The Three Victorias

Possible position of original Victoria Theatre in Watt Street circa 1850s.

Trying to understand the early history of the Victoria can be very confusing and an interesting problem to untangle. The late Dr Lionel Fredman, writing in 1988, said:

“There have been three theatres named the Victoria. The first, in the 1850’s, was converted from a wooden building backing onto a hotel in Watt Street, the main street, with an entrance in Hunter Street.”

A location fitting this description was known as the Theatre Royal, (not the Victoria), and may have been located at the side of the Royal Standard Hotel in Watt Street. See overlay above. There is a space at the side, that opens up on a lane way technically opening into Hunter Street. At the time Hunter Street stopped at Watt Street. An image of the Royal Standard Hotel, with the laneway, was recently identified by researcher Matt Ward, in a collection of glass negatives by photographer George Washington Wilson and housed in the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom. Click the image below for a clearer view.

G.P.O., Hunter Street, Newcastle, N.S.W. by George Washington Wilson (Courtesy of University Of Aberdeen, U.K. located by Matt Ward)

According to the Newcastle Morning Herald (9 September 1897 p.15) tells the story of Newcastle’s first theatrical experience being held in the old Stockade at the rear of Custom House in 1854 with a “Mr Muriel” in a performance of Bombastes Furioso A Burlesque Tragic Opera (1810). Mr. Muriel managed to convince Mr J. Creft, licensee of the Commercial Hotel to erect a theatre extending from the then “present day” A. J. S. Bank corner “as far as Lashmore’s in Hunter Street.” William Lashmore was a confectioner who had “freshment rooms” located opposite the Court House (now the site of the old Post Office). Mr. Tom Jones remembered it in 1931:

“Newcastle was well catered for in the matter of theatres. There was one in Hunter-street, almost opposite the Court house. I remember well the occasion when it was burned down.  One can smile now to remember the tiny fire brigade trying to put out the flames with one hose and hardly any pressure of water. The Royal Theatre was near the foot of Market-street. and it was there that I saw the opera “Faust.” Newcastle had some excellent theatrical fare in the old days. I saw  “East Lynne” played in a theatre in Watt-street, near Hunter-street-there is a vacant piece of land there now and I have never seen the production equalled since.” (Ref: 1931 ‘EARLY NEWCASTLE’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 2 May, p. 14. , viewed 17 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139620928)

The 1897 Herald article goes on to state that this theatre (located opposite the Court House) was “scarcely ever without a lessee,” and destroyed by fire in 1859. It is also interesting to note that Lashmore’s confectionary (which was also opposite the Court House) also suffered a fire on 1 December 1878.

It was after this 1859 fire that the Theatre Royal was established in Watt Street in the “premises vacated by Messrs. Broughton and Downie, grocers”. Whether this was the site identified above is difficult to ascertain as we have not been able to establish with certainty what premises the grocers occupied. The Theatre Royal (also known as “Croft’s Theatre Royal” begins appearing in articles in 1859 and becomes also known as the Prince Alfred Hall, from around 1869. Performances are also reported from the Victoria Theatre from 1870, as well as the Prince Alfred Hall. The Prince Alfred Hall later changes its name back to the Theatre Royal from 1870 onwards. Performances continue unabated, so stories of the Victoria, or the Theatre Royal in Newcastle burning down cannot be corroborated.

On 8 January, 1876 it is reported that “The new Theatre Royal at Newcastle will be opened on Monday evening next, under the lesseeship of Mr. John Bennett,” this is the same John Bennett that builds the first Victoria Theatre in Perkin Street later in the year. It is clear from the report published in the Evening News, 25 March 1876, that the new Theatre Royal was in Watt Street, and Bennett was building a new Victoria Theatre on the site of the old Capper’s store in Perkin Street. Therefore, we could conclude that the first  Victoria” was the Theatre Royal in Watt-Street.


The Second Victoria

The Newcastle Chronicle reported on 1 April, 1876, 1 April that according to the general superintendent, Mr. John Creer, the Victoria’s dimensions stood at 100 feet in length, with the pit 42 feet, “and has sufficient elevation of floor to enable every person in it to command a good-view of the stage.”

Fredman: “The second, in Perkins Street, opened in April, 1876 as the first theatre in Newcastle built for that purpose and soon became the main venue for touring productions. They usually came by the Sydney steamer, opened on Saturday and ran for a week whether melodrama, vaudeville or opera. In July, the ubiquitous Clarence Hannell, son of James, the first Mayor, added yet another personal service to the city when he led a group for amateurs in a production of Hamlet to raise money for the hospital.”

Original footprint of 1876 Victoria Theatre

 

Plans Etc Showing Entrances To And Escapes From The Victoria Theatre Newcastle, James Henderson Architect (Courtesy of State Records NSW)

 

Victoria Theatre Newcastle (Courtesy of State Records NSW)

Fredman continues: “It was this building with its hotel which was bought by a Syndicate incorporated in April, 1887 as the Victoria Theatre Company and rebuilt in 1890-91.”

“The Syndicate first met at the Great Northern hotel in March, 1886 and agreed to pay a first instalment on the theatre property. It was in turn sold to the Company for 4,000 pounds. The first share list in April, 1888 comprises 14 persons holding 10,000 shares of one pound each, some with 1,000 and some with 500. Within a few years they were increased to 18,500 and the holders eventually grew by sales and the division of deceased estates to fifty. The initial group included the three Capper brothers, hardware merchants of Maitland; Neville Cohen, Maitland partner of David Cohen and Co.; Richard Young, a Maitland solicitor and Mayor, 1890-93; the two Wood brothers, Newcastle brewers, who described themselves in the list as “capitalist”; C.B. Ranclaud, a Newcastle shipping agent; and W.B. Lockhead, Newcastle merchant and managing director.” (Ref: Fredman:38)

By March 1876, the Victoria Theatre is under construction on the site of the old Cappers store as described:

“MANY of our readers who in days gone by have been wont to purchase certain household utensils at Capper’s old store in Perkin-street, Newcastle, but who have not lately visited that locality, would now almost fail to recognise the spot. Where once the time honoured receptacle for pots and pans reared its substantial but ungainly proportions, a lofty and tasteful edifice (erected at the cost of Mr. John Bennett, of Sydney), in honor of the drama, adorns the neighbourhood. We had heard much of the extent of this structure and the rapidity with which it was being erected, and taking the opportunity of being near Perkin street, we made ourselves known to the presiding genius of the place, and were kindly permitted to examine the works in progress. The first thing that struck us with surprise was the extent of the area enclosed. Those of our readers who are familiar with the interior of the old Theatre Royal, in Watt street, may form an idea of the size of the stage of the new Theatre, when they are told that the whole of the Theatre Royal could easily be placed on the stage of the new Theatre, and that the height of the latter is about double that of the old stage. As we entered, the place was swarming with lithe and active forms gliding along the walls from roof to ceiling. How they managed to hang on and drive nails will ever be a mystery to us. Springing from one upright to another, clinging to joists and cross pieces, hammer in hand, the busy work of construction went on incessantly. Ladders of every size and shale appeared in all directions, and were in immense requisition for the little army of carpenters and assistants travelling up and down them. One half of the advanced battalion of nail drivers seemed to have taken possession of the stage, which presented the appearance of a miniature town in a state of siege, the beseiging party consisting of busy carpenters, hammer and axe in hand, instead of swarthy sappers and miners. Ample space has been reserved over the scenes and wings, as well as above and below the stage itself, for unusual mechanical effects. This latter department will be under the immediate direction of Mr. Renno, whom, with a staff of practised assistants, we saw lying in wait and ready to take possession of his kingdom. In front of the foot lamps, abundant space has been reserved for a full orchestra, the members of which will be selected from the best hands in the colony. The ground floor of the interior will be divided into pit and stalls; the upper floor will be devoted entirely to the dress circle; and to gather from what we were enabled to witness of the decorations, the building will surpass any theatre in the colony in richness and beauty of embellishment. As fast as any division of the before mentioned army of carpenters left a clear space for operation, it was pounced upon by Mr. Massey and his staff. Not a moment seemed to be lost in any direction. The whole corps of artificers appeared to understand their business and to work with a will, and with the knowledge that the vigilant eye of Mr. Joseph Creer, of Newcastle, was upon them. To this gentleman Mr. Bennett has wisely entrusted the supervision of the whole of the work, and the activity and regularity with which the work has proceeded throughout has not only justified his choice of a superintendent, but has reflected great credit both upon the supervisor and his numerous and effective staff of employees. The theatre will be completed and ready for opening on Easter Monday, the 17th April next, and will then have only occupied nine weeks in its construction. It will be 104 feet in length and 42 feet in breadth. The stage dimensions are 61 feet by 35, and 42 feet from floor to roof. The edifice will hold from 1200 to 1300 persons without the slightest inconvenience. Every attention has been paid to thorough ventilation; and in case of an alarm of fire, it may be satisfactory to state that an ample supply of water can be discharged from tanks upon any portion of the building, while a powerful fire engine is kept upon the premises, and escape doors have been provided in case of an emergency arising to necessitate a sudden egress from the building. A very handsome front for the theatre is in preparation, but will not be attached till the whole of the interior is completed. Some idea of the magnitude of the work, and of the money expended in Newcastle during the construction of the theatre, may be formed from the fact that between two and three dozen carpenters will have been employed constantly during its construction, besides blacksmiths and other workmen, the building being composed principally of wood and corrugated iron. Every attention has been paid to the security and solidity of the building, while for genuine comfort and ease the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle, will be able to hold its own against any theatre in the colony We may mention as an earnest of Mr. Bennett’s intention to provide an attractive class of entertainment, that the celebrated American actress, ” Nell, the Californian Diamond” (whose brilliant performances have resulted for weeks past in crowded houses at the Victoria Theatre, Sydney), is engaged to open the theatre on Easter Monday next. When completed, this theatre may take the proud position of having been erected proportionably quicker than any building in Newcastle. ”
Ref: 1876 ‘Victoria Theatre; Newcastle.’, Miners’ Advocate and Northumberland Recorder (Newcastle, NSW : 1873 – 1876), 25 March, p. 5. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141049577  Another similar report is here: 1876 ‘Victoria Theatre-Newcastle.’, Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 30 March, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107190344

Poster for Nell (Photo Credit: Dr Helen English, Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

1876, 18 April. Ad for Nell at the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle. Ref: 1876 ‘Advertising’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 18 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136863012

1876, 19 April. Victoria Theatre. (Newcastle Morning Herald)

OPENING NIGHT.

A NEW era in the theatrical history of Newcastle may be said to have commenced on Monday evening last, when the Victoria Theatre, lately erected by Mr. J Bennett, was opened by a powerful company, the leading spirit of which is [the] Queen of Protean drama, the fascinating and versatile actress, “Nell, the Californian Diamond.” Long before the doors were opened for the reception [of the] general public, crowds had congregated [in] Perkin-street. So great, indeed [was the] assembly, that it was impossible for any vehicle to pass for some considerable time.

The whole front of the Theatre may be said to have been a blaze of ga[..] Erected on a substantial scaffolding, and facing Hunter-street, was a large star, arranged most tastefully, and throwing [a] brilliant flood of light some considerable distance down the street. Near the bottom of the dress circle staircase was another star of less magnitude, but [a] very complete arrangement. On the top of the staircase, and facing Hunter-street, was a beautiful transparency announcing the opening of the theatre.

At the hour stated in the advertisement the doors were opened, and a stream of lovers of the drama soon filled the dress circle, pit, and stalls. In less than half an hour, the building was as full as [it] could possibly hold ; hundreds of people, however, were unable to obtain admission and had to seek their homes.

THE DRESS CIRCLE.
The whole of the charges were taken up and all standing room available, even the landing on the staircase was crowded with a fashionable and highly respectable audience. A great number of our leading citizens, together with their wives and daughters, were present , which clearly showed to the enterprising caterer [for] public favour the having provided [an] eligible theatre and a good company, [he] could rely upon their support.

THE STALLS.
Many persons desirous of obtaining seats in the dress circle had to content themselves with very profuse accommodation [in] the stalls ; and though perhaps a little [dis-]appointed at not being successful in […]ing standing room upstairs, they certainly could not complain of the respectability of the audience or the arrangement of the stalls.

THE PIT.
The pit of the new theatre is equal [to] any, if not superior, to that of any theatre in the country. The occupants of the front rows of seats were not content with sitting down to see the play, but stood up, [apparently dissatisfied. Moral suasion apparently having no effect with the no[..] portion of the audience, Mr. B. N. Jones stepped in front of the footlights, and [in] a quiet yet determined tone of voice informed the hilarious disturbers that unless there was a cessation of hostilities the curtain would be dropped until peace was restored. This well-timed announcement was warmly applauded by the audience and had the desired effect, and shortly [the] utmost good order prevailed. The […] was then proceeded, and beyond [..] uncontrollable bursts of applause, which were decidedly numerous, the order [was] excellent. The performers, perhaps, [tool] this disorder which for the short time [..] isted as a kind of left-handed compliment, for it was nothing but hearty appreciation and a desire to lose nothing in the performance that caused the front portion [of] the pit audience to rise up in the first instance.

“NO NAME’
Is almost an entirely new Protean [piece] dramatised especially for the Californian Diamond. The plot (which we reserve for special notice) is highly sensational on the principle of the modern [school,] though not in the slightest degree out[..] It was well mounted, well played, [..] accorded the fullest satisfaction to [..] most sanguine.

THE SCENERY.
The scenery is artistically arranged, [..] suitable for the play ; and in the second act it gives the audience a very good [..] of the place it so well represents. [The] mechanical effects are without a fault, [..] on a scale equal to that of our [..] metropolitan theatres.

On the first rising of the curtain [the] applause was almost deafening, and [the] appearance of “Nell” was the signal [for] a fresh burst of enthusiasm. Of [the] young lady’s versatility there can [be no] question. Her Dutch comicalities [had] the audience in a continual roar [of] laughter, her singing being especially good. She has established herself [as a] general favourite, and will doubtless [..] a long run. Mr. G. Giddens fully [main-]twins his well deserved celebrity, and […] evidently be a great favourite. Amongst [the] company are some of our old friends, [who] have already appeared at the Theatre Royal.

Taking the whole of the theatrical venture into consideration, we think [we] may safely congratulate both the [spirited] ENTREPRENEUR, Mr. John Bennett and [the] Newcastle public on the opening of [the] Victoria Theatre in Newcastle.
Last evening the attendance at [the] theatre was not so large in the dress circle as on Monday night, but below the [hall] was well filled. The performance [..] infinite satisfaction, and Nell received [a] most enthusiastic welcome. Her [dancing] in the character of the German girl [was] applauded to the echo, and her banjo [play-]ing is simply inimitable. She. will [no] doubt, have a very successful run.
Ref: 1876 ‘Victoria Theatre.’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 19 April, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136860495

NEWCASTLE. April 19.
Mr. John Bennett’s latest enterprise, the new Victoria Theatre at Newcastle, was opened on Easter Monday night to undoubtedly the largest audience that has ever assembled here. Apart from the attraction which a commodious and commodious theatre would afford to a public long accustomed to put up with the inconvenience attached to the attending amusements in the building formerly used for that purpose, there was on this occasion the additional draw of Nell, the Californian Diamond, whose prestige on the stage has long preceded her appearance. Consequently at a very early hour in the evening a vast crowd assembled in Perkin street, opposite the theatre, and immediately on the opening of the doors they commenced to tile in, till by 7.30 almost every part of the house was filled to suffocation. By the time the curtain rose standing room was only obtainable, and, as Nell made her appearance in the play of “No Name,” she was greeted with hearty applause. This interesting little actress, with whose versatility the Sydney public is so conversant, curried the house with her throughout, and was ably assisted by the company. With regard to the theatre itself, no expense would seem to have been spared to render the interior attractive and comfortable. Mr. Bennett certainly deserves the strong thanks and support of the public for his liberality mid spirit in this respect. The scenery and properties are such as were never before thought of in Newcastle; and altogether a new and pleasing era would appear to have dawned upon the playgoers of this place. The fact of the audience that assembled at the opening, and the warm applause they manifested, speaks well for a long run of the present company. Fully 200 people were unable to obtain admission on Monday night. No doubt Mr. Bennett will keep the theatre continually supplied with the best available talent. Ref: 1876 ‘NEWCASTLE.’, Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), 22 April, p. 10. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70590743 and 1876 ‘NEWCASTLE’, Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 22 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107184653

Contrary to popular belief, this Victoria Theatre did not burn down. There was a fire scare in 1888, when, according to a Melbourne Punch article, some gunpowder in a patron’s pocket ignited when he placed his still lit Havana cigar in it, and caused pandemonium with the men of Newcastle pushing the women of Newcastle out of the road to make for the exits. They were admonished by the performer Mr Holloway who said “Those who started the report,” he said, ” are cowards, and the men who rushed for the doors regardless of others around them are cowardly and unmanly.” (Ref: 1888 ‘THEATRICAL GOSSIP.’, Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 – 1900), 19 January, p. 8. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article174573373) Performances continued up until February of 1891, when the third Victoria was now being constructed.

 

The Third Victoria

Victoria Theatre under construction with scaffolding, circa 1891 (Bert Lovett Collection, University of Newcastle https://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/6855496004/)

THE VICTORIA THEATRE, Progress of its Erection. – The Newcastle Morning Herald (3rd July 1891)
THE new Victoria Theatre in Perkin street is nearing completion, and this will be good news to all the general public, as there has been no show to speak of in this city for the past six months. For many years Newcastle had to be content with the old Victoria Theatre. Its successor, however, now being built on the old site for the same company, is a fine theatre, and equal to any in Australia, with two exceptions. It will comfortably seat 1700 people, and is, therefore, very little smaller than the largest house in the metropolis, namely, Her Majesty’s. The contractor, Mr. Straub, is rapidly pushing on the building, the front portion, which is devoted to the hotel, having been completed some weeks ago. The workmen are now engaged lining the interior, and in a week or two the decorators will commence operations. The main floor, which has a great slope, will be devoted to stalls, and a small parquette at the back. The dress-circle is very large, and will comfortably seat 500 people. It will be beautifully decorated and finished, the seats being on the American folding system. The great height of the building gives ample room for the upper circle and gallery, which will be features of the theatre. The stage is 48ft wide, 38ft deep, and 55ft high, twice as large as the old one, and a handsome drop scene is being painted by Mr. George Gordon, the famous artist. Unlike the majority of the colonial theatres, the scenery will all be on the drop principle, the stage portion of the theatre being built very lofty for that purpose. The whole of the scenery is being painted in Sydney by Mr. Wilson, under the supervision of Mr. Gordon, and will be ready by the end of this, month. On each side of the stage are three private boxes, and these will probably be permanently let to some of the principal citizens. Mr. J. Henderson, the architect for the building, expects to have it completed by the second week in August, and there is little doubt but that a strong company will then open it. The total cost of the theatre will be £10,000, and no expense is being spared to make it a first-class one. (Ref: 1891 ‘THE VICTORIA THEATRE.’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 3 July, p. 6. , viewed 18 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136060753)

 

Opening of the Victoria Theatre. INTERVIEW WITH MR. JAMES MACMAHON. – The Newcastle Morning Herald (8th September 1891)

The new Victoria Theatre is to be opened on Saturday evening, and public interest is being aroused on the event. A representative of this journal yesterday had a chat with Mr. James MacMahon, the senior partner of the enterprising firm of MacMahon Brothers, of the Opera House, Melbourne, who arrived in this city on Sunday, and obtained from him some interesting particulars of the future of the theatre. Over a cosy fire in the Terminus Hotel he said, in answer to questions: “For the first time in its history Newcastle has a theatre which must place it on a level with the capital cities of Australasia, and our firm having acquired a lease of it, we intend to run it on the best metropolitan lines. Having found Newcastle in the past, even with its very old and inferior theatre, to be an excellent town for the support of good theatrical companies, we are convinced that by bringing the very best productions here, and staging them with such care and elaboration as our enterprise will allow, we cannot fail to succeed. To this end we determined that the opening production should be the very finest obtainable in Australia, and as soon as we had secured the theatre for a term we arranged our plans so that the “Evangeline Company” should arrive in this city on the completion of the building. On Saturday evening next, therefore, the whole of our company, numbering 72 people, will appear before the Newcastle public in the production of “Evangeline,” the most popular operatic extravaganza of the day. The piece will be produced exactly as it was in the Opera House in Melbourne and the Criterion Theatre in Sydney, where it attained a very high standard in the estimation of the people. We have with us all the original scenery by Messrs. Hennings and Edmunds, and the gorgeous costumes which are such a notable feature in Evangeline. The company will arrive by the steamer Fitzroy, specially chartered for the occasion, from Brisbane, tomorrow, and everything will be in readiness for the opening production on Saturday evening. All the Americans in the company who were specially engaged in New York by me during my recent visit to that country will appear for the first time in this city. The composer, Mr. Edward Rice, who was induced by us to visit Australia, will personally watch the performance and conduct the band, chorus and ballet. Mr. Fortescue, the leading burlesque actor of the company, and indeed of the American stage, will appear in his original and marvellous creation of Catherine, while Mr. Joseph Harris, the world-renowned “Lone Fisherman,” who never speaks a word, is of course also in the cast. Four of the ladies-Misses Eileen Karl, Virginia Earl, Agnes Paul, and Edith Cole-were also specially engaged in America, and Miss Fanny Liddiard, your old favourite, will, I am sure, be cordially welcomed in her charming performance of the name part. Mr. George Walton, Mr. Henry Hodson, and Mr. Harry Leston are also with us, so you see it is a very powerful combination. I think that I can safely say that our chorus and ballet of forty people will hold their own for beauty and grace with any similar body in the world. Their costumes will prove a revelation I am certain, for you can form some idea of the piece when I tell you that the first production in this country cost us £3000. I am specially pleased that we have been able to devote such an unquestionably good production to the auspicious occasion as the opening of such an unquestionably fine theatre as you now have in this city. It compares very favourably with the largest houses in Australasia, and I have no doubt that such a temple of the drama must cultivate a taste for the best class of work. We are determined to leave no stone unturned in our endeavour to keep on continually supplying you with the best productions, and I have no fear of the result. In answer to our representative, Mr. M’Mahon added: “When the run of ‘Evangeline,’ which must from necessity be limited to six nights, is over, our opera bouffe season will be devoted to the production for the first time in New South Wales of Mr. Rice’s original opera bouffe ‘The Corsair.’ After being produced here, we will take it on to Sydney and Melbourne; and, if I am any judge, it will prove a great success. I shall have more to say about this opera in a few days, but it shall first be produced here, and laid open to the judgment of the Newcastle public. The idea of selling the seats for the first night by public auction has been suggested to, and considered by, us, with the result that the management will not countenance it, being content to give every one of our patrons an equal chance of being present, on equal terms. One innovation, and I am sure that you will think it a most desirable one, that we intend to make, will be the establishment of the box office during the day in the vestibule of the theatre, where it will be presided over by our own box-keeper. Ladies will be enabled without any inconvenience to call at the theatre during the day to book their seats as they do in Europe and America. The box office for the opening and successive nights will be thrown open to the public on Thursday morning next at 10 o’clock. I understand that the Railway Department have promised in view of the completion of the new theatre to lay on a special train for Maitland visitors, leaving Newcastle at an hour suitable to the completion of the performance. The Tramway Department have promptly offered similar concessions, and suburban trams will start after the fall of the curtain. It is a great satisfaction for me to see that all classes of the community are taking a truly and even personal interest in the initiation of the first grand theatre in Newcastle and all it promises, and I hope it will be the success we anticipate.” (Ref: 1891 ‘Opening of the Victoria Theatre.’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 8 September, p. 8. , viewed 18 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135843188)

The Victoria Theatre, Newcastle. (Maitland Mercury 15 September 1891)
The people of the Northern district have now at their command, thanks to the enterprise of a body of business men in Newcastle and Maitland, a theatre which in size, accommodation, appointments, and finish will bear favourable comparison with similar buildings in any part of the world. For many years there has existed in Perkins-Street, Newcastle, a theatre about which, since it no longer exists, we may in kindness draw the veil of oblivion. It is gone, and no one is sorry.  In its place stands the structure which warrants all the encomiums it has already received. The owners of the old building, conscious that its day ought to end, some months ago projected a new and enlarged edifice. Of a company of eleven, Messrs. W. K. Lochhead, Joseph Wood, E. P. Capper, and C. B. Ranclaud were appointed a board of directors, with Mr. W. K. Lochhead as managing director. The duty of preparing designs was placed in the capable hands of Mr. James Henderson, architect, of Newcastle, and upon his plans about a year ago, the building was begun. The contractor was a Newcastle man, Mr. John Straub, and it was arranged that the work of the new building should go on as long as practicable with-out disturbing the old theatre and hotel in connection with it. Consequently, the new theatre has been built over the old one ; and, up to a certain time in the progress of construction, performances went on in the condemned structure, while business proceeded in the hotel.

In the choice of materials for the new edifice, care was taken to have everything of the best. And, as the visitor will see for himself, the workmanship of every part of the building is faithful, well-finished, and solid. One is struck, in fact, with the absence of anything flimsy and superficial. Having made up their minds to build a theatre, the company determined to make a structure that should be creditable to them and the city. The foundations of the building are stone, the walls of picked brick. Beams, girders, columns are iron, and the roof is covered with galvanised corrugated iron. Wherever it was possible to use hardwood, it was employed, in consistency with the prevailing purpose of the architect to produce a substantial and permanent building.

From the outside, on the Perkin-street frontage, the elevation of the theatre presents a very effective appearance. It is really the elevation of the hotel, behind which the theatre is situate, access being gained under a colonnade by two separate entrances on one side to the dress circle and front stalls, and on the other to the upper circle and back stalls. The colonnade is ornamented, and the elevation, four stories high, though not overladen with ornament, is tastefully adorned, and is a distinctly pleasant feature in the architecture of the street.

Entering the theatre, we find an auditorium 50ft. in height from the floor to the underside of the domed ceiling. This space is divided thus: On the ground floor into stalls; supported on iron columns and beams the dress circle; similarly supported, the upper circle. In the construction of this part of the building, ornament has been freely introduced in the shape of mouldings, cornices, enrichments, iron railing in front of the circles, and a good effect is produced by the provision of curtained private boxes at each end of the dress circle and upper circle tier, and on the ground floor at each side. The orchestra is separated from the front stalls by a stout brass rail, from which depends a crimson curtain. Ventilation is provided for by louvred glass windows let into different parts of the wall, numerous air-bricks, gratings at the edges of the floors against the wall of the circles, and finally two enormous double-roofed louvred ventilators, one over the dome and one over the ceiling. Numerous escape doors have been provided on every floor, and opening from the dress circle is a small balcony, which will give those an opportunity to get a breath of fresh air who care to take a chance between the acts. The staircases generally have easy grades, and where possible steps have been dispensed with in favour of inclined plane passages.

The seating accommodation provides for 1340 persons. It consists in the stalls and dress circle of patent tip-up seated chairs, with nicely sloped backs. The chairs in the dress circle and the reserved stalls are upholstered in old gold plush; the others are pierced wood-seated. The plush chairs are also furnished with conveniences for holding hats and coats. Wooden benches comprise the seating accommodation in the upper circle, which in this theatre will take the place of the pit. It is creditable to the architect that the seats are so arranged that the doings of the stage can be seen from every part of the dress circle and stalls.

On the stage the work has been thoroughly finished. A completely new set of scenery has been provided. There are twelve dressing-rooms, properly fitted for their purpose, and all the modern appliances required for stage business. The interior decoration of the theatre is very elaborate, chaste, and telling. Gaudiness has been eschewed, and the colours chosen are bright and pleasing. The prevailing tint is turquoise blue, which is the colour of the walls of the stalls and dress circle, a pattern of a darker blue being stencilled on the main colour, and the other tints used throughout the building harmonising with it. Following is a detail of the decoration, the general effect of which has been just described. Beginning at the stage, there is a very handsome centre panel representing Apollo, surrounded by nine Muses. The figures are lifesize, and are entirely Grecian, having been taken from the old figures of the Greek gods and goddesses. They appear in original dress against a splendid back ground of gold with sprays of flowers. Below this comes the drop scone. It represents portion of the poetic city of Venice at noon, on a pure Italian summer’s day. The foreground shows the Grand Canal, on which float a large number of gondolas laden with the fruits of the season, which are being taken to market by the Venetian boatmen. Immediately in the background the ancient buildings of the city rise apparently from the water, and among several other historic structural St. Mark’s Cathedral looms out in magnificent splendour. ‘The water is painted in a lucid blue, and a great many figures in Venetian costumes are seen at sufficient intervals to give a life-like and busy appearance to the whole. The scene is painted in circular form, and is surrounded by a representation of old gold satin drapery sustained by golden cables of a darker colour. This drop scene is protected by a large crimson baize curtain, in the top folds of which a long perforated water pipe is fixed, so that in the event of a fire occurring the scene could be soaked within a few seconds, and the stage thus be saved from destruction. The proscenium is decorated with rich stencil ornament worked in Antwerp and turquoise blue, and the pillars are gilded. The front is divided into three panels, with figures representing Greek goddesses in the centre. The filling is panelled in turquoise blue, with a back ground of rich ivory ornament, the whole being surmounted by an amber band and terra cotta border, with rich ornament. The portion of the proscenium adjoining the boxes is panelled with very elaborate ornaments in terracotta, turquoise blue, and red, the effect of the colouring being very light and graceful. The dome of the ceiling is worked in softened azure blue with sun raise worked in gold, showing from the centre. The cornices on the lower portions are worked out in amber, old gold, and terra cotta, and a half-circular ornament is carried round the flat of the ceiling in azure blue, with conventional, leaves and representations of Grecian musical instruments.- The bordering is in dead gold with, silver grey ornaments. The principal panels of the ceiling are carried out in Cupids with wreaths of flowers painted naturally, the panelling being richly decorated in ivory with a light turquoise back ground. The stiles adjoining are ornamented in old gold and deep terracotta. The boxes are decorated in shades of light terra cotta, soft lemon yellow, silver grey, and azure blue, the ironwork being richly gilded. The panels at the top are in light turquoise blue with beautiful representations of Grecian lyres in the centre. The ceilings of the stalls are treated in panels of light old gold with decorations in terra cotta olive green, and torquoise blue ornament, the tiles being in azure blue with dark lines. The walls are in light old gold dado, and are ornamented with dark gold designs. The columns are treated in two shades of terra cotta, with fancy divisions of light torquoise blue near the top, and richly gilded capitals surmounting the whole. The front panels of the dress circle are treated in a similar manner to the stalls, but the internal portions show out in light torquise blue, with ornamental corners of darker shades. The stiles are painted in light lemon yellow, with old gold ornaments and lines, bordered by a vieux-rose tint. The walls are treated , in light torquoise blue, with a rich diaper of a horse chestnut pattern beautifully stencilled. The doors are coloured in a darker shade of blue, the panels being glided in the centre with oil paintings of Shakespearian and Scotch characters. The ceiling of the upper circle is treated in light amber, the walls in light terra cotta, and the cornices in citron, azure, blue, and pink. The whole of the decorations are carried out in a modification of a Greek style, and, owing to their very delicate shades and beautiful contrasts, give the charming effect already described.

The theatre is lighted mainly by a sunlight suspended from the dome of the auditorium, and containing 100 burners. Side lights supply the circles and the stalls. Fire extinguishing appliances are complete, so that at a moment’s notice, five immense taps can be set running. The source of supply is the city service, but there is also a set of four 4-hundred gallon tanks in the roof, which can be drawn upon too if necessary.

The building we have described was opened for business on Saturday night, by the Evangeline Company, under the management of Messrs. Macmahon. The auditorium was well filled in every part, and the ceremony of formal opening consisted of the playing of the National Anthem, a brief speech by one of the Macmahon Brothers, and a briefer speech by Mr. Joseph Wood, one of the directors. The gist of the speeches was congratulation upon the existence of a theatre so commodious, so tasteful and so well appointed, and the orators gave way to the actors after Mr. Wood had introduced to the audience the architect, the decorator, and the contractor. Respecting ” Evangeline” we do not purpose to enter into any detail. It is an extravaganza of the most extravagant character, the dialogue abounding in the most atrocious word torturing, but containing abundant material for mirth, plenty to please the eye in gorgeous scenery, graceful dancing, and pretty groupings and marchings, with music lively and suitable to the theme. What was specially noticeable in the production of the extravaganza was that with a building inwhich the sound of the workman’s hammer and the swish of the paint brush were still heard at six o’clock in the evening, the performance went without a visible hitch. We may appropriately close this notice of the theatre by congratulating the proprietors up their enterprise, which we may safely predict will have the effect of bringing within easy distance of Maitland folk many of the great theatrical artists who have hitherto confined their activity to the metropolis. There is every prospect that the charming home for the drama now provided in Newcastle will be recognized by all who are the drama’s most noted exponents. (Ref:  1891 ‘The Victoria Theatre, Newcastle.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 15 September, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19000995 )

This work has been undertaken by the University’s Cultural Collections (Archives) in the Auchmuty Library to support the work of Dr Gillian Arrighi, Convenor, Creative and Performing Arts, School of Creative Industries, who along with Stephanie Holm have been funded by the ARC, through the LIEF scheme, under the aegis of the AusStage Phase 6 Visualising Venues in Australian Live Performance project (LE170100003), a national project involving 12 universities, administered by Finders University.

We are attempting to track down as many original archival sources relating to Victoria Theatre, Newcastle such as plans, photographs and descriptions, with particular reference to the 1890s period in particular, to assist our UON IT Innovation team in the 3D reconstruction of the Victoria Theatre.

Gaute Rasmussen and Vendela Pento, Innovation Specialists conducting the work of creating the model, at a recent meeting of the Hunter Living Histories provided a background to the project, and the kinds of documentary material they are searching for, in order to create the most accurate model for the 1891 Victoria Theatre.

If you can provide any information, especially photographs, plans and documents to assist, please let us know.

Sincere thanks to student volunteer Ethan Simpson and researcher Matt Ward for their assistance in the preparation of this post.

Gionni Di Gravio
18 July 2018

 

References

Background to the early theatres of Newcastle. 1897 ‘Theatrical and Sporting Reminiscences.’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 9 September, p. 15. , viewed 17 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136277710

1859, 23 April. Theatre Royal, Newcastle advertisement. Ref: 1859, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 23 April, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page131648

1859, 1 October. Croft’s Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Professor Bushell. Ref: 1859, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 1 October, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1490134

1869, 11 May.  Prince Alfred Hall, Watt Street. Verletti Troupe.  Ref: 1869, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 11 May, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9819412

1869, 18 May.  Prince Alfred Hall unavailable for public Meeting. Ref: 1869 ‘THE LATE PUBLIC MEETING.’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 18 May, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111158053

1869, 20 May. Verletti Troupe to perform at Prince Alfred Hall. Ref: 1869, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 20 May, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9819430

1869, 27 May.  Verletti Troupe performance at Prince Alfred Hall poorly attended. Ref: 1869, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 27 May, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9819443

1869, 29 May. The Vauderville Company entertainment at Prince Alfred Hall. Next column a report on the renovations of the present proprietor, Mr. Williams. Ref: 1869 ‘LOCAL ITEMS.’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 29 May, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111159616

1869, 10 July. Christy Minstrels Concert at Prince Alfred Hall. Ref: 1869, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 10 July, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9819522

1869, 18 September. Amateur Dramatic Club at the Prince Alfred Hall. Ref: 1869 ‘Advertising’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 18 September, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111161098

1869, 8 October. Boxing at the Prince Alfred Hall. Ref: 1869 ‘Advertising’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 9 October, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111159935

1869, 25 December. Artillery Brigade to assemble outside the Prince Alfred Hall, to march to St. John’s Church Lake Macquarie Road (Darby Street). Ref: 1869 ‘SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25, 1869.’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 25 December, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111157454

1869, 30 December. G. Anderson’s Troupe at Prince Alfred Hall. Ref: 1869, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 30 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9819842

1870, 4 January. Hospital Benefit Concert at the Prince Alfred Hall. Ref: 1870, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 4 January, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9819851

1870, 4 January. Chalmers Family at Prince Alfred Hall Review. Ref:  1870, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 4 January, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9819853

1870, 22 January. Theatre Royal (Late Prince Alfred Hall) “proprietor having gone to great expense in refitting this establishment with new scenery, new decorations, and new entrances,” will re-open on 26 January 1870. Ref: 1870, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 22 January, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9819893

1870, 22 January. Theatre Royal will reopen under new management, Mr G. (George) Anderson. Ref: 1870 ‘LOCAL AND GENERAL.’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 22 January, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111156341

1870, 25 January. Lecture on Building Societies delivered at Prince Alfred Hall. Ref: 1870 ‘LECTURE ON BUILDING SOCIETIES.’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 25 January, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111158297

1870, 1 February. Advertisement Performances at the Theatre Royal. Ref: 1870, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 1 February, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9819911

1870, 10 September. Newcastle Chronicle (Saturday’s states that Friday last i.e. 2nd September), at the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle, Miss Rosa Cooper acting Romeo had a serious fall. Ref: 1870 ‘Miscellaneous Items.’, Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 10 September, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107132979

1871, 7 January. “MR. CHARLES MATHEWS. — An advertisement in another part of this issue will inform our readers that the celebrated English comedian, Mr. Charles Mathews, has been engaged by the spirited proprietress of the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, to perform in some of his favourite characters on the nights of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday next.” Ref: 1871 ‘LOCAL NEWS.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 7 January, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18751005

1871, 14 January. “VICTORIA THEATRE, Newcastle-Engagement of Mr. JAMES SINCLAIR, who will make his First Appearance next MONDAY EVENING as SHYLOCK in Shakespeare’s great play, the “Merchant of Venice” Ref: 1871 ‘Advertising’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 14 January, p. 4. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13220047

1871, 11 February. Maguires Comedy and Burlesqe Company from Theatre Royal, Newcastle appearing at Royal Olympic Theatre. Ref: 1871, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 11 February, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page134908

1871, 11 April. Actors at Theatre Royal Newcastle give testimony to drowning of fellow actor, Mr Sydney Chambers. Ref: 1871 ‘SAD CATASTROPHE.’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 11 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111143147

1871, 13 April. Theatre Royal, Newcastle. New Management, New Company, New Dramas. Ref: 1871 ‘Advertising’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 13 April, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111140492

1871, 15 April. Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Grand Opening Night. Lessee and manager Mr J.P. West. Ref: 1871 ‘Advertising’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 15 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111142740

1871, 17 April. Aurora Floyd at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Ref: 1871, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 18 April, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9708804

1871, 20 April. Lawless Witness at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Ref: 1871, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 20 April, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page9708808

1871, 25 April. All That Glitters Is Not Gold at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Ref: 1871 ‘Advertising’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 25 April, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111138740

1871, 20 May. Cosmopolitan Comedians appear at The Victoria Theatre, Newcastle on June 3rd, 1871. Ref: 1871 ‘Advertising’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 30 May, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111143928

1872, 1 Feb. “A false alarm of fire was given at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, on Monday evening“ Ref: 1872 ‘NEWCASTLE.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 1 February, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18760890

Performances continue frequently throughout 1872 and 1873

1873, 3 April. Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Under entire new management Lessee M. Hegarty. Ref: 1873 ‘Advertising’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 3 April, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111147176

1874, 14 February. Flood relief performance at Theatre Royal donates proceeds. Ref: 1874 ‘INSOLVENCY PROCEEDINGS.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 14 February, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18781622

1874, 22 October. Confirmation that the Theatre Royal Newcastle was located in Watt Street “In pursuance of. public advertisement a crowded meeting of the citizens of Newcastle was held in the Theatre Royal, Watt street, Newcastle, on Tuesday evening last, for the purpose of forming a branch of the above League in Newcastle.“ Ref: 1874 ‘National Education.’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 22 October, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111336024

1875, 20 July. Lessees Messrs. Kelloway and McGowan. Ref: 1875 ‘Advertising’, The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876), 20 July, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111152477

1876, 8 January. “The new Theatre Royal at Newcastle will be opened on Monday evening next, under the lesseeship of Mr. John Bennett, to whose spirited enterprise Newcastle owes this most commodious and elegantly furnished place of amusement. The Lingard troupe, whose performances at the Victoria Theatre in Sydney, have been a series of brilliant successes, will, with that popular favourite, Mr. Frank Lawlor, commence the season by performing the capital play ” From Fron.” Mr. Bennett has also engaged a large and Talented company to support the more prominent players, and the performance will therefore be superior to anything yet produced in Newcastle. Ref: 1876 ‘Miscellaneous Items.’, Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), 8 January, p. 8. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70587993

1876, 15 January. “NEWCASTLE.” The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893) 15 January 1876: 3. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18802302>

1876, 25 March. Victoria Theatre; Newcastle.
MANY of our readers who in days gone by have been wont to purchase certain household utensils at Capper’s old store in Perkin-street, Newcastle, but who have not lately visited that locality, would now almost fail to recognise the spot. Where once the time honoured receptacle for pots and pans reared its substantial but ungainly proportions, a lofty and tasteful edifice (erected at the cost of Mr. John Bennett, of Sydney), in honor of the drama, adorns the neighbourhood. We had heard much of the extent of this structure and the rapidity with which it was being erected, and taking the opportunity of being near Perkin street, we made ourselves known to the presiding genius of the place, and were kindly permitted to examine the works in progress. The first thing that struck us with surprise was the extent of the area enclosed. Those of our readers who are familiar with the interior of the old Theatre Royal, in Watt street, may form an idea of the size of the stage of the new Theatre, when they are told that the whole of the Theatre Royal could easily be placed on the stage of the new Theatre, and that the height of the latter is about double that of the old stage. As we entered, the place was swarming with lithe and active forms gliding along the walls from roof to ceiling. How they managed to hang on and drive nails will ever be a mystery to us. Springing from one upright to another, clinging to joists and cross pieces, hammer in hand, the busy work of construction went on incessantly. Ladders of every size and shale appeared in all directions, and were in immense requisition for the little army of carpenters and assistants travelling up and down them. One half of the advanced battalion of nail drivers seemed to have taken possession of the stage, which presented the appearance of a miniature town in a state of siege, the beseiging party consisting of busy carpenters, hammer and axe in hand, instead of swarthy sappers and miners. Ample space has been reserved over the scenes and wings, as well as above and below the stage itself, for unusual mechanical effects. This latter department will be under the immediate direction of Mr. Renno, whom, with a staff of practised assistants, we saw lying in wait and ready to take possession of his kingdom. In front of the foot lamps, abundant space has been reserved for a full orchestra, the members of which will be selected from the best hands in the colony. The ground floor of the interior will be divided into pit and stalls; the upper floor will be devoted entirely to the dress circle; and to gather from what we were enabled to witness of the decorations, the building will surpass any theatre in the colony in richness and beauty of embellishment. As fast as any division of the before mentioned army of carpenters left a clear space for operation, it was pounced upon by Mr. Massey and his staff. Not a moment seemed to be lost in any direction. The whole corps of artificers appeared to understand their business and to work with a will, and with the knowledge that the vigilant eye of Mr. Joseph Creer, of Newcastle, was upon them. To this gentleman Mr. Bennett has wisely entrusted the supervision of the whole of the work, and the activity and regularity with which the work has proceeded throughout has not only justified his choice of a superintendent, but has reflected great credit both upon the supervisor and his numerous and effective staff of employees. The theatre will be completed and ready for opening on Easter Monday, the 17th April next, and will then have only occupied nine weeks in its construction. It will he 104 feet in length and 42 feet in breadth. The stage dimensions are 61 feet by 35, and 42 feet from floor to roof. The edifice will hold from 1200 to 1300 persons without the slightest inconvenience. Every attention has been paid to thorough ventilation; and in case of an alarm of fire, it may be satisfactory to state that an ample supply of water can be discharged from tanks upon any portion of the building, while a powerful fire engine is kept upon the premises, and escape doors have been provided in case of an emergency arising to necessitate a sudden egress from the building. A very handsome front for the theatre is in preparation, but will not be attached till the whole of the interior is completed. Some idea of the magnitude of the work, and of the money expended in Newcastle during the construction of the theatre, may be formed from the fact that between two and three dozen carpenters will have been employed constantly during its construction, besides blacksmiths and other workmen, the building being composed principally of wood and corrugated iron. Every attention has been paid to the security and solidity of the building, while for genuine comfort and ease the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle, will be able to hold its own against any theatre in the colony We may mention as an earnest of Mr. Bennett’s intention to provide an attractive class of entertainment, that the celebrated American actress, ” Nell, the Californian Diamond” (whose brilliant performances have resulted for weeks past in crowded houses at the Victoria Theatre, Sydney), is engaged to open the theatre on Easter Monday next. When completed, this theatre may take the proud position of having been erected proportionably quicker than any building in Newcastle.  Ref: 1876 ‘Victoria Theatre; Newcastle.’, Miners’ Advocate and Northumberland Recorder (Newcastle, NSW : 1873 – 1876), 25 March, p. 5. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141049577  Another similar report is here: 1876 ‘Victoria Theatre-Newcastle.’, Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 30 March, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107190344

1876, 30 March. “Victoria Theatre-Newcastle.” Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931) 30 March 1876: 2. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107190344>.
‘To the energy and enterprise of Mr. John Bennett, of Sydney, Newcastle is indebted for this transformation of the locality where once stood Capper’s store, in Perkins-street, into what will be found the most commodious and elegant theatre out of the metropolis of Australia.’ … ‘The manner in which the work is being carried on reflects the greatest credit upon Mr. Joseph Creer, of Newcastle, and Mr. Alfred Usher, of Sydney, under whose superintendence the workmen ply their labors so vigorously, and with such striking effect.’

1876, 1 April. “The New Theatre.” The Newcastle Chronicle (NSW : 1866 – 1876) 1 April 1876: 4. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article110990305>:
‘the work was placed in the hands of Mr. John Creer, as general superintendant, to which gentleman we are indebted for the following dimensions, and other particulars in connection with the undertaking. The building, as it at present stands is 100 feet in length, The pit is 42 feet, and has sufficient elevation of- floor to enable every person in it to command a good-view of the stage,’

Victoria Theatre -Thu, 13, April, 1876-2 (Newcastle Chronicle)

1876, 18 April. Ad for Nell at the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle. Ref: 1876 ‘Advertising’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 18 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136863012

1876, 19 April. Victoria Theatre.
OPENING NIGHT.
A NEW era in the theatrical history of Newcastle may be said to have commenced on Monday evening last, when the Victoria Theatre, lately erected by Mr. J Bennett, was opened by a powerful company, the leading spirit of which is [the] Queen of Protean drama, the fascinating and versatile actress, “Nell, the Californian Diamond.” Long before the doors were opened for the reception [of the] general public, crowds had congregated [in] Perkin-street. So great, indeed [was the] assembly, that it was impossible for any vehicle to pass for some considerable time.

The whole front of the Theatre may be said to have been a blaze of ga[..] Erected on a substantial scaffolding, and facing Hunter-street, was a large star, arranged most tastefully, and throwing [a] brilliant flood of light some considerable distance down the street. Near the bottom of the dress circle staircase was another star of less magnitude, but [a] very complete arrangement. On the top of the staircase, and facing Hunter-street, was a beautiful transparency announcing the opening of the theatre.

At the hour stated in the advertisement the doors were opened, and a stream of lovers of the drama soon filled the dress circle, pit, and stalls. In less than half an hour, the building was as full as [it] could possibly hold ; hundreds of people, however, were unable to obtain admission and had to seek their homes.

THE DRESS CIRCLE.
The whole of the charges were taken up and all standing room available, even the landing on the staircase was crowded with a fashionable and highly respectable audience. A great number of our leading citizens, together with their wives and daughters, were present , which clearly showed to the enterprising caterer [for] public favour the having provided [an] eligible theatre and a good company, [he] could rely upon their support.

THE STALLS.
Many persons desirous of obtaining seats in the dress circle had to content themselves with very profuse accommodation [in] the stalls ; and though perhaps a little [dis-]appointed at not being successful in […]ing standing room upstairs, they certainly could not complain of the respectability of the audience or the arrangement of the stalls.

THE PIT.
The pit of the new theatre is equal [to] any, if not superior, to that of any theatre in the country. The occupants of the front rows of seats were not content with sitting down to see the play, but stood up, [apparently dissatisfied. Moral suasion apparently having no effect with the no[..] portion of the audience, Mr. B. N. Jones stepped in front of the footlights, and [in] a quiet yet determined tone of voice informed the hilarious disturbers that unless there was a cessation of hostilities the curtain would be dropped until peace was restored. This well-timed announcement was warmly applauded by the audience and had the desired effect, and shortly [the] utmost good order prevailed. The […] was then proceeded, and beyond [..] uncontrollable bursts of applause, which were decidedly numerous, the order [was] excellent. The performers, perhaps, [tool] this disorder which for the short time [..] isted as a kind of left-handed compliment, for it was nothing but hearty appreciation and a desire to lose nothing in the performance that caused the front portion [of] the pit audience to rise up in the first instance.

“NO NAME’
Is almost an entirely new Protean [piece] dramatised especially for the Californian Diamond. The plot (which we reserve for special notice) is highly sensational on the principle of the modern [school,] though not in the slightest degree out[..] It was well mounted, well played, [..] accorded the fullest satisfaction to [..] most sanguine.

THE SCENERY.
The scenery is artistically arranged, [..] suitable for the play ; and in the second act it gives the audience a very good [..] of the place it so well represents. [The] mechanical effects are without a fault, [..] on a scale equal to that of our [..] metropolitan theatres.

On the first rising of the curtain [the] applause was almost deafening, and [the] appearance of “Nell” was the signal [for] a fresh burst of enthusiasm. Of [the] young lady’s versatility there can [be no] question. Her Dutch comicalities [had] the audience in a continual roar [of] laughter, her singing being especially good. She has established herself [as a] general favourite, and will doubtless [..] a long run. Mr. G. Giddens fully [main-]twins his well deserved celebrity, and […] evidently be a great favourite. Amongst [the] company are some of our old friends, [who] have already appeared at the Theatre Royal.
Taking the whole of the theatrical venture into consideration, we think [we] may safely congratulate both the [spirited] ENTREPRENEUR, Mr. John Bennett and [the] Newcastle public on the opening of [the] Victoria Theatre in Newcastle.
Last evening the attendance at [the] theatre was not so large in the dress circle as on Monday night, but below the [hall] was well filled. The performance [..] infinite satisfaction, and Nell received [a] most enthusiastic welcome. Her [dancing] in the character of the German girl [was] applauded to the echo, and her banjo [play-]ing is simply inimitable. She. will [no] doubt, have a very successful run.
Ref: 1876 ‘Victoria Th[?].’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 19 April, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136860495

1876, 20 April. “DISTRICT NEWS.” The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893) 20 April 1876: 7. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18805717>.

1876, 22 April.

NEWCASTLE.
April 19.
Mr.. John Bennett’s latest enterprise, the new Victoria Theatre at Newcastle, was opened on Easter Monday night to undoubtedly the largest audience that has ever assembled here. Apart from the attraction which a commodious and commodious theatre would afford to a public long accustomed to put up with the inconvenience attached to the attending amusements in the building formerly used for that purpose, there was on this occasion the additional draw of Nell, the Californian Diamond, whose prestige on the stage has long preceded her appearance. Consequently at a very early hour in the evening a vast crowd assembled in Perkin street, opposite the theatre, and immediately on the opening of the doors they commenced to tile in, till by 7.30 almost every part of the house was filled to suffocation. By the time the curtain rose standing room was only obtainable, and, as Nell made her appearance in the play of “No Name,” she was greeted with hearty applause. This interesting little actress, with whose versatility the Sydney public is so conversant, curried the house with her throughout, and was ably assisted by the company. With regard to the theatre itself, no expense would seem to have been spared to render the interior attractive and comfortable. Mr. Bennett certainly deserves the strong thanks and support of the public for his liberality mid spirit in this respect. The scenery and properties are such as were never before thought of in Newcastle; and altogether a new and pleasing era would appear to have dawned upon the playgoers of this place. The fact of the audience that assembled at the opening, and the warm applause they manifested, speaks well for a long run of the present company. Fully 200 people were unable to obtain admission on Monday night. No doubt Mr. Bennett will keep the theatre continually supplied with the best available talent. Ref: 1876 ‘NEWCASTLE.’, Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), 22 April, p. 10. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70590743 and 1876 ‘NEWCASTLE’, Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 22 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107184653

1876, 24 April. Second week of Nell. Ref: 1876 ‘Advertising’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 24 April, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136859401

Victoria Theatre-Tue, 16, May, 1876-3  (Newcastle Chronicle)

1876, 14 June. “VICTORIA THEATRE, MAITLAND.” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 14 June 1876: 2. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136859769>.

1876, 3 July. Farewell of Mr. B.N. Jones by the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Victoria Theatre, note on poorly attended performances. Ref: 1876 ‘Victoria Theatre.’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 3 July, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136854847

Performances and lectures, meetings continue to be held without apparent interruption.

Hospital Benefit – Victoria Theatre-Fri, 14, July, 1876-3 (Newcastle Chronicle)

1876, 25 September. Victoria Theatre, Newcastle Grand Opening Night. Ref:  1876 ‘Victoria Theatre, Newcastle.’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 25 September, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136860156

Performances continue. (Newcastle Chronicle)

Novel Advertising (Victoria Theatre)-Sat, 16, December, 1876-2 (Newcastle Chronicle)
Victoria Theatre Plays-Wed, 03, January, 1877-2
Victoria Theatre Open for Season (Day)-Mon, 30, April, 1877-2
Sale of the Victoria Theatre-Mon, 28, May, 1877-2
Sale of the Victoria Theatre-Mon, 28, May, 1877-2
Sale of the Victoria Theatre-Fri, 01, June, 1877-2
Victoria Theatre Concert for School of Arts-Mon, 25, June, 1877-2

Victoria Theatre-Tue, 29, January, 1878-2
Victoria Theatre-Thu, 07, February, 1878-2
Dramatic Entertainment at the Victoria Theatre-Fri, 15, March, 1878-2
Victoria Theatre – Entertainment-Fri, 03, May, 1878-2
New Dramatic Company at the Victoria Theatre-Sat, 22, June, 1878-4

1879, 21 March. Mention of a “Victoria Theatre Hotel, Newcastle”. Ref: 1879 ‘Advertising’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 21 March, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136007917

Victoria Theatre Mr. Sam Emery-Fri, 20, June, 1879-3
Complimentary Benefit – Mr. S. Howard, Victoria Theatre-Sat, 20, September, 1879-5

Victoria Theatre – Amateur Revue-Fri, 23, January, 1880-3
New Business (Victoria Theatre Hotel)-Sat, 17, July, 1880-5

Narrow Escape of the Victoria Theatre from Fire-Tue, 11, January, 1881-2
Austrian Band at the Victoria Theatre-Fri, 04, March, 1881-2

1881, 14 May. Theatre Royal Newcastle a venue for an anti-Chinese meeting in Newcastle. Ref: 1881 ‘ANTI-CHINESE MEETING AT NEWCASTLE.’, The Sydney Daily Telegraph (NSW : 1879 -1883), 14 May, p. 6. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article238304315

Victoria Theatre (“Baffled”)-Tue, 24, January, 1882-2
Pantomime at the Victoria Theatre-Mon, 30, January, 1882-2
Victoria Theatre and its Exodus-Sat, 18, March, 1882-5
Victoria Theatre – Opera-Sat, 11, March, 1882-3
Bulletin Meeting at the Victoria Theatre-Wed, 22, March, 1882-2
Begone Dull Care (Victoria Theatre)-Wed, 24, May, 1882-2
Victoria Theatre Drama-Fri, 07, July, 1882-2
Management of Theatres (Victoria Theatre)-Thu, 31, August, 1882-2
Victoria Theatre (Entertainment for Usher)-Tue, 24, October, 1882-2
Victoria Theatre (Entertainment for Usher)-Wed, 01, November, 1882-2

Victoria Theatre – “Ingomar”-Tue, 02, January, 1883-3
Victoria Theatre – “Patience”-Tue, 27, March, 1883-2
Victoria Theatre – Opera-Tue, 24, April, 1883-3
Mr. Dampier at the Victoria Theatre-Mon, 22, October, 1883-2

The Sunny South Victoria Theatre-Sat, 26, January, 1884-4
Freethought Debate Victoria Theatre-Wed, 26, March, 1884-3
Smoking – Victoria Theatre-Sat, 12, April, 1884-4
Grattan Riggs – Victoria Theatre-Thu, 19, June, 1884-2
Combined Companies – Victoria Theatre-Tue, 16, September, 1884-2
Mascotte Opera Co. – Victoria Theatre-Mon, 15, December, 1884-2

Hamlet – Victoria Theatre-Sat, 03, January, 1885-4
Dunnings Comic Opera Company – Victoria Theatre-Tue, 24, March, 1885-5

1885, 19 December. Victoria Theatre, Newcastle up for Sale. Ref: 1885 ‘Advertising’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 19 December, p. 8. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139053480

Victoria Theatre (Alterations)-Wed, 08, September, 1886-5
Victoria Theatre (Alterations)-Thu, 09, September, 1886-5
Victoria Theatre (Alterations)-Sat, 18, September, 1886-5
Grand Duchess of Gerolstein – Victoria Theatre-Tue, 21, September, 1886-8

Victoria Theatre – “His Natural Life”-Sat, 01, January, 1887-5
Victoria Theatre – “East Lynne”-Wed, 11, May, 1887-4
Victoria Theatre – “The Bohemian Girl”-Fri, 20, May, 1887-5
Victoria Theatre – “Ticket of Leave Man”-Mon, 27, June, 1887-5
Victoria Theatre – Miss Amy Sherwin-Tue, 18, October, 1887-5

1888, 7 January. PANIC IN A THEATRE.
NO MISCHIEF DONE.
[BY SPECIAL WIRE.]
(FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.)
SYDNEY, FRIDAY.
A panic occurred to night at the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle, during a performance by the Holloway Dramatic Company. The third act had just opened, when a false alarm of fire was given in the pit. The house was packed, and immediately a mad rush was made for the doors. Terrible struggling was going on, when Mr. Holloway came to the front and pacified the audience who returned to their seats. Mr Holloway reproached the male portion of the audience with their cowardice in rushing away and leaving the women to look after themselves. Ref: 1888 ‘PANIC IN A THEATRE.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 7 January, p. 10. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6100758

1888, 7 January.
PANIC AT THE NEWCASTLE
THEATRE.
EXHIBITION OF COWARDICE.
[By Telegraph.]
Sydney, January 6.
A panic occurred at the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle, during the performance by Mr. Holloway’s Dramatic Company. The third act had just opened when a false alarm of fire was given in the pit. The house was packed, and immediately the people made a rush for the doors, and a terrible struggle was going on, when Mr. Holloway came to the front and pacified the audience, who returned to their seats. Mr. Holloway reproached the male portion of the audience with cowardice, rushing away and leaving the women to look after themselves.

Ref: 1888 ‘PANIC AT THE NEWCASTLE THEATRE.’, Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 – 1912), 7 January, p. 5. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article204442360

The story of the exploding cigar!!  1888 ‘THEATRICAL GOSSIP.’, Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 – 1900), 19 January, p. 8. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article174573373

A SCARE AT A THEATRE.—Inexcusable fright.—Had it not been that there was a preponderance of clear-headed people in the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle, recently, a serious disaster might have bad to be recorded. The drama had been going on merrily, and at the close of an intermission, and just when the thirsty ones were returning, a scare took place. It seems that a young man from a neighbouring township had lately been out shooting, and, with singular carelessness, had some loose powder in his pocket, and had a half-smoked cigar, which he thought precious enough to keep till the next intermission. Foolishly, however, he forgot to extinguish his Havanna, and as he put it in the pocket containing the explosive a sudden commotion took place. One side of his coat was blown away, and the remaining portion started to smoulder. One or two bystanders, evidently easily frightened, without the slightest consideration or cause, raised the cry of “Fire.” A smell as of something burning, and a little smoke coming into the hall, completed the mischief. A few of the audience jumped to their feet and rushed helter-skelter to the doors, and the example thus set was speedily followed by others. The curtain had just risen, and order was at an end. The sight was a painful one. Strong men rushed and pushed aside the weaker sex in their hurry to get out. Many ladies left their seats, and one or two fainted and had to be carried. A great number wisely sat still. Matters looked serious, when Mr. Holloway and his fellow workers in the drama came to the footlights to assure the now frightened crowd that there was nothing the
matter. Mr. Holloway, in stern, ringing tones, which elicited intense applause, rebuked those who had created the mischief. ” Those who started the report,” he said, ” are cowards, and the men who rushed for the doors regardless of others around them are cowardly and unmanly.” Mr. Holloway said this conduct was unworthy of Australians, and the whole affair was an example of what a panic would do, and would act as a warning in future to people not to be too easily frightened. Mr. Holloway’s remarks were loudly cheered, and then those who had bolted began to come back, looking very foolish.
Order were soon restored, and in a few moments the audience was as deeply interested in the progress of the play as if nothing had happened.

—F. M. Clark (without the finale) will shortly take his “All-Star” Novelty Constellation to Beautiful Brisbane, from thence to Nym Nym, Newcastle.
—Sam Dearin is about to return to Melbourne very, very shortly, with a company of his own, all well-known London pros.
—That popular actor, Mr. W. J. Holloway’s, business in Newcastle was really capital. Two weeks drama Without Miss Essie Jenyns! This young lady is now having a well-earned holiday. The Melbourne season of the Holloway Co., give everyone their deserts, should prove marvellously successful.

The Victoria Theatre – Proposed Renovations-Mon, 07, January, 1889-5
The Victoria Theatre – “The Amazon”-Mon, 25, March, 1889-8
The Victoria Theatre – “Hans the Boatman”-Mon, 22, April, 1889-5
The Victoria Theatre – Dorothy (Leader)-Fri, 10, May, 1889-4
New Babylon – Victoria Theatre-Tue, 30, July, 1889-5
The Old Curiosity Shop – Victoria Theatre-Tue, 06, August, 1889-5
Erma the Elf – Victoria Theatre-Thu, 08, August, 1889-5
The Private Secretary – Victoria Theatre-Mon, 07, October, 1889-5
Song and Story – Victoria Theatre-Wed, 18, December, 1889-5

1890. 29 January. “The Searle Memorial.” The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 – 1909) 29 January 1890: 6 (FIFTH EDITION). Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article230614976>.

1890, 12 April. “Local and General.” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 12 April 1890: 5. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138857327>. (note on fire in Victoria – Ballarat)

Examples of the old theatre still being used during the construction of the new building:

1890, 14 July. “Local and General.” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 14 July 1890: 5. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138941514>.

1890, 19 July. “Local and General.” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 19 July 1890: 5. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138932261>.

Victoria Theatre Company-Tue, 28, October, 1890-5

1891, 19 February. “LOCAL NEWS.” The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893) 19 February 1891: 5. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18993913>. (interesting note on an amusement).
Boxing. ‘Admirers of that athletic pastime whose adherents scientifically exhibit by hitting and getting away, and who have somewhat sarcastically called it ” the noble art,” were in strong force on Monday evening through the announcement that Tom Woods, of Hillgrove, and Tom Vipen, of Lambton, were to fight to a finish in the Victoria Theatre for the gate and a wager of 20 pounds a-side.’

1891, 3 July. The Victoria Theatre Progress of its erection. 1891 ‘THE VICTORIA THEATRE.’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 3 July, p. 6. , viewed 18 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136060753

1891, 8 September. “Opening of the Victoria Theatre.” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 8 September 1891: 8. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135843188>.

1891, 11 September. “The Victoria Theatre.” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 11 September 1891: 6. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135841063>.

1891, 14 September. “AMUSEMENTS.” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 14 September 1891: 5. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135845665>.

1891, 14 September. “OPENING OF THE NEWCASTLE THEATRE.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 14 September 1891: 6. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13838694>
‘The new building stands upon the site of the old tumbledown structure in Perkins-street. It has a frontage of 66ft, with a depth of 156ft, and an altitude of 80ft. The façade is principally of the Corinthian style of architecture The building is four storeys in height, with an elegant colonnade, supported by fluted pillars, in front It has two entrances, with ample hotel accommodation between them. The South entrance is for visitors tothe dress circle and front stalls The interior of the theatre is the greatest source of attraction. It provides seating accommodation on the ground floor for 520 persons in the front and back stalls. On the second floor, or dress circle, ample provision is made for 270 visitors. The third storey forms a spacious gallery easily capable of seating an audience of 550.’

1891, 15 September.
The Victoria Theatre, Newcastle.
The people of the Northern district have now at their command, thanks to the enterprise of a body of business men in Newcastle and Maitland, a theatre which in size, accommodation, appointments, and finish will bear favourable comparison with similar buildings in any part of the world. For many years there has existed in Perkins-Street, Newcastle, a theatre about which, since it no longer exists, we may in kindness draw the veil of oblivion. It is gone, and no one is sorry.- In its place stands the structure which warrants all the encomiums it has already received. The owners of the old building, conscious that its day ought to end, some months ago projected a new and enlarged edifice. Of a company of eleven, Messrs. W. K. Lochhead, Joseph Wood, E. P. Capper, and C. B. Ranclaud were appointed a board of directors, with Mr. W. K. Lochhead as managing director. The duty of preparing designs was placed in the capable hands of Mr. James Henderson, architect, of Newcastle, and upon his plans about a year ago, the building was begun. The contractor was a Newcastle man, Mr. John Straub, and it was arranged that the work of the new building should go on as long as practicable with-out disturbing the old theatre and hotel in connection with it. Consequently, the new theatre has been built over the old one ; and, up to a certain time in the progress of construction, performances went on in the condemned structure, while business proceeded in the hotel. In the choice of materials for the new edifice, care was taken to have everything of the best. And, as the visitor will see for himself, the workmanship of every part of the building is faithful, well-finished, and solid. One is struck, in fact, with the absence of anything flimsy and superficial. Having made up their minds to build a theatre, the company determined to make a structure that should be creditable to them and the city. The foundations of the building are stone, the walls of picked brick. Beams, girders, columns are iron, and the roof is covered with galvanised corrugated iron. Wherever it was possible to use hardwood, it was employed, in consistency with the prevailing purpose of the architect to produce a substantial and permanent building. From the outside, on the Perkin-street frontage, the elevation of the theatre presents a very effective appearance. It is really the elevation of the hotel, behind which the theatre is situate, access being gained under a colonnade by two separate entrances on one side to the dress circle and front stalls, and on the other to the upper circle and back stalls. The colonnade is ornamented, and the elevation, four stories high, though not overladen with ornament, is tastefully adorned, and is a distinctly pleasant feature in the architecture of the street. Entering the theatre, we find an auditorium 50ft. in height from the floor to the underside of the domed ceiling. This space is divided thus: On the ground floor into stalls; supported on iron columns and beams the dress circle; similarly supported, the upper circle. In the construction of this part of the building, ornament has been freely introduced in the shape of mouldings, cornices, enrichments, iron railing in front of the circles, and a good effect is produced by the provision of curtained private boxes at each end of the dress circle and upper circle tier, and on the ground floor at each side. The orchestra is separated from the front stalls by a stout brass rail, from which depends a crimson curtain. Ventilation is provided for by louvred glass windows let into different parts of the wall, numerous air-bricks, gratings at the edges of the floors against the wall of the circles, and finally two enormous double-roofed louvred ventilators, one over the dome and one over the ceiling. Numerous escape doors have been provided on every floor, and opening from the dress circle is a small balcony, which will give those an opportunity to get a breath of fresh air who care to take a chance between the acts. The staircases generally have easy grades, and where possible steps have been dispensed with in favour of inclined plane passages. The seating accommodation provides for 1340 persons. It consists in the stalls and dress circle of patent tip-up seated chairs, with nicely sloped backs. The chairs in the dress circle and the reserved stalls are upholstered in old gold plush; the others are pierced wood-seated. The plush chairs are also furnished with conveniences for holding hats and coats. Wooden benches comprise the seating accommodation in the upper circle, which in this theatre will take the place of the pit. It is creditable to the architect that the seats are so arranged that the doings of the stage can be seen from every part of the dress circle and stalls. On the stage the work has been thoroughly finished. A completely new set of scenery has been provided. There are twelve dressing-rooms, properly fitted for their purpose, and all the modern appliances required for stage business. The interior decoration of the theatre is very elaborate, chaste, and telling. Gaudiness has been eschewed, and the colours chosen are bright and pleasing. The prevailing tint is turquoise blue, which is the colour of the walls of the stalls and dress circle, a pattern of a darker blue being stencilled on the main colour, and the other tints used throughout the building harmonising with it. Following is a detail of the decoration, the general effect of which has been just described. Beginning at the stage, there is a very handsome centre panel representing Apollo, surrounded by nine Muses. The figures are lifesize, and are entirely Grecian, having been taken from the old figures of the Greek gods and goddesses. They appear in original dress against a splendid back ground of gold with sprays of flowers. Below this comes the drop scone. It represents portion of the poetic city of Venice at noon, on a pure Italian summer’s day. The foreground shows the Grand Canal, on which float a large number of gondolas laden with the fruits of the season, which are being taken to market by the Venetian boatmen. Immediately in the background the ancient buildings of the city rise apparently from the water, and among several other historic structural St. Mark’s Cathedral looms out in magnificent splendour. ‘The water is painted in a lucid blue, and a great many figures in Venetian costumes are seen at sufficient intervals to give a life-like and busy appearance to the whole. The scene is painted in circular form, and is surrounded by a representation of old gold satin drapery sustained by golden cables of a darker colour. This drop scene is protected by a large crimson baize curtain, in the top folds of which a long perforated water pipe is fixed, so that in the event of a fire occurring the scene could be soaked within a few seconds, and the stage thus be saved from destruction. The proscenium is decorated with rich stencil ornament worked in Antwerp and turquoise blue, and the pillars are gilded. The front is divided into three panels, with figures representing Greek goddesses in the centre. The filling is panelled in turquoise blue, with a back ground of rich ivory ornament, the whole being surmounted by an amber band and terra cotta border, with rich ornament. The portion of the proscenium adjoining the boxes is panelled with very elaborate ornaments in terracotta, turquoise blue, and red, the effect of the colouring being very light and graceful. The dome of the ceiling is worked in softened azure blue with sun raise worked in gold, showing from the centre. The cornices on the lower portions are worked out in amber, old gold, and terra cotta, and a half-circular ornament is carried round the flat of the ceiling in azure blue, with conventional, leaves and representations of Grecian musical instruments.- The bordering is in dead gold with, silver grey ornaments. The principal panels of the ceiling are carried out in Cupids with wreaths of flowers painted naturally, the panelling being richly decorated in ivory with a light turquoise back ground. The stiles adjoining are ornamented in old gold and deep terracotta. The boxes are decorated in shades of light terra cotta, soft lemon yellow, silver grey, and azure blue, the ironwork being richly gilded. The panels at the top are in light turquoise blue with beautiful representations of Grecian lyres in the centre. The ceilings of the stalls are treated in panels of light old gold with decorations in terra cotta olive green, and torquoise blue ornament, the tiles being in azure blue with dark lines. The walls are in light old gold dado, and are ornamented with dark gold designs. The columns are treated in two shades of terra cotta, with fancy divisions of light torquoise blue near the top, and richly gilded capitals surmounting the whole. The front panels of the dress circle are treated in a similar manner to the stalls, but the internal portions show out in light torquise blue, with ornamental corners of darker shades. The stiles are painted in light lemon yellow, with old gold ornaments and lines, bordered by a vieux-rose tint. The walls are treated , in light torquoise blue, with a rich diaper of a horse chestnut pattern beautifully stencilled. The doors are coloured in a darker shade of blue, the panels being glided in the centre with oil paintings of Shakespearian and Scotch characters. The ceiling of the upper circle is treated in light amber, the walls in light terra cotta, and the cornices in citron, azure, blue, and pink. The whole of the decorations are carried out in a modification of a Greek style, and, owing to their very delicate shades and beautiful contrasts, give the charming effect already described. The theatre is lighted mainly by a sunlight suspended from the dome of the auditorium, and containing 100 burners. Side lights supply the circles and the stalls. Fire extinguishing appliances are complete, so that at a moment’s notice, five immense taps can be set running. The source of supply is the city service, but there is also a set of four 4-hundred gallon tanks in the roof, which can be drawn upon too if necessary. The building we have described was opened for business on Saturday night, by the Evangeline Company, under the management of Messrs. Macmahon. The auditorium was well filled in every part, and the ceremony of formal opening consisted of the playing of the National Anthem, a brief speech by one of the Macmahon Brothers, and a briefer speech by Mr. Joseph Wood, one of the directors. The gist of the speeches was congratulation upon the existence of a theatre so commodious, so tasteful and so well appointed, and the orators gave way to the actors after Mr. Wood had introduced to the audience the architect, the decorator, and the contractor. Respecting ” Evangeline” we do not purpose to enter into any detail. It is an extravaganza of the most extravagant character, the dialogue abounding in the most atrocious word torturing, but containing abundant material for mirth, plenty to please the eye in gorgeous scenery, graceful dancing, and pretty groupings and marchings, with music lively and suitable to the theme. What was specially noticeable in the production of the extravaganza was that with a building inwhich the sound of the workman’s hammer and the swish of the paint brush were still heard at six o’clock in the evening, the performance went without a visible hitch. We may appropriately close this notice of the theatre by congratulating the proprietors up their enterprise, which we may safely predict will have the effect of bringing within easy distance of Maitland folk many of the great theatrical artists who have hitherto confined their activity to the metropolis. There is every prospect that the charming home for the drama now provided in Newcastle will be recognized by all who are the drama’s most noted exponents. Ref:  1891 ‘The Victoria Theatre, Newcastle.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 15 September, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19000995

Victoria Theatre George Darrell-Fri, 01, January, 1897-5
Victoria Theatre – opening of the McMahon season-Mon, 19, April, 1897-5
Victoria Theatre – Amy Sherwin’s concerts-Mon, 11, October, 1897-5
Victoria Theatre – The Australian nightingale-Tue, 12, October, 1897-5

Victoria Theatre – “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”-Tue, 02, January, 1900-5
Victoria Theatre – Hogan’s Negro Company-Fri, 05, January, 1900-4
Victoria Theatre – Dan Barry’s Dramatic Co.-Thu, 18, January, 1900-5
Victoria Theatre – Minstrel Company-Mon, 19, February, 1900-4
Victoria Theatre – Patriotic concert-Thu, 08, March, 1900-5
Victoria Theatre – Nance O’Neil season-Fri, 30, March, 1900-8
Victoria Theatre – “Man’s Enemy”-Fri, 20, April, 1900-5
Victoria Theatre Co. Ltd. (meeting)-Tue, 24, April, 1900-7
Victoria Theatre – Royal Comedy & Dramatic Co.-Mon, 07, May, 1900-5
Victoria Theatre – Little Christopher Colombus-Mon, 09, July, 1900-5
Victoria Theatre – Messrs. Hall & Simon’s concert-Thu, 12, July, 1900-4
The Octoroon – Victoria Theatre-Fri, 13, July, 1900-5
The Octoroon – Victoria Theatre-Sat, 14, July, 1900-4
The Irishman – Victoria Theatre-Mon, 30, July, 1900-5
Vengeance is Mine – Victoria Theatre-Sun, 05, August, 1900-5
East Lynne – Victoria Theatre-Fri, 10, August, 1900-4
on Shannon Shore – Victoria Theatre-Mon, 13, August, 1900-5
Victoria Theatre – The people’s concerts-Thu, 16, August, 1900-8
War by biograph (Victoria Theatre)-Thu, 23, August, 1900-5
Special screening of war pictures (Africa) Victoria Theatre (advert.)-Tue, 21, August, 1900-1
Victoria Theatre – Messrs. Hall & Simon concert-Wed, 05, September, 1900-5
The “Georgia Magnet” at the Victoria Theatre-Sat, 22, September, 1900-5
Hall & Simon’s children’s concert – Victoria Theatre-Thu, 04, October, 1900-5
Criterion Dramatic Company – Victoria Theatre-Thu, 18, October, 1900-5
Victoria Theatre Company Limited – (26th) half yearly meeting-Tue, 23, October, 1900-3
Ada Delroy Company (Victoria Theatre)-Mon, 29, October, 1900-5
Pygmalion and Galatea – Victoria Theatre-Tue, 13, November, 1900-4
Kate Howarde Co. (Victoria Theatre)-Mon, 17, December, 1900-5
Dan Barry’s Dramatic Co. (Victoria Theatre)-Sat, 29, December, 1900-5

1902, 15 November. Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Burn’t Down. (Newcastle Upon Tyne!!) Ref: 1902 ‘Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Burnt Down.’, Bundarra and Tingha Advocate (NSW : 1900 – 1906), 15 November, p. 5. , viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176481786

The Marriage of Kitty Victoria Theatre-Thu, 26, January, 1905-5
Williamson’s Repertoire Co. – Victoria Theatre-Mon, 27, February, 1905-5
The Mikado – Victoria Theatre-Thu, 02, March, 1905-6
The Lady Slavey – Victoria Theatre-Mon, 27, March, 1905-5
Victoria Theatre improvements-Thu, 07, December, 1905-4

Victoria Theatre – the old and the new-Sat, 20, January, 1906-11
Victoria Theatre – Anderson Dramatic Co.-Mon, 22, January, 1906-6
Victoria Theatre – “Camille”-Thu, 08, February, 1906-5
Victoria Theatre – Strand Comedy Co.-Thu, 08, February, 1906-6
Victoria Theatre – “The Gondoliers”-Mon, 02, April, 1906-5
Victoria Theatre – half-yearly meeting-Tue, 24, April, 1906-5

Victoria Theatre – “Lured to London”-Thu, 02, January, 1908-6

Victoria Theatre – “Revenge”-Mon, 30, January, 1911-6

Victoria Theatre – benefit for Newcastle Hospital-Fri, 26, June, 1914-6

Just a Girl – Victoria Theatre-Mon, 05, February, 1917-6

Victoria Theatre reconstructed – handsome appointments-Fri, 04, November, 1921-6
Victoria Theatre reconstructed-Fri, 04, November, 1921-6
Victoria Theatre – successful reopening-Fri, 11, November, 1921-6

Victoria Theatre George Wallace-Mon, 05, April, 1926-6
Miss Beryl Walkley – Victoria Theatre-Sat, 29, May, 1926-5
Mr C. Beveridge – Victoria Theatre-Tue, 01, June, 1926-6

Gilbert & Sullivan operas – Victoria Theatre-Sat, 13, August, 1932-9

George Gee Company : musical comedies at Victoria Theatre-Sat, 20, August, 1938-13

Fun at Victoria Theatre : Charles Norman in an old comedy-Sat, 26, October, 1940-8


One thought on “The Three Victorias

Leave a Reply