From a "Gin Palace" to a "King's Palace?" The Evolution of the Music Hall in Preston c1840-1914

Hindle, David (2006) From a "Gin Palace" to a "King's Palace?" The Evolution of the Music Hall in Preston c1840-1914. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis adopts a chronological approach to the development of Preston's music halls between 1840 -1914. It was partly inspired by the apparent lack of similar academic work having been undertaken. Nevertheless comparable studies of other provincial towns have provided valuable models against which the Preston experience can be tested. Through documentary analysis, based particularly on the local press and music hall trade press, the principal aims are to place Preston within the historiography of the music hail genre; to evaluate the evolution and growth of the Preston Victorian and Edwardian music hall and its relationship with rival forms of entertainment and to assess the impact of reformers on the social class composition of audiences in their quest for moral and legal reform.

Research has revealed several significant findings: Preston was at the forefront of music hall development and by 1839 its first concert hall was established. The movement against music hall was strengthened because of the local influence of Joseph Livesey and his followers who advocated total abstinence and promoted counter-attractions. Nevertheless the 1860s and early 70s was a particular boom time for Preston Music Hall with the opening of several new concert halls. Preston broadly follows the national pattern of growth but with a notable exception: there was no major variety theatre or properly constructed pub music hall in the town between 1889-1905.

The years between 1905 and 1914 represents a second period of music-hall resurgence with three established variety theatres filling the void in music hall provision. However, a suggestion of a surplus of seats for music hall coincides with the opening of Broadhead's vast King's Palace Theatre in 1913 and rival cinema entertainment. Part of the Broadhead syndicate's management philosophy was that in case of poor box office returns their music halls could be re-designed for use as factories. Neither Preston theatre found this adaptation necessary and both survived to present the genre of inclusive music hall entertainment until the 1950s.

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