Argyle Theatre

Argyle Street,
Birkenhead, CH41 6AG

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Argyle Theatre

Located at the corner of Argyle Street & Oliver Street in Birkenhead, Mersyside and adjoining a public house. The New Argyle Music Hall was opened on 28th December 1868 with a variety bill headed by the Cedas Troupe of Minstrals. The theatre had seating provided in orchestra stalls, dress circle and balcony levels, with two sets of slips containing rows of benches extending to the 20ft wide proscenium. The stage was 20ft deep. In 1897 it was re-named Prince of Wales Theatre and went over to presenting plays. In 1888 it began a two-shows -a-night policy of variety, and in 1890 it was re-named Argyle Theatre of Varieties.

A landmark in its history was attained on 9th November 1896 when it became the first theatre outside London to present films as part of the variety programme. This was a presentation of Messrs. Chard & Company’s Vitagraph Living Pictures & Animated Photographs which were billed as the'Photo-Electric Sensation of the Age'. The film part of the programme was so successful it was retained into 1897, with weekly changes of programme. In the following years and right up the the demise of the theatre, Newsreels formed part of the variety programme.

In the summer of 1909 the Argyle Theatre of Varieties was closed for six weeks for refurbishment to the plans of architect T. Taliesin Rees, which included a new entrance to the orchestra stalls and a box on each side of the proscenium at dress circle level. The theatre was refurbished again in 1913. Although by variety theatre standards it was a small theatre, it had a big reputation and many famous stars appeared at the Argyle Theatre over the years including:Charlie Chaplin, G.H. Elliot, W.C. Fields, George Formby, The Crazy Gang, Pat Kirkwood, Harry Lauder, Stan Laurel, Donald Peers, Vesta Tilly, Wee Georgie Wood and many others.

Disaster came via German bombs on 21st September 1940 when the theatre recieve a direct hit. The roof collapsed and the building was in ruins. Only the outer walls and some office space survived. These were used to store theatrical costumes for many years, and there were also proposal to rebuild the theatre in 1956, but the cost was prohibitive. The ruins were demolished in 1971 and the site became a customers car park for Beatties Department Store. Today it is a car park for the House of Fraser Department Store.

Contributed by Ken Roe
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