The most important unused theatre in the UK
OBH gallery: exterior

 

   
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Skating Rink
Hippodrome 1910
The Old Town in the 1890s. What became Hippodrome House forms an inverted L shape to the right of the letters RE in the name of Middle Street, surrounded by courtyards.

Skating rink block plan 1896
The site immediately before work began on the skating rink, as surveyed by Lewis Karslake.

Skating rink plan: ground
Karslake's ground plan comprises a simple circular skating area in a nearly square building, with front-of-house facilities along the Middle Street frontage (above). The roof plan shows the ribs radiating from a central hub (above left), shown in more detail (right), with the section of the steel beams forming the 'tent' roof.
Skating rink plan: roof
Skating rink plan: roof

Circus into variety theatre
Matcham frontage detailing
As well as creating the now iconic auditorium, Frank Matcham redesigned the Middle Street frontage, including the detailing of the doorways (above).

Hippodrome circus plan
When the failed circus was put on the market in October 1902, this plan of the ground-floor layout was included in the offer document. It shows clearly that the seating varied from the circular performance arena. By now Hippodrome House has been incorporated and there are stables (on land not now part of the site) and an equestrian entrance. There was no access yard on the Ship Street side of the site.
The 1915 makeover
Hippodrome 1915
In 1915 another theatre architect, J Emblin Walker, was asked to reconfigure the theatre. The seating was rearranged to increase capacity and two more boxes were added to Matcham's six at the rear of the auditorium. Seats in the front seven rows of the stalls were replaced with 'special fauteuils', for which a premium ticket price was charged.
Hippodrome 1915
Walker increased the stage depth and widened the proscenium to 39 feet by moving the pros arch forward to incorporate the apron within the stage area. He put a new roof on the stage-house and added a grid. A three-storey dressing room block was created at stage right. The lighting was also improved, with luminaires mounted on the balcony fronts.

Hippodrome 1915
A new projection box for films was inserted below the roof at the rear of the auditorium. The plan says the roof is to be recovered with 'patent asbestos tiles'. Fire prevention was a particular concern in theatres and especially cinemas.

Hippodrome 1915
The boxes on either side of the stage were reconstructed to double height, as indicated in the upper drawing. A new band room was created at stage left and the position of the previous proscenium arch is shown as dotted lines in the lower drawing.

Stage-house changed in 1955
Hippodrome 1955
In 1955, E M Lawson was called in to modify the stage housing by extending it to the north.

Hippodrome 1955
More dressing rooms were added at this time.
Bingo days

More radical changes were made by Eric Neve in 1972, when the Hippodrome had been in use as a bingo hall for nearly seven years.



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Images courtesy of John Earl and ESRO

Page created 20 November 2015