Hello and welcome to this September 2003 Special Feature. Once again the feature is on the London Hippodrome but I make no apologies for that.
The feature is based around a programme for one of the London Hippodrome's very first Circus Shows. The date is July 30th 1900, just six months after the Theatre opened on the 15th January 1900. The owners are clearly very proud of their new Theatre as the programme goes to great lengths to describe its innovative features, special equipment, elaborate fixtures and fittings, and Frank Matcham's wonderful auditorium.
This Special feature was first created in September 2003 but was updated in March 2015 when the separate pages were combined into this one.
THE SCHEME.- London is now provided with a building that is both unique in its design and completeness, and strikingly original in its form of entertainment.
About two years ago Mr. H. E. Moss determined to invade London with a new form of entertainment, combining Hippodrome and Stage performance. He therefore consulted Mr. Frank Matcham, the well-known theatrical architect, and the result is the acquisition of one of the most important and valuable sites that could be found in the Metropolis.
SITE.-The site comprises an area of about three thousand yards and is bounded on all sides by thoroughfares; the principal frontages are in Cranbourn Street, Charing Cross Road, and Newport Street (which has been widened by ten feet at the company's expense). The other side is in Ryders Court, which has also been increased in width to twenty feet.
FRONTAGE. -The whole of the frontage in Cranbourn Street has been utilized for shops with bachelors' flats or offices above, with a grand entrance to the latter, from the centre of the block, containing a wide stone staircase and a lift. House-keeper's quarters are provided at the top, in telephonic communication with every room, and the whole of the rooms are artistically decorated and furnished. The carpeted corridors and staircase are warmed by hot-water pipes and coils, and the whole of the rooms are lighted by electricity. Hot and cold lavatory- accommodation is provided in the rooms, and W.C.'s and bath rooms in the corridors. Full details may be obtained of the Estate Managers, Messrs. Browett Taylor, 9, Warwick Court, Holborn, W.C. Telephone 622 Holborn.
ENTRANCE.-The corner of Cranbourn Street and Charing Cross Road is occupied by the entrances to the Hippodrome, containing three bays, divided by rich granite piers, the centre contains two handsome mahogany doors leading to the vestibule; the entrance to the left being an extra exit and the official entry; the entry to the right is filled with a handsome bow window, giving light to the pay office.
Over the entrances is a boldly designed facade with pilasters and columns, and semi-headed windows divided by marble columns with artistic carving. The centre portion is raised considerably, and contains a panel with the words "London Hippodrome" in gold raised letters. Over this is certainly a novelty in design, "the Tower," which is crowned with a very beautiful open ironwork ornament, the eight sides being carried up with a graceful curve to a boldly moulded and ornamental top on which is placed a fine artistic group in bronze, representing a chariot and horses drawn by a Roman figure.
ELEVATION.-The termination of the piers and columns above the parapet are surrounded by Roman figures, carrying long spears with hammered work lamps hung to the ends fitted with electric lights.
Hanging from the centre of the open iron-domed roof is a very powerful arc lamp. Are lamps with ornamental iron brackets are also fixed to the front facade.
It is proposed to erect a handsome iron and glass verandah over the front entrances of the Hippodrome, and along the whole length of Newport Street to shield the patrons from inclement weather.
The remainder of the frontage in Charing Cross Road is taken up by shops and the Crown Hotel, the elevation being a continuation of the very handsome design already erected in Cranbourn Street. The frontage in Newport Street and Ryders Court is of a plainer character, but is bold and striking in design.
A portion of the site facing Ryders Court is converted into a handsome block of well-arranged offices containing large waiting-rooms, private offices, and clerk's office for carrying on the business of this, the largest entertainment enterprise in the world.-Moss' Empires Ltd.
VESTIBULE.-On entering the building at the corner under the elegant glass and iron shelter, pairs of richly carved polished mahogany doors admit to the vestibule. The floor is laid with mosaic and the wall covered with specimens of beautiful Italian marble, the ceiling is formed in heavy ornamented plaster work with a domed centre beautifully decorated. To the left is the official entrance, a white marble staircase leading to the manager's offices and waiting rooms above.
FOYER.-White marble stairs, mosaic floors, and marble walls with rich moulded work and artistic paintings furnish the wide entrance corridor that leads through a quaint semi-circular opening into the grand foyer. This is one of the handsomest in London, it has eight rich marble columns, forming the apartment into eight sides, the walls are lined with marble, and the whole is surmounted with a large oval ornamental plaster ceiling. In the centre of the ceiling is a painted glass dome, which at night is illuminated by electric light. The foyer is sumptuously furnished with velvet pile carpet and luxuriously upholstered settees, &c.
GRAND SALOON.-To the right of the foyer is the grand saloon. The whole room is fitted and furnished as a ship's saloon, the walls and ceiling are covered with fumed oak; the counter, fittings, &c., are in keeping with the idea, even to the portholes, showing a view of the sea beyond. A gallery is formed at the top, with a sky-light over; every detail being studied down to the attendants, whose costumes are semi-naval. The saloon, as also does the foyer, opens into a wide corridor, leading into a large crush-room.
CRUSH -ROOM.-Here a glimpse of the interior of the auditorium is gained; mahogany doors open on either side into the
STALLS, and the private boxes, which are set back under the circle.
THE DRESS and GRAND CIRCLES occupy the usual position, and these can be approached either from the grand entrance, or from a wide staircase in Newport Street, this part is seated with rows of velvet covered tip-up-seats. On the left-hand side of the grand circle is
THE MINSTRELS' GALLERY, with a large shell cover for throwing forward the music, which will be given by an orchestra of forty performers under the conductorship of Mr. Georges Jacobi, late of the Alhambra.
THE AMPHITHEATRE and GALLERY are erected over the circle, and contain rows of comfortably upholstered seats with promenade at the rear and the sides, the ceiling here is very lofty and artistically decorated, with a large ventilator over; the seats are divided in the centre with entrances from Newport Street. The major portion of the building is fitted with comfortable tip-up arm-chairs. The gallery seats are fixed and upholstered in velvet and leather and are most comfortable.
AUDITORIUM.-The building is erected on the cantilever system, and every seat commands a clear and uninterrupted view of the arena and stage. It is decorated in the Flemish Renaissance style. The auditorium is of very fine proportion, being quite free from any stiffness which usually pervades a circus.
CEILING.-A feature of the ceiling is a large square opening in the centre surrounded by an open colonnade with a handsome balcony front supported on large brackets, springing from the main ribs of the ceiling. This gallery is a great acquisition, and will be useful for several purposes. Being over the centre of the arena, high dives can be taken into the water below. Snow storms and lime-light effects will also be worked from here.
THE ARENA.-The arena, one of the most interesting mechanical devices of modern days, occupies the centre of the ground floor, and the stall and fauteuil seats radiate from this back to the private boxes which surround these seats. It has a capacity of about one hundred thousand gallons, in girth is 230-ft., and the average depth 8-ft. It is made of steel boiler plates, the weight of which when full of water is approximately 400 tons...
Above - A Postcard showing The London Hippodrome in 1900 - Click to see a Feature on the state of the Theatre in 2003. Image courtesy Andreas Praefcke, from CARTHALIA - Theatres on Postcards; postcard collection of theatres and concert halls worldwide.
...This weight is supported by a strong steel platform with eight radiating lattice steel girders and circular bearers; the space under the tank for a depth of 4 to 5-ft. is therefore open for a variety of purposes in connection with the working of the tank. In the sides and bottom of the tank holes are cut and port lights inserted (fourteen in all). These lights are constructed of gunmetal frames and plate glass 3/4-in. thick. Inside this tank is a steelframed table; this table is similar in shape to the familiar railway turntable, but instead of revolving, it works up and down the tank, it being attached in the centre to a very powerful hydraulic ram, the two exits on either side being similarly arranged, and each works by an independent hydraulic ram. During the water entertainment these tables are sunk to the bottom of the tank, when required for a different entertainment the tables are raised to the surface of the water by means of the hydraulic rams-the centre one being capable of raising 40 tons. The centre table is then slewed on to its bearings round the tank by a pair of hydraulic rams fixed to the side of the tank, the whole then forming a firm platform. The time taken for this operation being about one minute.
Entering the tank at the bottom there are eight telescopic fountains worked by the pressure of the water in the mains; these fountains force themselves to the top of the water in the tank and immediately commence playing, throwing up jets of water some 20-ft.high. In addition to these there are fountain jets round the edge of the tank, set at such an angle as to throw the water in a graceful curve to the centre of the tank.
Round the outside of the tank a series of eight hydraulic rams are placed, upon the tops of which circular lengths of railings are fixed working in guides. By the simultaneous working of the rams a large silver grill which surrounds the ring fences rises simultaneously, enclosing the arena.
There are three entrances to the arena, one opposite the stage and the other two at the sides of the proscenium, the latter being arranged so that the water flows through them and thus boats can be rowed in and naval displays of all characters can be carried out.
THE STAGE. -In addition to the above the stage itself, having a length Of 48-ft, and a width of nearly 30-ft. is constructed of specially designed steel girders, and is capable of being raised and lowered some 6 or 7 ft. When at its lowest level it forms a horizontal platform level with the platform of the tank and in continuation of same. When raised to its proper stage level it is tilted to the usual inclination. The girders are so constructed as to act as cantilevers during the process of being raised, and supporting centre weight of the stage and live load upon it at a span Of 48-ft. when at rest. The supports and guides are strong iron standards bolted firmly to the wall, fitted with a rack; and to the bottom of the girders strong steel pawls are fixed, thereby allowing the stage to be raised, lowered, and supported at any intermediate position. The working of this is done by two hydraulic rams; the centre ram, being very powerful, is used for lifting the stage, and the other ram for the purpose of tilting it to the proper angle, and are under the control of the same man and are operated from the same position as the other rams, &c. The power for working the various rams is taken from the London Hydraulic Power Company's mains.
HEATING AND VENTILATING APPARATUS.-The observer will notice that the space round the open colonnade in the ceiling is perforated in a very artistic manner The object of this is for ventilation. For a space of 60-ft. by 60-ft. round the colonnade, and above the ceiling is arranged a ventilating chamber for the purpose of heating or cooling the theatre. The perforated portions visible in the ceiling constitute the floor of the chamber. It is termed the "plenum" system, and has never before been applied to a place of public entertainment. Entirely independent of the outside element, heat, frost, or fog, the atmosphere of the Hippodrome is of universal purity and temperature. All the air is drawn from outside the roof by a tremendous revolving fan, resembling a paddle wheel, through a saturated screen of matting which revolves in water. The air drawn through is thus cleansed of impurities. It is then (in cold weather) driven over hot water coils into the ventilating chamber, and forced downward through the perforated ceiling. In warm weather the air is drawn through iced water, and so supplied to the theatre perfectly cool and refreshing.
SLIDING ROOF.-The circular dome is crowned by a large sliding glass and iron roof, filled with rich hand-painted glass; it is worked from below the arena. A large electric light at the top illuminates this at night, producing a grand effect.
THE ROOF.-The roof is quite a unique structure, being
made up of deep and light lattice steel girders, the width or span
between the walls being about 80-ft. There is a series of these lattice
girders spanning the house transversely and longitudinally. The centre
portion over the auditorium for a pace of about 20-ft. square is cut
away for an opening, over which a circular movable light is placed,
the ring of which has a circumference of about 6o-ft.' this light
is a roof in itself, and is constructed of very light. steel members,
and the gearing so arranged and constructed that the
LEVER ROOM.-The levers working the valves for filling and emptying the tank, working the fountains, raising, lowering and slewing the platforms, and raising and lowering the rails are all under the control of one man, and worked from one position under the stalls.
ELECTRIC INSTALLATION.-The supply of electricity is derived from two different companies in four sections, thus minimising the chance of failure. The auditorium supply is entirely separate from the stage supply and both the auditorium and the stage are wired in duplicate, thus guarding against total darkness in the event of one supply failing.
Enquiries about Advertisements to be addressed,
Baskerville Printing Works, Birmingham.
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