre closed.

I have now learned that Johnny Spitzer arrived at the Empire in April 1944 when he was 17 years old, and he became the assistant manager of the theatre soon afterwards, then taking over after the death of Fred Neate.

Does anyone know when John Spitzer died? I think it was probably in the 1970s.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 months later...
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

You're right OCL Albert Modley was the last artist to top the bill at the Empire. I was in the audience for the final show, which was sponsored by Smedleys Peas...and the seats were free! Modley did the tram driver routine for which he was famous. Don't know where he was born, but he'd studied tram drivers and took them off to perfection.

tsavo, Have you any idea exactly what the date was when the Empire closed? I know it was either May or June of 1959, but is there any chance of being more precise --I am wondering if it was before or after the newspapers all went on strike. You say you were in the audience for the final show.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...