The theatre was built as the Bedford Music Hall in 1861 on the site of the Bedford Arms tea gardens. It burned down in 1899 and was rebuilt. By the early years of the 20th century the Bedford was one of London's premier music halls. Performers such as Marie Lloyd, George Leybourne, Gracie Fields, Charlie Chaplin and a host of smaller names all played here. Artists like Walter Sickert and Spencer Gore painted scenes of the performers and the audience.
In 1904, the popular young comedian Sam Mayo ("The Immobile One") achieved something of a record by playing in the first and last houses at the Bedford, plus seven other London music halls in-between - i.e., nine turns a night - every night for a week! In 1907 the theatre staged the premiere of P.G. Woodhouse's musical comedy, The Bandit's Daughter.
By the 1930s the British music hall was in decline and in 1933 the Bedford became a cinema, one of the ABC chain. It remained a cinema until 1939, when it reverted to live variety and theatre.
I walked past by chance one Sunday in 1968 and took this photograph. "The Bedford Theatre - Your Own Family Playhouse" is painted bravely on the side. The notice on the door tells a different story: "Bill Posters will be Prosecuted". The theatre had closed down and within weeks of the above picture being taken it was knocked down to make room for shops.