An old haunt of Chaplin's is up for sale

An early stage for the talents of Charlie Chaplin has been placed up for sale in Wigan.

Monday, 18th December 2017, 9:58 am
Updated Monday, 18th December 2017, 11:05 am
The former Royal Court Theatre in Wigan, which has hosted Charlie Chaplin, is up for sale

Once the Royal Court Theatre, opened in 1886, was a regular stop-off for the cream of British music hall entertainers.

And this included a 14-year-old Chaplin, billed as appearing as Billy The Page Boy in a touring production of Sherlock Holmes in 1903.

Stage shows have long since ceased at the King Street venue, which originally seated 3,5000 paying punters and was constructed for the grand price of £18,000.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Even by 1930 live performances had made way for the Royal Court’s second life as a cinema.

And by the early 1970s it had wound down as a picture house and was reborn as a bingo hall.

More recently the premises have traded as a nightclub or bar, and was last known as The Hub.

Now the old Royal Court is back on the market, with a freehold price of £250,000, through the Wigan office of property firm Parkinson Real Estates.

In the listing, estate agent Daniel Crawshaw has said: "This attractive Grade II listed building is arranged on lower ground, ground and three upper floors to provide a ground floor public bar, lower ground floor offices and former catering kitchen."

While the bar area has remained well-used, and there’s still a beer garden to the rear, the upper floors have only been partially used for offices and storage latterly, according to the estate agent.

His Royal Court date doesn’t even qualify as Chaplin’s first connection with Wigan though.

He was treading the boards around the north as a 10-year-old with the Eight Lancashire lads, a clog-dancing troupe.

The collective, with a fairly interchangeable junior cast, was the brainchild of Wigan-based impresarios Bill Cawley and JW Jackson and it was Charlie Chaplin Senior, himself a music hall favourite.

Hearing that one of their number was going to be leaving, after a date in Manchester, he got a foot in the door for the soon-to-be movie legend.

Chaplin would later become part of comic sketch ace Fred Karno’s company, which would bring him back to Wigan in 1907.

One of his roller-skating skits at the Wigan Hippodrome (where the Revolution vodka bar now stands), caught the eye of a critic in our sister paper, the Wigan Observer. He shared a bill with a young Stan Jefferson, who would later go on to much greater fame as Stan Laurel.

The Observer review read: "On Monday evening the efforts of his company in burlesquing this latest craze sent the house into screams of laughter, and especially humorous were Charlie Chaplin and Johnny Doyle."

The last major overhaul for the Royal Court came in 1998 when planning permission was granted to turn the former bingo hall and amusement arcade into a bar and club.