Albert Ernest Pickard 1874-1964
BILL CROUCH has been researching a man who played a pivotal role in the early career of Stan Laurel
Albert Ernest Pickard was Yorkshire born, but was often referred to as a Glaswegian because he spent the biggest part of his life in Glasgow. He moved to Glasgow in 1904 and continued to live here until his death, aged 90, on 30th October 1964. The cause of death was recorded as carbon monoxide poisoning.
In early 1906 Pickard acquired the aged Britannia Music Hall in the Trongate, Glasgow. After much building work it re-opened on Monday the 9th July 1906 to great acclaim.
Pickard combined it with his adjacent American museum and waxworks. The waxworks were formerly Fell’s Waxworks, which Pickard had purchased when owner Cornelius Coupe Fell retired in 1904. Fell’s Waxworks had been an established venue in the Trongate since 1866.
The new joint venture Pickard named as the Britannia Theatre of Varieties and Grand Panopticon or Pickard’s Pleasure Palace.
Newspaper articles collected by Pickard gave an insight into the new enterprise.
The Theatrical trade paper The ERA (14/07/1906) reported on the opening:
Since the days when the Britannia Theatre of Varieties in the Trongate, Glasgow, had only one rival in Glasgow, it has passed through many vicissitudes. A few months ago Mr A. E. Pickard took it over, and in the interval he has converted it into a unique place of entertainment, which opened on Monday.
The interior of the old music hall has been entirely reconstructed, and equipped for the most part with novelties of a most varied description. There are statues and paintings of celebrities, mechanical working models and automatic machines, distorting mirrors, electric shooting saloon, and several tableaux representing human sacrifices in Dahomey.
In the entertainment hall, which can accommodate about 500 persons, enjoyable turns are given this week by Miss Kate Gourlay, Little Victoria Connor, and the Bioscope. Music is provided by the Japanese Ladies orchestra.
There are no fewer than six performances.
The Times gave more information:
The Britannia Panopticon
The old-established place of entertainment in Trongate has been resuscitated, and is now known as the Britannia Theatre of Varieties and Grand Panopticon, or Pickard’s Pleasure Palace.
It is open all day and has numerous attractions, including realistic scenes in waxwork and diverse busts, figures, paintings, mechanical devices, punching balls, an electric rifle shooting saloon, and very amusing distorting mirrors.
Conspicuous among the decorations is an admirable series of transparencies representing British Kings and Queens, artistically painted by Professor Herkomer and his pupils. Six times daily - thrice in the afternoon and thrice in the evening - there are variety performances in the theatre, and bioscopic views are shown. The drop curtain has a realistic picture of the last exhibition at Kelvingrove, and the orchestra consists of a quartet of young ladies in Japanese costume.
Throughout the building the Corporation Gas Department (under superintendent Wilson) have fitted up their effective system of incandescent lighting, including 30 of the 400-candle power lamps which have given so much satisfaction in the City Chambers - seven of which brilliantly illuminate the theatre - while there are also numerous small lamps similar to those used with electricity.
The Partick Star completed the picture:
The new pleasure palace is under the proprietorship of Mr Pickard, who has been connected with the providing of amusements in all parts of the kingdom for many years past. A genial and enterprising caterer, Mr Pickard has worked wonders with his latest venture, and so perfect is it in every detail that its success is assured. He has an able and energetic manager in Mr Mitchell.
The entertainment hall, with its pit, stalls and gallery, has all been redecorated and upholstered in the latest style. The admission to this splendid exhibition is only twopence, a price within the reach of all. Many new exits and entrances have been made, and altogether the show is one of the most entertaining and compact present in the city.