The Philharmonic Hall (image 1), on the west of Above Bar Street between Ogle Road and Regent Street, was opened in 1865, the work of architect Alfred Bedborough. It was built by the local firm Joseph Bull and Sons. The entrepreneur behind the scheme was Frederick Strange, owner of the Royal Alhambra Palace in London, an extravagant, pioneering music hall in a flamboyant Moorish-inspired building, and refreshment contractor for the Crystal Palace. The Philharmonic Rooms were a piece of London foppery transported to the centre of a provincial town, the façade “over-tawdry” with its enriched Italian style treated with some liberty according to the ‘Roving Correspondent’ of The Building News. A figure of Apollo, with richly-turned vases on either side, stood over the central double entrance. The keystones of the windows were ornamented with Prince of Wales’ feathers. Carved clusters of fruit and flowers adorned the walls. Inside, the central music room, which doubled as a ballroom, was parallelogrammic in form, and included a gallery, orchestra and proscenium. Staircases led from the inner lobby to a series of club and reading rooms. The whole cost Frederick Strange about £8,000.
The hall was leased for various forms of entertainment from 1899 and was the first venue in Southampton to show moving pictures. In 1909 it was taken over by Walturdaw Co. Ltd of London, the film distributors who already owned the Empire in French Street. In 1911 the Philharmonic Hall was closed down, refurbished and re-opened as the Alexandra Picture Palace (image 3). It was closed in 1933 and demolished to make way for the Regal Cinema.
Southampton Occasional Notes,2nd Series, by ‘Townsman’, p29, 62. (HS/h)
‘William Hinves and Alfred Bedborough: Architects in Nineteenth-Century Southampton’, by Richard Preston, in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no. 17, Autumn 2010, p19-20. (HS/h)
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