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From Our Director: Stan Laurel Career Connection

central coast auction house the ashes bert oldfield

Lot #004 in our Antiques & Estates auction is this limited edition set of Laurel and Hardy bookends from Royal Doulton. As I was completing the cataloguing I was reminded of a time, early in my career, when I was privileged to spend time at the Britannia Panopticon in Glasgow, Scotland.

Photo: Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust

The Britannia Panopticon is the oldest surviving music hall in the world. Converted from a warehouse to a music hall in 1857, it was a popular entertainment venue for the Glaswegian working classes. The wide variety of acts including comedians, singers, dancing girls, a wax works museum and even a zoo in the basement.

Performers brave enough to venture onto the stage were often met with a torrent of shipyard rivets, rotten vegetables, horse manure, and even urine from the 1500 strong crowd.

In 1906 one such brave soul was 16 year old Arthur Stanley Jefferson, later Stan Laurel. Wearing his father's best suit, Arthur took to the stage for the very first time to give a performance that was greeted in typical Britannia style. Surprisingly the young boy was not put off showbusiness and he went on to fame and fortune with his comedy partner Oliver Hardy.

Closed in 1938 the music hall fell into disrepair, but since 1997 significant efforts have been made in its restoration and preservation, leading to a listed building designation of Category A - a site of national or international importance. Today the Panopticon is looked after by the Friends of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust and they regularly run events in the great music hall tradition (without the rotten vegetables and manure!). It is a fascinating piece of social history and a visit is highly recommended.

Photo: Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust


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