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Birmingham's Theatres and Halls - Past and Present

Several of Birmingham's Theatres from an illustration in the Playgoer of 1901 / 1902 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

Above - Several of Birmingham's Theatres from an illustration in the Playgoer of 1901 / 1902 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

 

Past Glories Come Back
Beck and Windibank Dip into History

From The Supplement to the Cinema News and Property Gazette, January 9th 1925

Few cities outside London are as unique in the vicissitudes of its theatres and picture houses as Birmingham. A town of multifarious industries, its expansion has been somewhat rapid. The progress of town planning has ruthlessly stamped out old buildings and erected modern stately piles. It is regrettable that with this expansion and the extraordinary development of its far-reaching suburbs, with their local cinemas, several old pioneer amusement halls in the city lost their popularity.

The three most notable and at one time most popular halls in Birmingham were the Gaiety, the Tivoli (later known as the Hippodrome), and Curzon Hall. All three have had their doors closed for some years, during which time the buildings have been used for a variety of purposes. It is a happy omen that simultaneously all three halls have undergone reconstruction.

The old "Tivoli," or Hippodrome, is one of the most interesting. It is built almost entirely of terra-cotta. A spacious, lofty building, with conspicuous tower, it was in the old days a popular rendezvous, though the war brought many changes. During the last ten years it has been used by the Government and municipal authorities as Labour Exchange, Local Government offices, and afterwards a dining hall for unemployed. Now it is to come into its old glory. For the past twelve months extensive inside rebuilding has been in progress. We are glad to know that Messrs. Beck and Windibank, Limited, the Birmingham firm of theatre furnishers, with such world-wide reputation, are entrusted with the complete furnishing.

Another old Birmingham theatre belonging to those far-off days, when comfort in seating and charm in furnishings were little thought of, is the Theatre Royal. This has been claimed to be the oldest provincial theatre, the present building being 150 years old, though Beck and Windibank have in hand the complete refurnishing of a still older provincial theatre, which bears, strange to say, the same title, namely, the Theatre Royal of Bristol.

This theatre is one of the old Royal Patent Theatres, and the Royal Coat-of-Arms is still to be found above the proscenium arch ; also the old Royal Box so frequently used by the Kings of England is still in existence. The following is an extract from an old programme:-

"The Theatre Royal was erected in 1766, and opened by David Garrick. The old front was pulled down in 1904, and the present modern structure erected; the interior of the theatre is, however, unaltered structurally from the date of opening, and the old pit, the Royal Box, and the wonderful sounding board ceiling is often visited by antiquarians from all over the country."

Index to Birmingham's Theatres Featured on this site

Alexandra Theatre - Still in Theatrical Use

Aston Hippodrome - Demolished

Birmingham Hippodrome - Still in Theatrical Use

Birmingham Coliseum and Gaiety - Demolished

Birmingham Repertory Theatre - Still in Theatrical Use

Carlton Theatre - Demolished

Canterbury Theatre / Coutts Theatre - Closed

Day's Crystal Palace - Demolished

Drum Arts Centre - Still in Theatrical Use

Empire Palace Theatre - Demolished

Gaiety Theatre - Demolished

Grand Theatre of Varieties - Demolished

Holder's Grand Concert Rooms - Demolished

Imperial Theatre - Demolished

King's Hall - Demolished

Lyceum Theatre / Alexandra Theatre - Still in Theatrical Use

Metropole Theatre - Demolished

Moor Street Theatre - Demolished

New Star Theatre of Varieties - Demolished

Newtown Palace Theatre - Demolished

Old Rep Theatre - Still in Theatrical Use

Prince of Wales Theatre - Demolished

Queen's Theatre and Opera House - Demolished

Royal Music Hall - Demolished

Tower of Varieties Circus - Demolished - Now Hippodrome

Tivoli Theatre of Varieties - Demolished - Now Hippodrome

Theatre Royal, Aston - Demolished

Theatre Royal, Moor Street - Demolished

Theatre Royal, New Street - Demolished

Theatre Royal, Rolfe Street, Smethwick - Demolished

The Victoria Playhouse, Aston - Demolished

It may also be of interest to know that this theatre, after being closed for some little time, was opened at Christmas with pantomime by Mr. Douglas Millar, the new lessee and manager, in conjunction with Mr. Milton Bode, of the County Theatre, Reading, who are both very well known in the profession. It is being entirely redecorated and refurnished, the latter contract having been entrusted entirely to Beck and Windibank, Limited.'

The above text in quotes was first published in 'The Supplement to the Cinema News and Property Gazette', January 9th 1925.

Some of the information on this site detailing Birmingham's Theatres was gleaned from the excellent book 'Birmingham Theatres, Concert & Music Halls' by Victor J. Price.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Birmingham 1861 1862 1863 1867 1880 1887 1890.

 

The Empire Palace Theatre The Imperial Theatre The Grand Theatre The Carlton Theatre The Lyceum Theatre Queen's Theatre and Opera House