Mercury Theatre

Theatre in/near Notting Hill, existed between 1927 and 1987

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Mercury Theatre

MAP YEAR:1750180018301860190019502021Remove markers
Theatre · * · W11 ·
MAY
29
2015

The Mercury Theatre was situated at 2a Ladbroke Road, next to the Kensington Temple.

The Sunday School of the Horbury Chapel was erected in 1851, and began life as a school. The architect was John Tarring, who also designed the chapel. It was subsequently used as a church hall (“Horbury Hall”), and then briefly in the early 1920s the “Horbury Rooms” were occupied by the Kensington Local Pensions Committee. In the second half of the 1920s, the building was the studio of the Russian-Canadian sculptor Abrasha Lozoff (1887-1936), whose woodcarving Venus and Adonis, now in the Tate Collection, was almost certainly created there.

In 1927, Horbury Hall was purchased by Ashley Dukes, a successful West End playwright and theatrical impresario and the husband of Marie Rambert (later Dame Marie). The Russo-Polish ballerina had run a ballet school in Notting Hill Gate since 1919, and the hall was first used as studios for the school.

In 1930 Rambert founded the “Ballet Club” to give performances to the public, forming a dance troupe from her own pupils. It was the first classical ballet company in Britain. The company first performed at the Lyric, Hammersmith, but in 1931 started putting on performances at Horbury Hall, which remained its home for the next 23 years. Ashley Dukes remodelled the building to meet the needs of both the Ballet Club and the ballet school.

As there was no room for an orchestra, a pianist provided the music from a corner in front of the stage, sometimes accompanied by a harp, oboe or bassoon. People could dance on the stage following the performance. There were parking problems. One programme in the 1930s apologizes “for the joint activities of the Metropolitan Water Board and the Borough Council which have momentarily made Ladbroke Road a devastated area. You will shortly be able to put your car outside as before”. In fact, the council seem soon afterwards to have insisted that patrons should park down the middle of Kensington Park Road.

By 1938, Ashley Dukes had acquired numbers 1-7 Ladbroke Road opposite, together with the land behind (now Bulmer Mews) and patrons were instructed to park there. When war broke out the following year and an air raid shelter was erected in Bulmer Mews, patrons were directed to a garage opposite the end of Horbury Crescent.

Despite its modest premises and facilities, the Ballet Club attracted some major guest artists to supplement the Club’s own company. Alicia Markova, the star British ballerina of her age, gave her support and danced there regularly in the early days. The company also included the young dancer Frederick Ashton, subsequently Britain’s foremost choreographer. Others who appeared there included Robert Helpmann (in 1934 and 1939) and Margot Fonteyn (in 1936).

In the beginning, only members and their guests could attend performances. The Ballet Club depended largely on subscriptions from its members (as well as subsidies from Ashley Dukes, who had made a lot of money from his West End successes). By the end of its first year, it had 1150 members, each paying a subscription of 12s.6d. Club status was a legal necessity both because until 1933 the theatre had no public performing licence, and to by-pass the restrictions in Britain on Sunday performances.

At first, the theatre had no name and was known simply as the Ballet Club. In 1933, Ashley Dukes, who was never afraid of experimentation, decided that it should become “The Nameless Theatre”. This name did not take off, however, and by the end of 1933 it was renamed the Mercury.

In 1936, Ashley Dukes bought the two houses next door to the theatre, numbers 2 and 4 Ladbroke Road. This enabled the facilities at the theatre to be considerably improved. A new entrance was created through No. 2 Ladbroke Road and proper bar facilities installed. The bar was decorated with an excellent collection of ballet and theatrical prints and drawings.

On the outbreak of war in September 1939, London theatres closed. But the Mercury quickly reopened (one of the first London theatres to do so) with a season of ballet in November 1939. The following year, however, the Ballet Cub merged with the Arts Theatre Club and moved to the Arts Theatre. Marie Rambert nevertheless remained very much a presence at the Mercury.

Although the Ballet Club had moved out of the Mercury, Ashley Dukes continued to put on plays almost throughout the war, including more Plays by Poets.

After the war, the Ballet Rambert (as it had become) had outgrown the Mercury and needed a larger stage. It became largely a touring company, making Sadlers Wells its London base and giving only occasional performances at the Mercury (it moved finally to its current headquarters in Chiswick in 1971).

In 1951, Marie Rambert’s daughter and son-in-law, Angela and David Ellis, set up a “Ballet Workshop” at the Mercury for new and experimental ballet productions. The Ballet Workshop continued until 1955 and Ashley Dukes also continued to put on short seasons of plays at the theatre until his death in 1959, although less and less frequently. Other companies also took the theatre for short periods.

It was hired out for events whenever possible. In 1968, it was one of the locations for a Beatles photo-shoot by the veteran photographer Don McCullin. The Beatles had decided that they wanted some new “photographs with a difference” for the media and asked Paul McCartney’s then girlfriend to choose five “random” locations in London, one of which was the Mercury. The Theatre also appeared in the film Red Shoes, where it was used to portray the venue at which the young ballerina played by Moira Shearer was discovered.

In 1987, the Ballet Rambert decided to sell the theatre. There were no takers for it as a theatre, and it was reluctantly agreed that it could be converted into a private house. The building was by then in a bad state. It was purchased by a developer, who completely rebuilt the façade on Ladbroke Grove and transformed the entire building into an impressive and idiosyncratic dwelling.


Main source: Ladbroke Association
Further citations and sources



Mercury Theatre</SPAN>

Mercury Theatre
Rambert Dance Company Archive

NEARBY LOCATIONS OF NOTE
Coach and Horses The Coach & Horses was situated at 108 Notting Hill Gate.
Horbury Chapel (Kensington Temple) In September 1849, the Horbury Chapel, Notting Hill was officially opened.
Ladbroke Square Garden Ladbroke Square communal garden lies in Notting Hill.
Mercury Theatre The Mercury Theatre was situated at 2a Ladbroke Road, next to the Kensington Temple.
Notting Hill in Bygone Days Notting Hill in Bygone Days by Florence Gladstone, was originally published in 1924 by T. Fisher Unwin.
St John’s Hill St John’s Hill is the highest point in the area.
St John’s, Notting Hill St John’s Notting Hill is a Victorian Anglican church built in 1845 in Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill.

NEARBY STREETS
Arundel Gardens, W11 Arundel Gardens was built towards the end of the development of the Ladbroke Estate, in the early 1860s.
Aubrey Road, W8 Aubrey Road leads into Aubrey Walk, which runs west of Campden Hill Road at the top of Campden Hill. It was named in the 1840s.
Aubrey Walk, W8 Aubrey Walk runs west of Campden Hill Road at the top of Campden Hill.
Bedford Gardens, W8 Bedford Gardens is one of the prime residential streets in Kensington.
Berkeley Gardens, W8 Berkeley Gardens is a short street which runs between Brunswick Gardens and Kensington Church Street containing terraced houses on both sides with small front gardens.
Boyne Terrace Mews, W11 Boyne Terrace Mews is a mews in Notting Hill, London W11.
Brunswick Gardens, W8 Brunswick Gardens runs north from Vicarage Gate - a wide tree-lined road with white stuccoed terraces on either side.
Bulmer Mews, W11 Bulmer Mews is a tiny mews behind Notting Hill Gate.
Callcott Street, W8 Callcott Street is a small street between Uxbridge Street and Hillgate Place.
Campden Hill Gardens, W8 Campden Hill Gardens runs northwards from Aubrey Walk.
Campden Hill Place, W11 Campden Hill Place is a road in the W11 postcode area
Campden Hill Square, W8 Campden Hill Square is a residential square consisting of large family houses.
Campden Hill Towers, W11 Campden Hill Towers is a block.
Campden Street, W8 Campden Street stretches between Campden Hill Road and Kensington Church Street.
Chepstow Crescent, W11 Chepstow Crescent is a street in Notting Hill.
Chepstow Place, W2 Chepstow Place runs from the junction of Westbourne Grove and Pembridge Villas in the north to Pembridge Square in the south.
Chepstow Villas, W11 Chepstow Villas is a road in W11 with a chequered history.
Clanricarde Gardens, W2 Clanricarde Gardens is a street in Paddington.
Dawson Place, W2 Dawson Place is a street in Paddington.
Denbigh Close, W11 Denbigh Close is a street in Notting Hill.
Denbigh Road, W11 Denbigh Road is a street in Notting Hill.
Denbigh Terrace, W11 Denbigh Terrace is a street in Notting Hill.
Edge Street, W8 Edge Street is a street in Kensington.
Evesham House, W2 Residential block
Farm Place, W8 Farm Place was formerly called Earnest Street.
Farmer Street, W8 Farmer Street was formerly Farm Street.
Hillgate Place, W8 Hillgate Place was formerly Dartmoor Street.
Hillgate Street, W8 Hillgate Street was formerly Johnson Street.
Hillsleigh Road, W8 Hillsleigh Road is a street in Kensington.
Holland Park, W11 The roads known as Holland Park consist of three main branches.
Holland Walk, W8 Holland Walk is a street in Notting Hill.
Horbury Crescent, W11 Horbury Crescent is a short half-moon shaped street between Ladbroke Road and Kensington Park Road.
Horbury Mews, W11 Horbury Mews is a T-shaped mews in Notting Hill.
Ilchester Gardens, W2 Ilchester Gardens is a road in the W2 postcode area
Jameson Street, W8 Jameson Street was formerly St James or James Street.
Kensington Mall, W8 Kensington Mall is a street in Kensington.
Kensington Park Gardens, W11 Kensington Park Gardens is a street in Notting Hill.
Kensington Park Road, W11 Kensington Park Road is one of the main streets in Notting Hill.
Kensington Place, W8 Kensington Place is a street in Kensington.
Ladbroke Gardens, W11 Ladbroke Gardens runs between Ladbroke Grove and Kensington Park Road.
Ladbroke Road, W11 Ladbroke Road is a street in Notting Hill.
Ladbroke Square, W11 The huge Ladbroke Square communal garden is part communal garden accessed from the backs of the houses lining it and part traditional London Square with roads between the houses and the square.
Ladbroke Terrace, W11 Ladbroke Terrace was one of the first streets to be created on the Ladbroke estate.
Ladbroke Walk, W11 Ladbroke Walk, W11 is part of the Ladbroke Conversation Area.
Lansdowne Mews, W11 Lansdowne Mews is a cul-de-sac in Notting Hill.
Lansdowne Walk, W11 Lansdowne Walk was named after the Lansdowne area of Cheltenham.
Ledbury Mews West, W11 This is a street in the W11 postcode area
Linden Gardens, W2 Linden Gardens is a street in Paddington.
Linden Mews, W2 Linden Mews is a road in the W2 postcode area
Lucerne Mews, W8 Lucerne Mews is a street in Kensington.
Moscow Road, W2 Moscow Road is a street in Paddington.
Newcombe House, W2 Residential block
Notting Hill Gate, W8 Notting Hill Gate is a main shopping and retail street.
Ossington Street, W2 Ossington Street leads from Moscow Road at its north end to the Bayswater Road at its south end.
Palace Court, W2 Palace Court was built in the 1880s to connect the Bayswater Road to Moscow Road.
Palace Gardens Mews, W8 Palace Gardens Mews is a street in Kensington.
Palace Gardens Terrace, W8 Palace Gardens Terrace is a street in Kensington.
Peel Street, W8 Peel Street is a street in Kensington.
Pembridge Crescent, W11 Pembridge Crescent is a street in Notting Hill.
Pembridge Gardens, W11 Pembridge Gardens is a street in Paddington.
Pembridge Mews, W11 Pembridge Mews is a street in Notting Hill.
Pembridge Place, W2 Pembridge Place is a street in Notting Hill.
Pembridge Place, W2 Pembridge Place is a road in the W2 postcode area
Pembridge Road, W11 Pembridge Road is a street in London
Pembridge Road, W2 Pembridge Road is the former southern end of Portobello Lane.
Pembridge Square, W2 Pembridge Square is a street in Paddington.
Pembridge Villas, W11 Pembridge Villas is a street in Notting Hill.
Pencombe Mews, W11 Pencombe Mews is a street in Notting Hill.
Prince’s Square, W2 This is a street in the W2 postcode area
Princes Mews, W2 Princes Mews is a street in Paddington.
Rabbit Roe, W8 Rabbit Roe is a street in Kensington.
Rede Place, W2 Rede Place is a street in Paddington.
Simon Close, W11 Simon Close is a street in Notting Hill.
Stanley Crescent, W11 Stanley Crescent was named after Edward Stanley.
Stanley Gardens Mews, W11 Stanley Gardens Mews existed between 1861 and the mid 1970s.
Stanley Gardens, W11 Stanley Gardens was built in the 1850s.
Uxbridge Street, W8 Uxbridge Street is a street in Kensington.
Vernon Yard, W11 Vernon Yard is a mews off of Portobello Road.
Victoria Gardens, W11 Victoria Gardens is a street in Notting Hill.
Wilby Mews, W11 Wilby Mews was named after Benjamin Wilby, who was involved in several 19th century development schemes.
Wycombe Square, W8 Wycombe Square is a road in the W8 postcode area


Queen’s Park

Queen’s Park lies between Kilburn and Kensal Green, developed from 1875 onwards and named to honour Queen Victoria.

The north of Queen’s Park formed part of the parish of Willesden and the southern section formed an exclave of the parish of Chelsea, both in the Ossulstone hundred of Middlesex. In 1889 the area of the Metropolitan Board of Works that included the southern section of Queen’s Park was transferred from Middlesex to the County of London, and in 1900 the anomaly of being administered from Chelsea was removed when the exclave was united with the parish of Paddington. In 1965 both parts of Queen’s Park became part of Greater London: the northern section - Queen’s Park ’proper’ formed part of Brent and the southern section - the Queen’s Park Estate - joined the City of Westminster.

Queen’s Park, like much of Kilburn, was developed by Solomon Barnett. The two-storey terraced houses east of the park, built between 1895 and 1900, typically have clean, classical lines. Those west of the park, built 1900–05, tend to be more Gothic in style. Barnett’s wife was from the West Country, and many of the roads he developed are named either for places she knew (e.g. Torbay, Tiverton, Honiton) or for popular poets of the time (e.g. Tennyson). The first occupants of the area in late Victorian times were typically lower middle class, such as clerks and teachers. Queen’s Park is both demographically and architecturally diverse. The streets around the park at the heart of Queen’s Park are a conservation area.

There is hardly any social housing in the streets around Queens Park itself, and the area was zoned as not suitable for social housing in the 1970s and 1980s as even then house prices were above average for the borough of Brent, which made them unaffordable for local Housing Associations. The main shopping streets of Salusbury Road and Chamberlayne Road have fewer convenience stores and more high-value shops and restaurants. Local schools – some of which struggled to attract the children of wealthier local families in the past – are now over-subscribed. House prices have risen accordingly.

Queen’s Park station was first opened by the London and North Western Railway on 2 June 1879 on the main line from London to Birmingham.

Services on the Bakerloo line were extended from Kilburn Park to Queen’s Park on 11 February 1915. On 10 May 1915 Bakerloo services began to operate north of Queen’s Park as far as Willesden Junction over the recently built Watford DC Line tracks shared with the LNWR.


LOCAL PHOTOS
Children of Ruston Close
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Notting Hill
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Pembridge Road (1900s)
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201311211613
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Arundel Gardens
Credit: Barbara Avis
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Boyne Terrace Mews, W11
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3-4 Ladbroke Terrace in 2006.
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Lansdowne Crescent, W11
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Notting Hill in Bygone Days
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In the neighbourhood...

Click an image below for a better view...
Children of Ruston Close
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Notting Hill
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Pembridge Road (1900s)
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Duke of Cornwall, Ledbury Road W11, around 1990. Now The Ledbury restaurant, holder of 2 Michelin Stars as of 2014.
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St Peter's Notting Hill
Credit: Asteuartw
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Boyne Terrace Mews, W11
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3-4 Ladbroke Terrace in 2006.
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Notting Hill in Bygone Days
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Ladbroke Walk seen from Ladbroke Terrace (2006)
Credit: Thomas Erskine
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Portobello Road, W11
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