Gallus Glasgow P: the Panopticon

Britannia Panoptican

The Britannia Panopticon on Trongate is the world’s oldest surviving music hall. It’s on the first floor above Mitchell’s Amusements, with an entrance down the lane to the side. The music hall functioned from the 1850s through to 1938 when it was no longer possible to compete with modern entertainments such as the cinema. It was then sold to a tailoring business, converted to a workshop, and not rediscovered until 1997. The Panopticon is currently being conserved by a trust which produces traditional shows in the auditorium and is raising money to rescue the historic stage which was buried beneath a 1960s toilet.

Panopticon interior

When 16-year-old Arthur Stanley Jefferson gave his first stage performance here in 1906, who could have predicted how successful he would turn out to be? You know him better as Stan Laurel, who is commemorated by a blue plaque in the alley next to the Panopticon – with a bonus of some beautiful ghost signs.

Panopticon plaque for Stan Laurel

A talented friend of mine, Colin Hough, wrote a radio play about Laurel’s debut a few years ago. It’s no longer available to listen to, but this very favourable review gives a flavour and speculates what the play might be like if it was filmed in the Panopticon itself.

Something I didn’t know until I was wandering up High Street taking photographs for another post, is that the Panopticon also has a charity shop. I might go back for a rummage when I have more time.

Panopticon shop
Panopticon shop

Tomorrow, Q takes us to a Mackintosh building.


  1. Panopticon — quite a mouthful. That’s interesting about Stan Laurel. It would have been fun to see him perform. Is the Mitchell of Mitchell’s Amusement related to the Mitchell of Mitchell’s Library?


    • Not far from the Royal! I was looking for something recently and was astonished to find how many charity shops there are. Byres Rd had about 10. I don!’t notice them normally.