Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Victoria Palace, Parsons Green

With its tower and cupola on top of which the gilded statue of ballerina Anna Pavlova rises, the Victoria Palace Theatre (left) is a familiar sight for Londoners and can hardly be missed by travellers and commuters coming out of Victoria Station (the statue of Pavlova is a 2006 replica. The original 1911 one was taken down during the Second World War, never to be seen again).
The Victoria Palace is the third theatrical venue built on the site. The first one was Moy's Music Hall, opened in 1832. In 1863 it was refurbished and the name changed to Royal Standard Music Hall. The original building was demolished in 1886, to make way for a new theatre. This second building lasted less than 25 years. Indeed the arrival of electricity in the first years of the 20th century had a profound impact on theatres across London. Yet in order to get the best of modern technology and the advantages it afforded it was often necessary to demolish existing venues and build new ones. In 1910 the Royal Standard Music Hall was bought by Alfred Butt, the manager of the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue (and of many more theatres over the following years), and pulled down. One year later, on 6th November 1911, the Victoria Palace Theatre opened its doors. Designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham, at a cost of £12,000 (a hefty sum at the time), it was one of the West End's finest venues. Since then the Victoria Palace has staged many popular, often light-hearted productions, from plays to varieties to musicals. For more information, visit the page of the excellent Music Hall and Theatre History Site dedicated to the Victoria Palace Theatre.

The Victoria Palace Theatre used a whole range of media to advertise its shows, from posters in the streets to adverts in newspapers. In Parsons Green, there was even a large painted sign, with the same message repeated twice, although both parts may not have been painted at the same time. The targets of the upper part were the commuters waiting on the station platforms or travelling on the Wimbledon branch of the District Line. As some of the eastward trains headed towards Victoria this was not a bad place. From the street level, unless one really makes an effort to look up, this part is hidden by the railway bridge. This is why the name of the theatre and what it offered was also painted on the lower part of the wall. Having said that, the typefaces are different. This is particularly noticeable with "Victoria Palace": the lower version looks more recent than the upper one (it also looks less elaborate, or perhaps more streamlined).
Unfortunately much of the upper sign has disappeared, but it is still possible to identify the theatre venue. However whatever was to the right of the name has faded too much to distinguish anything more than a couple of letters

Varierty At Its Best
... Twice Nightly ... [*]
Victoria Palace
Opposite Victoria Station

*: the times of the shows have faded too much but may have been 6.15 and 8.50.

For the rest of the ghost sign, see the picture below.

Victoria Palace
Opposite Victoria station
6.15 Twice Nightly 8.50

"Twice" is virtually written above "Nightly" but while the letters of the former progressively shrink, those of the latter expand.
Show times are the same as those on a leaflet printed in 1925. Back then the Victoria Palace was showing mostly varieties and this ghost sign may have been painted around that time.

In the lower right corner is the name of the company that painted this sign:
Longmans Billpost... [Billposting Ltd]

Longmans Billposting Ltd was an advertising company based in Chelsea. The London Street Directory shows in 1921 their office was located at 474, Kings Road. The company's name can bee seen above a wooden fence it placed its posters on, on a picture taken in 1943. Although Longmans Billposting Ltd was mentioned in a 1981 report by the Competition Commission, the company has since disappeared.

Below is a close-up of the upper sign.

Location: Parsons Green Lane / Pictures taken in October 2008

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