Bertie Crewe

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Bertie Crewe
Born1860 (1860)
Essex, England
Died10 January 1937(1937-01-10) (aged 77)
PracticeAssociated architectural firm[s]
BuildingsPiccadilly Theatre, London
Palace Theatre, Manchester
Shaftesbury Theatre, London
Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

William Robert 'Bertie' Crewe (1860, Essex – 10 January 1937, London) was one of the leading English theatre architects in the boom of 1885 to 1915.


Born in Essex and partly trained by Frank Matcham, Crewe and his contemporaries W.G.R. Sprague and Thomas Verity, were together responsible for the majority – certainly more than 200 – of the theatres and variety palaces of the great building boom which took place in Britain between 1885 and 1915, peaking at the turn of the century.[1] Crewe became known as one of the most dynamic architects of the 1890s-1900s, specialising entirely in theatres and later cinemas. He also designed the Paris Alhambra for Thomas Barrasford, which opened in 1904.

Crewe trained in Paris and London, where, as a young man, he was a frequent visitor to Frank Matcham's home. Up to the mid-1890s, Crewe collaborated with Sprague, producing the Lincoln Theatre Royal as well as a number of theatres around London. It was after he branched out on his own that he developed what was to become his characteristic Baroque-influenced style. His work around the turn of the century was marked by horizontal balconies tied to ranges of stage boxes and elaborate ornamental features.[2] Cecil Masey trained in Crewe's office, working on large theatres and music halls that Crewe designed before the First World War. Masey's designs include the theatre at Stanford Hall, Nottinghamshire. In the early 1930s Masey worked for Sidney Bernstein on the creation of the Granada cinema circuit, including the Tooting Granada.

Crewe's last project, jointly with Henry G. Kay was the Regal, Kennington Road (opened 17 November 1937) by the Arthur O'Connor circuit. Designed as split theatre-cinema, the Edwardian Kennington Empire would have been in decline by the time of building.[3]

After death[edit]

After World War II, many theatres that were not destroyed by bombing were in the way of redevelopment. The building boom of 1885 to 1915 was matched between 1950 and 1975 by theatre demolition. In that 25-year period, 35 theatres were demolished in Greater London alone.

Crewe's reputation has been re-established over the last 20 years. In 2004, the Palace Theatre, Redditch, (built 1913) completed a £3.7 million facelift. A now rare example of Edwardian theatre, it was successful in bidding for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Experts believe the Grade II-listed theatre is one of only six examples that can be fully attributed to Bertie Crewe.[4]


Theatre Location Build Date Original Seating Capacity Screens Status Notes
Royal Court Theatre London 1888 642 As sub to Walter Emden. Next to the Metropolitan railway station (now Sloane Square tube). Reconstructed in 1952 and 1980. An unimpressive auditorium, whose sight-lines could be improved, is the strangely antique setting for modern drama that generally preaches change
Theatre Royal Lincoln 1889 475 Refurbished Reopened after refurbishment 2010[5]
Olympic London 1890 Demolished With W.G.R. Sprague
Theatre Royal Aldershot 16 February 1891 700 Demolished 1959 With W. G. R. Sprague
Euston Theatre of Varieties Euston 26 December 1900 1,310 Demolished 1960 With Wylson & Long. In use as a Cinema from the mid-1930s to 1950, then renamed the Regent Theatre[6]
Sadler's Wells London 1901 Fifth theatre demolished 1996 Remodelled
Liverpool Royal Hippodrome Liverpool 1902 4,000 Demolished 1984 The first of the Barrasford halls. The ceiling was painted by Secard, depicting flying cupids upon beds of clouds. From 1931-1967 it was a cinema
Hippodrome Brighton 1902 2,000 Alterations Frank Matcham converted a skating rink into a circus in 1901. When Thomas Barrasford bought the Hippodrome in October 1902 he called in Crewe to replace the circus ring with raked stalls seating, add boxes where the animal entrances has been and extend the apron with a new orchestra pit in front
Lyceum London 1904 2,000 New Auditorium Built behind Samuel Beazley's original facade and portico
Pavilion Glasgow 1904 1.499 Now renovated, the theatre is a remarkable original survivor as a commercial theatre. Built for Tom Barrasford.
Palace Gorbals, Glasgow 1904 2,000 Demolished 1976 Cine-variety from 1914, sold to H Maitles. Bingo from 1962
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds 1906 Alterations Designed by William Wilkins it opened on 11 October 1819. Redesigned by Crewe in 1906. Greene King purchased the freehold in 1920, but closed in 1925 and used as a barrel store. Air Vice-Marshal Stanley Vincent raised over £37,000 to restore and re-open the Theatre Royal in 1965, and leased to the National Trust in 1975 on a 999-year lease
Sheffield Hippodrome Sheffield 23 December 1907 Demolished 1963[7] One of several large Hippodromes opened by Tom Barrasford in direct opposition to Oswald Stoll, then managing director of Moss Theatres
Royal Hippodrome Belfast 1907 1,156 Demolished, now the site of the modern extension of the Grand Opera House, Belfast and Fitzwilliam Hotel Became cinema in 1935, Odeon in 1961, and New Victoria Cinema in 1974. Bingo Hall in approx 1987 with occasional theatre use. Closed 1988. Demolished 1997
Nottingham Hippodrome Nottingham 28 September 1908 The last Hippodrome to be erected by Thomas Barrasford
Hippodrome Plymouth 1908 Destroyed by bombing and fire in 1941[8] Remains purchased in May 1958 by Plymouth Council for £4,000, building demolished[9]
Oldham Palace Oldham, Greater Manchester 1908 2,380 Demolished Built for Walter de Frece, his wife Vesta Tilley performed on the opening night, and in 1915 it played host to the only pantomime undertaken by Gracie Fields. Converted to the Odeon Cinema in 1936, it became a three screen in 1974. Unsuccessful in this format, it closed the same year, and remained closed until demolition in 1983. Now the site of a council social services building[10]
Hoxton Hall London 1909 Internal Alterations Built 1863 by James Mortimer, now an Arts Centre
Kingston Empire Kingston upon Thames 1910 Converted to a pub and offices in 1956 With C J Bourne. Converted to a cinema in 1930, with Neon lighting was introduced to light the dome, the second theatre in the country to do this (the first being the London Coliseum) Sister theatre to Aldershot Hippodrome.
Shaftesbury London 26 December 1911 changed to the Shaftesbury in 1963 Originally Prince's, it opened with the play The Three Musketeers[11]
London Opera House / Stoll London 1911 2,660 Demolished 1958, became site for an office block. Designed for Oscar Hammerstein in 1912, sold to London Opera House Ltd (a newly formed company) in 1913, transformed into a cinema by Oswald Stoll in 1916. A smaller theatre, The Royalty, built nearby opened 1960. Renamed The Peacock Theatre it presented the Paul Raymond revues. Today the Peacock is owned by the London School of Economics, it is a lecture theatre by day and home of Sadler's Wells' West End programme by night.[12]
Empire Burnley Burnley 1911 1,200 Auditorium reconstructed Built 1894 under G.B. Rawcliffe. Converted to a cinema in 1938, now a Gala Bingo
The Hippodrome Aldershot 3 February 1913 1,000 Demolished 1961 Partly refurbished, it reopened fitfully until about 1960
Golders Green Hippodrome Golders Green 1913 3,000 Sold, controversially, to El Shaddai International Christian Centre.[13] Former home of the BBC Concert Orchestra[14]
The Holme Regent's Park 1911 Private House First villa to be erected in Regent's Park. Designed in 1816-18 by Decimus Burton aged 18 for his father, James Burton. Further wings were added in 1911 by Bertie Crewe. More alterations were carried out in 1935[15]
Palace Theatre Manchester 1913 1,955 Auditorium Reconstructed. Now leased to Ambassador Theatre Group Built in 1891 by Alfred Darbyshire & F B Smith as the Manchester Palace of Varietie. The first computerised box office system in Europe was installed. Owned by the Palace Theatre Trust[16]
Palace Redditch 1913 399 £3.6M refurbishment and extension[17] Relatively small, it was used as a Bingo Hall from 1954-1971. Purchased by the council, converted to a theatre[18]
Coliseum Theatre Dublin 1915 3,000 Destroyed in the Easter Rising of 1916 With R.F. Bergin
Théâtre Mogador Paris 1919 1,800 Since the nineties the Théâtre Mogador is also used as a concert hall 1913 Sir Alfred Butt leased an area in Paris. Built after World War I in the year 1919. The inauguration guests include President Wilson, in France to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles[19]
Birmingham Hippodrome Birmingham 1899 1,817 Internal Changes Originally the Tower of Varieties and Circus, it is still a theatre as the Birmingham Theatre[20]
Piccadilly Theatre London 1928 1,400 With Edward A. Stone as a private theatre for Edward Laurillard. Interior decoration by Marc-Henri Levy and Gaston Laverdet[21]
Phoenix London 1930 Designed with Giles Gilbert Scott and Cecil Masey, with Theodore Komisarjevsky as Art Director. Hosted the opening production of Noël Coward's Private Lives, starring Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Laurence Olivier and Adrienne Allen
Saville Covent Garden 1931 1,426 Converted to a twin screen cinema in 1970, now a quad screen With Leslie Scott Slaughter. Builders were Messers Gee, Walker and Slater and it was designed by architects T. P. Bennett & Son. Leased by Brian Epstein in the 60s and is where The Beatles filmed the videos of "Hello, Goodbye". Jimi Hendrix, Fats Domino, The Bee Gees, The Who, Pink Floyd, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Elton John, Chuck Berry, Harry Secombe and Leonard Rossiter[22]
New Bedford Theatre Camden 1898 1 Demolished Closed 1950
Capitol Cinema Southgate, London 1935 1 Demolished September 1982 Odeon opened on 16 October 1935 with Edward G. Robinson in "Passport to Fame"
Century Cinema Kings Cross 1900 1 Demolished Closed on 4 April 1968 with David McCallum in "The Heroin Gang" and Deborah Kerr in "Eye of the Devil". Purchased by Camden Council, an extension to the Town Hall was built on the site
Southend Hippodrome / Gaumont Cinema Southend-on-Sea 1909 1 Demolished 1958 Converted into a cinema in 1933, modernised in 1956 and demolished two years later, a supermarket was subsequently built on the site[23][24]
Olympia Theatre Shoreditch 1889 2,170 1 Demolished 1939 Assisted by W.G.R. Sprague
Victoria Theatre Salford 1900 3,000 1 For sale by Palatial Leisure Limited Grade II listed, a bingo hall from 1973, closed 2008[25]
Regal Cinema Kennington 1932 2,000 1 Presently boarded up, it is to be converted to flats, 2006 With Henry G. Kay, consultant for Duchy of Cornwall estate: Louis de Soissons. Probably Crewe's last project - he died the year it opened. Converted to a cinema in 1961


  1. ^ "New venues and some older ones". thelondonseason. Archived from the original on 9 December 2013.
  2. ^ "Theatreland: Architects - Bertie Crewe (d. 1937)". London Metropolitan Archives: Learning Zone. Archived from the original on 2 December 2007.
  3. ^ "GALLERY- October 2004". Mercia Cinema. October 2004. Archived from the original on 15 October 2008.
  4. ^ "Rare theatre revamped to its best". BBC News. 23 January 2006. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
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  13. ^ "Anger as church buys hippodrome". BBC News. BBC. 29 March 2007. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  14. ^ "The BBC's TV studios in London: Golders Green Hippodrome". An incomplete history of London's television studios. Archived from the original on 3 June 2007.
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  16. ^ "Manchester: Palace Theatre". Andreas Praefcke. Archived from the original on 15 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Grand Theatre & Opera House, Blackpool - A Conservation Statement (Practice Profile)" (PDF). Blackpool Grand. p. 16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 February 2012. Theatresearch was formed in 1985 to undertake the reconstruction of the Tyne Theatre & Opera House after a devastating fire swept through this Grade I listed theatre... Current work includes a £3.6 million extension of the Palace Theatre, Redditch,...
  18. ^ "The Palace Theatre". Sansome Hall Architects.
  19. ^ "Théâtre Mogador, Paris, France: About the venue". Classictic.
  20. ^ "Building Stories". Birmingham Hippodrome.
  21. ^ "London: Piccadilly Theatre". Andreas Praefcke.
  22. ^ "Odeon Covent Garden". Cinema Treasures.
  23. ^ "Theatres and Halls in Southend-on-Sea, and Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex: The Hippodrome Theatre, 4 Southchurch Road, Southend-on-Sea". Arthur Lloyd Theatres. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  24. ^ "Gaumont Southend-on-Sea". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  25. ^ Staff writer (2015). "Victoria Theatre (Salford)". Theatres Trust. Retrieved 3 April 2016.


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