Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Theatre and Shows - Theatres - Linwood Gallery / The Walhalla 

Linwood's (Miss) Exhibition ... is open daily from 10 till dusk.

Miss Linwood's Exhibition of needlework is one of those which has not ceased to create an interest after its novelty had in a measure subsided, and is deserving, did the pages of this work permit, of a minute description. This beautiful style of picturesque needlework is the invention of a Leicestershire lady, and consists, at present of 59 copies of the finest pictures of the English and foreign schools of art, possessing all the correct drawing, just colouring, and light and shade, of the original pcitures from which they were taken; in a word, Miss Linwood's exhibition is one of the most beautiful the metropolis can boast, and should unquestionably by witnessed, as it deserves to be, by every admirer of art.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

One of the most celebrated places in Leicester Square is the Linwood Gallery, which, for more than half a century, has been the home of every conceivable bait which the imagination of showmen and speculators could devise for the delectation of that great cormorant - the British public. The only really successful tenant of this place, however, was the lady whose name it bore for so many years, and whose property it formerly was. By her admirable skill in needlework, she kept it open without interruption for a number of years, and realised a huge fortune. Certainly, compared with other exhibitions, her expenses must have been inconsiderable, and hence we may account for her success. For a very long time the name was changed to the "Walhalla," when the classical and chaste poses plastique performances of Madame Wharton, and her celebrated troups of living models, male and female, attracted very large and first class audiences. Poor Wharton, she met with a sad end, and paid the debt of nature at a very early age. Let her faults pass away with the bottle to which she became so devotedly attached, ere snatched from the scenes of her many triumphs ...

Paul Pry, no.33 May 1857

Saville House was rebuilt early in the present century, and soon became a sort of " Noah's Ark," for exhibition purposes. Here Miss Linwood exhibited her needlework, from the year 1800 until her death in 1845; and here, too, the National Political Union held its reform meetings, recalling the storms of the previous century. Then came a succession of prodigies of nature and art. Amongst the latter were a large moving panorama of the Mississippi River, and a series of views of New Zealand ; concerts and balls, and exhibitions of too questionable a shape for us to detail. "Through some sixty years of the showman's art, flaring by night and by day, Saville House lasted unharmed until the catastrophe of 1865, when the royal baby-house and the cheap pleasure-haunt were burnt in the short space of two hours."
    Part of the house, on being refitted after the Gordon riots, was occupied by a carpet manufacturer, and subsequently by Messrs. Stagg and Mantle, drapers and silk mercers ; and also by Messrs. Bickers and Bush, extensive booksellers. The eastern wing of it was for many years the show-room of Miss Linwood's exhibition of needlework, as mentioned above, which enjoyed a popularity second only to that of Madame Tussaud's exhibition of wax-work in Baker Street. This exhibition gave a new name to Saville House, it being known for nearly half a century as the Linwood Gallery. It comprised about sixty copies of the best and finest pictures of the English and foreign schools of art, all executed by the most delicate handicraft with the needle, the tapestry "possessing all the correct drawing, just colouring, and light and shade of the original pictures from which they are copied." The entrance to this exhibition was up a flight of stone steps, leading to a large room.
    After enjoying half a century of popularity, the exhibition came to an end in 1844, and the pictures were sold by auction, realising only a comparative trifle. No less than 3,000 guineas had been refused for the chief work, viz., "Salvator Mundi," after Carlo Dolci, and Miss Linwood bequeathed it to the Queen ; but so reduced was the value of these works at her death, that when Messrs. Christie and Manson sold the collection by auction, all the pictures, except a few which were reserved, did not realise more than 1,000. The rooms which they occupied were then turned into a concert and ballroom, and made use of for entertainments of a very questionable character ; but they were burnt down in February, 1865, the Prince of Wales being among the spectators of the destruction of the house once inhabited by his ancestors. The house has never since been rebuilt. The outer walls remained standing, displaying a placard-board styling the dreary place as the Denmark Theatre, and thus hinting that it belongs to some company, limited or otherwise, which never passed beyond the embryo state.
    Underneath Saville House are some extensive apartments, to which we gain descent by a flight a few steps from the street. The chief room, of called the "theatre," has been used for varied exhibitions from time to time, including " Miller's Mechanical and Picturesque Representations," consisting of seven views of cities, "the figures of which," says a prospectus in 1814, " are impressed with movements peculiar to each, so as to imitate the operations of nature." The passage leading to this theatre, Mr. Britton tells us, in 1815, "has been lately opened as one of those singular establishments called bazaars." The "theatre" was changed into an extensive billiard-room, fitted with foreign as well as English tables; and the entrance was fitted up as a refreshment bar.

Old and New London, c.1880
 

EDITOR'S NOTES:

The mansion of Saville House, Leicester Square, was broken into shops, warehouses, exhibition rooms etc. at the turn of the nineteenth century, and in 1809 Mary Linwood exhibited a famous display of wool-work there, in what became known as the Linwood Gallery. The Gallery became the Walhalla Theatre after her death in 1845. It then became the Salle Valentino, a dance-hall, in 1848, and by 1852 was the Theatre des Varietes, or the Leicester Music Hall. Other names for parts of the Saville House building included, at one time or another, the Grand American Hall, El Dorado Music Hall, Cafe Chantant, Parisian Hall, Royal Living Marionette Theatre, Royal Victoria Hall, Saville Hall and Hotel. The building burnt down in 1865. The Empire Theatre later opened on the same site. [see Lost Theatres of London by Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson for more information]