The Opening Ceremony

The new hall was to be called “The Princesses Theatre” and the opening ceremony on Wednesday, 26th July 1916 was performed by Princess Helena and her daughter, Princess Victoria. This was to be a less public affair than the laying of the foundation stone in March. The royal party arrived direct at the theatre by car at 7.30pm. It may be assumed that the importance of maintaining the production of warplanes and other munitions at the works did not justify a day’s holiday and consequently the ceremony was before an invited audience in the theatre.

The royal party were welcomed in the foyer and led to the circle where they were joined by representatives of Vickers, the Crayford Council, the builder, Mr Carmichael, the architect, Mr Edward Keynes Purchase, and other local dignitaries. Her Royal Highness then opened the Theatre by sounding a gong.

A grand opening performance had been planned and the proceeds of £75 were presented to Princess Victoria’s YMCA Auxiliary Committee to provide funds for concerts for the troops. A gala concert commenced with the orchestra (made up of members of the Society of Women Musicians and conducted by Harold Darke) playing the National Anthem, with Miss Edith Evans leading the singing. There were also violin solos by Albert Sammons and a selection of songs by Edith Evans with music monologues by Frederick Dale. Sir Frederick Bridge, organist at Westminster Abbey, inaugurated the new organ with his own arrangement of “The Flowers of the Forest”. The resident organist and pianist, Frederick Docker and Ethel Walker, also gave recitals. A song entitled “The Munition Workers Song” written by Kathleen Bruckshaw for the occasion was sung by Charles Mott accompanied by the composer. The second half of the evening’s performance consisted of a magic show by Nevil Maskelyn and his Company. The evening ending with a cinematograph display, featuring the visit of King George V to Crayford on 18th September 1915. After the entertainment artistes, press, staff and friends were invited to supper by Vickers at Crayford House.

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