Theatres in Ayrshire ~ 1800 - 2014

Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock

The Palace Theatre in Kilmarnock was originally opened as the Corn Exchange in 1863.  It was converted to a theatre in 1903.

The red-sandstone Italianate tower dominates the cross at London Road and Green Street.  The building is A-Listed and was one of James Ingram's finest designs in Kilmarnock.

When the building opened in opened in September, 1863, the lower storey contained shops.  The upper storey held the Kilmarnock Library, Athenaeum and Reading-room  There were two small offices used by the Burgh Registrar and Sanitary Inspector.

The adjacent Butter Market had a spacious hall with seating for twelve hundred patrons.  There was a large finely-toned organ that cost £800.

Today, the theatre offers a year round programme of music, comedy, drama, dance and light entertainment.

The CORN EXCHANGE BUILDINGS - perhaps the most imposing public structure in the County were erected in 1862, from designs by Mr. James Ingram, Architect. These cover an area of 1602 square yards, and, with the exception of the poultry and butter market, and three shops attached, which are the property of the town, the buildings belong to a joint-stock company, The Exchange is adorned with a noble tower, which was erected by public sub- scription, as a monument to the late Prince-Consort, and hence named, the Albert Tower.

The opening up of Duke Street from the Cross, 25th November, 1859, as a new access to the London Road was one of the best of the more recent improvements. At the corner of what was formerly the Low Green the Corn Exchange Buildings are very nobly planted. The Albert Tower rises to the height of 110 feet; the Kilmarnock Arms are boldly sculptured on the front, surmounted by an overhanging wreath of fruit and flowers, and a rich scroll bearing the words "THE EARTH is THE LORD'S, AND THE FULNESS THEREOF. " Three clock-dials tell the hour overhead, and the centre one is illuminated after sunset, except during mid-summer : a small dome supported by eight Corinthian pillars crowns the whole, and completes the tower. The clock was the gift of Ex-Provost Donald. The hall is 84 feet long by 51 feet wide, with a height of 51 feet from floor to ceiling. It is lighted from the roof and also from the west side, one of the windows being of stained glass, and finely designed. At one end is a handsome gallery, and at the other there is a large and finely toned organ, built by the Messrs. Forster and Andrews, Hull, at a cost of £800. This was raised chiefly by the exertions of the Philharmonic Society, aided by a most successfully conducted bazaar. The hall seats are arranged to hold about a thousand people with comfort. On the second floor are situated various public offices, the beautiful Athenaeum Reading Room, and the magnificent Kilmarnock Library Hall.

From a 19th Century Account of Kilmarnock.

Building Details

The current theatre was formerly a public hall in the Corn Exchange, built 1863 with a robust two storey Victorian classical exterior with a tall, 4-stage, campanile over the entrance. Converted to a variety theatre with a fully equipped stage in 1903. The auditorium is long and narrow and the balcony is isolated from the stage by  blank side walls. The modern interior is comfortable but nondescript.


Built 1863
Dates of use    1863.  Continuing
Current state   Extant
Current use     Theatre
Listing             Grade B 1980

Other names    Corn Exchange Hall, Palace Theatre


Original: 503.
Current: 503; Grand Hall 900

1863   Design and Construction: as a Corn Exchange.
          Architect: James Ingram
1886   Alteration with addition to the building.
          Architect: Robert Samson Ingram
1903   Alteration: converted to music hall
          Architect: Not identified
1927   Alteration: annexe hall added
          Architect:  James Miller with Richard McLeod Morrison Gunn
1947   Alteration: creation of Grand Hall
          Architect: Gabriel Steel
1979   Alteration: rebuilt after fire
          Architect: Unknown
1980 - 1989 Alteration: further work to form the Palace Theatre
          Architect: Kilmarnock and Loudoun District Council
1985   Alteration: refurbished
          Architect Unknown


1903   Owner/Management: Palace Theatre Co, lessees
1922   Owner/Management: William Cummings, lessee
1956   Owner/Management: Kilmarnock Arts Group, lessee

Listing:  A


Stage type      Proscenium flat
Dimensions     Stage dimensions: Depth: 9m     
Proscenium     width: 7.6m
Height to grid: 10.36m

Building information from The Theatres Trust and Historic Scotland.

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Albert Tower
1.  Palace Theatre and Albert Tower, 2010    magnify. ©M.Bailey

Palace from Bus Station
2.  Palace Theatre in 2009, viewed from the bus station constructed on the Regent Street site.   magnify.   ©Mike Bailey

London Road
3.   Palace Theatre and London Road.   magnify  ©Mike Bailey

Palace Theatre
4.   The Palace Theatre can be seen here at the end of Duke Street.
magnify   ©East Ayrshire Council.

5.  Brenda Cochrane as Carabosse, the bad fairy. Sleeping Beauty, 2009. magnify ©Imagine Theatre

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