The Rainbow Tavern was situated in French Street, adjoining the old theatre. Sometimes known as Gordon’s Rainbow Music Hall, it was a popular entertainment venue until it was destroyed by fire in the late 1850s. Its owner/manager at the time was Mr. J. W. (‘Joey’) Gordon, who also managed the Theatre Royal next door. In 1874 he relinquished the lease on the theatre – it had not been financially successful – to concentrate his attention on the Rainbow, which in 1877 he entirely rebuilt.

He ran the new enterprise, renamed Gordon’s Theatre of Varieties, with the help of his wife, popular burlesque actress Juliet Power. When both the theatre and music hall were destroyed by another fire in 1884, Gordon built a second music hall on the same site, which opened in 1886 as the Gaiety Theatre. It was renamed the Empire during World War One and was demolished in the 1930s. Gordon’s predominance in Southampton’s entertainment industry was cemented in 1883 when he built the Prince of Wales Theatre in Ogle Road. He became its first manager.


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