The Phoenix Theatre - Sheffield 1911 - 1960
This article really started from an item on a local message board when a correspondent posted a message asking if anyone had a photograph of the Phoenix Theatre on Langsett Road, Sheffield. The theatre had been demolished long ago and so I decided to see if I could add some flesh to the proverbial bones. The theatre was incidentally opposite Hillsborough Barracks on Langsett Road.
An old booklet published by The Sheffield Cinema Society "The ABC of Sheffield Cinemas" gave me the basics
PHOENIX THEATRE, Langsett Road/Hatton Road Sheffield
Architect: J B Mitchell-Withers
Capacity: 640 (1912); 644 (1940); 598 (1954)
Proprietors: Frederick Phoenix; from 1925 Phoenix Theatre (Sheffield) Ltd.; from 1956 Grosvenor Hall and Estate Co Ltd
Subsequent use: demolished, becoming the site of a petrol filling station.
The excellent book "In Memory of Sheffield's Cinema's - Richard Ward" (SCL 1988)added some more information. The Proprietor, a Mr. Frederick Phoenix, intended to offer "clean and refined entertainment" which would include vaudeville acts as well as pictures. To facilitate his ambitions for the theatre, a larger than normal stage was constructed. After a private performance on Saturday 25th March 1911, the Theatre was opened to the public two days later on 27th March 1911. Councillor A. T. Bescoby did the honours at the opening ceremony and the first night audience were treated to a sample programme of short films. Press Reports of its opening complimented the proprietors on the measures taken to ensure the comfort of the public and the decor of the theatre.
Bryan Hillerby's "The Lost theatres of Sheffield" (1999) book notes "...The interior decor was green walls with an ivory ceiling and plasterwork executed in several shades, not dissimilar to that in The Regent, Barker's Pool... Externally it was built in red brick with a stucco facade above. The frontage was flat with ornamental arches at either side above the exit doors..." The building was built by Longdens.
The "Complete Hillsborough by her People" edited by Mick Drewery (ADL 2006) has a small section on the Theatre, describing the kind of acts that would appear on the stage and in revues. There was of course an orchestra that provided the sound for the silent pictures of the time. The first manager was Harold Phoenix, the son of the proprietor who had earlier been associated with The Central Hall in Norfolk Street Sheffield. Harold died in 1918 in the influenza outbreak and was succeeded as manager by his brother Cecil Phoenix.
Harry Firths 8 Dainty Maids who appeared at the Phoenix during and after the First World War
It appears that over it's lifetime the Theatre was upgraded - the stage was extended from the original 12ft to 22ft and after 1925 the hall became primarily a Theatre staging mainly Revues with some Saturday film matinee's for children. A major change did occur in the early 1930's - in 1933 the Phoenix was wired for the new and highly sophisticated for the day, Western Electric Sound System and was reopened as a Cinema on 7th August 1933. The Cinema continued for over 20 years but in 1956 the Phoenix was sold on to the owners of the Hillsborough Kinema, and Cecil retired soon afterwards. Four years later it closed for good : the last film it screened was The Trials of Oscar Wilde.
The Phoenix was sadly demolished and replaced with a petrol station which in turn was demolished and replaced with an electrical store.
The strange element to the Phoenix though is the lack of photographs. Clifford Shaw in "Images of England - Sheffield Cinemas" points out that apart from a photograph that appears in the press reports of the opening in 1911, no further photos exist or to be more precise traced of the Phoenix Theatre. This is confirmed to a large extent by my own attempts to locate a photo. However there is one in "In Memory of Sheffield's Cinema's" by Richard Ward and by the grainy look and texture to it, I would hazard a guess that this is a copy of the original press photograph
Photograph taken from In Memory of Sheffield's Cinema's - Richard Ward
The Phoenix was opposite Hillsborough Barracks on Langsett Road
In July 2010 I was contacted by a genealogist who had two excellent photographs of the interior of the Phoenix. These are displayed below
The same person also kindly supplied me with the following cuttings from The Sheffield Star newspaper. The first dated 17th January 1957 is a full-some tribute to Cyril Phoenix on his retirement, and the second is from the Letters page of the same paper which marks Cyril's death at the ripe old age of 88
In September 2016 a reader of this site kindly supplied me with this postcard showing the Phoenix Cinema in its heyday.
In September 2020, another reader of this article contacted me with information that related to his late grandfather, and his appearance at the Phoenix
"My grandfather, Albert Emmanuel Nicholson was a member of ‘The Strolling Players’ theatre group who appeared at The Phoenix Theatre, Hillsborough and other local venues in the 1920s. The attached poster from I believe 1924 lists him under his stage name of ‘Bert Nichols, Light Comedian’. He lived at that time with his family in Minto Road (where I also lived up until three-years old) opposite Hillsborough Park and worked as a manager with the Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Association. Interestingly, along with the poster I also have a photograph of The Strolling Players together with a letter to him from the BBC requesting details of fees for The Players to perform.
A lovely well-liked man he was also an active local lay-preacher. I also recall that he was aboard for the very last cruise of the original Queen Elizabeth Cunard liner in 1968. He passed away in 1977 aged 85 and is most-fondly remembered"
He also kindly supplied me with a scan of the poster that advertised the show.
If anyone can supply any further information on any aspect of the Phoenix, please let me know
From The Sheffield History Forum
1. Harold is listed as Manager in 1911; Frederick
Phoenix is listed as Proprietor in 1911, 1919
(No mention of Cecil as Manager).
Archer Frederick Phoenix Clerk 80 Marlcliffe Road, Wadsley (White's 1911)
Frederick Phoenix 68 Marlcliffe Road, Wadsley (White's 1911)
Harold Phoenix 66 Marlcliffe Road, Wadsley (White's 1911)
Cecil Phoenix Cinematograph operator 58 Marlcliffe Road, Hillsborough (White's 1919)
Mrs Mary Elizabeth Phoenix Householder 66 Marlcliffe Road, Hillsborough (White's 1919)
Archer Frederick Phoenix Cinematograph manager 62 Marlcliffe Road, Hillsborough (Kelly's 1925)
2. Opened in March of 1911, the Phoenix is one of three theatres in Sheffield built as cinemas, but with the ability to produce stage based variety and revue programmes. Seating was around 640 including the balcony. The original stage was extended from twelve to twenty two feet in the first few years. The manager from the opening date was Harold Phoenix, an associate of Jasper Redfern of the Central Hall. The unfortunate Harold did not survive the flu outbreak of 1918 and was succeeded by his brother, Cecil. From 1925, the Phoenix became a theatre, staging mainly revue type productions, though some Saturday afternoon film programmes for children were screened. It reopened as a cinema in August of 1933 following the installation of new projectors and sound equipment. Stage performances ceased at this time and the Phoenix continued as a cinema. In 1956 it was sold to the proprietors of the Hilsborough Kinema and finally closed for business on the 10th of September, 1960 Info: Sheffield Cinemas.
In Memory of Sheffield's Cinema's - Richard Ward (SCL 1988)
Clifford Shaw in "Images of England - Sheffield Cinemas"
Photograph taken from In Memory of Sheffield's Cinema's - Richard Ward
Complete Hillsborough by her People" edited by Mick Drewery
Bryan Hillerby "The Lost theatres of Sheffield (1999)"
The Sheffield Cinema Society "The ABC of Sheffield Cinemas"
The Sheffield Star dated Thursday January 17th 1957
Sheffield History Forum
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This page was last updated on 09/09/20 16:24