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The Hippodrome Theatre, Oxford Street, Manchester

Later - The Gaumont Theatre

Manchester Theatres Index

An early Postcard showing the Hippodrome Theatre, Oxford Street, Manchester

Above - An early Postcard showing the Hippodrome Theatre, Oxford Street, Manchester

A Poster for 'The Hula Girl' at the Manchester Hippodrome circa 1915 - Courtesy Jason Mullen.The Manchester Hippodrome Theatre was situated on Oxford Street, Manchester and was built for Oswald Stoll in 1904, and designed as a variety Theatre and Circus by the now renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham. The Theatre opened on Boxing Day the 26th of December 1904 with a variety show and a water spectacle from the London Hippodrome called "Tally Ho!".

Right - A Poster for 'The Hula Girl' at the Manchester Hippodrome circa 1915 - Courtesy Jason Mullen who says 'This poster was in the house of my late Great Aunt. The production was written by her father, my Great Grandfather R.Guy Reeve. His name is in very small print under the title. It was a water show and toured to the Bristol Hippodrome as well. The exact date is I believe around 1915/1916 as I have a press release that refers to him writing it as World war one is taking place.'

A private view of the Theatre for the press was held on the 23rd of December, shortly before its opening, the ERA reported on their visit in their 31st of December 1904 edition saying:- 'Those who were fortunate enough to be present at the private view on the 23d inst., of Manchester's latest palace of amusement were quite willing to believe that for beauty of design, unique arrangement, and luxurious furnishing, the Manchester Hippodrome is equal to any thing of the kind in the Kingdom.

Oswald Stoll - From The Sketch, December 21st, 1904.Mr Stoll, the managing director, has already given the public a taste of his catering for the comfort and amusement by the erection of a palatial music hall at Ardwick, but for novelty of design and luxury this has been surpassed at the New Hippodrome in Oxford-street.

Left - Oswald Stoll - From The Sketch, December 21st, 1904.

The architects are Messrs Frank Matcham and Co., of London who designed the London Hippodrome and the Coliseum, and the site selected is an exceptionally good one, being in the centre of Manchester. The front faces Oxford-street and the side Great Bridgewater-street, and the back of the building abuts on the canal, which has been covered in, and thus forms an additional roadway for exits.

The block includes, in addition to the Hippodrome, a handsome restaurant at one corner, the building of which is designed on up-to-date lines, and is fitted up with every luxury. The whole of the fittings are of polished mahogany, and brilliant cut-glass makes for a rich appearance. On the other side of Hippodrome front is a large shop, with offices over, the elevation corresponding with that of the restaurant...

An Advertisement for the newly opened Manchester Hippodrome - From the Athletic News, January 2nd 1905.

Above - An Advertisement for the newly opened Manchester Hippodrome - From the Athletic News, January 2nd 1905.

A programme for the Manchester Hippodrome in June 1905 with the Arthur Lloyd Trio on the Bill...The shop is being fitted up as a booking-office, as it is intended that everyone, even the occupants of the gallery (or balcony, as it is here called) shall have the privilege of booking their seats, and as the office is to be opened early in the morning, a workman or business man can call and book his seat on the way to his daily occupation, and thus go to the Hippodrome in comfort, and without waiting, in the evening, to enjoy the performance.

Right - An early Manchester Hippodrome Programme Cover for June 1905 with the Arthur Lloyd Trio on the Bill, along with the Max Franklin Troupe, Arthur Rigby and his Company, The Merrions, Zertho's Dogs, Herbert La Marinte, and the world famous magician Chung Ling Soo.

Early Manchester Hippodrome ProgrammeThe three buildings have been designed to form one large block. The Hippodrome in the centre, although not carried so high as the others, is treated with such boldness and dignity that it stands out well in importance. Wide rusticated piers are carried up with a bold arch over, the corners terminating with equestrian statuary; and in the centre is about to be erected an iron structure, consisting of a bold column with circular wings or sides, the whole terminating with a large globe to which will be attached electric letters forming the word "Hippodrome," and which, when revolving at night, will form a very effective advertisement.

Left - An early Manchester Hippodrome Programme cover.

A variety Programme for the Manchester Hippodrome. Over the front is a wide colonnade, and the sides over are curved back, giving an effective outline to a very artistic design. The two ends of the building are flanked with bold facades, carried up with piers containing windows between, and terminating with a bold moulded cornice and pediments, with flag poles on the apex.

Right - A Variety Programme for the Manchester Hippodrome.

The elevation to Bridgewater-street is similar in design, but more plainly treated. The walls are faced with a dark red brick with buff terracotta mouldings, piers, and ornamentation, and the whole is well worthy to rank with any of the architectural buildings in Manchester. The three frontages are lighted up with electric arc lamps, which are very attractive at night.

An early photograph of the Entrance to the Manchester Hippodrome - From a 1920s Lion Foundry Company Catalogue - Courtesy Clive Greathurst.The principle entrance is through the front colonnade, which is approached by marble steps and white and black marble pavements. The walls are covered to a height with coloured Italian marble., having a rich frieze over. A wide marble staircase, flanked with marble ballustrading and columns supporting richly carved Arabesque arches, leads to the foyer, which is in the shape of a half-circle. these entrances contain ornamental and panelled ceilings, mosaic floors, and electric fittings, all in Arabesque design, and beautiful decorations in oriental colours and gold give quite an Eastern effect.

Left - An early photograph of the Entrance to the Manchester Hippodrome from a 1920s Lion Foundry Company Catalogue - Courtesy Clive Greathurst.

On either side of this staircase oriental figures representing music and dancing are surrounded with flowers and palms. Settees of quaint design furnish these rooms, whilst the foyer is covered with a rich Turkey carpet. From each side of the foyer polished doors open into wide handsome lounges, the walls being panelled and filled in with oriental tapestry, the ceiling being coned and richly ornamented; the floors are covered with rich velvet pile carpet, and doors covered with velvet and fancy copper nailing open into the private boxes. From the lounge a wide staircase leads to a large balcony overlooking the foyer; this is a very happy idea, the effect being particularly artistic. The decorations and furnishings are continued into this part. From the balcony is approached a large smoking lounge, richly decorated and furnished with divans, tables, and curtains, and all in Eastern style. This room over-looks Oxford-street, and is a very attractive apartment.

The Manchester Hippodrome 'Arena' seating Plan from a Manchester Hippodrome Programme.The stall seating radiates from the curve of the ring fences, and contains fourteen rows. At the back of these are eight handsomely upholstered and draped private boxes, four on each side, with wide, airy lobbies at each end. In the centre is the grand orchestra, to accommodate twenty-five performers, and under this is the central approach to the ring, two others being at the sides.

Right - The Manchester Hippodrome 'Arena' seating Plan - From a Manchester Hippodrome Programme.

The grand tier contains eleven rows of tip-up seats, and these are divided into different blocks by wide gangways giving direct access to these seats. At the rear is a wide promenade, and in the centre a raised balcony is formed, from whence access to the smoke room is obtained. The ceilings are panelled out, and are rich in decorations; the walls are covered with an eastern raised design of leather paper. The balcony contains ten rows of velvet seats, with cushioned backs and arms, and these are divided into blocks with wide gangways. The ceiling is lofty and artistically decorated, and in the roof are two large ceiling lights, giving ample light and ventilation...

The auditorium of the Manchester Hippodrome - From the book 'Red plush and Gilt - The Heyday of Manchester Theatre during the Victorian and Edwardian periods' by Joyce Knowlson - Courtesy Alfred Mason.

Above - The auditorium of the Manchester Hippodrome - From the book 'Red plush and Gilt - The Heyday of Manchester Theatre during the Victorian and Edwardian periods' by Joyce Knowlson - Courtesy Alfred Mason.

Poster for a Variety show at the Manchester Hippodrome on November the 1st 1915 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen....It might here be mentioned that the ring is not placed entirely in front of the proscenium as it is at the London Hippodrome, but that only a little more than half projects into the auditorium, the remainder occupying a portion of the stage space, and this enables the management to lower the curtain and at the scene similar to that in a theatre, and not in sight of the audience as is usual in circuses. The mat, also, which covers the arena is not the usual one, but is of coarse fibre and stained green, giving the effect of grass.

Right - A Poster for a Variety show at the Manchester Hippodrome on November the 1st 1915 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen.

No description of the building would be complete without reference to the mechanical stage and arena. The latter is 42ft. in diameter, and contains below the arena floor level 70,000 gallons of water. The arena floor is lowered and raised by a hydraulic ram, and by a special device varying depths of water, from 1ft. to 6ft. 6in., can be obtained. The water is warmed to a temperature of 70 degrees. Special arrangements have been provided for fountain displays, eight being of telescopic form, which enables them to rise automatically from the bottom of the tank through 6ft. of water, until the nozzles show above the surface, when powerful jets of water are then thrown towards the ceiling. On the arena floor, and slightly submerged, are five triple sets of concentric fountains, by which marvellous combinations of colour effects are obtainable by the aid of electric light, which is projected on to the columns of water.

The stage is entirely unique, being the only one of its kind in existence. The rear portion is hydrologically lifted, whilst the front portion is run from under and over the tank by electricity, thus enabling a full size of stage to be obtained, which can either wholly or partially be worked in conjunction with the arena or water display. Another feature is the mechanical manipulation of the arena mat, which weighs upwards of some four tons, and is 42ft. wide and 50ft. long. It is drawn on and off the arena table by electric machinery, thus doing away with the employment of manual labour. In some cases no less than thirty men were required for this operation. The whole of the stage has been supplied by Messrs H. Lazarus and son, London.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 31st of December 1904.

The Manchester Hippodrome had first opened on Boxing Day the 26th of December 1904 with a variety show and a water spectacle from the London Hippodrome called "Tally Ho!". On the Bill for the opening night were the Marvellous Noisets, Manning's Entertainers, a Bioscope presentation, Max Gruber with a Horse and Elephant from the London Hippodrome, Winter & Banks, the McConnell Trio, Rafayette's Dogs, and Post Mason.

Manchester Hippodrome Programme September 9th 1929.Despite the amazing grandeur of the architecture, decoration, and furnishing of this massive Theatre, the Manchester Hippodrome had a surprisingly short life. It was closed on Saturday the 2nd of March 1935 only a little over 30 years after it had opened.

Right - A Manchester Hippodrome Programme for September 9th 1929.

The Era reported on this briefly in their 6th of March 1935 edition saying:- 'The Manchester Hippodrome, now taken over by the Bernstein Cinemas chain, closed its doors on Saturday last, after which a moving scene in which "Auld Lang Syne," was sung. This popular house, with a record much more comprehensive than is implied in the usual description of a "home of variety,' was opened close on thirty years ago, some months after the opening of the Ardwick Empire, the sister house under Stoll control.

Manchester Hippodrome Programme November 28th 1933. The Ardwick Empire is now to change its name to that of the New Hippodrome, and James Earley, who goes over from the Hippodrome to the managership there, announced from the stage that, after necessary alterations, the new variety house will be re-opened to the public on Easter Monday. - The Era 6th of March 1935.

Left - A Manchester Hippodrome Programme for November 28th 1933.

Manchester Hippodrome Variety Programme May 15th 1933. The reason for the closure of the Hippodrome is that it had been taken over by Bernstein Cinemas, who needed to demolish the Theatre for rebuilding as their new Manchester Granada Theatre. However during construction of the Theatre the unfinished building was sold to Gaumont British Theatres, who would eventually open it as the Gaumont Theatre.

Right - A Manchester Hippodrome Variety Programme for May 15th 1933.

The Gaumont Theatre used parts of the structure of the former Hippodrome Theatre in its construction, but was a very different building and unrecognizable from its former incarnation. The new Theatre was opened by Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale on Monday the 21st of October 1935. The main feature being the just released Alfred Hitchcock film 'The 39 Steps'. There is more information on the Gaumont Theatre here.

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

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