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Celebrating Twenty Years Online 2001 - 2021

The Hippodrome Theatre, Railway Street, Bishop Auckland, County Durham

Later - The Hippodrome Picture House / Essoldo / Majestic Bingo

The former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today in use as a Majestic Bingo Club - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today in use as a Majestic Bingo Club - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

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The Auditorium and Stage of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today in use as a Majestic Bingo Club - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.The Hippodrome Theatre was built in 1909 by J. J. Taylor under the supervision of George F. Ward for Signor Rino Pepi, who also built the Darlington Hippodrome and Palace of Varieties, and also the Hippodrome at Shildon in County Durham.

Right - The Auditorium and Stage of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today in use as a Majestic Bingo Club - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Inside the auditorium of the Bishop Auckland Hippodrome there were two balconies and a box on each side of the proscenium.

The square proscenium was 24 feet wide, and the stage was 48 feet deep. Films were part of the variety bill from the early days.

The Auditorium of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today in use as a Majestic Bingo Club - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.The architectural practice of Owen and Ward was a successful Birmingham practice that designed many Theatres, although this example and the Grade II listed Darlington Civic Theatre are their only surviving auditoria.

Left - The Auditorium of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today in use as a Majestic Bingo Club - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Signor Pepi was a theatre impresario who created a chain of music halls across northern England and who developed the 'pepiscope' for showing films, as part of his variety routine.

When it opened, the Hippodrome Theatre was the biggest auditorium in the town seating 1,800, and top of the bill on its opening night was the well-known and popular comedian Lil Hawthorne.

The Auditorium of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today in use as a Majestic Bingo Club - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Auditorium of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today in use as a Majestic Bingo Club - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The Rear and Side Elevations of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.Originally, both live entertainment and films were shown indicating that the building was of the cine-variety form of theatre, but by 1914, the building was already mainly used as a cinema and was renamed The Hippodrome Picture House.

Right - The Rear and Side Elevations of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

In 1920 some alterations were carried out by architect William Stockdale and it became a full time cinema. It was converted to accommodate 'talkies' in the 1930s and by 1937 it is listed with 900 seats, the upper balcony having been closed off. It was taken over by the Newcastle based Essoldo group of cinemas in 1947 and re-named Essoldo.

The Stage Right Box of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Stage Right Box of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The Theatre was Closed as a cinema on 6th August 1966 with Lloyd Bridges in "Around the World Under the Sea" and converted into a bingo hall leading to some internal alterations and additions as a Lucky Bingo Club, then Ladbrokes took over and it became a Lucky 7 Bingo Club. Later operated as a Top Rank Bingo Club, later still it became an independent Hippodrome Bingo Club, and is currently the Majestic Bingo Club.

The Dome of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today hidden by a false ceiling - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

Above - The Dome of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome, today hidden by a false ceiling - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The now disused Balcony of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.A false ceiling has now been extended across the auditorium beneath the upper circle, so the original plaster ceiling and upper parts of the Theatre are no longer visible.

Right - The now disused Balcony of the former Bishop Auckland Hippodrome - Courtesy Derek Mathieson.

The Theatre was designated a Grade II Listed building by English Heritage in April 2012 for the following principal reasons:- Completeness of design: a cine-variety theatre with complete spatial and decorative integrity including an auditorium retaining all key features, front of house spaces, both fly galleries and projection and light rooms. The building is in good condition and could easily be brought back to Theatrical use.

You may like to visit the Hippodrome Majestic's own website here.

The above article was kindly written for this site by Derek Mathieson in May 2021.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

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