Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance venues and performace spaces


The Palace

venue policy The Palace has been part of the Swansea street scene for over a century. Built in 1888, it is a handsome and imposing building in Baroque style of red Ebbw Vale brick and Bath stone. Situated on a triangular island on the busy thoroughfare of High Street, it is one of only two surviving purpose built music halls in Britain.

The Palace is unique in a number of ways. It is the only music hall to be built by a tramway company. When the company was formed in 1874 to construct tramways in the streets of Swansea, it was felt that building plots would have to be sold by the tramways company to defray the building of new roads housing the tramways. The economic climate of the time resulted in sales being too slow and an offer was made to the company by a Mr Almond to build a music hall in return for shares in the company. Such a prestigious development would raise land values in the area and prove a fitting addition to the new road now named Prince of Wales Road.

The quite early and extensive use of concrete in the floors and staircases at all levels led to the building being described as "absolutely fireproof", and safety from fire was one of the primary advertising claims when the building was first opened for business on Christmas Eve, 1888.

Inside, the auditorium occupied the first floor level. The early capacity then was 900 and seating was arranged to allow uninterrupted view of the stage. The concrete floor of the auditorium is supported by cast iron columns and steel cantilever beams. Two steeply raked balconies curved around the auditorium. There is evidence of stage boxes. The orchestra pit and band room beneath the stage accommodated 30 musicians. Behind the stage was the green room. Also at this end the dressing rooms were situated at three levels in the round tower, which overlooks High street. The star dressing room was closest to the stage with the other acts occupying the others in order of prominence. At the corner of each dressing room was a triangular trap door under which a ladder went down to the next dressing room, providing a means of escape for artists in the event of a fire.

As a second generation of music halls, the Palace was a quality design and well constructed building. It was for many years run in the style of the great music halls of London and the provincial cities. Many famous stars performed there such as Lily Langtry, Marie Lloyd, The Karno trio (including Charlie Chaplin), Dan Leno, Vesta Victoria, George Robey and Little Titch.

The Palace hosted the first ever cinema show in Swansea in 1896. Cinematographie was advertised as the original Lumiere.
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