Manchester has an amazing theatre history. We have looked into our huge theatre collection to show you some of the theatres that are no longer there and also some that still are. Some buildings are still there but are no longer theatres. Why not start the journey looking back at this fantastic resource. We will show you the first theatre in Manchester and many more after that. You may love the theatre or have never been to a show but this memory box will give you the chance to find out more or speak to the people you know and ask them to share their memories of their own visits to the theatre. Get ready for the curtain to go up and the show to begin.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, Archives+ has published 20 online memory boxes covering some of the neighbourhoods in Manchester. Below you will find a collection of theatre images to enjoy. Dig out your old photos too, these can also be a brilliant resource to trigger fond memories of family times. We encourage you to share your findings on social media, either as comments on our Facebook page or on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #ArchivesPlusMemorybox

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If you are unable to share your photos and stories online, when libraries are open, bring copies of your family memories into the library.  In the coming year we will produce an exhibition in your local library of selected submissions, shared both online and in person.  

Please make sure that if you share any information with us that the person you have spoken to is happy for you to share it with Archives+. When sharing your findings try to avoid sharing too much personal information such as surnames and date of birth as these details can identify your loved ones.


Manchester Local Image Collection

Archives+ Flickr

NSPCC Staying safe online guide for children.

Age UK Staying safe online guide for older people

Manchester Theatres built between 1753 – 1891

MARSDEN THEATRE, Manchester’s first theatre, opened in 1753 and closed in 1775.

Marsden Street Theatre 1800 m08490

THEATRE ROYAL Spring Gardens opened in 1775, but was destroyed by fire in 1789. It reopened in 1790 and closed again in 1807. It was renamed the Queen’s Theatre in 1827, closing again in 1869.

Theatre Royal, First building, Spring Gardens, corner of York Street 1803 m06629

THEATRE ROYAL Fountain Street opened in 1807 and was destroyed by fire in 1844.

Theatre Royal, Fountain Street 1820 m79665

THEATRE ROYAL Peter Street opened in 1845, closed in 1921. It is Manchester’s oldest surviving theatre building. It is now owned by Edwardian Hotels London.

Theatre Royal, Peter Street 1890 m06635
Interior Theatre Royal, View from stage, Peter Street 1900 m06638
Theatre Royal 1887
Theatre Royal
Theatre Royal 1857

Gentlemen’s Concert Hall opened in 1830, demolished in 1898. The Midland Hotel now stands on this site.

Gentlemen’s Concert Hall, Lower Mosley Street, corner with Peter Street 1900
People’s Theatre Exterior, Gentlemen’s Concert Hall (poster clad building), Lower Mosley Street (Corner of Peter Street) 1890 m06587

FREE TRADE HALL opened in 1856, was bombed in 1940 during WWII and reopened in 1951. It was home to the Hallé Orchestra for over 138 years and finally closed its doors in 1996. The building is now The Edwardian Manchester, a Radisson Collection hotel.

Free Trade Hall, Peter Street 1851 m51961
Interior Free Trade Hall, Peter Street 1925 m51902
Free Trade Hall programme 1857

Prince’s Theatre opened in 1864, closed in 1940. The building Peter House is now situated on this site.

Prince’s Theatre, Oxford Road 1932 m75567 In the distance are commercial buildings in St. Peter’s Square – now Central Library.
Prince’s Theatre plan
Prince’s Theatre 1897

ALEXANDRA MUSIC HALL opened in 1865. It was renamed the Folly Theatre of Varieties in 1879 and The Tivoli in 1897, with the curtain coming down and the doors closing in 1921.

Alexandra Music Hall, Bridge Street 1830 m06403
Folly Theatre, Peter Street – opened in 1879 m08972
Interior, Tivoli Theatre, Peter Street – opened in 1897 m06661
Tivoli Programme

QUEEN’S THEATRE opened in 1870, but was destroyed by fire in 1890, reopening in 1891. It closed in 1911 and the building was later demolished in 1929. The Masonic Hall was later built on this site, which is now known as Manchester Hall.

Queen’s Theatre, York Street 1902 m06617
Interior Queen’s Theatre, from stage, Bridge Street, Deansgate 1900 m06614

GAEITY THEATRE OF VARIETIES opened 1878, but was destroyed by fire in 1883. Rebuilt and renamed The Comedy Theatre in 1884. It was sold to Annie Horniman in 1907, closing again in 1920. It reopened as the Gaeity Picture House in 1921 and finally closed for good in 1959.

Gaiety Theatre, Peter Street 1890 m06434
Exterior of Gaiety Theatre, Peter Street 1944 m06442
Gaiety Theatre, Interior 1959 m06451
Annie Horniman bought the Gaiety Theatre, Peter Street in 1908 and founded the Playgoers Theatre Company there. m73494
Letter from Annie Horniman
Gaiety Playbill
Comedy Theatre playbill 1891
Comedy Theatre playbill 1887

St. James’s Hall on Oxford Street, included a theatre, ST. JAMES’S THEATRE, which opened in 1881. The theatre closed in 1907, reopening as the New Pavilion Picture Theatre in 1908. The theatre and hall were demolished in 1909, replaced by the Calico Printers Association’s head office, the St. James’ Building.

St James’s Theatre, Oxford Street 1906 m04222
St James’s Theatre, view from stage, Oxford Street 1900 m06626
Women’s suffrage meeting at St James Theatre 1907 m08240
St James’s Hall, Oxford Street 1903 m52012

Palace Theatre opened in 1891, was renovated and reopened in 1913, and closed again in 1978 for a major overhaul, reopening three years later in 1981. The theatre remains one of the most prominent theatres in Manchester today.

Palace Theatre, Oxford Street 1920 m06564
Entrance Hall, Palace Theatre, Oxford Street 1900 m06555
Palace Theatre, junction of Oxford Street and Whitworth Street 1921 m81248

We hope you have enjoyed looking back at these photographs of Manchester’s theatres. We will return to covering a new neighbourhood or theme next month. If you would like to see more images, don’t forget to check out the photograph albums on Flickr and the Manchester Local Image Collection .