NCa0008 Stephenson 1904.1

NCa0008 Stephenson 1904.2

The Carlisle Theatre was burnt down to the ground, at four o’clock this morning (Thursday) Soldiers were all called out & nothing remains but the front iron gates. Annie.

Ferry Cottage, Corby
Lochinvar N&C Series. Published by Nicholson & Cartner, Carlisle
Postmark: CARLISLE 5 | 4.30pm | 15 September 1904

A snapshot of the city’s history captured in this message which was sent in the hours after the Victoria Hall was destroyed by fire in 1904.  Today’s rolling news cycle is immediate and ever-changing as agencies rush to break a story, often at the expense of the facts. In 1904, Mr Stephenson may have been one of the first outside the city to hear this news, from Annie, who sends a prosaic direct message sticking to the facts at hand.

In the early hours of Thursday 15 September 1904 Carlisle’s  largest theatre was destroyed by a fire that saw all hands on deck to no avail. Built in 1874 and named the  Victoria Hall, this had been the city’s go-to venue for entertainment for only thirty years when the devastation took place. One of a handful of theatres in the city it was the premiere spot for live entertainment, and from 1897, for films too. The fire took hold in the middle of the night and the damage was complete and irrevocable. As Annie succinctly puts it, “nothing remains but the front iron gates.”

From the ashes of the Victoria Hall a new theatre was built. The following year architects Beadle & Hope designed Carlisle’s grandest theatre to date. The 1500 capacity venue was renamed Her Majesty’s Theatre and Opera House and it opened on the same spot almost one year to the day of the fire: 14 September 1905.  Her Majesty’s enjoyed a much longer and more successful life. Films returned in 1912 when the building was leased to Sydney Bacon, who ran a chain of cinemas across the north.  Live theatre, music and variety were staples for the next 50 years until Her Majesty’s finally closed it doors in the 1970s after a short stint as a bingo hall. The theatre was demolished in 1980.

This postcard is doubly interesting as the picture side is a great example of another early 20th century entertainment: the stereoscope.  This is what counted as home entertainment from the 1850s to the 1930s and cards such as this were placed in a stereoscopic viewer to create a lifelike 3D image before your very eyes. Stereoscopic postcards of Carlisle are fairly unusual and this is the only one I have in my collection, showing the famous Ferry Cottage at Corby. I have written about this very popular view previously in this post.