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