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.

37 thoughts on “Gallus Glasgow P: the Panopticon

  1. clarabellerant April 19, 2015 / 06:18

    Restoring a cultural hall of entertainment makes my heart happy! I hope they raise the money they need to finish it.

    You can find me here:


  2. Donna April 19, 2015 / 05:08

    Such a beautiful old building. It’s so great that it’s being restored to it’s original purpose!


    • Anabel Marsh April 19, 2015 / 07:01

      Yes! I ranted in a few other posts about what is being lost so i’s good to be able to report on something being restored.


  3. Birgit April 18, 2015 / 23:50

    I love it!! This is so cool that it is the world’s oldest and that Stan Laurel played there. We had an old building where, apparently the Marx Bros performed there in the early 20’s but it burnt down many years ago plus the building was not kept up. I just wonder what is behind those walls. I would love to go through that shop too


    • Anabel Marsh April 18, 2015 / 23:55

      It’s great that it’s been rescued, though not properly yet. You can go to plays sometimes but they don’t have a license to charge, they can only ask for donations.


  4. jazzfeathers April 18, 2015 / 20:34

    I love it when old builnding are restore to their original purpose. They have a particular flavour 🙂


    • Anabel Marsh April 18, 2015 / 20:49

      If this one could only get more money it would be wonderful.


  5. Stephen Tremp April 18, 2015 / 17:44

    This is the weekend before the last full week of A to Z. You’re amazing for staying with us this long. Thanks for your commitment. You’re almost there. This event only happens once a year, so get ready for the home stretch!

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Cohost
    P is for Paranormal Vs. Supernatural


  6. vannillarock April 18, 2015 / 17:04

    So thrilled you got one over on me! ( was so sure it would be the Playhouse) Have never heard of it. Thanks for posting, Anabel.


  7. Alex Hurst April 18, 2015 / 15:01

    Gorgeous…. but I want togo into Mitchell’s! How cool!!!


  8. Eli April 18, 2015 / 14:47

    Wow, that’s a grande building, and that shop looks like fun:-)


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