Site of pierrot theatre, Colwyn Bay

Tourists used to flock here to watch Will Catlin’s famous pierrot clowns on a stage known as the Arcadia.

Photo of Will Catlin's pierrot troupeThere was tiered seating on the railway embankment’s slope. The photos of the pierrot troupe and the Arcadia are shown here courtesy of Conwy Archive Service.

Pierrots were performing on a smaller stage in Colwyn Bay by April 1900, when a disturbance occurred because one of the show’s songs was alleged to cast an aspersion on Welsh people.

The Arcadia theatre was built before the First World War. It was designed by Sidney Colwyn Foulkes, then a rising young architect. His career over seven decades included designs for almost every type of building. He is commemorated by a granite “postcard” set into the prom a little west of here. You can read more about him on our page about the postcard.

Photo of Arcadia theatre under constructionIn 1915 a pierrot show at the Arcadia was interrupted by soldiers billeted in the area from Glamorgan and Gwent. They shouted at the performers to “join the army”. The next evening, c.4,000 soldiers in khaki and c.3,000 civilians gathered between the pier and the Arcadia, sparking fears of a riot. However, Will Catlin and his colleague Harry Reynolds had been ordered by an army commander to cancel that evening’s show.

In 1919 Sidney designed a larger Arcadia theatre for Will. This was known as the Wedgewood Cinema from 1967. It stood in the site of the present Post Office building in Princes Drive and seated 1,000 people. You can read more about Will, who also had a long-running show in Llandudno, on our page about his grave in Llandrillo-yn-Rhos.

Photo of Arcadia theatre, Colwyn BayAccording to Sidney’s son Ralph, the architect got his first commission c.1900 when a letter to local decorator E Foulkes was mis-delivered to the firm of building contractor Edward Foulkes, Sidney’s father. The letter requested a quote for redecorating the town’s early pierrot stage. The story goes that Sidney opened it and responded by submitting a sketch for a new stage which so impressed the pierrots’ manager that the idea proceeded to design and construction. That stage was home to the pierrot show until the Arcadia opened here.

With thanks to Adam Voelcker

Website of Conwy Archive Service

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