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The Tivoli gets a new frock!"

Tivoli, Brunswick Road, Buckley

October 2003

Note on Harry Goldrich, mentioned in this article.


The Tivoli 1925 - 2005 - A grand old lady at 80

by Roger Shone (and a little addition by Emma Stuart)

Additional information by Alec and Val Johnston

written in 2008


On the site of the Tivoli was the Central Hall. This housed a market hall on the ground floor and a meeting hall above (very similar to Mold's Assembly Hall, which was later Bentley's night club and is now Lloyd's TSB Bank.) In this meeting hall in Buckley spoke Lloyd George; also Mabon the miners' leader, Gladstone and other great political figures addressed meetings here. It was here that the first films were shown. This building must have fallen into disuse around 1924 at which time the site is said to have been purchased by Mr Robbie Rowlands, a local butcher. The Hall was extensively rebuilt as a well equipped 980-seat theatre. It opened in 1925 and was re-named The Tivoli.


The facade was covered in what is known as 'decorated wedding cake' plaster and even today if you look up at the columns either side of the entrance doors, you can see the masks of comedy and tragedy. The original doors were set back. Many famous opera stars appeared on the stage; also actors and actresses including D'Oyley Carte and Gilbert and Sullivan companies. Variety shows were held at the Tivoli and in 1932 Mr Norman Price, Mr Peter and Miss Lillian Wilcock were prime movers in forming the Buckley Amateur Pantomime Company, the first Panto being 'Dick Whittington. Emlyn Williams appeared here in May 1952 when he performed readings of Charles Dickens on his nationwide tour. It is not known whether the Tivoli showed silent films as it was always run as a theatre. The stage was 38ft wide and 30ft in depth with 6 dressing rooms.


The Tivoli started showing films with the first starring Al Jolson in 'The Singing Fool,' a Warner Bros. Production - Vitaphone sound on disc with nitrate stade film. Two projectors were required to show the various reels of film. Initially only 1000ft could be shown. This later increased to 2000ft as nitrate could burst into flames quite easily. There was however, despite stringent safety regulations required in the projection room, a tragic fire on May 20th 1945 in which the projectionist Harry Goldrich, aged 39, died. A superintendent Williams was awarded the BEM as he fought his way through the blaze and brought the man out, but sadly not in time to save his life. His ghost is said to haunt the building to this day.


Around 1937 the ownership of the Tivoli passed to the Liverpool Cinema circuit of Stanley Grimshaw theatres who, in turn, were taken over by Byron Picture houses Ltd of Liverpool formed by Phillip M Hanmer. He was to run quite a number of very successful cinemas in and around Merseyside and North Wales. Things changed with the coming of the television and in common with all cinema operators his audiences decreased quite rapidly. By 1961 he was only operating 3 cinemas - the Tivoli, The Grand in Frodsham and the Glynne in Abergele. The last panto was held at the Tivoli in 1959 and in 1961 the Tivoli closed as a cinema and for a very short time became a Bingo Hall. With creditors pressing for payment of three unpaid bills the company went into liquidation and the Tivoli was closed Summer 1961. In the autumn everything inside was sold at auction by the liquidators.



After a few years the Tarrant family bought the building and turned it into the Tivoli Ballroom. Phil Tarrant also owned the service station opposite Bistre Church. The Chester Chronicle February 20th 1965 reported on the opening of the Tivoli ballroom: "More then 600 guests are expected at the opening (tonight, Friday) of what is described as "North Wales' grandest ballroom and entertainment centre" - The Tivoli at Buckley." It was then thought to have been leased to a Mr Roy Miller of Liverpool c. 1970 - 71 who turned it into a successful nightclub.


Alec Johnston (?) did the conversion work from a ballroom to a nightclub and the interior was based on the Kon-Tiki expedition, Christmas Island with idols. (The Kon-Tiki was a raft which crossed the Pacific from Peru to the Pacific Islands). There was also "Cupid's Bar" upstairs at the back. Don Millward was the first manager for a few months, followed by Alec Johnston. It still retained the Tivoli name.


On Sunday nights: the pensioners had it for ballroom dancing - no alcohol

On Mondays the under-15s had it - no alcohol

Tuesday was rock night

Weds: disco night - two of the DJs were Danny and Mickey Jackson

Friday: a group and cabaret


There was a resident group called Fairground. Other names to appear here were: Gerry Marsden, Russ Abbott, Carl Denver, Roger Whittaker, Marty Wilde, Cy Tucker, Joseph Locke, The Dallas Boys (?).


The balcony was used for Bingo sessions Monday to Saturday. Alec and his wife Val had a flat, in which the haunted projection room was their kitchen.


It passed through various proprietors as a nightclub, having one time changed its name to 'Trends' though it soon reverted back to the familiar 'Tivoli', as we know it today.


Around 1973, Roy Miller gave up the lease and Phil Tarrant, the owner, took it back and continued running it. (It is at this time it may have been called "Trends"). I think Howard Croft then took over the running of it. Various people have run the Tivoli as a nightclub including Luminar Leisure plc.


Through the1980s and early 1990s, the Tivoli was run as one of the best music entertainment venues in North Wales. Its forward thinking owner, Howard Croft (he now runs the venue "Madhouse" in Liverpool [2008]) at the time saw a gap in the market and made Thursday nights available for local, national and later international rock and folk bands. Some familiar circuit bands included Dumpy's Rusty Nuts, Engine, You Slosh, Balaam and the Angel and Dizzy Mama. Of national and international fame, the Tivoli played host to Magnum, Love/Hate, the Quireboys, Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson and Paul Dianno (of Iron Maiden), Mordred, Anathema and Lisa Dominique! To name but a few.


As a concert venue and nightclub it certainly made its mark as it saw people travelling from all over north west England and Wales for a night out at the Tivoli. Monday nights saw performances by popular contemporary artists and celebrities. Wednesday nights were given over to 'Indie' music, with live acts followed by a disco and Thursday nights for rock and heavy metal. Before long, it was noticed that the popularity of Thursday nights was superseding the general Saturday night 'pop' disco and a rock night was formed on Saturday nights in addition to the Thursday 'live band' performances. The owner was indeed an entrepreneur as he saw potential in providing free buses from Chester and Wrexham for his indie, rock and heavy metal audiences. At this time the Tivoli was certainly the place to be!



Author: Shone, Roger and others


Year = 2003

Month = October

Building = Commercial

Extra = 2000s

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