Built on the corner of Broad Street and Gladstone Road in the late 1800's The Theatre Royal & Hippodrome was a temporary wood and tar paper construction but had luxury seating accommodation for about 500 patrons.
Messrs Tours Ltd, whose managing director was Mr Arthur Carlton (later to become Sir Arthur Carlton) were the owners and managers. Mr Carlton was one of the leading theatre and vaudeville impresarios in the country, and was able to offer the theatre-going public the top theatrical and vaudeville acts touring Britain.
For the opening of the new theatre one of the acts booked was "Miss Ellie", a lion tamer who used African lions in her act. The finale of her act was the catching of a lion in full flight as it jumped from a platform in the cage. Unfortunately she failed to appear on the opening night "owing to a tragic occurrence which had taken place". In 1909 the theatre caught fire and was burnt to the ground.
In 1910 Messrs Tours built the present Theatre Royal to replace the burnt out theatre, but the insurers would not pay out on the insurance unless they built on the site of the old theatre, and so the company ended up in 1910 with two theatres. The old Theatre Royal & Hippodrome was renamed The Kings Hall, and was opened as The Palace Theatre De Luxe showing animated pictures and presenting vaudeville acts.
Touring repertory companies and vaudeville acts, because of the better lighting, bigger audiences and better conditions at The Theatre Royal, insisted on appearing there.
The Kings Hall was renamed The Silver Cinema, and concentrated on showing animated pictures. Later as variety acts were superseded by talking pictures, the film shows gradually played a bigger part in the programme of the Theatre Royal until the Silver Cinema closed, and after extensive alterations, re-opened As The Savoy Ballroom.
The ballroom attracted a large and regular clientele who thought Bindles too up-market and expensive for regular attendance (although ideal for dances organised by Clubs, works, and for special occasions such as Christmas and the New Year). The Savoy was considered to be the top ballroom of the large number situated in the town, and is still remembered by many of its former patrons for the large mirrored glass ball that hung in the centre of the ballroom. During its time as the Savoy it was the venue for the many beauty competitions that attracted competitors from all over the Principality, and for fashion shows held there.
On the death of its owner, the Savoy came under new management and its name was changed to The Empire Ballroom, by which name it was known until the advent and sudden popularity of Bingo. The dance hall was closed and after refurbishment, re-opened as The Empire Bingo Hall. This name lasted for a short time until too many other establishments opened in the Town as Bingo halls, offering better conditions and bigger prizes. Unable to compete, The Empire closed, re-opening first as a roller skating rink, and later, with the growing popularity of snooker, it was refurbished, opening as The Savoy Snooker Club. It has now turned practically full circle becoming The Savoy (Talk of the Town) once more.
© T. CLEMETT 1998