Britannia Panopticon
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About the Britannia Panopticon

We are a registered charity operating in the heart of Glasgow’s City Centre. Our aim is to promote and continue the legacy of the world’s oldest surviving music hall, advance the conservation and ensure the building’s future as a viable visitor attraction, museum and working venue.

Brittania Panopticon Designed by the architects Thomas Gildard and Robert H.M. McFarlane, the music hall was converted from an old warehouse above a public house called the Britannia Vaults. It opened as the Britannia Music Hall in 1857 in response to the entertainment demands of a burgeoning working class population. Over the years the Britannia became known as Pre-eminently the best and most popular place of amusement for an audience notorious for leaving no turn un-stoned. Britannia Music Hall saw a number of changes prompted by technological advancements and the demands of the audience; in 1868 a new entrance was provided on the Trongate, 1893 a toilet was installed, 1896 electricity arrived and along with it the moving pictures, but in 1906 the biggest change came when A.E.

Pickard brought his flair for showmanship to the building. Pickard had been inspired by the American showman P.T. Barnum and when he took over the old-fashioned music hall he set about bringing in some Barnumesque entertainments. Brittania Panopticon He converted the disused attic into a roof-top carnival with: electric rifle ranges, coconut shies, and a selection of mechanical entertainments and automatons. He also added tableaux in wax and a freak show. With no more space in the attic, he turned his attention to the cellar beneath the pub on the ground floor. This cellar soon opened to the public as Noah’s Ark - a basement zoo! With all of these entertainments under one roof, Mr. Pickard changed the name of the building to Panopticon; from the Greek and meaning to see everything.

Brittania Panopticon In 1938 the Panopticon could no longer compete with modern cinemas and variety theatres and the building finally closed as a music hall and was reused as a tailors shop and factory. But the legend lived on through the famous performers that trod the board including; Jack Buchanan, Sir Harry Lauder, Marie Loftus, Dan Leno, Stan Laurel and many more… But the story is not over. Britannia Panopticon lives on and is again entertaining the public with shows, films and as a museum of music hall history. To find out more about our opening hours and events please see our website and social media pages. For more information about the history of the building, please read the book “Glasgow’s Lost Theatre – The Story of the Britannia Music Hall” written by Judith Bowers and published by Birlinn. The book is available from the auditorium.