Britannia Music Hall (Former), 109-121, Trongate, Merchant City

General Details and Location

Category
RESTORATION IN PROGRESS
Name of Building
Britannia Music Hall (Former)
Other Name(s)
Britannia Theatre of Varieties; The Grand Panopticon; Pickard's Waxworks
Address
109-121, Trongate, Merchant City
Locality
Postcode (click to find nearby buildings)
Planning Authority (click to search)
Divisional Area (click to search)
Reference No
1878
Listing Category
A
OS Grid Ref
NS 59452 64918
Location Type
Urban
HS Reference No
32774

Description

4-storey, 9-bay. Classical. Ashar. Exceptionally rare former music hall with important surviving interior. Timber sash and case windows with plate-glass glazing. Fixed-pane plate-glass windows to 3rd floor. Slate roofs. INTERIOR: notable survival of music hall with many exceptional features. Auditorium with U-plan timber gallery with bench seating supported by slender cast iron columns. Simple timber proscenium and high stage. Ceiling coombed with decorative plasterwork with flat main section with applied timber decoration in latticework pattern to centre.

The former Britannia Music Hall is an exceptionally rare survival of a music hall and it is the earliest and sole surviving example of its type in Scotland and it has a claim to be the earliest in the UK. It has a high quality classical exterior with a profusion of detailing and it contains an important early music hall auditorium.

Dated 1857, it was speculatively built as warehousing and probably incorporated an earlier building on the site, but this proposed use was quickly abandoned and the architects Gildard & MacFarlane turned it into a music hall instead.

The first and second floors opened as a variety hall called Campbell's Music Salon in 1857. It was renamed the Britannia in 1859, and again in 1887 as Hubner's Animatograph. Rebuilt as the Panopticon 1906, the name changed to the Tron Cinema in 1922 before reverting to the Panopticon again until closure in 1938. It began showing moving pictures in August 1896 and was used for cine-variety from around 1910. Many famous performers have starred here, including Stan Laurel who made his debut here in 1906.

A great number of 19th century music halls were destroyed by fire. A combination of the extensive use of timber in the interiors as well as candlelight or gas lighting meant that they were susceptible. Influxes of workers often living in poor conditions would find escapism in music halls with their mixture of songs, comedy and speciality acts such as acrobats or magicians. Often music halls were attached to a public house (there was a public house on the ground floor of the Britannia) and smoking and drinking during the performance was accepted unlike the separate bars found in established theatres. (Historic Scotland)
Building Dates
1857; 1869
Architects
Thomas Gildard and R. H. M MacFarlane; Hugh Barclay

Category of Risk and Development History

Condition
Fair
Category of Risk
Low
Exemptions to State of Risk
The ground floor is occupied and is not at risk.
Field Visits
13/10/2010, 16/09/2009, 01/09/2007, 01/08/1990, 01/06/2004
Development History
August 1990: External inspection reveals the top 2 floors to be vacant. The building suffers from water ingress and peeling paintwork. 5 October 1991: Press reports note that Glasgow District Council and the Glasgow Development Agency are to fund a feasibility study into renovating the building as a live venue. The study will be conducted by Dennis Rodwell Architects. 1993: Permissions are granted for an amusement arcade on the ground and first floors. January 1995: The feasibility study is now complete with repairs estimated at £3 million. 1997: A Repairs Notice is served. 13 November 1997: The Glaswegian reports on plans to restore and re-open the theatre. National Lottery funding will be sought. July 1999: The Glasgow Oracle reports that a Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust has been established to save the building. An exhibition of the plans has been mounted at Glasgow's People's Palace. Autumn 2000: Glasgow Building Preservation Trust commences a feasibility study into viable end uses. January 2001: GBPT completes the feasability study with Page and Park Architects. The property now lies within the Merchant City Townscape Heritage Initiative and may be eligible for grant aid. 2002: The Annual Review of the Architectural Heritage Fund 2001-2002 reports that the feasibility study has concluded that it would be difficult to bring the building up to 21st century requirements for performance venues, but that it could be used as a working exhibit. The Annual Report of the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust reports that restoration is estimated at £4 million. 14 April 2003: The Herald reports that the theatre is to feature in BBC's Restoration programme. 17 June 2003: The Herald reports on the theatre's history. 31 July 2003: The Scotsman reports on the theatre's appearance on the Restoration programme. 22 August 2003: The Scotsman reports that an international e-commerce company has expressed an interest in locating itself adjacent to the theatre and paying towards its restoration. The owner continues to work with the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust and is committed to its restoration, having spent £200,000 on repairing the roof. 26 August 2003: The Evening Times reports that the owner would like to see a walk of fame alongside the theatre, paying tribute to the famous entertainers who have performed there. October 2003: SCT understands that the owner is seeking grant aid from the Merchant City Townscape Heritage Initiative to reinstate a more traditional ground floor shopfront. The false ceiling over the theatre stalls have now been removed. 18 July 2004: The Sunday Times carries an interview with the Director of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust. November 2004: Local planners report that works to the façade and roof are due to commence in January 2005. 6 November 2004: The Herald reports that the building is a key project for the Townscape Heritage Initiative, which has just received an extra £845,000 of Heritage Lottery Fund monies. 11 November 2004: The Glaswegian repeats the story. January 2006: the Trust reports that the public's response to the building has been increasing with some notable celebs showing an interest. September 2006: Evening Times report that the theatre is to be awarded a £630K revamp as part of an overall £1.2million investment by Scottish enterprise Glasgow in to the Merchant City. December 2006: GBPT report that for repair and restoration of the facade and works are intended to start on site in January 2007. September 2007: Scottish Daily Mail reviews the history of the Music Hall as a new book has been launched to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Panoptican. Prince Consultancy are reported to have been engaged to develop a business plan. September 2007: External inspection reveals the continued deterioration of paintwork and plant growth on upper ledges.
September 2009: The Scottish Daily Mail reports that £1M refurbishment works are in progress and the Music Hall will be open for a programme of events in coming weeks.
September 2009: SCT inspection and report from the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust reveals that the building is in use during the summer and has had exterior repairs carried out to the facade. Interior repairs are ongoing. Full restoration is not planned at this time but the building is in use and therefore set to Restoration in Progress.
November 2009: The Glasgow Evening Times reports on a fundraising event for the theatre. A Burlesque event will be held to raise funds for the continued restoration of the building. The article notes £7 million is required to restore the building fully and reopen it to the public.
October 2010: External inspection finds repair works ongoing at this building. Scaffolding has been erected along the west elevation.

Guides to Development

Conservation Area
Glasgow Central
Planning Authority Contact
PAC Telephone Number
0141 287 5492

Availability

Current Availability
Not Available
Appointed Agents
Price
Unknown
Occupancy
Part
Occupancy Type
Owner
Present/Former Uses
Name of Owners
Type of Ownership
Company

Information Services

Additional Contacts/Information Source
Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust, 113-117 Trongate, Glasgow G1 5HD Tel: (0141) 553 0840
Bibliography
McKean, Walker and Walker (1989), p59; Maloney (2003); Williamson, Riches and Higgs (1990), p188.
Classification
Concert Halls
Original Entry Date
03/08/1990
Date of Last Edit
09/01/2014