24 Jul

A Mystery Solved – the key clue was just one word … Corelli

Archive, Norman Mowatt, People of the Picture House

Just last week the Picture house received an email from a gentleman called Nigel Rose who is conducting some research on the history of Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, and the Hippodrome Music Hall & Picture Palace opened in February 1909. He had been fascinated to read the life story section of my biography of Arthur Hubner and the mystery of what happened to him in later life.

 

The Life Story:

Born in Liverpool in 1859 Arthur Hubner worked as a travelling Advertising Contractor before moving to Glasgow and becoming involved with Music Hall and the Cinematograph. In a building in Sauchiehall Street possibly best known to Glaswegians as the ABC cinema he first had an Ice Skating venue which he soon had moving pictures showing in a Cinematograph as ‘Direct from London – The Century’s Sensation’. The pictures were shown as the skaters continued to skate. He was quite possibly the very first person to show moving pictures in Scotland. Although the joint venture was not a great success Hubner’s insight that Cinematograph was the coming thing was to be followed with his becoming well know for working in several Glasgow venues and for touring with the Cinematograph.

His later life and career remains something of a mystery as he is conspicuous by his absence in the genealogical record after the 1901 census.

 

Nigel told us “The proprietor/manager was Arthur Corelli who does not seem to exist before 1900. However, I came across the attached Memoriam in the Stage, 30th May 1929, which led me to locate an obituary in the Stage, 7th June 1928, which makes me believe that Arthur Hubner changed his name to Arthur Corelli sometime in the 1890’s and left Glasgow.”

… and asked “Do you think this could why Hubner is ‘missing’ after 1900?”

 

I had originally taken my interest in Arthur Hubner from the adverts in the Campbeltown Courier for artists who came to perform in town before the Picture House first opened in 1913. One of my early sources indicating Hubner’s importance in theatre and early cinema was this one:

“One of the early showmen to appreciate the potential of the cinematograph. Originally an illusionist, he became manager of the Real Ice Skating Palace (subsequently Hengler’s Circus) where the cinematograph was first shown in Glasgow. Became manager of the Britannia Panopticon in the Trongate before it was taken over by A.E. Pickard, and in the various halls he managed he promoted Hubner’s Animatograph within his cine-variety programmes.”

Source: Bowers, Judith. Stan Laurel and Other Stars of the Panopticon. Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited, 2007. p. 86-90. Scullion, Adrienne Clare. “Geggies, Empires, Cinemas: The Scottish Experience of Early Film.” Picture House, no. 21 (1996): 13—19.

 

The Investigation:

I couldn’t resist the chance to find out the end of Arthur’s story, so I decided to do some online investigation and pool the documents I found with Nigel’s material and see where the evidence took me. I often use one of the well know genealogy sites to do research and old newspapers are very helpful too. With my one new word, Arthur Hubner’s new name of Corelli, I was able to gather a few documents which contained good evidence. I have picked out a few to illustrate the story. We have numerous newspaper references to Arthur in Scotland, mainly Glasgow, in the early years of the 1900s and he is in Glasgow with his second wife and family in the 1901 census.

Arthur Hubner’s resignation in Glasgow:

The Scottish Referee 20 April 1908

The Gaiety Glasgow

This Popular house will this evening revert to the old state of matters – namely the one house a night system, and with its reinaurguration also comes a new manager, Mr Holmeyard, who has been assistant at the Glasgow Empire for some time, and he will take up the reins here tonight, Mr Arthur Hubner having resigned his position …

 

Arthur Corelli appears in England:

The Era 27 February 1909

During these last few years Ellesmere Port, the Cheshire Merseyside town, has developed from a small village to a place of considerable commercial importance, and the New Hippodrome, capable of seating about 800 people, well furnished and appointed, was opened on Monday to supply the inhabitants with a place of entertainment, for which the promoters felt there was a need.

Mr Corelli, the chief promoter of the new enterprise, in a neat little speech, on Monday declared the building open, and assured his audience that it was his earnest desire to make the Hippodrome a place of ideal family entertainment, and by providing week by week, twice each night, a programme of an up-to-date variety character to enlist their sympathy and support …

 

The 1911 Census:

Arthur Corelli is living in Chester with his family. Age 52, born Liverpool, Entertainment Manager. The date and place of birth matches that of Arthur Hubner and the family ties in with the 1901 census. Julie Corelli, his second wife nee Julie Goettler. Children Nana (Maud) Corelli and Violet Corelli. I also found in the 1911 census his two sons Victor aged 13 and Norman 12 both born in Glasgow, at boarding school in Rock Ferry, Cheshire.

 

There are, as there were for Arthur’s Glasgow years, newspaper adverts and stories for the next few years in England then there is this letter in a local newspaper in 1920:

Ellesmere Port Pioneer 5 March 1920

“Dear Sir, I have just seen a copy of your admirable paper “The Ellesmere Port Pioneer”, and I thought it might interest your readers to know that Mr Arthur Corelli, who I served for five years at the Hippodrome, has recently disposed of his Ramsgate Hall and gone to open a Hall in Monte Carlo … “ Frank Aylmer, Stage Manager.

 

Then there is the In Memoriam which Nigel told us he had come across, which confirms Arthur’s residence in the South of France, in Nice which is not very far at all from Monte Carlo:

The Stage,30 May 1929

In Memoriam

HUBNER. – In loving memory of my dear Husband, Arthur Hubner(Corelli), who passed away at Nice May 29, 1928.

 

Fortunately I was able to find the registration of death in the UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628-1969.

Source Citation: The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; General Register Office: Miscellaneous Foreign Returns; Class: RG 32; Piece: 13

The document is, of course, in French and handwritten but after some translation of the relevant parts we can see that we clearly have a matching date and place of birth. No parental names supplied at the time. The person making the declaration was French and was not a relative. More details were supplied in that the deceased was the widower of Rose Walker (Arthur’s first wife’s maiden name was Walker, her forenames Kate Helen) and that he was the husband of Julie Gettler (his second wife’s maiden name was Julie Goettler).

 

And finally:

The Obituary which pulls together a short timeline of Arthur Hubner/Corelli’s career and gives us the mentions of the places in Glasgow and in England where he works and ran theatres.

The Stage – Thursday 07 June 1928

Many friends in the entertainment world will regret to hear of the death of Arthur Corelli, which took place at Nice on May 30, in his 70th year. He was born in Liverpool in 1859, and his earliest associations with entertainments included the Great Eastern. Later, he controlled the Britannia Music Hall, Glasgow, where many artists who are now stars made their debut. Here he introduced the twice- nightly variety programme.

In Paris he managed the Hippodrome for the Bostocks. At Bridlington he built the Lofthouse Park Skating Rink and Pleasure Park. In 1909 he built the Hippodrome and Picture Palace, Ellesmere Port and the Hippodrome and Picture Palace, Connah’s Quay. His later enterprises included the Pavilion, Ramsgate, and the Eden Kinema, Mentone (Menton is in the South of France near Monte Carlo).

He was one of the pioneers of the moving picture business, and took and showed pictures of Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901. Although he was principally interested in the business side of entertainment he was no mean performer himself, and toured a clever shooting act.

Failing Health eventually compelled him to give up business, and the last few years of his life were spent quietly in the South of France. He was a prominent member of the English Masonic Lodge at Monte Carlo. He leaves a widow, three sons, and two daughters.

 

Conclusion:

The evidence of dates, names, places, and so on to be found in the above documents leave me in no doubt that when he left Glasgow to continue his career in the theatre and moving pictures business in England that Arthur Hubner changed his and family’s name to Corelli. He seems to have gone from success to success. He finished his life in a very lovely place. But why he changed the name I doubt we will ever know.

 

Written by Norman Mowatt with huge thanks to Nigel Rose for presenting the Hubner/Corelli theory and sharing his research with us.

SAMUEL ARMOUR December 20, 2018