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The Brighton Hippodrome, Middle Street, Brighton

Formerly - The Hippodrome Theatre of Varieties

Brighton's Theatres Index

Also see: An Article by Peter Longman on Britain's Hippodrome Theatres

A Google StreetView Image of the Brighton Hippodrome - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Brighton Hippodrome - Click to Interact

 

Variety Programme for the Brighton Hippodrome - Click see the entire Programme. The Grade II Listed Brighton Hippodrome in Middle Street, Brighton was originally built in 1897 as an Ice Rink but was later converted to a Theatre in 1900 by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham. The Theatres Trust Guide says that the Hippodrome 'is now probably the best surviving example of a circus - variety theatre in Britain.'

Programme for 'Let's Have a Laugh' at the Brighton Hippodrome in November 1945.The auditorium of the Theatre, which has a capacity of 1,400 or thereabouts, is circular in shape and has one balcony following the lines of the walls with seven rows. There are also two large boxes, one either side of the wide procenium.

Right - A 1910 Variety Programme for the Brighton Hippodrome - Click see the entire Programme.

Left - A Programme for 'Let's Have a Laugh' at the Brighton Hippodrome in November 1945.

The ceiling of the auditorium is still in its original condition and looks wonderful as it rises high up above the stalls in a richly plastered dome.

For many years the theatre was used as a Bingo hall but if you stepped into its foyer you were greeted with much the same sight as you would have seen a hundred years before.

 

The Brighton Hippodrome - From the Moss Empires Jubilee Brochure of 1949

Above - The Brighton Hippodrome - From the Moss Empires Jubilee Brochure of 1949

1945 war time Variety Programme for the Brighton Hippodrome.Right - The Brighton Hippodrome when it was in use as a Bingo Hall in 2002..The management of the building were still clearly proud of the building's heritage as there was a large Scrapbook on display in the foyer detailing the theatre's history with many fascinating pictures and articles. They would also let you peer into the vast and lavish auditorium which was little changed from its former use.

Right - The Brighton Hippodrome when it was in use as a Bingo Hall in 2002.

Left - A 1945 war time Variety Programme for the Brighton Hippodrome.

The Theatre is readily convertible back to theatrical use on a large scale and one can only hope that sometime in the future this will happen.

In 2014 the Hippodrome is under threat of redevelopment and conversion into an eight-screen cinema. The plans involve demolishing the stage, the fly-tower, all the back-stage facilities, the stalls and the orchestra pit. If you would like to sign a Petition against these proposals you can do so here.

 

Some Interesting Facts - From the Hippodrome Theatre of Varieties Programme 1910

The Brighton Hippodrome from a 1910 Programme.

Above - The Brighton Hippodrome from a 1910 Programme.

Notice attatched to a 1910 programme Hippodrome frontage day-time 1910

Hippodrome frontage night-time 1910Thinking that a few particulars about this popular house of entertainment would be of interest to our patrons, we have pleasure in printing the following.

The present seating arrangement provides accommodation for over 3,000 people. This does not represent the holding capacity of the house, as the greatest number of people to witness one performance has been over 4,500.

In view of the alterations made by the present management, the Middle Street Hall is generally recognised as one of the finest houses of its kind in the country. A few figures given in support of this statement may prove interesting. The depth of the stage to the footlights is 30 Hippodrome Auditorium 1910feet, and to the tableau curtain 20 feet. Its width from proscenium to proscenium is 39 feet, and there are eight dressing rooms for the, use of artistes.

The total number of lamps in the Theatre number 1,800, and no less than 12 miles of wire is used. The limelight gallery contains five arcs, each of 500 candle power, and the searchlight from the Barrascope is 2,000 candle power. There are two supplies of 230 volts for the incandescent lamps, and one of 115 volts for the arcs and the Barrascope. Steam radiators are fed by a high pressure boiler, and the sliding roof is the only one of its kind on the South Coast. The proprietors have agents throughout the world for the purpose of discovering new talent.

 

The Brighton Hippodrome - By Donald Auty

The Brighton Hippodrome during the run of Can-Can on the 24th of September 1956 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins

Above - The Brighton Hippodrome during the run of Can-Can on the 24th of September 1956 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins

Programme for 'Strike A New Note' at The Brighton HippodromeThis was a wonderful date with an amphitheatre type of auditorium. There was a very rakish atmosphere about the place and you could still buy a promenade ticket until the very end. Angus Franklin was the manager for many years and lived in a flat above the theatre that had originally been built for Tom Barrasford the first owner.

George Rainburn was the stage manager and ran a constant war with Stan the chief electrician. There were two electrical day men and only one stage dayman and George resented this. George Black who was managing director in the thirties and early forties came down to Brighton one morning and found the then four stage daymen drinking in the Seven Stars pub at ll.30 a.m. so he sacked them and decreed that from then on there would only be one stage dayman at Brighton and this situation still existed to the end.

Right - A Programme for 'Strike A New Note' at The Brighton Hippodrome, undated but the show was in the West End in 1943 starring Sid Field.

Variety Programme for the Brighton Hippodrome - Click see the entire Programme. There was a circus at the theatre one week and the dock doors that led straight out into the car park were left open one morning to let in some air. The elephant got loose from its tethering rope and decided to have a look around Brighton. It walked out of the dock doors past the stage door and a large window in the stage doorkeeper's cubby hole. George panicked when he found the elephant gone and asked the stage door keeper if he had seen it pass by. The stage door keeper said he had not noticed it. George screamed at him that he must have noticed it because the animal must have blocked out the f****** day light as it passed his window. The Elephant was eventually found taking a stroll around the lanes and accepting buns from passers by.

Left - a Variety Programme for the Brighton Hippodrome - Click see the entire Programme.

The pit orchestra was excellent fourteen in number and was under the direction of Sid Sharpe. He had a baton with u.v. paint on the end of it that he used to conduct with when the stage was in a blackout. It is still there as a bingo hall and could come back one day, let's hope that it Does.

Text from Moss Empires Theatres in the Fifities by Donald Auty.

 

Hippodrome seating plan 1910

Above - A Brighton Hippodrome seating plan from 1910

A Seating Plan for the Hippodrome Theatre, Brighton from Kelley's Directory of 1934 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen

Above - A Seating Plan for the Hippodrome Theatre, Brighton from Kelley's Directory of 1934 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen