In March 1883 the improvements Committee of the Manchester Corporation approved plans, drawn up by a Mr. Weldon, for the construction of a new building in Peter Street, Manchester for Edward Garcia. Garcia planned to open his new Circus venue as a home for ‘equestrian entertainments’ and at the time it was stated that the building would ‘doubtless add to the already manifold attractions of the locality.’ The circus was part of a entertainment group of Garcia as he also ran the Folly Theatre in Manchester at the time, and was planning the construction of the Gaiety Theatre, which would actually open as the Comedy Theatre in 1884.
The Grand Circus, as it was called on its opening on Saturday the 22nd of September 1883, had an auditorium of three storeys consisting of a lower floor of Pit and Gallery, a first floor of ‘reserved seats’ and an upper story of ‘a huge and commodious promenade.’ The whole auditorium was lined with mirrors and the seats were upholstered in velvet. It was said to have been able to accommodate some 3,000 people. It was constructed as a ‘permanent structure’ of ‘brick and stone’ with a ‘plain stuccoed front’.
On its opening night Edward Garcia put on an elaborate show consisting of many ‘first class’ equestrian acts, several equilibrists and juglers, performing horses, and a ‘staff of jesters – headed by the celebrated Mr. Wallet.’ This performance was well received and continued to be popular on the following nights. The building was even compared to the Paris Grand Cirque or Hippodrome in a review by the ERA the month after it opened.
Ten years after the Grand Circus opened it was converted for Theatrical use and opened as the Temperance Theatre of Varieties on Monday the 20th of February 1893 with a new stage and a much improved auditorium.
In 1916 the Theatre was converted into a Cinema called the Palladium by reconstructing the interior and changing the Balconies to make the auditorium smaller, and in 1924 the Theatre was further converted, this time into a Church when the Balconies were divided and the backstage and FOH areas were converted for business use.
In the 1970s the Facade was demolished and replaced, and you would have been hard pressed to know that there was ever a Theatre there anymore. However, it was apparently still possible to see some parts of the 1916 Cinema and a few remains of the original Theatre such as the balcony fronts, part of the proscenium, and some of the stage.
In more recent years the building has been used as a Café, a Japanese restaurant and at the time of writing (Jan, 2021) it was in use as the Peaky Blinders Restaurant. Nothing reminds one of the Grand Circus it used to be.
23 Peter Street
Manchester M2 5QR
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