The Palladium on Lord Street in Southport

Do you remember the old Palladium Theatre in Southport? 

One of Lord Street’s most magnificent buildings stood in front of the gardens hosting the iconic Mermaid Fountain until its controversial demolition by Sainsbury’s to make way for its new supermarket. 

Many thousands of families enjoyed great times there over many decades as a theatre and as a cinema.  

The Palladium Theatre on Lord Street, Southport was formally opened on Saturday 3rd January 1914, just a few months before the start of the First World War. 

The proprietors, Messrs. Williamson and Connard, presented Southport Corporation with 1,200 square yards of land in front of the building and this was included in a scheme by the local authority to carry out improvements at a cost of £3,750 – that sum would be worth over £540,000 today. 

The Palladium had an auditorium capable of seating over 1,200 people, the same seated capacity as the new Marine Lake Events Centre currently being built. 

With such a large auditorium, and a balcony with accommodation for about 400 people, the Palladium was one of the largest and most up-to-date theatres in the North of England. 

The foyer, with. its columnar treatment and vaulted ceiling was described as being “unusually attractive”.

From it, a large marble staircase on either side led to the circle, tea lounge and retiring rooms.

The ground floor was furnished with plush tip-ups and the floor was well raked, thus ensuring patrons a clear view of the screen. 

An elliptical ceiling of graceful line was supported on a decorated frieze, beneath which were handsome pilasters. The colour scheme consisted of soft shades of grey, cream and white enriched with gold, finished to an antique tone, with all draperies and carpets in a pleasing shade of old rose. 

The Palladium on Lord Street in Southport

The Palladium on Lord Street in Southport

On each side of the proscenium opening, and terminating the ends of the balcony, were the pipes of a handsome organ which were purchased at a cost of several thousand pounds and upon which Mr. Kenneth Burns, formerly organist of St. Mathias Church, Richmond, Surrey, performed. 

The organ included the harp and violin stops and could give the effect of an orchestra with 50 to 60 performers. 

The tea lounge was decorated in the Adam style, many of the ornaments being copies of the original models. 

For the purpose of heating the building a large sectional boiler was installed in the basement. Particular attention has been paid to the question of ventilation. An arrangement was made by which the air was washed and cleaned of impurities, and then passed over superheaters in winter and through iced chambers in summer before being distributed. 

The screen was movable and the large doors at the back of the stage could be opened to admit sunlight into the auditorium when the performances were not in progress. 

The building was brilliantly illuminated by clusters of French lustre lamps from the ceiling and by flambeaux from the sides of the auditorium and the front of the balcony. 

A roof garden was set out and here, teas were served in the summer months. 

The garden overlooked the boulevards which, in the summer, were illuminated by thousands of fairylights. 

There were dressing rooms and store rooms for scenery at the back of the stage. 

Messrs. Hampton & Sons, Pall Mall, London, carried out the decorations. 

Mr. C. Tonge was the architect. 

The first manager of the Palladium was Mr. Cline, formerly Manager of the Coventry Empire. The hours of performances when it opened in 1914 were:, morning 11am; afternoon 3pm;  and evening 7pm and 9pm. 

The elegant Palladium Theatre later changed to the Gaumont then the Odeon cinema before being pulled down to make way for Sainsbury’s supermarket. 

The mermaid fountain on Lord Street in Southport. Photo by Andrew Bown Stand up for Southport

The mermaid fountain on Lord Street in Southport. Photo by Andrew Bown Stand up for Southport

In front of The Palladium, in the centre of well-manicured gardens, was  – and remains – the beautiful Mermaid Fountain. 

It was the founder of the long-established family firm Connards the jewellers, which remains on Lord Street, that first instigated the construction of the fountain.

The sculpture featured a mermaid with a fish clasped to her bosom set in a circular pool with frogs looking on.

The land which is now in front of Sainsbury’s supermarket, fronting the service road and St George’s Gardens, was until 1912 private front gardens and houses.

Sainsbury's supermarket on Lord Street in Southport. Photo by Andrew Brown Stand Up For Southport

Sainsbury’s supermarket on Lord Street in Southport. Photo by Andrew Brown Stand Up For Southport

Walter Connard, who founded the firm of Connard and Son – Jewellers of Lord Street Southport in 1883, gave the land to Southport Corporation to form the gardens and service road.

However there was a condition attached to the gift which was that the corporation should lay out the gardens and provide the fountain and sculpture to Walter Connard’s designs.

Mr Connard was an accomplished architect and builder and an example of his work is Christ Church School in Corporation Street, directly behind Christ Church, and now home to the Techedia IT firm.

It is not known who carried out the sculpture of the mermaid fountain but the design was Walter Connard’s.

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