Building Name

Prince of Wales Theatre Rochdale

1866 - 1867
Manchester Road
GMCA, England
Rochdale Theatre Company Limited
New build
Destroyed by fire 1894
Warburton Brothers of Harpurhey

A new theatre is about to be erected at Rochdale from a design prepared by Mr Salomons, the architect of the Prince’s Theatre, Manchester [Manchester Guardian 6 February 1866 page 3]

TO JOINERS, BUILDERS, AND CONTRACTORS – The Rochdale Theatre Company Limited are prepared to receive Tenders for the Brick, Stone and Joiner’s Work, separately or jointly, for the erection of a Theatre at Rochdale. For plans, specifications and quantities apply to E Salomons Esq, architect, 63 King Street, Manchester, to whom all tenders must be sent. [Manchester Guardian 7 April 1866 page 7]

OPENING OF THE PRINCE OF WALES THEATRE. - The old Greek simplicity of an entertainment, with nature for the scene painter and the sky for a chandelier, suits neither our tastes nor our climate, and as the intricacies plan and arrangement in theatre are somewhat perplexing, we have applied to the architect, Mr. Edward Salomons, of Manchester, who has courteously sent us a description of the building, which we give below. The entrances are in the principal front in Manchester Road. In the centre is the principal entrance leading to the crush-room, with the box office on the left, and the grand staircase leading to the dress-circle. To the left of this is the entrance to the pit, on the same floor level as the pit itself, arrangement which obviates all danger to a crowd in case of alarm. On the opposite side, round the corner, is the entrance to the gallery, approached by substantial stone staircase, with good landings. Ascending the principal staircase pass through folding doors into the foyer behind the dress circle, a roomy lounge with an open fire-place, and with ladies’ retiring room and all necessary conveniences. There are no boxes provided on the dress circle tier, that the whole space has an uninterrupted command of the stage. The only boxes erected are the pit level, where there is one for the manager approached from the stage, and on the opposite side one commonly known as the omnibus box.” The gallery is very spacious, and the front of it recedes a little behind that the dress circle, so as to reduce the shadows which generally fall so strongly under the ceilings. The lighting is effected by means of a powerful sun-burner in the centre of the ceiling, above which is a ventilating shaft carried high above the roof. In the ceilings of the pit and dress circle extracting flues are provided, communicating by means of trunks with the main shaft, where, of course, there is an immense accelerating power exerted in drawing off the vitiated air. The box fronts and proscenium are decorated in ‘carton-piene’ enrichment well moulded, and with a very effective composition of Renaissance forms in relief; harmoniously arranged. The drop-scene is an exquisite bit of painting, from the gifted pencil of Mr. Grieve, of London, and represents with great fidelity the calm surface of a lake, with landscape and. foliage. The decorations in painting are not yet completed, and thus, of course, one of the principal effects has still to be worked out. It was found that the plastering was not in sufficiently dry state to admit of painting, so that all that has been done at present is of temporary character, with the exception of the proscenium, of which the decoration is complete and very effective. The chairs provided in the dress circle are exceedingly comfortable, and we notice that more space is allowed between them than we usually find in these places. There is a general inclination of the level of the dress circle down towards the proscenium, which prevents those sitting in the back seats from being incommoded by those in front. The opening of the proscenium is 25 feet. Penetrating into the mysterious regions “behind the scenes,” we find on the left of the stage the green-room, and a room for hand properties, and between the two a staircase leading to the dressing rooms for the ladies, the corp de ballet, etc., extending as a basement storey under the auditorium. On the other side is similar suite of dressing rooms for the gentlemen, and between the two, under the pit, a large store room and property room. A carpenter’s shop is provided under the stage at one end. There is a mezzanine floor under the stage, 7 feet below the floor line, and the total height from the stage floor to the lowest floor is about 14 feet. The stage entrance, porter’s lodge, and treasury are at the end of the stage on the extreme right. The scone painter’s room is a large place at one end of the building above the stage, and so arranged that two sets of scenes can be painted at once, and then lowered to their respective positions. The flies are about 20 feet above the floor, and the grooves are blocked down nearly the same height. The stage measures in width 55 feet 6 inches, and in length from the curtain line to the back wall 47 feet, the stage having projection into the auditorium of 6 feet. The front of the dress circle is about 35 feet from the curtain line, and the height from the ceiling to the pit floor 36 feet. The accommodation provided is as follows:—pit, 700: dress circle and boxes, 230; gallery, 670; total, 1600. On an emergency there is room in the dress circle for many more. It will thus be seen that with sitting accommodation for 1600 persons (and convenience for more in an emergency), with a proscenium (or stage) measuring 55 feet inch in width, and 47 feet in length, and with an opening into the auditorium of 25 feet, there is scope for the supply of dramatic representation such as was never before in Rochdale.  Mr. Edward Salomons, of King-street, Manchester, is the architect, and has well sustained the reputation he has acquired for his previous success in the Prince’s Theatre, at Manchester, and more recently in the Alexandra Theatre, at Liverpool, which is everywhere acknowledged to be the best arranged and most commodious building of the kind in England. Messrs. Warburton Brothers, of Harpurhey, Manchester, were the general contractors, and they also built the stage under the direction of the architect. The chairs and other cabinet work were provided by Mr Dyson, of Manchester; the decorations by Mr Hindshaw, of Manchester; the lighting and gas fittings by Hayworth, of Manchester; and the painting, gilding, etc., by the Messrs Best, of our own town. [Rochdale Observer 23 November 1867 page 5].

ROCHDALE - A new theatre, called the Prince of Wales's, was opened on Friday last, at Rochdale. The building, which is comparatively plain, is of brick with stone foundation. The length is 120 feet and the width 60feet, and it will hold 2,200 persons. Mr Salomons, the architect of the Prince's Theatre, at Manchester, furnished the designs. Messrs Warburton, of Rochdale, were the contractors. [Building News 29 November 1867 page 836]

A THEATRE BY CO-OPERATION. The Prince of Wales's Theatre, Rochdale, opened a few nights ago, has been built by means of £1 shares mostly taken by working men. A few earnest working men have thus accomplished what the upper classes of Rochdale have long said was a desideratum, but one which they could not see their way to realise. The Company was formed in April, 1865. Shortly afterwards operations were commenced which resulted in the securing of an eligible site, and the construction of the foundations, and then for some time the scheme received a check. A few months ago, the matter was taken up with renewed energy, and designs previously obtained from Mr. Salomons, Manchester, have been carried out. It was the original intention of the promoters to erect a building combining a larger internal area, with more outward embellishment, but further consideration decided them to operate within more moderate bounds, and instead of a building to cost £8,000, they decided to raise one to cost £6,000. The exterior is plain. It is 20 yards in breadth, and 40 yards in length, and is calculated to seat comfortably 2,200 persons. The shape is described as a "graceful horseshoe," though why that form should be continued we do not know. The pit is a good one, and will hold 1,100 persons. The ceiling is plain, and has a powerful sun-light in the centre. The dressing- rooms and the property-room are in the cellars under the pit (a very improper place, by the way), and are reached by steps proceeding from each side of the fore part of the stage behind the wings. Messrs. Warburton were the builders. Mr. Grieve painted the drop-scene. [Builder 7 December 1867 page 898]

Rochdale Theatre, built in 1867 from the designs of Mr Edward Salomons FRIBA at a cost of over £9000 was partially destroyed by fire on Saturday last. The outer walls of the theatre suffered but little and the fireproof curtain, made of asbestos, prevented the flames extending to the stage. [British Architect 2 February 1894 Page 74]

Reference    Manchester Guardian 6 February 1866 page 3
Reference    Manchester Guardian Saturday 7 April 1866 Page 7 - Contracts
Reference    Rochdale Observer 23 November 1867 page 5 – opening
Reference    Building News 29 November 1867 page 836 - opening
Reference    Builder 7 December 1867 page 898 - opening