The Wrexham Hippodrome, Henblas Street, Wrexham, Clwyd
Formerly - The Public Hall and Corn Exchange / New Opera House & Public Hall - Later - The Hippodrome Cinema
Above - The Wrexham Hippodrome in June 2002 with 'Closed' and 'For Sale' notices plastered on its walls - Photo Paul Hamblet 02.
The Wrexham Hippodrome was built in 1909 and constructed on the site of the former Public Hall and Corn Exchange which had been inaugurated on Tuesday the 3rd of June 1873 but was later destroyed by a fire in 1906.
The Wrexham Advertiser reported on the inauguration of the Public Hall in their 7th of June edition saying:- 'The official inauguration of the New Public Hall and Corn Exchange took place on Tuesday evening, when a grand banquet was held in the hall, under the presidency of Sir Watkin W. Wynn, Bart., M.P. The hall was neatly decorated with flags of all colours, and when the gas was lighted, the enjoyment of the evening was at its height, the coup de oeil, comprising the glittering of the table requisites, the fragrance of the plants and flowers, the rapid movements of Waiters, and beaming countenances of the waited upon was most charming and brilliant, and must have highly gratified a number of ladies who had been admitted to the balcony.
Right - A Programme for the 'Grand Musical Comedy' 'My Darling' by Seymour Hicks at the Wrexham Hippodrome in January 1914.
The principal entrance to the building is in Henblas-street, and this leads to the large hall on the ground floor, and by means of a staircase to a small concert-room, billiard, smoking, and reading-rooms. To the right are three ladies' and gentlemen's retiring-rooms, and these apartments can also be placed at the disposal of performers on the occasion of entertainments. Above these is the refreshment department.
The hall is 96 feet long by 44 wide, and the roof is about 40 feet high. All round runs a gallery, with two rows of seats to accommodate 400 persons, inclusive of which it is anticipated that the hall will hold 1200. The light is extremely good, a large portion of the roof, which is supported by hammer beam frames, being glass, and there are a number of ventilators to allow the heated air to escape. The blank walls over the gallery are panelled, so that if it is thought advisable they may admit of being embellished by paintings. Although peculiar, the shape is not unpleasing; still some few people have given it as their opinion that the whole erection should have been pulled down for the purpose of making it more symmetrical. But to have done so would have entailed an expenditure of £2,000, which certainly was a great consideration, and even if such an idea were carried out, the structure would not be any more, perhaps less, convenient than at present, and utility would be sacrificed for the sake of ornament...
Above - Details from a programme for a twice nightly production of 'Robinson Crusoe' at the Wrexham Hippodrome in January 1923. Billed as 'Wrexham's Ninth Popular Pantomime', and produced in aid of the Wrexham Infirmary. In the cast were Kathleen Jones, Dolly Davies, Walter Roberts, Dolly Roberts, Bessie Smalley, Ted Davies, Elsie Forkin, Marian Davies, W. Jones, Mark Wright, J. Davies, Marjory Williams, Beresford Cartwright, Dorris Sines, and Alice Dines.
...There will be every facility of egress, there being to the gallery alone three doors on the south side. On the ground are six store rooms, suitable for wine merchants, or bonded goods and there is a separate entrance to them; above these is a range of offices and store rooms, which have been taken by Mr Kidd, the secretary of the company.
Left - A Programme for 'Mother Goose' at the Wrexham Hippodrome in January 1924.
Ascending, we come across lavatories, &c., and reading, smoke, and billiard-rooms, which will be taken possession of by the Wrexham gentleman's club, now being organised. The latter compartment is ever the refreshment bar, and is very light and airy, and in every respect it is apparently calculated to please the tastes of those who delight in this popular pastime. Its dimension: are 42 feet by 23 feet, and at present it contains two tables, manufactured by Messrs. Orme and Son, of Manchester, but if necessary there is ample accommodation for three. Adjoining is a smoke-room, and further on we come to a spacious room 49 feet by 23 feet. This will be found convenient for committee-meetings, and concerts on a small scale. On the north, the ground floor is occupied by eight offices, above which are more offices, and facing the potato market are two shops.
Amongst a few of the residents it has been urged that an entrance to the building ought to he made from Hope-street, and the suggestion has, perhaps, met with favour in some quarters. However, this would necessitate the purchasing of a quantity of land which separates the hall from the above street, probably at a great expense, besides which the company would have had a considerable quantity of property on their hands which could not be made available. If such a project were carried oat, an arcade would have to be built, and to attend to this a servant would have to be employed. Messrs. Isaac Holden and Son of Manchester, were the architects, and Mr W. E. Samuel, the builder, who contracted to carry out the alterations for £3,700.'
The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in the Wrexham Advertiser, 7th June, 1873.
The Wrexham Public Hall and Corn Exchange was eventually destroyed by a fire in 1906 and on its site a new Public Hall and Theatre was constructed in 1909, called the Opera House & Public Hall. This was designed by Davies & Sons of Chester, and run by its lessee Mr T. Robbins.
Right - The auditorium of the Wrexham Hippodrome in 1985 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.
The building was later renamed the Wrexham Hippodrome in 1911 and was renamed again in 1929 when it became the Hippodrome Cinema, opening on the 9th of September that year with 'The Donovan Affair'.
Film and live theatre were then shown here for many years until the Theatre closed in 1959. It then remained dark for a number of years until it was altered, renovated, and reopened as a Cine Variety House in 1961 by its then owners Barry and M. Flanagan. Film and Variety were then put on at the Theatre for many years until it was eventually subdivided as a two screen Cinema and its live Theatre days were over. The Cinema eventually closed in 1998 after failing to get a first run showing of the film 'Titanic'.
The Wrexham Hippodrome is mentioned in the Theatres Trust Guide To British Theatres stating that the Theatre:- 'had an interesting lozenge shaped interior with one curved balcony with baroque plaster ornament and a tiny triangular stage.'
Above - A programme for 'Robinson Crusoe' at the Wrexham Hippodrome in January 1931
In 2004 the Hippodrome was bought by a property developer and its future became extremely vulnerable. Local campaigners and celebrities, including Ken Dodd (see cutting below) fought to save the building for future generations but its redevelopment looked almost certain.
Above - Doddy joins the fight to save historic theatre from developer - A local newspaper cuttings on the Campaign to save the Wrexham Hippodrome on August the 19th 2004
Then on the 16th of June 2008 a major fire did extensive damage to the building and its future became even more uncertain. Ironically the fire occurred just a week after the Theatre's former owner Barry Flanagan, who had run the Theatre for over 37 years, passed away.
Above - Video of the Wrexham Hippodrome on fire on the 16th of June 2008.
Sadly, nothing could save the building after the fire and 10 months later, in April 2009, the Theatre was finally demolished.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
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