160TH BIRTHDAY ANNIVERSARY OF THE BRITANNIA PANOPTICON
John Brand opened the Britannia Music Hall this day on the 26 December 1859.
The building was originally built as a warehouse in 1857 and the upper floors leased and converted by John Brand into a Music Hall in 1859.
To mark the music hall’s birthday here’s a selection of the accounts of the time.
In December 1859, John Brand made his first attempt to get an alcohol licence for his music hall at the Lanarkshire Quarter Sessions – where his neighbours objected and his lease from Archibald Blair, owner of the building is described.
“John Brand,115 Trongate, had been refused a license by the Magistrates because he intended to convert the premises into a singing saloon; because he held a license for a singing saloon in Saltmarket; ad because the saloon would be an annoyance to the neighbours.
Mr. McLellan, ironmonger, presented a petition against the granting of the license, as it would have a tendency of lowering the value of the property.
Mr. W. B. FAULDS said his client had taken a lease of the premises for ten years, at a rent beginning at £400 the first two years, £500 the second two years, and £600 afterwards. He was willing to give up the Oddfellows Saloon if he obtained a license for his new premises. He did not wish a spirit license but simply a license to sell beer. In reply to the objection by Mr. McLellan, he might just state that whether or not the licence was got, the premises would be used as a singing saloon. They had already been fitted up as such and would be opened on Christmas night.” (Glasgow Herald)
In a newspaper advert in the Era, John Brand gave his opening date for the new Britannia Music Hall as the 26th December 1859.
“GLASGOW – THE BRITANNIA, 115,
TRONGATE.-J.BRAND most respectfully intimates to Concert Room Professionals, that he is fitting up premises for a Music Hall capable of holding 1,600 persons, and which will be opened on or about the 26th December 1859. Will be happy to treat with first-class talent of all descriptions.”
We know a little about how the opening season – this account was given in the Era on the 22 January 1860.
“BRITANNIA SALOON. – Mr Brand having closed his old hall, the Odd Fellows, has now opened a very elegant establishment, capable of containing from twelve to fifteen hundred persons, under the above title. The design of the hall is good, and the decoration chaste. The stage is large, and the whole accommodation is ample and of a convenient description. Prices are not by any means high, and though the present company might bear improvement, yet a little addition would render it complete. Among those present engaged we find the names of Miss Landers, Miss Farrell, Professor Devon, Mr McGregor Simpson, Mr Richard Cooke, and Mr J, H. Spiers, who also fills the post of stage director. Business during the holidays was immense, but has now lulled although still good.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRITANNIA PANOPTICON!
More information on the history of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall can be found on the Arthur Lloyd Music Hall and Theatre History Site and the Friends of the Britannia Panopticon Website.
Newspaper images: The Era and the Glasgow Herald © The British Library Board
Image: Britannia Stage Door, Thomas Annan, The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, Photogravure.com