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MS Thr 461

Argyle Theatre (Birkenhead, England). Argyle Theatre (Birkenhead, England) records, 1885-1944: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: b
Call No.: MS Thr 461
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Argyle Theatre (Birkenhead, England)
Title: Argyle Theatre (Birkenhead, England) records,
Date(s): 1885-1944.
Quantity: 1 collection (11 boxes and 1 print drawer (4 linear ft.)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Records of the Argyle Theatre, music hall, including contracts, playbills and photographs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

2003MT-232. Purchased from London dealer David Drummond in three accessions: record books, playbills and window cards in 1997; an index to the record books and photographs in 1998; and additional photographs and contracts in 1999.

Processing Information:

Simmons College graduate student Vivien Goldman processed this collection during the fall of 1999, under the supervision of the Harvard Theatre Collection's Technical Services Librarian, Beth Carroll-Horrocks. Revised March 1, 2004.

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Argyle Theatre (Birkenhead, England) Records, 1885-1944 (MS Thr 461). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

The Argyle Theatre was one of the oldest music halls in Britain, famous for its lively entertainment and for fostering new talent. It opened as a music hall in 1868 under the ownership of Dennis Grannel. In 1876 Grannell changed the name to the Prince of Wales and used the theatre to present plays. In 1890 Denis J. Clarke, Mr. Grannell's nephew, took over the management of the theatre and changed it back to a music hall under its original name of the Argyle Theatre. Clarke ran the Argyle for 45 years, making it the best-known music hall theatre in England.
Many stars began their careers at the Argyle, notably Sir Harry Lauder, Vesta Tilley, Dan Leno, George Robey, Charlie Chaplin, Flanagan and Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame). Live performances featured songs, dances, comic skits, acrobatic performances, pantomime and other music hall acts associated with vaudeville. The Argyle was the first music hall to present radio broadcasts that were aired throughout the Commonwealth; it was also the only British music hall to broadcast direct to the United States on a coast-to-coast hook-up. In 1896, the Argyle was the first theatre outside of London to present Thomas Edison's Vitagraph Living Pictures. In 1910 it showed footage of the funeral of King Edward VII and in 1911 the coronation of King George and Queen Mary. Although the theatre showed films and newsreels for a number of years, the main attractions at the Argyle continued to be live performances.
The Argyle was destroyed by fire in an air raid during the Battle of Britain on September 21, 1940.


Organized into the following series

Scope and Contents

This collection documents only select periods in the Argyle Theatre's long history. The series of booking records provides a good look at the line-up of talent on a weekly basis. The contracts record working conditions for performers in the early years of World War II. The series of window cards, playbills, and photographs cover a relatively short period of time. The location of the remainder of the Argyle Theatre's records is unknown; they may have been destroyed in the war.

Container List