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The site was originally occupied by the Prince of Wales Theatre, built in 1879, and a swimming baths, later known as the Hall of Aquatic Variety Entertainment.

In 1900 these were replaced by a single building, the Alhambra, occupying a commanding position on the promenade. The Alhambra, in established Blackpool tradition, was a complete entertainment complex in three linked divisions. Unlike the much larger Winter Gardens, all the elements were contained in a single building. At the centre was a magnificent entrance hall and grand staircase leading to a first floor restaurant, a second floor café and a top floor ‘conservatory’ (actually a big lounge bar). To the left was the circus, an oval three-tiered arena. To the right was the theatre in four tiers (stalls and three balconies). Above the circus was a grand ballroom to vie with the Winter Gardens Empress Ballroom.

The principal elevation was four main storeys in height with a central arcaded loggia at second floor level, set between pedimented outer bays with tall, conical rotunda roofs rising behind each pediment.

The interior was lavishly appointed with mosaic floors, marble wall linings, mirrors, elaborate plasterwork, and allegorical paintings. The theatre had a circular domed ceiling supported on deep arches, one of which formed the sounding board over the stage. Boxes at dress and upper circle levels flanked the square, recessed proscenium. The circus had a removable floor and stabling below the arena.

The ballroom was magnificent, with bow-fronted box balconies set into the arcaded walls. There was an orchestra stage at the end. At the opposite end was a broader balcony box over the staircase.

The whole complex can be rated as one of the culminating achievements of its architects, Wylson & Long, and a fine example of the work of the decorators, Boekbinder.

The Alhambra (Blackpool) Co Ltd, which had posed a threat to the immediately adjoining Tower, could not, in fact, compete with the attractions of either the Tower or the Winter Gardens. The company was in financial difficulties by 1902, when it was bought out by the Tower Company Ltd who, unsurprisingly, closed the circus. Frank Matcham (who had been unsuccessful in the original competition) remodelled the theatre, giving the stage a bowed front. It was renamed the Palace Theatre. The Palace Ballroom became, first, the Panopticum (sic, an exhibition room), then the Palace Picture Pavilion, in which form it had a deep balcony facing the stage. This remodelling, by Frank Matcham, left most of the architectural treatment intact, but the ceiling seems to have been completely replaced by a more heavily modelled version, possibly accommodating provision for better ventilation.

The Alhambra building was finally demolished in 1961.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1899 - 1961
Current state
Current use
Promenade/Bank Hey Street, Blackpool, Lancashire, England
Further details
Other names
before Prince of Wales , before Hall of Aquatic Variety Entertainment , Panopticum , Palace Theatre , Palace Picture Pavilion
  • 1879 Design/Construction:
    - Architect
  • 1899 Alteration: new theatre, circus and ballroom complex
    Wylson & Long
    - Architect
  • 1899 Design/Construction:
    Mr Frampton
    - Consultant
    stage machinery
    Messrs Butlers (Stanningley)
    - Consultant
    constructional ironwork
    Messrs Burmantofts
    - Consultant
    W H Heywood & Co
    - Consultant
    Shoolbred & Co
    - Consultant
    upholstery carpets etc
    Messrs Whitehead & Sons
    - Consultant
    marble work
    - Consultant
    J M Boekbinder
    - Consultant
    Hawkins & Baxter
    - Consultant
    iron railings
    - Consultant
    arc lamps
  • 1899 Owner/Management: The Alhambra (Blackpool) Ltd
  • 1899 - 1961 Use:
  • 1902 Alteration: remodelled theatre
    Frank Matcham
    - Architect
  • 1903 Owner/Management: Blackpool Tower Company
  • 1903 Alteration: remodelled Panopticum as a cinema
    Frank Matcham & Co
    - Architect
  • 1903 Alteration: ballroom remodelled as 'Panopticum'
  • 1961 Demolition:
  • Capacity
    Theatre 3000; Circus 2000; Ballroom 3000
  • Capacity
    1910: 4000 (theatre)
  • Listing
    Not listed
Stage type
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: 1910 d: 37ft w: 75ft
Proscenium width: 1910: 28ft 6in
Height to grid: -
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: -