A few months ago I was contacted by a lovely lady who had some items to donate to the Heritage Initiative, a number of local books, some photo’s and a small silver salver. She told me the story of how her father had found the salver in an attic and at the time no one was able to locate its origin. It even appeared in the local Newspaper and still drew a blank. The writing on it stated “With the Compliments of Smart & Todd, Royal Picture House, Consett”
So we decided to take up the challenge not realising that what had been handed to us was a true treasure. The salver had bridged a gap of use of one of Consett’s most beloved and esteemed Theatres, The Globe. Originally opened on 21 December 1896 as the New Theatre Consett it was purpose built by Richard Murray who spared no expense or thought in its construction. He wanted it to be the rival of any theatre of any major city. It was leased to Mr Hugh Robertson who had already proved his experience in the running of such establishments. Mr Harry Sharp was named as Acting-Manager and the New Theatre was hailed as an instant success. However Mr Sharp was not the best choice and some of the acts he brought were not up to scratch and he was replaced 17 May 1897 by Mr Lloyd Clarence.
“Clarence”, as he was always known, was not only a brilliant manager but also a very well known performer, comedian and playwright having even performed for royalty. To have him as the manager also ensured the longevity of the theatre as he knew the business and was well thought of. His contacts brought in all the big names of the time. However, if a performance was not up to his standards or was “Blue” then it would not appear. Only the best were allowed to perform for the Consett audience.
Born as John William Hunt he took on the stage name of Lloyd Clarence in the early 1870’s. He along with his wife Catherine (Kate) gained top billing throughout the country with their Comedy and Burlesque show. However, it was the Pantomimes in which Clarence excelled both the writing of and his performances in them. Before taking on the manager’s position in the New Theatre Consett, Clarence had been the lessee of the Old Theatre Royal, Stockton for 11 years.
In 1911 Mr Hugh Robertson’s lease expired and was taken up by Smart & Todd who were engaged in the business of Cinematograph Exhibitors. The company consisted of Mr Matthew Fordythe Smart a well known Licensed Victular of Yorkshire and John William Todd who was obviously the technical side of the enterprise. Unfortunately the company itself was only short lived, possible only two years, from 1911-1913. The partnership was dissolved on 18th Aug 1913 and went into the sole ownership of Mr Todd.
During this period the New Theatre became The Royal Picture House specialising in the silent movies and shorts. With Clarence still as manager the business plodded on, but unfortunately not at a great profit. In mid 1916 the Royal Picture House closed, but Clarence now took up the batten.
Clarence renamed it the Globe Theatre and began to bring back the old acts as well as showing pictures. Unfortunately with the introduction of talking pictures in the start of the 1920’s and the reduction of audiences the Globe’s days were numbered. It was also at this time in 1921 that his wife Kate died and was buried in a quiet spot in Blackhill Cemetery. Clarence retired in 1924 and the Globe closed 2 years later in 1926. He had been subsidising the staffs wages with his own savings for years and in turn had used up nearly all resources.
A true advocate for Buffaloism, Clarence was the founding member of the NW Durham Branch of the ROAB. Clarence Lodge, Consett being named in his honour. Clarence died 13 Mar 1939 at the grand age of 90. His funeral parade was marched through Consett and past the Lodge prior to his burial in Blackhill Cemetery along side his beloved Kate.