Presented for your entertainment…

While looking through our playbill collection we were fascinated by the range of different acts which have been presented to audiences in Leeds over the years.  Here are just a few.

The Theatre, which was on Hunslet Lane, opened in 1771 with room for 600 people. Most of the plays performed were comedies, or comic operas, with usually two items each night, with an interlude of singing or dancing. One of the more unusual entertainments was a troupe of performing cats in 1824.

Mr Usher and his Stud of Real Cats

Mr Usher and his Stud of Real Cats

The Princess Theatre which opened in 1849 also had its fair share on unusual acts. Madame Labariere with her troupe of lions, tigers and bears was one attraction, as well as many clown acts. On one occasion part of the performance took place outside the theatre itself as in the benefit for the clowns John Garrett and Harry Thatcher, when Mr Garrett travelled from Victoria Bridge to Leeds Bridge in a washing tub pulled by four geese!

John Garratt sailing the River Aire

John Garratt sailing the River Aire

Next to the Princess theatre which was in King Charles Croft, the Leeds Casino and Concert Hall was opened by Joseph Hobson. In about 1856 Hobson extended the Casino into Lands Lane and re-named it The Royal Alhambra. A playbill from 1859 gives an example of the kind of entertainment put on there; it features, among other things, ‘Mr. Edwin and his performing Dogs’.

Mr Edwin and his performing dogs

Mr Edwin and his performing dogs

The Music Hall on Albion Street, mentioned in the previous post, was also a venue for more unusual variety acts such as Professor Anderson’s ‘Novelties of Magic Art’. The poster has an image of the Professor at work, he is described as ‘the great wizard of the north and claims to have performed before royalty.

Novelties of Magic Art

Novelties of Magic Art

For more playbills from our collection see Leeds Playbills

Going out in Leeds

Are you going out in Leeds over the Bank Holiday weekend?  Here at the Secret Library we thought we would share some of the photographs from our collections of just a few of the many places to visit in Leeds from yesteryear.

Place to eat out always feature on a day out.  Who remembers the Kardomah cafe or Jacomelli’s? The Kardomah was a great favourite with Leeds people, from it’s opening in 1908, to its closure in August of 1965. Conveniently situated on Briggate it was a great place to drop in while out shopping.

Kardomah on Briggate in 1937. Listed in some directories as the Kardomah Exhibition Tea-rooms.

Kardomah on Briggate in 1937. Listed in some directories as the Kardomah Exhibition Tea-rooms.

Jacomelli’s original café was opened in 1906 by Anthony and Francis Jacomelli, and was first called Jacomelli’s Swiss Restaurant and Café. They were taken over by Hagenbachs in 1949, and became a Berni Inn in 1967. The building we see here was demolished in 1973 to make way for the building of the Bond Street Centre.

 

Jacomelli's on the corner of Boar Lane and Upper Mill Hill, 1931.

Jacomelli’s on the corner of Boar Lane and Upper Mill Hill, 1931.

There have always been plenty of theatres and later cinemas for entertainment but going further back the place to go was the Albion Street Music Hall. This opened in 1794 and an advertisement in the Intelligencer stated ‘that proper care will be taken that the room is well aired’. And in order ‘to make the Road easy and commodious Torches will be placed at proper distances to light the carriages from Boar Lane.’ The hall was mainly used for musical concerts and public meetings as well as variety entertainments. With the opening of the Town Hall in 1858, the use of the Music Hall declined, and it was closed in 1870.  It was later bought by Denby and Spinks, and used as a furniture store. The building was demolished in 1973, and the site is now occupied by British Home Stores. This is now part of Trinity Leeds shopping centre which opened in March 2013.

Originally the Music Hall, seen here c.1900 as Denby and Spinks

Originally the Music Hall, seen here c.1900 as Denby and Spinks

How about a trip to Roundhay Park – a favourite place to go on Bank Holidays. This photograph shows crowds by the bandstand in the park as people in their best clothes have dressed up to come out and listen to the band.

Early 1900s view of the bandstand in Roundhay Park.

Early 1900s view of the bandstand in Roundhay Park.

How about a walk? Whit Monday, which this year is 25th May, was often the day for an organised walk. Here members of Queen Street Chapel and Sunday School in Yeadon are just setting off on a walk with Hopeville House in the background.

1892 photograph of members of Queen Street Methodist Chapel and Sunday School, Yeadon, about to set off on a Whitmonday walk.

1892 photograph of members of Queen Street Methodist Chapel and Sunday School, Yeadon, about to set off on a Whitmonday walk.

Finally how about a drink to finish off the day?  Just one of the many public houses which have now disappeared from Leeds was the Old Cock and Bottle on the junction of the Upperhead Row and Guildford Street as it was at the time, now the Headrow. This inn was sold to Schofield’s in 1938 and remained part of the store until it was demolished in 1961 when the store was extended.

Cock and Bottle Inn, c1906

Cock and Bottle Inn, c1906

Enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend whatever you decide to do!

Leeds Celebrations for VE Day

On Tuesday, May 8, 1945, the front page headline of the Yorkshire Post announced “THE EUROPEAN WAR IS OVER AND THIS IS VE-DAY AND A HOLIDAY”.

After six long years of bitter struggle, the British people had won freedom from fear and they celebrated in style. No more so than here in Leeds, where despite the heavy rain crowds gathered in the city centre to toast the announcement by Prime Minister Winston Churchill that the Nazi regime had been defeated in Europe.

Dense crowds on The Headrow and Victoria Square, in front of Leeds Town Hall. They are waiting for the Victory Parade to begin, part of the VE celebrations.

Dense crowds on The Headrow and Victoria Square, in front of Leeds Town Hall. They are waiting for the Victory Parade to begin, part of the VE celebrations.

That announcement was long-expected. Leeds-resident Ronald Addyman was working at a munitions factory at the time and reports that “It was made known in the factory that when the surrender was confirmed a Union Jack would be flown over the factory…The news of the surrender actually came through in the evening when I was at home. We heard of it in a wireless broadcast during which we were also informed that the following day would be a public holiday.”

VE celebrations on the Town Hall steps

VE celebrations on the Town Hall steps

Even so, some people were not sure how to respond to the celebrations and went to work as usual! Unexpected by their employees, these individuals soon joined the thousands of other Leeds citizens shouting, singing and waving flags up Boar Lane, Albion Street, Briggate, the Headrow and even around the lions of the Town Hall. Thanksgiving services were also held in churches, chapels and synagogues across the city.

Victory Parade, marching past Leeds Town Hall is a contingent of Air Raid Wardens, the Lord Mayor Charles Walker is taking the salute.

Victory Parade, marching past Leeds Town Hall is a contingent of Air Raid Wardens, the Lord Mayor Charles Walker is taking the salute at official celebrations on 13th May.

The images shown here are mainly from the organised celebrations immediately after VE Day.

The people of Leeds enjoyed many thoroughly well-deserved street parties to mark – if not the final conclusion of World War II; with victory in Japan still to come – most certainly the “beginning of the end”: for the first time since 1939 the future could finally be faced in peace.

Midgley Place, Woodhouse VE party

Midgley Place, Woodhouse VE party

Resources

*All available to view in our Local and Family History library

Owney Madden

Friday the 24th of April 2015 marked the 50th-anniversary of Owney Madden’s death.Owney – sometimes Owen – Madden was a legendary figure in American organised crime; a notorious bootlegger during the Roaring Twenties; an associate of Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano; the owner of the fabled Cotton Club; a childhood friend to actor George Raft and a role model for his patented blend of tough guy in expensive tailoring. Madden was one of New York’s most influential men; it was said that “When you wanted anything in New York, you saw Owney”.Madden, portrayed by Bob Hoskins in Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Cotton Club, was, then, a powerful and well-connected man – one who understood that his brand of employment needed discretion as much as muscle; a man who bought the influence of legendary newspaper columnist Walter Winchell for the very purpose of keeping his own name away from public and governmental eyes. It is no wonder that some have seen him as the likely model for the mysteriously rich and richly mysterious figure of Jay Gatsby in F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.That’s all very interesting – but what has it got to do with the history and heritage of Leeds? Well, it is a fact – a fact that is not as well-known as it should be and one which was brought to our attention by a recent library user – that Owney Madden was actually born in this very city towards the end of the nineteenth-century, before emigrating to the New York at 10-years old. In fact, it is said that Madden enjoyed collecting clippings from the pages of the Yorkshire Post and that he retained his native Yorkshire accent until his death in 1965.Fascinatingly, using the free access enjoyed by library users to the Ancestry website, we managed to locate records for Mr. Madden’s time in West Yorkshire – including his appearance with his brother Martin at Springfield Terrace, Leeds on the census of 1901: 

1901 census for Springfield Terrace

1901 census for Springfield Terrace

A browse around our photographic archive of Leeds threw up this gem: a 1902 image of Somerset Court, near to Somerset Street where Madden’s family was living at the time of his birth in 1892 –

Somerset Court, 1902

Somerset Court, 1902

The section of map below – reproduced from our extensive collection of historic maps – shows the location of the Somerset Street area in 1910, in what is now the section of the city centre housing the bus station.

Somerset Street area, 1910

Somerset Street area, 1910

Further digging revealed Madden’s presence on the passenger list for the U.S.-bound ship the SS Teutonic in 1902 and on the US Federal Census of 1940. These records can also be viewed by library users, together with an image of Madden’s grave in Hope Springs, Arkansas.

Owney’s life once he reached the United States was the stuff of fiction – the street-fighting with immigrant gangs in the notorious Hell’s Kitchen ward of New York; the ascension through the ranks of the Gopher Gang to organised crime mastermind. More detail about that extraordinary life can be found in several articles available through our holdings of the Yorkshire Evening Post and traceable through our digital newspaper index. A section from one can be seen below. A book – Arkansas Godfather: The Story of Owney Madden and how he hijacked Middle America, focusing on his criminal career in the United States – is also available for reference viewing.

Photograph of Owney from the Yorkshire Evening Post

Photograph of Owney from the Yorkshire Evening Post

Yorkshire Evening Post, 8 July 1985, p.4

This is just one example of the great stories that remain to be uncovered in the archives and collections of our Local and Family History library. Visit us today to start your own journey of discovery.