Industry : Misc 1

Associated venues (Aquariums, Pleasure Grounds etc) and Semi-regular Concerts (Peoples’/Popular Concerts etc)



Bondi Aquarium - 1891(1887-1906) In addition to its “creatures from the deep” attractions, the Royal Aquarium and Pleasure Grounds (best known as the Bondi Aquarium) offered its patrons free entertainments on weekends and public holidays. These included variety acts, brass bands and orchestras. Two other features were the Switchback Railway and in later years a roller coaster. The park closed in 1906 and was subsequently transformed into Wonderland City [below] by William Anderson.


CLIFTON GARDENS (Mosman, Sydney)

(1870-1967) Chowder Bay (between Bradley’s Head and George’s Head).

Clifton Gardens [Mosman Library]Located on an estate first owned by Captain E.H. Cliffe (who named his property “Cliffeton”), the Clifton Gardens pleasure grounds opened to the public in October 1870. Among its principle features were a grand dancing and entertainment pavilion, measuring 60x20ft (18x6m), the Clifton Arms Hotel (built in 1871) and picnic areas. David A. Thompson (owner from 1880-1906) erected a wharf, skating rink, a new pavilion and the three story Chowder Bay Marine Hotel (1885-1967). After his death the property was acquired by Sydney Ferries Ltd, which built a huge swimming enclosure, a boat shed and a tramway from the wharf to the hotel. Weekday and weekend entertainments included bands, day and night dancing, concerts, and recreational sports.

1: Variety entertainments included amateur and professional artists, with groups of individual performers or established troupes being engaged throughout the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Concerts were held either under cover in the Pavilion or outside on the lawn. During the early 1900s entertainment was also sometimes offered aboard the steamer bringing people to the pleasure grounds.
2: The swimming enclosure, which held 3,000 spectators, was destroyed by fire in 1956. The Pavilion and other amenities were demolished in 1967..
Image: Postcard. Source: Mosman Library.



aka Promenade Concerts

(1890s-1920s) The word “Continental” started being used in connection with (mostly) outdoor variety-style entertainments in Australia during the early-1890s, and was likely adopted from the descriptive “in the continental style.” In this respect the term gradually replaced “promenade concert” (which subsequently became more aligned with classical music). Over the next three decades Continentals typically comprised combinations of any of the following – illustrated songs, concert bands, vaudeville acts, fireworks, and moving pictures. The latter were arguably the biggest drawcard from the early-1900s. While popular throughout Australia, Queensland with its hot and humid summers, established perhaps more Continentals than any other state. E.J. Carroll was one its pioneers in Brisbane. From the late-1910s the concept declined in popularity and by the mid-1920s they were being produced mostly by amateur societies and associations (often for charity or fund-raising purposes).

  • See also: Promenade Concerts [coming soon]
1: Some occasional Continentals were held indoors, but in these instances the auditoriums were typically transformed as much as possible into outdoor-style settings.
2: Continental concerts played a major role in raising money during the war years, as well as supporting patriotic events – such as Wounded Soldiers Nights etc.
Any attempt to identify and list the Continentals produced in Australia between the early 1890s and 1920s could never be anything but incomplete. This is due to the enormous levels of activity that occurred during that period, not only in the capital cities but also in major regional centres and small towns. This activity is known to have ranged from one or two night “special” events to short and long-term commercial operations. The following is therefore an alphabetically-ordered selection of Continentals staged around the country and from different periods of time. The list will be added to regularly. Research notes PDFs are linked to each entry.
Hamilton Continentals (Brisbane) 1910-1911
Tivoli Continentals (Brisbane) 1911-1912
Tivoli and Lyric Continentals (Hamilton, Brisbane) 1911



Coogee Palace Aquarium [Randwick Council](1887-ca. 1940s) Situated on a block bordered by Arden, Beach, Bream and Dolphin streets, the Coogee Palace Aquarium was built by a consortium headed by Alfred Wyburd opened on 23 December 1887. The complex included gardens, swimming baths, a toboggan ride, bandstand, and a concert hall/skating rink. As with the Bondi and Manly aquariums, Coogee offered regular weekend entertainments for many decades, variety concerts being especially popular. Many local and international artists performed there during the minstrel and vaudeville, including those in the employ of Harry Rickards, Frank Smith and Harry Clay among others.

Image source: Randwick City Council.



aka Peoples’ Concerts / Cottiers’ Minstrels

Cottier's PC [SMH 24 May 1884, 2](1884-87, 1891, 1897) After their lengthy association with Melbourne’s Peoples’ Concerts (1873-1880), the Walter, Harry, Lucy and Master Ernest Cottier moved to Sydney in 1884 where they established their own shows at Sydney’s Protestant Hall, Castlereagh St. They ran these every Saturday night (with Monday nights also operating at various times) until late 1887, while also sending companies to Newcastle and Melbourne on several occasions. The concerts were revived for lengthy spells in 1891 and 1897. During the six years they operated their concerts the Cottiers engaged hundreds of performers, ranging from Australian and international celebrities to those just emerging.

Image Source: Sydney Morning Herald 24 May 1884, 2.



aka Don Picture Show

(1913-1932) Florence Budgen (1868-1960) began exhibiting films at the Darwin Town Hall from February 1913. In May that same year she secured the lease of a block of land at the corner of Cavanagh and Bennet streets and began developing what was to become the Stadium (aka Don Stadium). While a boxing event was promoted at the Stadium as early as October 1913, films were not screened there until the end of the Wet season in 1914 (late-February). Around 1915/1916 Budgen handed the business and the Stadium lease to her brother Percy Weedon (-1932). He remained the proprietor for several years before it was acquired by auctioneer George Wedd. Don Pictures continued to operate, in conjunction with sporting events (notably boxing) and occasional vaudeville shows, until the venue was demolished in 1932 to make way for Gordon’s Don Hotel.

1: The widow of former sadler and Terminus Hotel proprietor, Sydney Budgen (1859-1905), Florence Alice Budgen (aka Mrs Sam Davis) raised five children after her husband’s death while continuing to manage the hotel. She also reportedly took up a mining lease at one stage before expanding her business activities into film exhibition.
2: A former international mineral assayer and Northern Territory businessman (operating a store Union Town and a butchery in Pine Creek), Percy Weedon ran Don Pictures in partnership with Allan Way. He later operated picture theatres in Maitland and Bowral, New South Wales (see Empire Theatre, Bowral).
2: Among the touring variety performers and companies identified as having appeared at the Stadium under the management of Don Pictures were magician Abbott and fighting acrobat Martell (1916), and the Williamson Variety Company (1919/1920).
Image source: Northern Territory Times and Gazette 25 Nov 1915, 21


DREAMLAND (St Kilda, Melbourne)

(1906-1907) Corner of The Esplanade and Cavill Street (running through to Marine Parade).

Opened on 2 November 1906 by the Hon. Thomas Bent, Dreamland was developed as a Coney Island-style amusement park by E.S. Salambo (Dreamland Amusement Co Pty Ltd). In addition to the usual amusement park features the management engaged vaudeville entertainments (singers, acrobats, magicians etc), screened bioscope pictures and presented specialty features such as shadow pantomimes, panoramas and the Dreamland air-ship (offering a “Trip to the Moon”). The feature ride was Robson’s 900 ft long (275m) Figure of Eight roller coaster. By the end of the winter of 1907 the park was in financial difficulties. Salmabo moved to Sydney to manage William Anderson‘s Wonderland City [below] in September and Dreamland closed down sometime around October/November.

1: Possibly Australia’s second amusement park (after Melbourne’s Prince’s Court), Dreamland was built on a four and a half acre reserve that had been a lagoon until drained and filled in the early 1870s. It opened almost a month before Wonderland City. In October 1907 The Newsletter reported that Anderson had acquired Dreamland and proposed bringing it into line with Wonderland City (26 October 1907, 3). It is unclear if this actually happened as the park was still owned by E. S. Salambo when he filed for bankruptcy in January 1908.
2: Melbourne’s Luna Park, which opened in December 1912, is situated on the Dreamland site. All former amenities and rides, apart from Robson’s Figure of Eight, were demolished in 1909. The roller coaster remained in use until 1914.
Image source: State Library of Victoria


GOODSONS PICTURES (Rockhampton, Qld)

aka Goodson’s Promenade Concerts

Goodson's Pictures [MB 31 Mar 1909, 2](1909) Brothers Harold and Benjamin Goodson set up Rockhampton’s second moving picture venue in early 1909 at the corner of Denham and Alma streets. Initially known as Goodsons’ Promenade Concert Grounds, it opened on 20 February with a selection of moving pictures and with live entertainment provided by singers Miss Edie Buckley and Ben Goodson along with the Oddfellows Military Brass Band. The concerts, which soon afterwards became known as Goodson’s Pictures, closed over the winter of 1909 and were wound down in December as a result of the brothers taking over the management of their family’s furniture business. Live performances were regularly included in the programmes.

1: Other performers and bands to appear at the venue included the Lakes Brass Band, Will Dudley, Joe Archer, Galsie Bannon, Will Franks and Bert Clarke. Ben Goodson, the most regular performer, specialised in illustrated songs. These were often accompanied by moving pictures.
2: Rockhampton’s first moving pictures venue was established by George Birch (and his British Bioscope Company) at the Theatre Royal in December 1908.
Image source: Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld) 31 Mar. 1909, 2.



Manly Chute 2 [Raynor](1903-ca. 1907) Operating largely over the summer months this amusement park in Manly, New South Wales, offered two main aquatic attractions, the Canadian water chute and the Tobaggan, along with various entertainments, including variety concerts and film exhibitions. The park is believed to have closed down either in late 1906 or early 1907.



aka North’s Continental Concerts / North’s Vaudeville Co

(1909-ca. 1911) North’s Concerts began its Saturday night shows at the Prahran and South Melbourne Town Halls on 1 May 1909, initially in conjunction with Sculthorpe’s Pictures. The opening bill for Prahran included the young Roy Rene. In late-October management began staging Continental Concerts at a beach theatre adjacent top Beaconsfield Parade, Albert Park (in association with Johnson and Gibson’s moving pictures). North’s returned to its Town Hall shows in March 1910. The 1910 and 1911 seasons were held in these venues only (between ca. April and October). Little is currently known about the North’s management apart from Arthur Clarke, who identified as managing the 1909-10 beach theatre concerts. North’s last known shows were held in October 1911.

1: Although North’s South Melbourne concerts reportedly continued for three seasons (1909-11), few advertisements or reviews have been located via Trove.
2: Among the biggest names to appear with North’s were Pagden and Stanley, Leonard Nelson, Will Robey, Will Dyson, Alma the Magician (Will Alma), Essie Jennings, Ern Vockler, Lily Rockley, Wal Rockley, Slavin & Thompson, Hanco, Vera Clarke, Little Eva, Marshall Palmer, Violet Falvey, Gertie McLeod, The Duckworths (jugglers), Ada Rowlands, Ned James, Vockler and Lambert, and R. H. Collins.


PEOPLE’S CONCERTS [1] (Temperance Hall, Melbourne)

People' Concerts [ARG 3 Apr 1897, 12](1859-ca. 1938)  A Melbourne institution run by various managements for almost 70 years, the People’s Concerts were first were staged in 1859 at the Trades Hall (Lygon Street), with the Temperance Hall serving as a permanent home from 1872. Although regular advertisements did not begin appearing in Melbourne newspapers until the mid-1870s the concerts were still held during the interim. Conceived as a means of supporting local artists, many leading minstrel and vaudeville performers also appeared at the People’s Concerts during their careers. Newspaper reports indicate that the Concerts routinely attracted upwards of 2,000 people during the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Between 1883 and 1913 the entertainments regularly presented a first part minstrel semi-circle, followed by a variety concert, and a concluding sketch or “screaming” farce (“afterpiece). From the early to mid-1890s the variety concert was often referred to as “vaudeville.” Moving pictures tended to replace the “afterpiece” from the early-1900s..

1. Additional mid-week shows were sometimes presented over the years in order to take advantage of special events and celebrations – including the Queen’s Birthday, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, benefits and charity fundraisers. Dramatic plays (notably those with a temperance or total abstinence theme) were also sometimes presented in place of the minstrel and variety shows.
2. Although the People’s Concerts between 1883 and 1913 appear to have followed the three-part minstrel show format (1. Semi-circle; 2. Olio; and 3. Afterpiece), advertising and reviews suggest that the entertainment was something different. However, the only difference may have been that a typical minstrel show was presented by an entire self-contained company, while the People’s Concerts featured specially engaged local professionals or touring artists for the second part, and select performers engaged for the farce. From the 1890s the minstrel semi-circle was sometimes replaced with a drawing-room setting. The most prominent troupe to be associated with the People’s Concerts was the Combination Serenaders (1883-1913)
3. The second part “concerts” also featured a “chairman” who possibly took on a role similar to a music hall master of ceremonies (this role was not used in traditional vaudeville). It is unclear if the same persons, several of whom are named over the years, were involved in the first part as Mr Interlocutor.
4. Some of the greatest practitioners to work the Australian variety stage appeared at the People’s Concerts at some stage during their career – including Will Whitburn, J. R. Matlock, Amy Rowe, Dan Tracey, W.B. Warner, Johnny Cowan, Hosea Easton, Tom Buckley, and Nicholas La Feuillade. Dramatic actors Helen Fergus and D’Orsay Ogden also played the People’s Concerts of a couple of occasions.
Image source: Argus (Melbourne) 3 Apr. 1897, 12.


PRINCE’S COURT (Melbourne)

aka Wirth’s Pleasure Park

Prince's Court - Melb [montage]

(1904-1908) St Kilda Road, adjacent to the Prince’s Bridge, Southbank.

Australia’s first amusement park, Prince’s Court was established by Dan and Tom Fitzgerald as an adjunct to the permanent circus they had established by the Yarra River in 1901. It featured a Japanese tea house, Chinese-style open-air theatre, miniature train, Canadian water-chute and regular entertainments – including variety artists, a 15-member military band, and specialty attractions like Madame Flaro “the Human Comet” (May Bryant). The Prince’s Court Company ran into financial difficulties following the deaths of Tom and Dan Fitzgerald in 1906 and became insolvent by February 1908. After acquiring the lease, Wirth Brothers Circus re-opened the park on 29 August. It was subsumed into the firm’s circus operations in late October, and the area renamed Wirth’s Park.

1: Prince’s Court was officially opened on 14 December 1904 by the Victorian Premier, Thomas Bent. It was opened to the public the following day and continued under the Fitzgerald’s Prince’s Court Company until ca. February 1908. A “saucer” cycling track became operative there in January 1908. After being taken over by Wirth’s the site was known briefly as Princess Court, Wirth’s Pleasure Park. It re-opened as Wirth’s Park on 17 October 1908.
2: Wirth’s occupied the site for some 50 years. It was later developed as the Victorian Arts Centre.
Image source: Only Melbourne.



aka Olympia Recreation & Picnic Grounds

(1878-ca. 1920s) Situated next to the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel (Anniversary St), this mammoth pavilion was built by hotelier/vaudeville entrepreneur Frank Smith and opened on 5 October 1878. It was used for dancing and weekend entertainments, including artists from Smith’s Alhambra Music Hall. The Botany Pleasure Grounds, which had been operating since at least 1845, included a skating rink and gardens, and offered outdoor recreations (such as quoits and skittles), water activities (fishing, bathing and boating), sports events and refreshments. By 1914 it was known as the Olympia Recreation and Picnic Grounds but fell into disuse by the 1920s.

The Botany Pleasure Grounds was also the site of Australia’s first zoo.



aka Spencer’s Mechanical Exhibition

Spencer's Royal Polytechnic [ISN 21 Dec 1872, 23]

(1870-1878) Hotelier Thomas Spencer established his science and amusement exhibition in 1870 after having become interested in building models of steamers and railways. Located in Pitt Street, it comprised scientific and mechanical equipment, specimens from nature, man-made models, waxworks, and paintings depicting famous operas and vistas. In 1872 the Spencer siblings, John, Alice, Thomas Jnr and Clara began presenting regular music hall entertainments as an added attraction. Aspinall Thiodon bought the exhibition in late 1878 following the death of Thomas Spencer and continued presenting variety entertainment there until closing it down in 1881 due to ill-health.

Image source: Illustrated Sydney News 21 Dec. 1872, 23.



aka Coo-ee City / Uglieland (Ugly Land) / Carnival Square

White City - Perth [Battye Library]

(1921-1930) Perth Esplanade (William Street)

White City was the name of a Coney Island-type amusement park located on a vast block of land on the Swan River foreshore, adjacent to the Supreme Court and its gardens (the land was also known as Carnival Square). It’s popularity as a place for holding fairs carnivals saw it occasionally renamed for the duration of those events. In November 1921, for example, the Young Australia League put on the first of its annual Coo-ee City carnivals there. The following year the Ugly Man’s Association held the first of its fairs on the site. In addition to carnival attractions these events typically included variety entertainment. White City was also used for sporting events (notably boxing).

Coo-ee City - Perth [Battye Library]1: Most secondary sources currently record that community pressure forced the closure of White City in 1929 due to its infamy as a place of gambling and other illicit activities. These sources also typically record that the Government closed the site before Perth’s centenary celebrations (even though the celebrations were held throughout the centenary year, 1929). They either cite newspaper articles from that year or Annette Davis’ 1990 paper “Good Times for All” (Studies in Western Australian History). However, new evidence indicates that White City was still being used as late as December 1930. In 1931 the West Australian reports on the conclusion of law suit taken by Thomas Fowler against against the Young Australia League (19 July 1931, 9). According to the court report Fowler sued Y.A.L after being blinded in one eye on 15 December 1930. He was at that time attending Y.A.L.’s Coo-ee City carnival (held at White City).
2: Y.A.L’s. “Coo-ee City” did not operate in 1922. The Ugly Man’s Association also seems to have been associated with White City up until at least 1929. During its carnivals the venue was known as Uglieland (or Ugly Land).
Images: Battye Library, State Library of Western Australia.



Wonderland City [TT Nov 1907, 6](1906-1911) Situated at Tamarama (adjacent to Bondi Beach), Wonderland City was a 20 acre amusement park built on the site of the old Bondi Aquarium by theatre entrepreneur William Anderson. The largest open air amusement park in the southern hemisphere it included an artificial lake, skating rink, switchback railway, rides, sideshow attractions, a maze, wax works, cable car ride, aquarium, and its own 1,000 seat King’s Theatre (used for concerts and weekend variety shows). A long-standing and controversial feud with local residents led to low attendances from 1908. Anderson was eventually forced to close it at a loss of more than £15,000.

Image source: Theatre Magazine (Sydney) Nov. 1907, 6.


Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
For information concerning copyright issues see “Copyright” attachment in the AVTA “About” page.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

Published on October 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm  Comments Off on Industry : Misc 1