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Tivoli Music Hall

Walter Emden

alias Tivoli Theatre of Varieties
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)24.5.1890 | opening
It opened on 24th May 1890 with 1,500 seats and was designed by architect Walter Emden in an Oriental style.
(detail)1916 | demolition



During the 1880s the music hall became the Theatre of Varieties, grander and more respectable. The Alhambra became the Alhambra Theatre of Varieties in 1884 and the Empire followed suit in 1887. As they went over to music hall, the houses were redecorated ever more flamboyantly; the Tivoli (1888-90) was extremely splendid. Emulating the Criterion in combining theatre and restaurant, the building presented to the Strand a gorgeous mixture: Plantagenet windows were separated by a giant order of French Empire pilasters, surmounted by an attic storey of Romanesque arcading and topped by a Mansard roof. Walter Emden, the architect, had in fact conceived a similarly eclectic and extravagant central feature for the roof, but unfortunately this was omitted from the completed scheme as seen here in 1890. Once again, the architect did not make provision for advertising; as a result, the Neo-romanesque style is somewhat obscured by the light-boxes which spell out the name TIVOLI, while the clean ground-floor lines are littered with prop-up billboards. The Strand elevation was in fact that of the restaurant, while the theatre was behind. The term 'variety' described not only the kind of entertainment available but also the choice of decor. The buffet, at street level, was in Indian style. A staircase in Francois I style led to the Palm Room (walls and ceiling decorated with palm leaves) on the first floor and the Flemish Room (oak carved in the Levant) on the second. Above were suites of private dining-rooms, 'adorned in styles which their names convey, namely - the Louis XV Room, the Japanese, the Arabian and the Pompeian Rooms; and in addition there is a fair-sized Masonic Room'. The kitchens were concealed behind the Romanesque arcading. The Tivoli cost nearly ,£300,000, which was expensive considering that the Palace, Cambridge Circus, was done for .£150,000 a little later. The Tivoli Company went bankrupt within a year and the building was sold for half its cost. Soon afterwards a new Company was formed and the theatre went on to become the most famous of music halls. The Tivoli became so synonymous with variety that its style of decoration created a vogue which influenced music halls all over Britain.


In:  Glasstone, Victor: Victorian and Edwardian Theatres: An Architectural and Social Survey. Harvard 1975 p. 74 - 76



Author: Victor Glasstone

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