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William (Fred) Marlow

Bro. William Marlow was the founding 'Director of Ceremonies' of our Lodge. Other than this we have little information about his Masonic career although we do know he was a member of Priory Lodge 1000. Our Lodge minutes of the time are extremely sketchy and difficult to read however, outside of Freemasonry 'Fred' as he was best known was a Theatrical entrepreneur and Theatre Proprietor and so...      

The following is an extracted newspaper report in the


of our Bro. William Marlow over the period 1895 to 1925.

They give a comprehensive overview of Fred Marlow - the reports are extremely informative and

described in the absorbing narratives of the time.

Southend Standard, December 24th 1925    
One who for many years was a familiar figure in Southend passed away, on Thursday, in the person of Mr. William Marlow, better known as Mr. Fred Marlow, of 89 Milton Street, Southend. No man in his day was more intimately connected with the organization of entertainment in Southend and his death will be regretted by many old friends in all parts of the Borough. Mr. Marlow, who was 73 years of age, leaves a widow, four sons and three daughters. Soon after last Christmas he sustained an apoplectic stroke. He had, indeed, been gradually failing for about three years and, bronchitis finally supervening, he passed away as stated. Born in Chelsea, he was destined to launch out into many ventures, both before and after he came to Southend, 33 years ago. 

Whilst living in London, deceased became a Freemason and in Southend he joined the Albert Lucking Lodge, being, indeed, one of its founders. He was for a time proprietor of Marlow’s Bow Palace of Varieties, near Bow Church, in connection with which he was one of the first to employ and encourage the late Miss Marie Lloyd. He was for some while proprietor of “The Marquis of Lorne”, in St Martin’s Lane, London since converted to a restaurant.Told in full, Mr. Marlow's activities in Southend would make a long story, but he was somewhat reticent, and it would now be hard to reconstruct his record. Soon after settling in Southend he bought the old Public Hall opposite the Police Station and converted it into the Empire Theatre. This was burned down on a winter’s night in 1895 - a night so cold that, as is still remembered, the water froze when being handled by the firemen. 

Circa early 1900 Alexandra Street, Southend
with the Empire Theatre centre right

The Christmas pantomime “Aladdin” was about to be produced and the fire was supposed to have been caused by someone throwing a cigarette down in the gallery. The fire station was then in Market Place and the late Mr H Garon was captain of the Brigade and Ald. Berry an officer. The building was totally destroyed. The structure however arose again by Mr Marlow’s enterprise and was known as the New Empire Theatre. It was opened in 1896. Mr Marlow erected the building under his own supervision without contract, with his friend, Mr A Hacker, as foreman. Here, for 15 years, many such musical comedies as those by George Edwards and others were successfully performed.

Mr Marlow severed his connection with the theatre in 1905. Later deceased organized a concert party, which gave entertainments on Pier Hill, and also, for a time, ran the “Nautical Belles”, a concert party giving entertainments opposite the Grand Hotel, Leigh, in a building now used as a bakehouse and known as “Henry’s Hall”. He also became interested in the once popular “Trotting Track” at the Kursaal and was some time licensee of the Minerva Hotel, Marine Parade. In November 1899, he aspired to municipal honours and was elected for the old North Ward, when the figures were: J A Browne, 347; W Marlow, 326; D Barker, 179. The Returning Officer was Alderman J H Burrows. In later years he carried on the business of a marine store dealer.Deceased was always deeply interested in local charities, which he was ever ready to help to the best of his ability, either personally or by public performances. He also ventured into the building business, erecting Marlow Villas in Hartington Road and several houses in Avenue Road.Strangely enough, Mr Arthur Hacker of 128 Milton Street, who was for many years building foreman to Mr Marlow and helped him in the erection of the Southend theatres mentioned, passed away the day after his old master.

Regarding this article: It was believed that Mr Arthur Hacker was the same person as Mr Hoffer who was caretaker of the Empire at the time of the fire in 1895

Empire Theatre: 
Old decoration removed
to discover images of past times
Marlow leaving.JPG
Modern day:
Fred Marlow leaves the building

Research is still progressing into finding out further Masonic information regarding Fred.

For example, in the above report states that 'whilst living in London,' he became a Freemason yet, only mentions our Lodge and not Priory 1000 in which he was one of 6 founders of our lodge. Could he therefore have been initiated in a London lodge?  

Further information will be added as it surfaces.

Below for those interested, in particular to the narratives of the 1890's, are further Newspaper reports in respect to the fire at the Empire Theatre, Southend... 


‘Comprehensive’ report of the burning down of the Empire Theatre 

Extract from the Fire Brigade’s Annual Dinner together with the Demolition of the Empire Theatre - ‘Narrow escapes’

The granting of the New Empire Theatre licence

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