Theatres/Venues 3b: Queensland

Situated on the Condamine River, and at the intersection of the New England and Cunningham highways, Warwick lays 130 kilometres (81 miles) south-west of Brisbane, and is the administrative centre of the Southern Downs Region local government area. The first squatters to settle in the area were Patrick Leslie and his brothers in 1847. Three years later land sales were held. The name Warwick was eventually chosen over the initial suggestion, Cannington (a derivative of the Leslie’s run, Canning Downs). A telegraph line began operating in 1861, with the railway reaching the township in 1871. A brewery was established in 1873. The railway line and highway connections to Northern New South Wales (south), Toowoomba (north) and Ipswich and Brisbane (east) made Warwick an ideal stopover for travelling entertainments from the 1870s until well into the twentieth century. Warwick was proclaimed a town in 1903 and a city in 1936.

Left: Palmerin Street, ca. 1884 (John Oxley Library); Right: St Patrick’s Day Procession in Palmerin Street, 1915 (Wikimedia Commons)


HIBERNIAN HALL / MASONIC HALL [2] (1879-): Tenders for the construction of Warwick’s second Masonic Hall were published by the St George’s Lodge in November 1878 and the foundation stone laid the following April. The Freemason’s ownership of the building was short-lived, however, as it soon became apparent that the auditorium was too small for its intended purposes. In September 1885 the building was purchased by the Hibernian Society, thereby allowing the Masons an opportunity to start erecting their imposing new premises the following year [see Masonic Hall 3]. Although used for public meetings, lectures and ball/soirees etc, the Masonic/Hibernian Hall may have been too small to attract commercial operators. No minstrel or variety companies have yet been identified with the venue during either era.



aka C.U.S.A. Hall / St Mary’s Hall

(1900-) Wood Street.

Opened on 17 October 1900, the Catholic Young Men’s Society Hall was used by the parish for numerous activities – notably concerts, balls, theatrical productions, lectures, wedding breakfasts, dances etc, and was popular with Warwick’s teaching academies. Parish-hosted “Quarterly Entertainments,” were also held in the hall between 1900 and 1910. Presented entirely by locals these events comprised variety-style acts such as songs, instrumental music, dances, gymnastics and magic lantern exhibitions. The hall is known to have also hosted at two professional touring companies. The Wonderful Gascoignes, an international magic act, was forced to play there in 1911 due to the unavailability of the Town Hall. In 1914 the Fisk Jubilee Singers presented a two night season in the hall. During World War II the renamed C.U.S.A. Hall was utilised by military personal. It was remodelled in 1944 and renamed St Mary’s Hall.

1: The C.Y.M.S. Hall was able to be built after more than three years of fundraising by the local parish. The building, which has its front entrance facing Wood Street, is located directly behind the second St Mary’s Church, and diagonally behind the first St Mary’s Church. The address for both churches is Palmerin Street.
2: At a parish meeting held in July 1914 Father Potter, attempted to reintroduce the Quarterly Entertainments. His plan does not appear to have led to fruition, however.
3. C.U.S.A. was the acronym for the Catholic United Services Auxiliary, founded in 1939 to support service personnel. It should not be confused with the Catholic Union of Sick Associates (later Catholic Union of the Sick in America), which was founded in the USA in 1947 and shares the same acronym.



aka King’s Theatre

(1920-1944) King Street.

Erected on the former Olympia Stadium site [below], His Majesty’s was a purpose built 1,500 seat cinema and live performance venue. It opened on 18 December 1920 under the management of Warwick Pictures and for the next 24 years maintained a reputation as Warwick’s premiere place of entertainment. The first professional company to play there was the “20th Century Entertainers” featuring master magician Silvester and mind-reader Zodiac (Jan. 1921). In 1924 Warwick Pictures arranged with Birch, Carroll and Coyle to present vaudeville acts currently under their control at the theatre. Renamed King’s Theatre in 1941, the building was destroyed by fire three years later. A new King’s Theatre was soon afterwards erected in its place. Among the big stars to appear in His Majesty’s were Houdini (1922), Sir Harry Lauder (1925), and Dame Nellie Melba (1927).

1. Warwick Pictures Ltd was an amalgamation between Olympia Pictures and the Allman’s Pictures (Grafton Street). In 1940 His Majesty’s was acquired by Downs Theatres Pty Ltd which in turn leased it to the Sydney-based firm Southern Theatres Ltd. The fire that destroyed the building broke out on 27 February 1944.
2. Among the other touring companies to be identified with the venue were McColl’s Strollers (1921), Odiva and her Seals (1922), McColl’s Miniature Vaudeville Co (1923), Harry Clay‘s Metropolitan Co (1927 – featuring Nellie Kolle), and J.C. Williamson’s World’s Entertainers (1930).
3. Leonard Nelson, Brull and Hemsley, Fullers’ Eleven Wonders, Amy Rochelle, Zeno (equilibrist/balance act), Jonie Pastor, and the Eleven Rascals (with Stella Lamond), were among the many star acts to be bought to the theatre as a “between films” entertainment.
4. Sir Harry Lauder had previously played Warwick’s Town Hall (1914). His 1925 tour was billed as his career his farewell.
Images: above – John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland; below – Warwick Daily News 1 June 2018 (online).
Harry Houdini hanging from His Majesty’s Theatre, Warwick (1922)



(1871-1873) Palmerin Street.

Adjoining the Criterion Hotel in Palmerin Street, Warwick’s first Masonic Hall was opened in late-June 1871 with entertainment provided by Mr and Mrs E. Holloway. The following year the Polygraphic Minstrels, led by W. Horace Bent, played a short season there, as did the Star Burlesque and Dramatic Company. W.A. Chapman (magician), Morton Taveres’ variety and dramatic company, R.G. Bachelder’s Pantoscope company (featuring Horace Bent), and the Warwick Amateur Christy Minstrels all appeared at the hall in 1873. Under Bugden’s management it also served as a venue for social events, dramatic and musical entertainments, lectures and meetings. In July-1873 the building was purchased by the City Council and converted into the second Warwick Town Hall.

  • See also: Town Hall [2] [below] • Hibernian Hall / Masonic Hall [2] [above]
1: The original Criterion Hotel was a one-story timber building erected by hotelier David Bugden in the early to-mid-1860s. The current two story Criterion Hotel, located at 84 Palmerin Street was erected in 1917 on the same site.
2: Melbourne-based thespians the Holloways were then touring Queensland with a small dramatic company. The couple returned to Warwick to play a second season at the Masonic Hall in February 1872.



(1887-) 50 Guy Street.

Although no professional touring variety companies have yet been identified with Warwick’s third Masonic Hall, the building nevertheless served an important function within the community, especially during its first few decades. In this respect it provided a space for social and public functions – notably balls, musical concerts, smoke concerts, dances, festivals, lectures, school concerts, meetings, and wedding breakfasts. In 1899 part of the building was even converted into a gymnasium. Amateur theatre (in both dramatic and variety forms) was also quite strong in the Warwick region, and hence the Masonic Hall became popular as a rehearsal space, as a venue for amateur/school dramatic productions, and as a location for the teaching of elocution, acting, physical culture, dance, and singing etc.

1: Consecrated on 28 December 1887, the Masonic Hall’s ground floor was designed by architect William Wallace to function as a ballroom/auditorium. The second floor (which includes a lodge room) is connected by a turned, carved and polished cedar staircase (ctd. Budgen, Wayne L. Masonic Centres of Queensland 2005, 160).
2: The Snowflakes minstrel troupe is recorded as using the Masonic Hall for rehearsals (ca. 1889).
3. Variety-style entertainments were also often presented by Masons for fellow-members and their families.
Image: ca. 1887. Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland



aka Colonial Garden Theatre / West’s Olympia / Olympia Stadium / Olympia Pictures

(1911-1920) King Street, near the corner of Palmerin Street.

Initially known as the Colonial Theatre, the Olympia was an open-air stadium built by the Warwick-based Colonial Theatre Company. Situated ‘nearly opposite’ the Barnes and Co’s Trade Palace (corner of King and Palmerin streets), it opened on 9 February 1911. In September that year T.J. West took over the lease and renamed the venue West’s Olympia. Over the next nine years the Olympia was managed by several different firms (mostly local). It was closed by Warwick Pictures Ltd in early May 1920 to make way for the development of His Majesty’s Theatre. Although the Olympia operated primarily as a cinema during its lifetime, its various managements programs invariably featured live acts in their programs (both local and imported). Raconteur/illustrated singer Andrew Kirk (later an Olympia manager) was a favourite during the early years.

1: The Warwick Daily News records in its 4 February edition that the stadium was being built by the Greater J.D. Williams Amusement Company. This is believed to be an error. All other references in the same newspaper record that it was owned and built by a local consortium known as the Colonial Theatre Company.
2: The venue closed down for the colder months of the year (generally May to August).
3: Other managers/lessees included: Mr Munday (1913) and Fergus Mor (1913/1914). In mid-1914 Olympia Pictures
amalgamated with Allman’s Pictures [below], initially putting on shows in the Town Hall. From September the joint venture alternated programs from their respective venues. In February 1915 the Olympia was used solely by the joint management.
4. Live acts brought to Warwick included A.E. Nicholls, W.T. Rudd (1914), and the Mysterious Howards (1915). Fergus Mor also provided an orchestra under the direction of Frank Auguste Hill.



aka King’s Lyceum Stadium / Olympia Skating Rink / Allman’s Lyceum / Allman’s Pictures

(1910-1917) Grafton Street.

Tenders for an open-air stadium first appeared in the Warwick Examiner on 2 September 1910 and on 26 November the newly-built venue opened under the management of C.E. King (King’s Pictures). Alterations were made the following May to allow the stadium to be used during winter as a skating rink, and four months later it was acquired by local businessman Dan Allman. From there he operated Allman’s Pictures (later Warwick Pictures) each year from late-spring to late-autumn, temporarily transferring to the Town Hall [above] during the colder months. When Allman’s amalgamated with Olympia Pictures in mid-1917 the stadium was demolished. Although primarily a cinema, live entertainments (sometimes touring acts) were regularly featured during the early years. In April 1912 Allman’s Lyceum even hosted three nights of vaudeville (Waite’s Co).

1. Although Dan Allman opened for business on 13 September 1911 it continued to be known as King’s Pictures for about a month. In November Allman announced that Spencer’s Lyceum (Sydney) would be providing the films.
2. One of the biggest touring acts to play the stadium was Doc Rowe and Mystic Mora (1913). Other prominent entertainers to appear there were singers Flo Melville, Neil McKeller (“late of Harry Rickards’ Tivoli Co“), and James N. Beaumont, along with the Warwick Choral Society and the Warwick Band. Allman also engaged magician Lenardi, but he only appeared at the Town Hall.
3. Confusingly, the skating rink that began operating out of King’s Pictures in 1911 was known as the Olympia. An unconnected Olympia stadium was built in King Street in 1913 as a picture house. From that year each skating season in the King Street venue was identified as being held at Allman’s Stadium.



(1873-1887) Palmerin Street.

Warwick Council purchased the town’s second Masonic Hall in late-July 1873 and quickly converted it into a new civic centre. The building served in this capacity until imposing new premises were constructed a little further down the street in 1887. Among the entertainments to be staged in the second Town hall during the remainder of 1873 were the Queen’s Variety Troupe, Lottie’s Royal Magnet Troupe, and Billy Barlow. Over the next 13 years locals were entertained on a fairly regular basis by a wide array of touring variety shows – including Thiodon’s Wonders, Signor Vertelli (“Australia’s Blondin”), Lynch’s Bellringers (1874); Madame Sibly (mesmerist, 1875), U.S. Minstrels (1875/1877), [Pemberton] Willard’s Wanderings (1876), Royal Marionettes (1877), an “Original” Georgia Minstrels troupe (1878), Sweatnam’s Mammoth Minstrels (1881), King’s Mammoth Minstrels (1884), Carry Nelson (1885), and Webb’s Royal Marionettes (1886).

► See also: Masonic Hall [1] (Warwick) [above]

1. The increase in touring activity to Warwick from the early 1870s was in part a result of the town having been connected by rail to Toowoomba (and hence also Brisbane) in 1871.
2. The second Town Hall was also popular with local organisations and entertainers. Among these were the Warwick Amateur Dramatic Club, Warwick Aboriginal Minstrels, Warwick United Amateur Minstrels, Morton Tavares, Oddfellows Amateur Christy Minstrels, and the Darling Downs Amateur Minstrels. The Stanthorpe Minstrels also played the Warwick Town Hall.
3. Other popular entertainments included magic lantern exhibitions, Miss Christians’ Concert and Comic Opera Company (from Brisbane), and dramatic companies (1887). Masonic balls, Good Templars concerts, grand concerts, school concerts, soirees, lectures, religious services, civic meetings, and public readings etc were also held in the hall.



(1887-) 72 Palmerin Street.

A purpose-built civic building had been proposed by the Warwick Council prior to 1873, at which time the town’s Masonic Hall [above] was converted into the second Town Hall. It was not until well into the mid-1880s, however that a suitable site became available. The new and imposing building was officially opened on 1 October 1888. Possibly the first professional touring variety company to play the Town Hall was the Cogill Brothers’ company (20 June 1889). By the early 1890s it had become Warwick’s most popular venue for touring shows. Among the numerous managers to lease the hall during the heyday of minstrelsy and vaudeville were Harry Clay, Delohery Craydon, Holland & Dean (Elite Burlesque Co), Kate Howarde, Walter Morris, Post Mason, J.C. Bain, A.T. Richards, Lennon, Hyman and Lennon, Edward Branscombe, and E.J. Carroll. From 1900 it also served as an irregular and regular picture theatre.

1. The official opening featured a concert by Warwick’s Philharmonic Society. For the next eight months the venue was used primarily by local organisations and very occasional touring drama companies. Cowan’s Famed Dramatic Co was possibly the first to play there (16 Feb. 1889). Its line-up featured a young Kate Howarde. Rosa Towers’ Opera Company also opened at the Town Hall in late-March 1889.
2. The first minstrel company to present a show at the Town Hall was Warwick’s own Snowflakes (15 May).
3. The Cogills returned in 1896. Sydney-based entrepreneur Harry Clay first appeared in the Warwick Town Hall in October 1889 (with the Continental Vaudeville Company). His annual Queensland tours (1900-1918) utilised the venue whenever it was available.
4. International acts to play the Town Hall included C.B. Hicks‘ American Coloured Minstrels (1891), McAdoo’s Georgia Minstrels and Alabama Cakewalkers (1900), Beaumont Smith‘s Tiny Town (1912), and Scottish comedian Harry Lauder (1914). Possibly the first moving pictures to be shown in Warwick were at the Town Hall in October 1900 (courtesy of the Ada Delroy Company).
Image source: John Oxley Library (State Library of Queensland)



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Published on March 3, 2017 at 1:43 am  Comments Off on Theatres/Venues 3b: Queensland