From the Kursaal to the Playhouse

Kursaal signed opening flyer 1913.
Kursaal signed opening flyer 1913.

The 100-year-old Playhouse Theatre in Whitley Bay, extensively refurbished in 2009, started life as the Kursaal, renamed in the 1930s.

Opened on Easter Monday, March 24, 1913, by the Debonairs Concert Troupe, the Kursaal proprietors, Messrs Ambro and Houghton, had a complimentary flyer designed and photographed by Gladstone Adams of Whitley Bay.

‘A Souvenir of Happy Days’ was signed by the cast, and the only signature missing was that of pianist Harry Taylor.

A colour copy of one of these flyers was sent from Stratford upon Avon by the niece of George Houghton’s wife Hilda, researching and contributing towards her family’s history.

Whitley Seaside Chronicle reported on the opening night when George Houghton took the stage to declare the theatre open. He conducted the audience in the National Anthem before giving way to the Debonairs.

Charles Hargrave, Miss Maud Gardener (who lived to be 100), comedian Walter Amner, soprano Miss Lilian Du Venny, light comedian Harry Bright, Harry Taylor and George Houghton himself, with humorist Louis Holt at the piano, all gave solo performances, culminating in a rousing selection from the Debonairs together.

During opening week they proved themselves a great asset to the seaside attractions of Whitley Bay, with the programme changing nightly to attract the crowds.

Season tickets starting at ten shillings and sixpence were collected from 16 Ilfracombe Gardens, the home of George and Hilda Houghton. George was killed in France whilst serving with the West Yorkshire Regiment in August 1918, aged 36.

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