Rare photos of how the show always went on in Yorkshire

Even when the theatre was about to be pulled down, the show always went on – and this collection of rarely-seen pictures lifts the curtain on a veritable who’s who of the Yorkshire stage in decades past.


The last performance at Leeds Theatre Royal. On stage, singing a chorus with the cast of the pantomime "Queen of Hearts" are Margery Manners, Wilfred and Mable Pickles and Barney Colehan.
1957: The last performance at Leeds Theatre Royal. On stage, singing a chorus with the cast of the pantomime "Queen of Hearts" are Margery Manners, Wilfred and Mable Pickles and Barney Colehan.

The old Theatre Royal on Hunslet Lane in Leeds was demolished in 1957 to make way for shops, but its last night was one for the ages. Taking their final bow we can see Wilfred and Mabel Pickles from radio’s Have A Go, producer Barney Colehan, the mastermind of The Good Old Days across the city, and the music hall star Margery Manners, sometimes thought of as the British Sophie Tucker.

Leeds was well used to seeing stars, with the dapper actor Jack Hulbert and an unknown but promising actress called Julie Andrews among those passing through at this time.

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The stage has always drawn photographers, and these early pictures – from the primitive Pierrot show on Scarborough beach in 1907 to the radical new interior of the Leeds Civic in the early 1950s – shows a constantly changing tableau.

Leeds, 26th May 1954: A then unknown teenage prodigy, Julie Andrews poses at the Grand Theatre in Leeds where she is in the play Mountain of Fire.

It also demonstrates that there is no such thing as a new idea – the recent fashion for “street magic” having been alive and well in Scarborough in 1957, when the magician Gilly Davenport demonstrated the “levitating woman” trick on his daughter.

Other innovations were less enduring. The Western Talkie Theatre, a cinema off Manchester Road in Bradford,, installed a “cry room” to which mothers could retreat with their babies so as not to disturb the audience.

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Leeds Grand Theatre, April 1957- Jack Hulbert and Gwynne Whitby as they appear at the opening of The Reluctant Debutante

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Leeds Theatres, Civic Theatre Interior view 1950s

James Mitchinson, Editor

August 1907: A Pierrot show on the beach at Scarborough. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1957: Magician Gilly Davenport demonstrates the 'levitating woman' trick on his daughter Betty, whilst attending the 21st Annual Convention of the International Brotherhood of Magicians at Scarborough, North Yorkshire. (Photo by Ken Harding/BIPs/Getty Images)