Book looks at how Sheffield entertained itself in Victorian times

A new book looks at Victorian Sheffield amusements such as theatre, music hall, concert halls and other entertainments.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Friday, 20th December 2019, 3:03 pm

The book, Victorian Sheffield Entertainment, has been published by Sheffield Theatre History Research Group. It is based on exhaustive research by the late John Smith, to whom the book is dedicated, and was completed by Mike Gardner and Pat Braunton.

The book is full of fascinating characters that appeared at long-gone theatres such as the Theatre Royal, the Adelphi, the Surrey and the Alexandra, and at the city’s many music halls.

On a festive note, Mike said that a pantomime football match, with players in full costume, took place at Bramall Lane in 1886 in front of a crowd of 20,000. A repeat match the following year was banned by the ground because of the mess that was left!

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The Prince of Wales’ mistress Lillie Langtry made her first appearance in Sheffield at the Alexandra on Blonk Street, causing quite a stir!
The Prince of Wales’ mistress Lillie Langtry made her first appearance in Sheffield at the Alexandra on Blonk Street, causing quite a stir!

So they played the city’s Licensed Victuallers, who dressed in their barman’s aprons, at the Sheaf House. Some of the women performers strolled among the crowd, selling kisses for charity.

As well as hugely popular theatre pantos, travelling circuses appearing over the Christmas period put on their own pantos. As they had no theatre licence, dialogue wasn’t allowed but they did feature spectacular special effects, trapeze artists, animal acts and clowns.

Mike said that the book was a follow-up to one that the theatre history group, an adult education class that he set up for the University of Sheffield, wrote about Georgian Sheffield entertainment.

Dan Leno was one of the biggest stars of the Victorian music halls - reputably the highest-paid performer in Europe. he appeared at the Britannia Music Hall in West Bar when he was a boy and returned to Sheffield many times

He paid tribute to John’s incredible work and said it had taken him and Pat more than six years to edit into book form.

So far the independently-published book has made £1,000 which has been donated to Sheffield Theatres. It is on sale for £9.99 at Sheffield Sceme on Surrey Street or for £7.50, including postage, from Sheffield History Research Group, 49 Bingham Park Crescent, Sheffield S11 7BH. Inquiries: 0114 268 6387.

The Music Hall, Surrey Street. Opened in the 1820s, this was Sheffield’s first concert hall, not a music hall. It stood where the Central Library stands today. Paganini, Liszt and world-famous soprano Jenny Lind performed there
The Theatre Royal, Sheffield - the Lyceum was built next to it in the 1890s
The Alexandra Theatre began life as the Royal amphitheatre, a venue for horse shows, and later became the Adelphi Theatre. Tommy Youdan named it it the Alaexandra when he took it over