[Reprinted from "The Isle of Man Times" of Saturday. July 16. 1921.]
[Note that the IoM Times was owned by J A Brown who also ran the Palace & Derby Castle Co - the account of early days is certainly an incomplete and very partial description]
The month of July forms a momentous period in the history of The Palace and Derby Castle, Ltd. On Monday, July 21st, 1913, the Coliseum was opened; on Tuesday, July 13th, 1920 (last year), The Palace was utterly destroyed by fire ; and on Monday next, July 18th, the new structure, to be known as "The White Palace," will be opened by his Excellency the Lieut.-Governor of the Isle of Man. The destruction of The Palace left on the site a mountain of debris, stricken and twisted iron girders, massive iron columns, myriads of broken bricks, tottering walls, charred timbers, and indescribable rubbish. It took fully two months to clear away this vast mass of useless stuff. That period was occupied by the Directors and Management in settling with the Insurance Company and in getting out plans for the new Palace which the Directors resolved should take the place of the destroyed building. Consequently, it was well on in October last before the erection of the. new building was actually on the way; and yet, notwithstanding innumerable difficulties, in obtaining the requisite materials, in arranging sub-contracts for iron work, timber, fibrous plaster, labour troubles, and the thousand and one obstacles in the way of progress, the important fact stands, as a monument to what can be achieved by perseverance and organisation, that the new Palace will be opened in one year and five days after the fiery demolition of its predecessor. The Company should be and is proud of this wonderful feat. Before giving any details as to the appearance and capacity of this up-to-date addition to the amusement places in Douglas, a brief resume of the events and developments which have led up to this achievement may not be devoid of interest,
The first provision of a place of amusement in Douglas, with a mixed programme of music, dancing, and varieties, was made by the late Mr A. N. Laughton, who, becoming the owner of the residence and grounds known as Derby Castle, once the property of the late Major Pollock, added to it a building which was the precursor of the present Derby Castle pavilion. So limited was Mr Laughton's pavilion that, at the farther end, the rocks of Port-e-Vada formed the visible boundary a very picturesque, but somewhat inconvenient scenic arrangement. Mr Laughton, with the aid of the late Mr Philip Kinley (a druggist, who acted as secretary and manager), with others, worked the resort with varying success. The entertainments consisted of dancing, with vocal and instrumental concerts, and fireworks, with occasional athletic festivals. On Sundays, concerts of a more or less sacred character, were held. These concerts excited a storm of opposition, mainly clerical. The objectors threatened to prosecute Mr Laughton for holding Sunday concerts on licensed premises. Mr Laughton's argument was that the liquor licence did not include Sunday, and that, as on that day no liquor could be lawfully sold, the objection was pointless. There was then a threat held out that proceedings would be taken under the old Sabbath Observance Act of 1625. The question of Sunday concerts, however, in Derby Castle was never legally tested. Mr Laughton, in press and pamphlet, defied his clerical opponents, and went on his way more or less rejoicing. So great has been the change in public opinion that, even in Douglas, so-called "sacred recitals" are frequent happenings in both churches and chapels.
Afterwards, wishing to relieve himself of the labour of looking after a public resort, Mr Laughton disposed of the undertaking to the Derby Castle Company, Limited, registered October 31st, 1884. The first directors were Messrs Henry McNeil (Manchester), chairman ; John A. Brown (vice-chairman), Wm. Henry Hayes (Manchester), William Welden (Douglas), and Chas. Kennaugh (Douglas). These directors developed the business in other directions. The pavilion was, amidst enormous financial difficulties, practically doubled in size ; the Derby Castle promenade was constructed in order to facilitate access to entrance gates ; and other improvements carried out ; with the result that Derby Castle became a famous resort, and was, in every way, a success.
This success produced both reward and punishment the reward of dividends and the punishment of opposition, for the success of Derby Castle resulted in the formation of Falcon Cliff Company, which enjoyed such a pronounced prosperity that at one time it paid, for a period, so handsome a dividend as 20 per cent.
Then an event came about: which threatened to involve in ruin both Derby Castle and Falcon Cliff. The Castle Mona Hotel estate came onto the market. The principal owners, wearying of nursing a property which, in the growing development of Douglas, brought in no proper return for its intrinsic value, determined to dispose of it. The then principal owners the late Mr T. Mylchreest and Mr W. Todhunter solicited Mr John A. Brown, to see what he could do in the matter. He undertook to form a Company to purchase the property, conditionally that, in order to avoid undue competition, it was first offered to the then existing places of amusement, Derby Castle and Falcon Cliff. After considering the matter, the directors of those resorts decided that the purchase costing £80,000 was absolutely beyond their financial reach.
A Company bearing the above title was then formed, for the special purpose of taking over the Castle Mona Estate. The Manx Syndicate, which, on the 24th day of October, 1888, was registered under the Limited Liability Act of 1865, consisted of only ten persons, viz., Messrs Herbert Kidson (Manchester), Chas. William Walpole, John A. Brown, Wm. Welden, Alex. Gill, R. M. Broadbent, John Parkes, Jas. M. Sutherland, Thos. Mylchreest, and Wm. Todhunter. Mr J. A. Brown was selected chairman.
At the first meeting of the Syndicate, the chairman proposed and carried a motion to one effect that, with a view to preserving it as a "thing of beauty" in the centre of Douglas bay, the Castle Mona estate be first offered to the Insular Government, as the Governor's residence, and, if the Government declined, then to the Douglas Municipal Authorities, as a park, museum, etc., for Douglas. The Syndicate offered to arrange the finance of the purchase, to let the entire property go for a small advance on the purchase money, and to wait ten years for their small profit.
Neither the Insular Government nor the Douglas Municipal Authorities could see their way to accept the patriotic offer made by the Manx Syndicate. Thrown thus upon their resources, the Syndicate proceeded vigorously to develop their valuable acquisition. The hotel was disposed of to a separate Company. The land nearest Douglas was sold for building purposes, and the back land was formed into the Olympia Racecourse by a subsidiary Company formed with that object. This Company did not meet with success.
The Syndicate erected the enormous pavilion, The Palace, and, after working it for a short time, disposed of it to The Palace Company, Limited, a Company which was registered on the 25th of August, 1890. Its first directors were Messrs John A.. Brown (chairman), R. M. Broadbent, Alex. Gill, John Wm. Livesey, John Parkes, and Robert Stott (all of Douglas), and Wm. Henry Hayes (of Manchester).
Having achieved their gigantic task, or, rather, series of tasks, the Manx Syndicate came to an end.
The Palace, which was opened on Saturday, the 3rd of August, 1889, was at once a pronounced success : and promised, as it ultimately did, to swallow up all its competitors, including the small new-comer Company which had erected the "Marina," since transformed into the Gaiety Theatre.
The Gaiety Theatre : Exterior. accommodates 1,800 Persons.
Interior of Gaiety Theatre-Part of the Auditorium.
And now we come to one of the must important and far-reaching of the developments in connection with the Douglas places of amusement. None of the then existing undertakings were so successful as could have been desired. The 20 per cent. dividends of Falcon Cliff had dwindled to nil. The £1 shares of Derby Castle were scarcely marketable at half the price. The Marina was wallowing in financial mire; and, as to The Palace, notwithstanding its enormous and pronounced. capacities, it was not achieving, in the way of profit, what might reasonably have been expected of it.
Competition was, in fact, throttling all the four places of amusement. For a long time the idea had been germinating in the head of the Chairman of The Palace Company, that the best and only way to abolish a competition which threatened to be ruinous was to adopt the principle of combination in a word, to amalgamate the four Companies :into one Company to abolish three Boards of Directors, three Managers and Secretaries, three executive bodies, and to carry on the four places under one Board of Directors, all with one Executive, one Secretary and Manager.
After making sure of the necessary financial backing for such an enterprise, the person referred to opened negotiations, and ultimately succeeded in securing favourable options for the purchase of the four places of amusement The Palace, Derby Castle, Falcon Cliff, and The Marina.
The prospectus was very shortly afterwards issued for the nascent Company, "The Palace and Derby Castle, Limited," with a capital of £215,000, made up of £60,000 in five per cent. preference. shares, £70,000 in ordinary shares, and £85,000 in four per cent. debentures.
The Company went: off with a bang, the capital being over applied for, and the Company entered into possession of the four properties. This Company was registered on the 29th of March, 1898. The Directors, as set out in No. 82 of the Articles of Association, wore Messrs John A. Brown (chairman), Mr. Henry Smith (Manchester), Leonard Broadbent (of Darwen), and Fred Flint, Alex. Gill, Leonard Dursley and Robert Stott (all of Douglas) [Stott was son-in-law of Dursley].
Mr Chas. Fox, who was Manager of The Palace, in succession to Mr Geo. Morrison, was appointed to that position in the Amalgamated Company, and is still holding that responsible appointment as well as that of Managing Director.
Immediately on entering into control, the Directors, in pursuance of a settled and enlightened policy of enterprise and development, commenced the carrying out of the various improvements which have made the Company one of the most important out of London in the special business of amusement catering.
We would now briefly enumerate those improvements.
1. The "Marina" was gutted, the present handsome front erected, and the interior transformed into the Gaiety Theatre, one of the handsomest theatres in the Kingdom ; and that prince of architects, Mr Frank Matcham now, unhappily, no more was the recipient of scores nay, of hundreds of congratulations on the result of his plans in regard to this metamorphosis. The Gaiety, with its ample stage, admirably fitted up, is acknowledged to be one of the most perfect theatres out of London. In its grand circle, orchestra and pit stalls, pit, amphitheatre, and gallery, it has accommodation for 2,300 persons, and there is an uninterrupted view of the stage from every seat in the house. The scheme of decoration is exceedingly chaste and tasteful cream, blue, and gold while the dome, in decorative modeling, surrounding exquisite paintings by Italian artists presents a coup d'oeil of tender grace and beauty. The Gaiety is now the only legitimate theatre in the Island.
2. The Directors, by this change at "The Marina," did away with one competitor in the provision for dancing and varieties, and with the view of still further reducing the competition, decided on making Falcon Cliff into a building estate, for which, owing to its grand command of the sea and land views, it is so admirably suited. A portion of the land was disposed of for building sites, and the remainder, with the hotel, was recently purchased by Mr H. H. Crippin, of Ramsey. With regard to the Falcon Cliff Hotel, a proposal was considered for establishing it as a hydro, and some English capitalists negotiated for its acquisition with that object in view. With its five acres of land and its abundant supply of water, from two streams, it lends itself admirably to such a purpose. So that there might be ample space for a lake, tennis, and croquet grounds, baths, and all the necessary requirements of a high-class hydro and residential hotel, the Directors acquired all the land extending to the Switzerland road, which leads to the shore.
3. At Derby Castle, or the "Hall by the Sea," to use one of its most popular names, the alterations and improvements have been of a very comprehensive character. The pavilion, which is 180 feet long by 80 feet in breadth, has a magnificent dancing floor, inlaid with oak, walnut, and jarra wood. An expert says that the Derby Castle floor is, for dancing, unequalled in the Kingdom. Attached is an opera house, or variety theatre, which has been thrice enlarged, and it has now accommodation for over 2,000 persons. Around the pavilion have been placed galleries which will seat hundreds of persons who wish to view the gay scene on the dancing floor. Immunity from the weather is provided by a covered way leading from the gateway, along the surrounding gardens, which are famous four their beautiful display of flowers. With its many additions and improvements, Derby Castle, although the oldest place of amusement in Douglas, still maintains, in enhanced proportions, all and more of its pristine popularity. En passant it might be mentioned that Derby Castle is the only place of amusement in Douglas holding a full six days' Liquor licence.
4. We now come to The Palace, and it is here, as it is now, undoubtedly, one of the largest, the handsomest, and most comprehensive places of amusement in the, world, that; the greatest developments have been carried out.
The enormous pavilion 200 feet long. by 100 feet wide, and containing some 16,000 feet of floor space, was originally an open-roofed structure, almost, repulsively plain in tone and appearance. On the last day of September, 1902, however, there came. a catastrophe, which really was a blessing in disguise. During the night a, fire broke out at the north end, and before it was extinguished about half of the roof was practically destroyed. The Directors determined, in reconstructing it, that the pavilion should be changed in its character, with the result that, to use the well-worn mythological symbol, there arose, like the fabled Phoenix, from the ashes of the old railway station-like building, the beautiful structure, recently totally destroyed, chastely decorated in cream, pink, and gold, with handsome fibrous plaster decoration, with upholstered balconies, capable of accommodating several thousand persons, with every seat commanding a view of the stage; with the largest unbroken dancing area in the world, with parquette floor; the whole brilliantly lit with hundreds of electric lights, and covered with a paneled. ceiling with exquisite paintings dealing with mythological subjects.
In the gardens were tennis courts, and a band stand, with every accommodation for al fresco concerts. Another improvement is the covered way, leading from the gateway, built of red Ruabon bricks, containing no fewer than four turnstiles. This covered way leads to the ballroom on the right, and to the old opera house on the left. This opera house in reality, a perfect and cosy theatre has hitherto been used as a variety theatre, and on its boards have appeared, from time to time, all the greatest variety artistes of the day. In future it may be used as a Cine a theatre, or for vaudeville entertainments ; but its fate is not yet determined.
And now we come to what may be considered the greatest additional development at The Palace. Owing to the high-class character of the variety entertainments in the old Palace Opera House, there was a larger demand for seats than could be met. Patrons by the many hundred were rampant, and, more frequently than was agreeable to the Treasury, in response to their demands money had to be returned at the entrance. This disagreeable necessity forced upon the Directors the consideration of the desirability of largely increasing the opera house accommodation, either by enlarging the existing old opera house or by providing an entirely new building. After due deliberation, the latter alternative was decided upon, and suggested plans for a building to accommodate at least three to four thousand persons, with every up-to-date appliance, were prepared.
Under powers conferred upon them by the Articles of Association of the Company, the Directors could have at once proceeded with the erection of this building; but, on taking into consideration the magnitude of the undertaking, and the consequent expenditure, it was deemed advisable to take the shareholders into consultation. A special descriptive circular, with plans of the proposed new theatre, and a voting form, on which approval or dissent could be indicated, was sent to each shareholder, with the result that, by unanimous vote, the Directors were, at the annual meeting of the shareholders, held on the 21st of November, 1912, empowered to proceed with the building. The only item of controversy was, whether the new theatre should have direct access from the public roadway, or whether it should be so placed that its patrons would first pass through The Palace gates, as is the case at the old opera house. The Directors solved this problem by so placing the new theatre that it could be reached by a separate entrance should experience demonstrate the necessity or advisability of such a course.
Preparations for the erection of the structure were taken in hand immediately after the annual meeting. The site selected was that of the Rink which had been such a popular resort during the skating craze. The rink was taken down and the ground cleared. On the 25th November, 1912, building was commenced ; and, notwithstanding unexampled difficulties, arising mainly from the almost impossibility of obtaining material, the iron work especially, the structure was completed, and now stands, a joy, if not for ever, it is hoped, at all events, for many years to come, returning dividends to the shareholders of the Company, as a reward for magnificent enterprise.
The name selected for the new building is "The Coliseum " (literally, a "gigantic building"), the name given to the amphitheatre of the Emperor Vespasian, at Rome, and which was said to be the largest in the world. Of course, our Coliseum cannot lay claim to such a dimension as that; but its size may be judged from the fact that it will seat nearly 3,500 persons, viz., 600 in the orchestra stalls; 900 in the dress circle; and 2,000 in the pit stalls and pit. In addition, there are eight private boxes, each to accommodate at least six persons. The auditorium is a vast palace, 200 feet wide by 90 in depth; and the building is so constructed that another gallery could be added should it ever be necessary. The grand circle and the orchestra stalls are provided with tip-up chairs, neatly upholstered. The pit stalls and pit are also upholstered. All the seats are covered in green plush, and the floors with crimson pile carpets. The scheme of decoration is cream, light green, and gold; and these, with the handsome fibrous: plaster ornamentation, the magnificent proscenium, and the elaborate box fronts and canopies, combine in producing a decorative effect of a most satisfying character. The proscenium opening is 38 feet wide. The stage is 35 feet deep, and is supplied with every requirement necessary for adequate presentation of sketches, spectacles, and vaudeville productions of the front rank. The electric lighting is generously ample, and thoroughly up-to-date.
Altogether, the new Variety House is a noteworthy addition and a decided acquisition to the amusement resorts of Douglas, and may be considered the last word in modern theatre construction. Its vast and cool auditorium, its luxurious seating, its costly furnishing, its chaste decoration, and perfect ventilation, render it an ideal summer theatre, and it is greatly appreciated by visitors. The entertainments provided are of the highest class, and "popular prices" the vogue.
Two spacious and elegant cafe lounges, one for the dress circle and the other for the pit and orchestra stalls, constitute a valuable easement to the premises; and the convenience of the audience is largely augmented by the covered way which, by means of a bridge, provides a communication between the grand Pavilion and the Coliseum. This enables patrons to proceed from the ballroom to the Coliseum, and vice versa, without going into the, open. The Coliseum was opened by Vesta Tilley on the 21st of July, 1913.
Our task in thus narrating the developments carried out by The Palace and Derby Castle Company might have finished at this point had it not been for the catastrophe which destroyed The Palace on July 13, 1920. As stated, the Directors lost not a moment in proceeding with the construction of the new Palace, and, although the structure is not absolutely complete, it is sufficiently advanced to be at once opened for the enjoyment of the myriads of dancers who will assuredly gather within its portals.
The New Palace is, in many respects, an improvement on the old. This is saying a lot; but it is, nevertheless, a fact. The new building is, of course, on the same site as the old one. While the dancing floor will be an exact copy of the one destroyed, as to size, material, and pattern being nearly 200 feet long and 100 feet wide and the stage, or proscenium, will be similar to its predecessor, the raised promenade round the dancing hall is somewhat larger, and more open than before. There is a very large open space opposite the stage, from which there will be direct communication with the Coliseum. There is also extended accommodation on the sea or easterly side, so as to avoid the crushing that was unavoidable in the late Palace. The galleries are greatly increased, an improvement that has been found advisable from past experience. The one running round the room will be wider, and, in addition to this, open galleries are being constructed on the sea side. This is an entirely new feature, and it furnishes greatly increased accommodation for concerts, etc. Practically the whole of the balcony is furnished with tip-up seats. One other entirely new feature is that a gallery runs all round the building, not intercepted even by the proscenium, so that there will be facilities for people promenading round the galleries, without having to turn back, as before. This, of course, is a great improvement, and it will be greatly appreciated by patrons of The Palace, especially non-dancers.
The new Palace is also much lighter than heretofore, in daytime. Special attention has been given to the ventilation, which will again be a great improvement on that of the old building.
We are now approaching the end of our story. We claim that it is an impartial account of a great endeavour to provide, without the assistance of the rates, creditable attractions for a rising watering-place like Douglas. It is claimed that the advancement of Douglas, and whatever prosperity it enjoys, have been largely promoted by the efforts of this Company. It is further claimed that the development of the Company is the result of the intelligent labours of a body of men who, having elaborated a policy, have pursued it with sleepless and relentless perseverance. That policy has been devotedly pursued, and there has been no deviation to the right or to the left from the strict path of the duty the performance of which they undertook. One of the objects steadfastly kept in view has been constant surveillance of the programme, so that the entertainment should be one to which the father could accompany his son the mother the daughter the husband the wife with the smallest risk of a contaminating influence possible in a public place of amusement.
Another feature in this history which should be alluded to is this that the continuity of development has only been possible by the absence of change in the direction and in the management. One of the Directors has been connected with the movement ever since the erection of the present Derby Castle first, as Vice-Chairman of Derby Castle; then as Chairman of the Manx Syndicate; then as Chairman of the first Palace Company and, finally, as chairman of the present amalgamated undertaking. Some of the other members of the Board were directors of the original Palace Company, and followed as Directors of the present Company ever since its formation. There has been no chopping and changing in the body of the Directors of this Company; no alteration in policy, no changes of the Board except those rendered necessary by death, as in the cases of Mr. Gill, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Dursley, or leaving the Island, as in the case of Mr. W. H. Heyes and Mr. Fred Flint. And, finally, the present Secretary and Manager Mr. Charles Fox displayed such consummate ability as manager of the original Palace Company, that, by unanimous consent, he was selected for the more prominent and responsible position of Secretary and Manager, and now the Managing Director, of the Amalgamated Company. He is the master of his work, with such powers of organisation and control that the staff of over 400 persons whom the Company employ in the season have always been, and are, managed without the slightest friction. The Secretary Mr. Arthur Brittain had some years of experience at Derby Castle, and the Amalgamated Company have enjoyed the advantage of that. experience ever since its establishment. He is a capable assistant to his capable chief.
Mr. Harry Wood, the chef d'orchestre, occupied similar positions at Falcon Cliff and Derby Castle, and he gives of his best to the service of The Palace and Derby Castle. His over a quarter of a century's experience as a musical conductor, with his exhaustive knowledge of the divine art and his abilities as a violinist, combine to make him an invaluable aid towards the general prosperity.
Mr. W. J. Fell, too, should be mentioned as having capably filled the position of advertising manager. He has performed these duties for over twenty years, with a degree of courtesy and affability which have made him popular with thousands in all parts of the Kingdom who would not think that they had had a holiday in the Isle of Man if they had not an opportunity of disporting themselves on the spacious dancing floor of The Palace.
Our story has so far dealt only with the amalgamation of only four places of amusement The Palace, Derby Castle, Falcon Cliff, and the Marina; but the story would be incomplete without some reference to the latest acquisitions of the Company. Last year the Company took over the Grand, the old-established theatre in Victoria-street, Douglas, and also that omnium gatherum on the very front of Douglas Bay known, after its founder, as " Buxton's Village," with its pavilion, its curious collection of huts and crude erections, its billiard room, cafe, photographic gallery, and the large boarding-house known as " Armstrong's." The Grand Theatre has, for the present, been devoted to that rapidly growing popular entertainment known as "The Movies," that is, it is a cinema, and as such it is a pronounced success. The fate of Buxton's is as yet in the lap of the gods. It is a picture house now, and in the winter a skating rink : but, after a little while, and after the Company has finally completed The Palace and its surroundings, no doubt " The Village" will be ennobled into something superior to its present ramshackle erections. It is, next to that of The Palace, the finest and most valuable site in Douglas, and no doubt it will, in due course, be utilized for some purpose worthy of the site and its owners. The capital of the Company was, for the purpose of assisting in paying for the acquisitions of the Grand and Buxton's, increased to the extent of £40,000, by the issue of 40,000 ordinary shares of £1 each.
Carl anyone mention any kind of reasonable indoor amusement which is not provided at one or another of the eight places ranged under the banner of The Palace and Derby Castle Company True, it does not encourage gambling at whist drives or any other form of card playing: but it may be pointed out that dancing can be indulged in, under ideal conditions, to the best of music, at The Palace and Derby Castle: high class concerts enjoyed on Sunday at The Palace and the Gaiety the choicest of vaudeville at the Coliseum and the Opera House at Derby Castle; moving pictures at the Central Picture House, the Gaiety, and the Grand Theatre: and the best of plays and operas at the Gaiety, now the only theatre in the Island-in fact, the, varying tastes of every class of residents and of persons visiting the Island are amply provided for with painstaking impartiality.
Some idea of the resources of the Company and of the magnitude of the accommodation afforded by its places of amusement may be formed from the following figures:
Name. Seating accommodation for
Gaiety Theatre ............. 2,300
In Theatre' ................ 2,000
In Pavilion ................. 3,500 - 5,500
In old Opera House .... 1,800
In Coliseum ................ 3,000
In Pavilion ................ 6,200
Grand Theatre ......................... 2,400
Buxton's (Picture House, &c.)... 1,600
Making a Total of ......... 22,800
So that the accommodation afforded by the Company could seat at one time more than the whole population of Douglas, or nearly one-half of the entire population of the Island.
As stated earlier on in this article, the four places of amusement in Douglas Derby Castle, Falcon Cliff, The Palace, and The Marina were brought under one management with a view to doing away with undue competition, and to secure economy. Both these desirable things have been largely secured so far as management is concerned, but the amount thus saved (and more) has been expended in other dir ections. This additional expenditure has been forced upon the management. Owing to the enormous multiplication of places of amusement in recent years there has arisen intense competition in the demands for the services of variety artistes. Talent in this line of business commands almost princely remuneration. The result is that the expenditure on all kinds of attractions has, since the date of the Amalgamation (1898), more than quadrupled; and now the furnishing and equipment of places of amusement must be luxurious to a degree. Tip-up chairs, richly upholstered in velvet, have taken the place of bare forms: and rich carpeting is substituted for bare flooring. The decorations must be richly ornate and in the best taste. The days of the barn-like structures of thirty years ago have for ever passed away. The great god Demos has a cultivated and æsthetic taste, and you must gratify that taste, or he will turn his back upon you and your " show,s." Thus, propelled by the spirit of the times, no effort has been spared. or will be spared, by the management of The Palace and Derby Castle, Limited, to secure the services of the first artistes of the day theatrical, musical, variety, and lyrical ; and it is claimed that this policy, on the part of this Company, has done yeoman's service in making known the claims of this Island as a health and pleasure resort a resort in which either a merry time or a quiet rest can be enjoyed, according to the taste of the patron.
From a statement submitted at the last annual general meeting of the Company it appears that, since the date of the Amalgamation, the large sum of over £40,000 has been expended in the improvement of the various properties. This expenditure is exclusive of the cost of the Coliseum and of the additions recently made to Derby Castle theatre. All these improvements, up to the time of the completion of the Coliseum, were carried out by one man, in collaboration with the other members of the Board. That one man was Mr Alex. Gill, of Lucerne Villa, Little Switzerland, Douglas. Mr Gill was a man of wonderful ability, with vast experience in building construction. He built and was the owner of scores of residences in Douglas and Onchan. In pursuit of the necessary knowledge for his business he visited many of the principal resorts in America, besides nearly every capital in Europe, and every watering-place and tourist resort in Great Britain ; and he placed the vast knowledge and wide experience he had this gained at the disposal of the Company, with the result that he must have saved the Company many thousands of pounds in connection with the various buildings and alterations.
His death is a continued source of regret to every one connected with the Company.
The destruction of the old Palace, which for so many years had been the favourite place of amusement and entertainment in Douglas, was a loss very keenly felt, and not only by those who suffered financially, but by the many thousands of visitors who came over to Douglas last summer for their usual enjoyment and recreation.
So strong were the expressions of disappointment, that the Directors of The Palace and Derby Castle Co., Ltd., were impelled to set to work at once to rebuild, even though they knew they were faced with difficulties which seemed almost insurmountable.
Building materials just then were at their highest; labour troubles were brewing on every hand; strikes were threatened; and the transport of material was more than difficult.
These troubles were foreseen, while other and greater difficulties were added as the work proceeded.
But, notwithstanding all this, the work progressed, and, after ten months' hard work, a New Palace, which will compare favourably with the old one, stands in its place.
A few instances of similarity and also of difference between the old and the new Palace may be of interest.
This was a large, airy, and well-lighted building, so arranged as to give every possible comfort; but its chief feature was the magnificent dancing floor, which was the largest and finest in the United Kingdom, being about 200 feet long x 100 feet wide.
The decoration of the old Palace was much admired, and was of such a character as not to weary the eye.
The accommodation for lookers-on all round the dancing floor was considerable, but often proved insufficient.
This, while, in a measure, standing on the old site, has been made considerably larger, and measures over all about 204 feet x 112 feet.
The new dancing floor is exactly the same size as the old one, and is in every respect equal to it, both as to design and quality ; so that Douglas can still boast of the finest floor in his Majesty's Dominions.
The style of decoration is very similar, but a little lighter than in the old Palace ; the proscenium also is mach the same.
The gallery round the new Palace is wider and more spacious than that of the old one, _ and it has the great advantage of running all round the building, thus forming a continuous promenade on the one level and without a break, whereas the old gallery only went about three-fourths of the way round.
Another improvement is the extra size of the building on the East side, for this gives an addition to the old promenade on the ground floor, and greatly increased accommodation for lookers on, as well as increased seating for concerts on the upper floor.
The lighting and ventilation have been improved, and the whole interior has a much more airy appearance than formerly.
As this building stands behind the Coliseum, and is not much seen from the Promenade, the interior has been considered before the exterior. The outward appearance will, however, be very greatly improved during the coming winter, when the whole will be cemented and made to correspond in most respects to the Coliseum.
While calling attention to some of the nicest features of The Palace, and to the improvements made on the old building, we would like to give a very large share of the credit for the building as it now stands to the late Mr Alex. Gill, whose original ideas have been very largely introduced into the present building, and which has been erected from drawings made by us and under our personal supervision.
For the rapid and even unexpected progress of the work, much is due to the Managing Director (Mr Chas. Fox) and to the Contractors, Messrs Creer Bros. (builders, Douglas), who have had charge of the general construction of the building.
Other Contractors have also done their share, viz.: Messrs Redpath Brown, of Manchester, who were entrusted with the steel-work construction;
Messrs E. Wade & Sons, plasterers, etc., Douglas, who have made and fixed all the fibre plaster work;
Messrs Damman & Co., London, have provided and laid the parquetry floor; Mr J. H. Cubbon, plumber, of Douglas, has done the plumbing;
Messrs Gellings, Ltd., have had a very large share of steel and ironwork construction;
The roof glazing has been carried out by Messrs Pennycooks, Glasgow. And the vulcanite roof by The Lagenvale Roofing Co., of Belfast;
The glass has been supplied by Messrs Williams and Watson, and Messrs Nicholls, both of Liverpool; And the ironmongery by Messrs Todhunter & Elliot, of Douglas ;
Tip-up seats were supplied by L azarus & Son, Ltd., London, and the Gerrard Sales Co., London ;
The upholstering of the running seats was executed by Bell, Bridson, & Lord, cabinet makers and upholsterers, Douglas. They have successfully completed over 400 feet of seating extending round the dancing floor;
The bar counters were made by Green & Bridson, of Douglas;
The loose chairs were supplied by Wm. Keen, High Wycombe.
It will also be interesting to learn that most of the timber and other materials have been supplied by local firms, viz.. Messrs Quiggins, the Douglas Steam Saw Mills, and Messrs Corlett R, Cowley, of Ramsey
The entire interior is brilliantly lighted by means of twelve large polished brass bowl fittings, ornamented with Holophane glass ware. These are suspended from the main ceiling, and each contains one 2,000 candle-power gas-filled lamp. On the box fronts of the balcony are fitted massive three-light, polished brass brackets, with Holophane pine globes. each containing one 60-candle power gas-filled lamp, the whole giving a, total illumination of approximately 30,000 candle power. The rest of the balconies are promenades are illuminated with single pendant drops, each fitted with Holophane shades and 25 candle-power lamps. The whole of the installation has been carried out under the supervision of Mr. S. Pascoe, the Company's electrician.
All the afore-mentioned firms have, worked splendidly together, with the one object, of having the building ready for opening on July 18th, and we would like. to mention that the Directors never once asked for any of the men to work on Sunday, notwithstanding the pressure to get the work done.
(GEO. KAY & SONS, Architects, Douglas
Interior of the old Palace, before the Fire.
Reprinted front "The Isle of Man Times;" Saturday. July 23, 1921.
Gorgeous and Brilliant Scene
The Governor's Pleasing Duty.
Thousands of Visitors and Residents Join in the Fun.
On Tuesday morning, July 13th, 1920, the Island suffered a blow the full extent of which was not fully realised excepting by a few. This blow was delivered when The Palace, Manxland's premier place of amusement, was utterly destroyed by a fire, which began mysteriously, but, once having got its grip, refused to relinquish the hold that ultimately destroyed the palatial pile and rendered it a heap of agonised, twisted scrap iron. Two gables stood naked to the sky, stripped of all decorative splendour : terribly charred. This was all that was left of the old Palace two walls of burnt bricks and mortar, and even these had, for the salve of safety, to be pulled down. A visit to the scene where the Demon, fire, had reigned supreme would have daunted many, but not the Directors of The Palace Company. They foregathered together to devise another Palace, an even more perfect one than was the structure destroyed. After a, seemingly, unending two months of clearing the debris, in October a start was made with The White Palace. And so, in a year's time, a new Palace, like the mythological Phoenix, has arisen from the ashes of the old Palace; a new Palace, more glitteringly-beautiful, brighter than the old one, more spacious, incomparable as ever; the meeting place of the many thousands of visitors who crowd our shores.
The White Palace, so called because of the unrelieved whiteness of its decoration, has a dancing floor of parquette, the size being 200 feet long by 100 feet wide. In variance to the old Palace, the gallery, more spacious than ever, runs entirely around the hall, a wide passage having been contrived at the back of the stage. Direct communication with the Coliseum is also provided. The accommodation in the galleries is greatly increased. This will avoid the crushing so general before. The interior is brilliantly illuminated by twelve large polished brass bowl fittings, ornamented with Holophane glass ware. These are suspended from the ceiling, each containing one 3,000 candle-power gas-filled lamp. On the box fronts there are fitted magnificent brass brackets, with Holophane pine globes, the whole lighting effects giving an illumination of 30,000 candle-power.
The White Palace was opened last Monday night July 18th, by His Excellency the Lieut.-Governor of the Island, Major-General Sir William Fry , K.C.V.O., C.B. Eight p.m. had been fixed for the opening ceremony, and, in anticipation of a large audience, great queues of people lined the pavements by the turnstiles. All roads led to The White Palace on that night. Seldom has any- place of amusement been so well patronised. The world and his wife, numbering many thousands, were present, crowding the balconies and the dancing floor to excess.
Promptly at eight, the Governor of the Island, accompanied by Lady Fry, took up their position on the stage, to the strains of the National Anthem. Their Excellencies were supported by the Deemster and Mrs Callow, and the Attorney-General (Mr R. R. Moore). Mr J. A. Brown, the Chairman of the Company, Col. and Mrs Madoc (the Chief Constable), Mr and Mrs Hughes-Games, Mr C. Fox (the Managing Director) and Mrs Fox, Mr Stott, Mr F. D. Johnson, Mr Kaye (the architect), Mr R. D. Brailli, and Mr and Mrs Leonard Broadbent (the English Director), together with Mr Harry Wood, the musical director of the Company, were also amongst the assembly on the stage. A sea of upturned faces eagerly awaited the opening ceremony.
Mr J. A. Brown, Chairman of the Company, introducing the Governor, said : My fellow Directors have placed on my shoulders a very simple but very agreeable task. It is that of introducing to you his Excellency the Lieut.-Governor of this Island Sir William Fry. The task is simple because it needs no words of mine to introduce to you so well known a personage, and it is an agreeable task to me, because it enables me to testify that his Excellency, in graciously consenting to open this building, again shows his desire to identify himself with the progress of this Island, and his continued willingness to give countenance to things that matter in regard to that progress. And I feel certain that you will agree with me that the erection of this magnificent building is a thing that matters very much in regard to the well-being of this Island as a pleasure resort. I shall trespass upon you with only one more sentence, or perhaps two. In one year and five days after the fiery destruction of the former Palace we have succeeded in erecting this much superior building. We have done this in so brief a period that you might almost imagine that you can still smell the smouldering ashes of the fire-destroyed structure. Naturally, we Directors, and those who worked with us and are identified with the enterprise, are very proud of the result of that which one newspaper writer in our midst describes as a great endeavour. In Greek mythology nine muses, or goddesses, are depicted. We are not greedy. To two of them we consecrate this building and its sister over there (pointing towards the Coliseum). We allocate Terpsichore, the goddess of dancing to The White Palace, and to Polymnia, the goddess of singing and harmony, we dedicate the. Coliseum. We appropriate these two goddesses. The rest of the Island are welcome to the other seven. Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce to you the Governor of this Island.
The Governor, who was received with great applause, said: Mr Brown, ladies and gentlemen, we assemble here to-night to celebrate the re-opening of this great hall of public entertainment. (Applause). As Mr Brown has just told you, on the 13th of July last year, the old Palace was destroyed by fire. I need not picture to you what that meant to us, coming as it did at the, almost, culminating point of a record season. The following morning I telephoned to
Mr Brown and expressed my grief at the loss to the Company and also to the town of Douglas, and he said : "Never mind, we will have it up again in a year's time." (Applause). Well, ladies and gentlemen, it required great courage to say that. On the 14th of July last year, as many of you are aware, the Island had the honour of a visit from Their Majesties, the King and Queen. The King, when he heard about the destruction of The Palace, expressed his sorrow and sympathy, and the following day, in speaking to the, then, Mayor of Douglas, the late Alderman Kelly, he asked him to convey to one Directors of the Company his sympathy, and also to the people of Douglas. His Majesty, in speaking about the Island, said that the Island was laid out by nature as the pleasure ground for Lancashire. He said: "In this Island you get the fresh air, the beauty of scenery, and all that Lancashire people require, for their annual holiday," and his Majesty added: "It is up to you people in the Island to provide the people of Lancashire with all they require in the way of entertainment." (Cheers). Well, ladies and gentlemen, let us picture what was in the minds of the Directors of this Company on that 14th day of July. They are all business men, and they all knew there was bound to be a set back in trade this year. Also, it was known that there must be industrial unrest, because things could not go on satisfactorily until there had been some settlement in wages. At the same time the prices of all materials required to reconstruct such a place as this were at their maximum. That is the situation which the Directors of this Company had to face. If they had been thinking only of their own pockets, they would have sat down and waited until the clouds rolled by. But, instead of that, with courage and determination, they set to work, got out their contracts at once, and proceeded to re-erect The Palace, not only as it was before, but enlarged and with a better floor than the old one. Well, I am very glad, as a soldier, to be here to-night. (Applause). In my younger days I was very fond of dancing. I congratulate Mr Brown, and the Directors of this Company on the great courage they have shown. They possessed courage, enterprise, and a great sense for the public welfare. (Cheers). Courage and enterprise are qualities which soldiers are taught all their lives; and, therefore, I offer congratulations to the members of the Company for the courage and enterprise they have shown. 1 ask both residents and visitors to Douglas to congratulate the members of The Palace Company on the success of their great endeavour, and to wish them all prosperity in the future, and hope that the future will bring them that financial success which their great qualities deserve. I, now, ladies and gentlemen, have much pleasure in declaring the hall open. (Prolonged applause).
At this moment, so soon as his Excellency uttered the word " Open," the full electric installation was switched on. The effect was magical.
Mr Brown proposed a hearty vote of thanks to His Excellency, which was cheeringly carried by the many enthusiastic thousands present.
Mr Fox, the Managing Director of the Company, called for three cheers for the Governor, and this request was unstintingly acceded to.
The rendition by Miss Ada Mylchreest, the Manx contralto, of Elgar's famous patriotic song, " Land of Hope and Glory," was well received by the large audience. Miss Mylchreest has recently given two eminently successful recitals at the Aeolian Hall, London, this being her second appearance on a Manx concert platform since the completion of her training. The audience enthusiastically joined in the chorus of this song. A burst of applause resounded through the hall on the conclusion of the song, and Miss Mylchreest kindly obliged with yet another verse, and with the solo, "God Save the King," in which the audience joined the second time. Miss Mylchreest's rich voice was heard to full advantage throughout The White Palace. Her rendition was perfect, and she. was equal in every respect to any artist who has ever sung on the Island. She possesses dramatic force, and the choice by the Directors of this talented Manx lady for this auspicious occasion was fully justified.
The Governor and Lady Fry, together with the others on the stage, then withdrew, and the, first dance in The White Palace commenced, to the strains of "The Grenadiers," rendered by a proficient orchestra. During the evening highland schottisches, quadrilles, highland flings, one steps, fox trots, and lancers all figured on the programme, together with Mr McEwen's new novelty dance, "The Amazon Waltz," which is already quit(, celebrated. Monday night's scene, as the dancers took their partners, was one not easily forgotten. The gowns of the ladies this year, more than ever, blend in colour and picturesqueness and, in a few instances, to hideousness and the multi-coloured frocks of swaying thousands against the whiteness of the decorations and the brilliance of the illuminations made an unrivalled scene. It was a happy thought to open The Palace during the Scotch Fair week, because the Scotch seem to possess the knack of enjoying themselves with complete abandon. It was good to watch the Highland schottische being danced by thousands, hands, feet, and, ofttimes, lungs busy the while. It was good to see Mr Harry Wood occupying his old position of Musical Director, a position he has fulfilled for many years, and to see Mr McEwen, resplendent in the kilts of his native land, acting as M.C., and negotiating wayward couples into line. The dance programme closed on Monday night at 11 o'clock, when the merry throng, full of the beauties of "The White Palace," wended its way home.
Chairman and Board Congratulated on Their Achievement by the King.
The following telegram from His Majesty King George was received by His Excellency the Lieut.-Governor on the opening night :-
The King is glad to hear that The Palace ballroom, which was burnt down when His Majesty visited the Island, last year, has been rebuilt, and is to be opened by you to-night. Will you kindly convey His Majesty's congratulations to the Chairman and Directors. Private Secretary. 18th July, 1921.