a brief history
In 1857 the architects Thomas Gildard and H.M.McFarlane built a little
music hall on the site of an old warehouse. The building opened
as the Britannia Hall circa 1859 and today is the last surviving
auditorium of it’s type in Scotland, and one of the last in
Over the years the Britannia changed ownership a number of times and was known by various names, including “Campbell’s Music Saloon” and “Hubner’s Animatograph”. Even the buildings use changed and on August 25th 1896 moving pictures began to be shown here on a regular basis.
Whatever the title, Britannia became “pre-eminently the most popular place of amusement” to the workers in the Second City of the Empire, making the Britannia one of the most important buildings to survive in connection to Glasgow’s social history.
In 1906 A.E.Pickard (a well known Glasgow character) bought the building and re-opened it as “Britannia and Grand Panopticon”.
Pickard was a man of diverse taste. Between 1906 and 1938 the building housed not just music hall and cinema entertainment, but also freak shows, waxworks, carnival and zoo.
The Panopticon - or “Pots and Pans” as it became locally known - was renowned for it’s Friday amateur nights when such stars as Stan Laurel and Jack Buchanan made their debuts. Even a young Archie Leech is said to have performed there before moving to Hollywood and changing his name to Cary Grant.
Unfortunately, in the wake of modern cinema buildings and the depression of the 1930’s, the Britannia Panopticon closed. Since 1938 the auditorium has lain silent, but intact. The ghost of a stage remains beneath a wooden proscenium arch and the benches that once supported the bottoms of many a raucous audience now only holds the dust of more than half a century, whilst the gold paint and ornate plaster crumble through the decades of neglect