Victoria Theatre (former) | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Victoria Theatre (former)

Item details

Name of item: Victoria Theatre (former)
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Recreation and Entertainment
Category: Theatre
Location: Lat: -32.9269043383 Long: 151.7786013880
Primary address: 8-10 Perkins Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Parish: Newcastle
County: Northumberland
Local govt. area: Newcastle
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Awabakal
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT1 DP1100172
PART LOT1 DP197131
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
8-10 Perkins StreetNewcastleNewcastleNewcastleNorthumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Entasil Pty LtdPrivate 

Statement of significance:

The Victoria Theatre is a building of State importance. It is the oldest theatre building still standing in New South Wales. It represents an age of silent pictures, vaudeville and early legitimate theatre that no other building can offer in this State - being over 100 years old.

It is virtually intact, except for vestibule/back stalls alterations. Demolition of false shop walls may reveal that even these areas remain unaltered. The theatre represents an 1891 facade, an auditorium that is both 1891 and 1921, with extensive backstage facilities. It is an important part of Newcastle's heritage, but also a significant building for NSW.

(Movie Theatre Register for NSW 1896-1996, compiled by the Department of Architecture, University of Sydney (Ross Thorne, Les Todd and Kevin Cork))
Date significance updated: 02 Jun 99
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: Mr James Henderson
Construction years: 1890-1891
Physical description: A highly decorated Victorian facade finished in smooth and modelled stucco with some classical decorative elements. The facade forms the front to a large auditorium of undecorated plain finishes. The facade consists of a ground floor, which has been altered to suit progressive tenants. The two levels above the awning is divided by deep string courses and divided into bays by pilasters. The top is terminated by a richly decorated parapet fence, featuring a central tablet with the building's name in moulded lettering. The facade features recessed blind windows, of grand proportions defined by the pilasters. The blind windows reveal the nature of the building, a theatre, designed to exclude daylight. The central bay on the upper floor features a window. The return walls are unusual in that they step upwards from the facade meeting the roof over the auditorium.

The decorative elements are relatively intact although the metal awning appears to be a later addition and some of the blind windows have been opened for later screens and vets. (Heritage Office 1999)

The interior dress circle, circle foyer, proscenium, stage, fly tower, dressing rooms, ceilings and walls of the Victoria are all intact. Only the vestibule (lower foyer) and back stalls area has been subject to alteration for retail purposes. The exterior above the awning is also intact, as it was after the 1921 alterations (with the former hotel windows 'blinded' when the auditorium was extended). (Movie Theatre Register 1996)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is good.
Date condition updated:02 Jun 99
Modifications and dates: 1890/91 - constructed
1921 - altered for use as a cinema
1955 - CinemaScope installed
post 1966 - lower foyer converted into retail
Current use: Retail
Former use: Theatre

History

Historical notes: The first Victoria Theatre was built on the site in 1876. This was altered in 1885 and razed in 1890. The third Victoria Theatre was built in 1890/1and closed as a cinema in 1966.

Montague-Turner Opera Company appeared in 1881 with Lucia di Lammeroor, Il Trovatore, Faust etc. and Deglorian Acrobats appeared in 1880 and settled in Newcastle.

A company of prominent gentlemen including the Mayors of both Newcastle, Mr J. Creer and Maitland, met in Newcastle in 1886 and agreed to buy the theatre.

The theatre was extensively rebuilt in 1890 by the design of prolific architect Mr James Henderson, elaborately furnished three level auditorium of a Grecian theme, a large stage house and a small first class hotel. Mr James MacMahon of Melbourne and Mr Joseph Wood (breweries) spoke on behalf of Victoria Theatre Company at the official completion in 1891.

The Fletcher Memorial concerts were held in 1893, raising funds for a statue of the late James Fletcher MLA with Alexander Brown, MLC opening the concerts.

In May 1897 there was the Grand Concert Governor's Reception under the immediate patronage of His Excellency Lord Hampden and Lady Hampden and the Mayor and Mayoress of Sydney and Newcastle. May/June saw the Flying Jordons American Vaudeville Athletes and Entertainers and also Ireland revisited.

On several full moon nights in June the city/region celebrated Her Majesty Queen Victoria's Record Reign. The exterior of the theatre was brilliantly illuminated and a transparency of Her Majesty was exhibited on the front of the theatre while 4th Regiment band played a number of selections in Perkins Street. National Anthem was sung, Mr C. Hannell performed Hamlet and Othello in aid of Newcastle Hospital, Lime light views of 'A day's holiday at Windsor' - life like views of Her Majesty and the Royal Family by G. Hall and T. Simon, concluding with fireworks.

July saw Ada Delroy Company with Cobra Di Capello Dance and the Lumeire
Cinematographe. During September the City celebrated the Centennial of Lieutenant Shortland's Discovery of Newcastle and Alfred Dampier's Company presented his remarkable plays including: Robbery Under Arms, Monte Cristo, East Lynne etc. October saw Professor D M Bristo, who had his performing Horses, Ponies and Mules on stage.

The theatre's facilities were upgraded in 1905 by Architect Mr E. A. Scott of Sydney with Government approval, the auditorium was redecorated and extra dressing rooms were built which allow the stage to be widened.

Australian Melodramas were staged: Thunderbolt, 1906; William Anderson's The Southern Cross - Eureka Stockade with battle scenes and scenes of the wreck of the Dunbar after leaving Sydney heads 1907 and his, The Squatter's Daughter with real sheep and horses 1909; For the term of his Natural Life, Biograph 1909; On our Selection, 1913 and Ethel Turner's Seven little Australians in 1920.

The Great Glove Contest Boxing between legendary Les Darcy and Bob Whitelaw was held on eight hour day morning, November 1913. After the 20 hard rounds, Whitelaw was awarded the decision. Lilly Lantry had her first appearance in Newcastle in 1913.

Another show for charity, Romeo and Juliet, with Miss Essie Jenyns alias Mrs J. R. Wood and Mr Malcolm McEachern of Madam Melba Concert Company with funds in aid of Newcastle Hospital in 1914. Madam Schell's bewildering Lions also appeared in 1914.

Late 1921 saw an major internal refurbishment costing 20 000 pounds, removing the upper balcony and small hotel, rebuilding the dress circle and making it more suitable for use as a cinema. The auditorium was redecorated by Artist Norman Carter with painted Grecian Murals of Dancing Nymphs.

Architects for the refurbishment were Robertson and Marks who later designed the late ornate Prince Edward Theatre and the Bondi Beach Pavilion and builders were James Porter and Sons later builders for the Sydney Capitol, Regent and Melbourne's grand Regent theatres. Mr Will Herbert became the General Manager for northern district.

But early 1922, the Victoria was taken over by Sir Benjamin and John Fuller of Melbourne's Princess Theatre fame and they built the large late Sydney St. James Theatre and added the Newcastle Victoria to their national live theatre chain.

It was in this theatre the Hunter Region saw through J. C. Williamsons, Fuller's, Elizabethan Theatre Trust....etc: Queen of song, Gladys Moncrief made her first appearance in Newcastle with Rio Rita in 1928; Bert Bailey in Sentimental Bloke and On Our Selection also in 1913, 1928; Tivoli Follies 1917; Stiffy and Mo 1918; Odiva and her Seals, 1922; expensive Italian Opera Festival 1928/1929 with 12 operas in 10 days and real Opera Singers from Italy; Midnight Frolics with Clem Dawe 1928, 1932; George Wallace 1926, 1930; Gilbert and Sullivan collection 1905, 1906, 1927, 1936; Royal Grand Opera 1935; Gala Patriotic Matinee with Roy Mo Rene, 1940; Ice skating show from America in 1953; Oklahoma in 1953; National Opera seasons in 1951 with Ivan Menzies and 1954; Opera great Joan Hammond sang as Tosca as part of a Opera and Ballet program in 1957 with John Shaw and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra; Ziegfield Follies from America in 1962; Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs from London in 1963; The Sound of Music also in 1963; June Bromhill performed the Merry Widow in 1964, .... etc.

Hoys took control of the Victoria in 1942. CinemaScope was installed around 1955, with no widening of the somewhat decorated proscenium. J C Williamson's continued to put on live shows there into the 1950s and 1960s.

The Victoria Theatre, having a dual career was used by Haymarket, Union theatres, Snider and Dean, and Hoyts Theatres for films. It is believed Hoyts repainted the auditorium. Movie greats shown at the Victoria were: A Daughter of the Gods with a water Lilly pond and climbing vines on stage, Madam X, Trader Horn, Showboat, Gone with the Wind, Seven Little Australians, 39 steps, Fantasia, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, White Cliffs of Dover, Phantom of the Opera, Titanic, Around the world in Eighty Days, .... etc.

After a 90 year career, the theatre quietly closed as a cinema in the late 1960s (1966: Heritas, 2016, 4), it was retained in a certain way as if, it could be reopened for example live theatre (Griffin, 1999; Movie Theatre Register, Department of Architecture, University of Sydney)

Since closing the theatre the vestibule (lower foyer) and back stalls area has been subject to alteration for retail purposes. It was bought by W. Eastham for 33,000 pounds in November 1966 and in 1967 it opened as Eastham's Theatre Store. This went into liquidation in 1982. c1998 clothing businesss Jeans Connection rented the building on a weekly basis, creating an internal retail shell. In 1999 the building was bought by Ambrow P/L and opened as a toyshop (Supertoys). In 2004 it was bought by veteran hotelier Arthur Launry and in 2015 it was bought by Century Venues (ibid, 2016, 4).

After remaining empty and derelict for more than a decade, the theatre will receive a full renovation and become a functioning live performance venue for the first time in more than 40 years. The venue was purchased last week by Century Venues, owner of the popular Enmore Theatre in Sydney's Newtown. In its heyday, the Victoria Theatre played host to Australian actresses June Bronhill, Joan Hammond and Lillie Langtry; staged classic Australian melodramas such as The Squatter's Daughter and Seven Little Australians; was the backdrop for the 1913 boxing match between legendary Les Darcy and Bob Whitelaw; and was one of the early Hoyts cinemas in the 1940s. It was boarded up in 1999. Directors Elia Eliades and Greg Khoury from Century Venues say they are thrilled about the "rare opportunity" to renovate the theatre and return it to its former glory. "We are excited by the huge challenge ahead and look forward to working closely with the city and people of Newcastle in returning this treasure to its rightful place as a great cultural asset." SIMONE FOX KOOB YOUR LOCAL ENTERTAINMENT GUIDE NSW & ACT, 24/11/15).

The theatre has been sold and the new owner, Century Venues, proposes its restoration. Century Venues operate the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, the Metro in Sydney, the Factory at Marrickville, the Comedy Store at Moore Prak and the Vanguard at Newtown (Quint, 2016, 3).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Creating landmark structures and places in regional settings-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Cultural Social and religious life-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 19th Century Infrastructure-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to the theatre-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Gathering at landmark places to socialise-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Victoria Theatre is the oldest theatre building still standing in New South Wales. It represents an age of silent pictures, vaudeville and early legitimate theatre that no other building can offer in this State - being over 100 years old. The Salvation Army screened early Australian-made features here in 1906. The theatre was used by major Australian live theatre companies, J & N Tait, Fullers's, Clay's Vaudeville and J C Williamson's. (Movie Theatre Register, Department of Architecture, University of Sydney)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Victorian facade is an important part of the Perkins Street streetscape, and one of the city's oldest heritage buildings. The theatre represents an 1891 facade, an auditorium that is both 1891 and 1921, with extensive backstage facilities. The 1921 interior is in a unique simple 'modern classical' style of pilastered walls and panelling. The latter is 'recilinear' with the exception of small circular panels on the dress circle balcony above frieze of greek key pattern. (Movie Theatre Register, Department of Architecture, University of Sydney)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Victoria has been an important cultural, entertainment and social facility for the residents of newcastle for around 80 years. It is still fondly remembered by many older people for the live shows that were staged there. (Movie Theatre Register, Department of Architecture, University of Sydney)
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Victoria Theatre is the oldest theatre building still standing in New South Wales. (Movie Theatre Register, Department of Architecture, University of Sydney)
Integrity/Intactness: It is virtually intact, except for the vestibule/back stalls alterations. (Movie Theatre Register, Department of Architecture, University of Sydney)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0130127 Aug 99 987548
Local Environmental Plan 198703 Jul 92 0834665
National Trust of Australia register   01 Feb 97   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Movie Theatre Heritage Register for NSW 1896-19961996Category 1 - CountryUniversity of SydneyR Thorne, L Todd, K Cork Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenQuint, Graham2016'Victoria Theatre to be restored'
WrittenSIMONE FOX KOOB YOUR LOCAL ENTERTAINMENT GUIDE NSW & ACT2015'Fresh Life for the old Victoria', in "The Australian", 24/11/15

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5044972


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