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- Category: A
- Date Added: 15/12/1970
- Local Authority: Glasgow
- Planning Authority: Glasgow
- Burgh: Glasgow
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NS 58119 65874
- Coordinates: 258119, 665874
Frank Matcham, 1903-04. Edwardian Baroque. Important theatre with outstanding interior. Polished red sandstone ashlar.
BATH STREET ELEVATION: 7 irregular bays with curving lower domed angle bay to Elmbank Street. Wide 2nd and 5th bays, flanked by broad channelled pilasters with medallions. Entrance in 2nd bay, dummy entrance in 5th; semi-circular arches above with recessed windows; shallow bowed and pilastered arched tripartite windows above capped with balustrade; bold, ball finials over pilasters; recessed pediments behind main body of theatre. Entrance bays flanked by narrow bays. 2 central bays with large recessed, multi-pane 1st floor windows and curved balconies; parapet with urns.
ELMBANK STREET ELEVATION: asymmetrical. 3 bays to left balanced with central pedimented bay, 2 arched openings in flanking bays at 2nd floor with recessed windows with balconies.
Variety of multi-pane glazing patterns in timber sash and case windows and timber fixed pane and casement windows.
INTERIOR: foyer: marble lined, coffered barrel-vaulted ceiling, pilasters to stairway, balcony with caryatids. Auditorium: highly elaborate Baroque decoration in fibrous plaster by McGilvray & Ferris. 3 tiers of horseshoe balconies, 2 boxed to ground circle on each side with banded columns and pediments, one box in tier above, 3 shell niches to each side in upper tier; proscenium arch with escutcheon and cherubim. 12-panelled ceiling.
Statement of Special Interest
The King's Theatre opened on 12 September 1904 at a cost of around £50,000 and it is an important example of an Edwardian theatre by the renowned theatre architect, Frank Matcham. It was commissioned by the famous theatre owning and production company, Howard & Wyndham Ltd. It remains largely intact and it is one of the finest examples of a Matcham theatre in Scotland. The imposing street elevation was designed to attract an audience and was built in high quality materials in a style compatible with any large civic building now that in the Edwardian period theatregoing was a respectable entertainment. Comfort for the audience was a priority as was maximising audience numbers. At the King's in Glasgow there is a lavish marble lined entrance foyer with a barrel-vaulted coffered ceiling and this leads onto the highly decorative auditorium. The plasterwork in the auditorium is modelled in fibrous plaster, a Matcham speciality which allowed for more sculptural three dimensional forms to be created. The three tiers of horseshoe-shaped balconies are cutting edge in their cantilevered construction method as this allowed for an unobstructed view of the stage and also created more space for paying customers. When built the King's had seating capacity for 1841. Buildings of Scotland notes that the Adam-style ceilings on the Grand Circle staircase and in its crush bar date from 1914 and are by William Beattie Brown, Howard & Wyndham's architect.
The King's Theatre was sold by Howard & Wyndham in 1967 to the then Glasgow Corporation. Today it is managed by the Ambassador Theatre Group and it remains in the ownership of Glasgow City Council. A programme of refurbishment and restoration is currently underway.
Frank Matcham (1854-1920) was born in Devon and began his architectural career in Torquay. In the mid 1870s he moved to London and worked for the theatre architect Jethro Thomas Robinson. In 1877 he married Robinson's younger daughter and on the death of Robinson in 1878 he inherited his practice when still in his mid-20s. He built up the largest theatre practice in Britain and was an instrumental figure in the surge of theatre-building at the turn of the 20th century. Arguably one of the greatest and most influential theatre designers of his age, he was able to work in a variety of styles and had a particular interest in highly decorative interiors.
References from previous list description: B Aug 29, 1903; B Aug 17, 1904; ed Brian Walker Frank Matcham, Theatre Architect, 1980 pp 145-6.
List description updated as part of the Theatres Thematic Study 2010.
3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1908-11); Williamson et al, The Buildings of Scotland - Glasgow (1990) p208; Bruce Peter Scotland's Splendid Theatres (1999) pp117-121. The Theatres Trust www.theatrestrust.org.uk (accessed 16 March 2009).
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