The most important unused UK theatre over the years

Hippodrome chronology

September 3 New building plans for a skating rink submitted to Brighton Borough Council by Lewis Karslake of Mortimer & Karslake.
October 1 New building plans for a skating rink submitted to Brighton Borough Council by Karslake.
December 3 New building plans for a skating rink submitted to Brighton Borough Council by Karslake.

• Building opens as the Real Ice-skating Rink, designed by Lewis Karslake with a 98-ft diameter rink and two promenade levels. The proprietors are Ellis and Humphrey E Bramall.
July 8 Over 150 gas light burners have been installed ‘after all arrangements had been made to light the rink by electricity; but on seeing the new burner and studying the question they decided to put the contract of lighting in the hands of the Denayrouze Syndicate.’
November 6 Performances by Harry Stiegert from Hamburg, silver medalist in the 1888 and 1889 German Figure Skating Championships.
December Manager is Sir William Call 4th bt (1849-1903).

July 28 Notice is published that Brighton Real Ice Skating Palace Ltd will be struck off the Companies Register in three months.
November 17 Brighton Real Ice Skating Palace Ltd is struck off the Companies Register.

March Skating rink fails. Humphrey Bramall decides to convert the building into a circus, a Hippodrome. Frank Matcham is appointed. He designs a 42ft diameter circus ring with a proscenium and two equestrian entries on either side.


January Plans for conversion are submitted to the Borough Council.
August 10 Advertisement in The Era for first class instrumentalists for permanent engagement, booked though Mr Nightingale, 41 Great Queen Street, London WC.
August 26 [or 28?] Hippodrome Theatre and Circus opens, with circus acts in the arena during the first half of the programme, then variety acts on the proscenium stage in the second half. The owner/manager is Humphrey E Bramall (based at Crystal Palace). Stage manager and carpenter is W Sindall. The opening had been delayed by a week as the electric light is not ready. One acrobatic act, the Eldred Combination, sues for non payment during the week.
October 14 Humphrey E Brammall opens the refurbished Northampton Empire.
• ‘Visitors to the Brighton Hippodrome, on entering that building in Middle Street, are naturally struck with both its beauty and its proportions. It is a most spacious structure, cleverly designed, with walls and surroundings of pure white, and with seats and curtains in crimson velvet. Besides the circus ring there is a fine stage, and the whole is brilliantly lighted. It is a building designed for the comfort of every person who pays for admission, and what there is to be seen is of so refined a character, so clever, so dashing and so daring, that one wonders at it and the great venture of the promoters of the “Drome”. For the Christmas term a grand company of star artistes are engaged, and the amusing pantomime of “Blue Beard” will be daily performed.’ (Mid Sussex Times, 24 December 1901)

February 8 W Sindall, stage carpenter and stage manager, advertising for work.
March 20 Edwin Oldroyd & Co Ltd, hydraulic engineers [25 Crown Street, Leeds, est 1843], wins an action in Leeds Crown Court for £141 12s against Mr R Ellis, music hall proprietor, for work done and material supplied for an asbestos safety curtain at the Hippodrome according to specifications of Frank Matcham. Ellis claimed the curtain was too short and had holes in it, the plaintiffs that the stage was lowered without their knowledge and ‘that there was an overstrain of the curtain, due to the peculiar construction of the theatre’.
August 18-23 Last week with a listing in The Stage or The Era.
September 13 Arthur Hollands, late Refreshment Manager, Brighton Hippodrome, wants re-engagement. Garden Hotel, Middle Street, Brighton. [The Era].
October 7 Hippodrome is auctioned by order of the mortgagees. Tom Barrasford, proprietor of music halls in the north of England, buys the building, reportedly for £40,000. He moves his headquarters to Hippodrome House, where he and his wife live.
October 22 Thomas Barrasford and his architect Bertie Crewe visit the Hippodrome to settle the ‘rearrangement of the house, doing away with the ring, and redecorating, reseating, and renovating on the lines of the successful Hippodromes Mr Crewe has designed for Mr Barrasford in Liverpool, Glasgow and Manchester.’
October 30 Public examination of Ellis Brammall jun, until recently proprietor of Brighton Hippodrome and several theatres in Liverpool and elsewhere, opened and adjourned for a month in Brighton court. Brammall claimed to have a surplus from securities of £34,000 but the Official receiver said the realisation of the debtor’s property showed a deficit and would require an amended statement.
November 27 Bankruptcy Court examination of Ellis Brammall jun, concluded. Brammall said his speculation to convert the Hippodrome from ice rink to circus involved expenditure of £35,000, including £15,000 for the alterations—about four times what he had calculated. ‘He had kept no books to show how the money had gone.’
• Brighton Hippodrome Ltd incorporated (company number 73558). Proprietors: Messrs Barrasford & Smith, acting manager: Mr Alf Norton; chief electrician: William Faulkner.
December 22 The Hippodrome music hall opens. Barrasford introduces twice-nightly variety, which he has pioneered in Leeds.
• ‘Under the patronage of the Mayor and Corporation of Brighton, the Hippodrome, transformed into a theatre of varieties, was re-opened on Monday evening, The stage has been extended into the auditorium; the old ring has been replaced by fauteuils and stalls; there are handsome boxes on each side of the stage; and the principal parts of the house have been upholstered, while the decorations have been carried out on an elaborate and expensive scale. Two performances are given each evening.’—The Era (27 December 1902).

January Motors and cycles are stored free of charge at the Hippodrome.

September 16 Notice of dissolution of Brighton Hippodrome Ltd.

January 13 Brighton Hippodrome Ltd joint stock company is dissolved.

January 2 Advertised in The Era as London, Provincial & Continental Vaudeville Combination. Co-managing directors: Walter Gibbons and Thomas Barrasford.
June 5 Advertised in The Era as The London Theatres of Varieties Ltd and Barrasford Limited tour (managing directors Walter Gibbons and Thomas Barrasford) Offices: Coventry House, 39 Charing Cross Road, London WC. Circuit comprises: London Palladium (late Hengler’s Circus, rebuilding), Holborn Empire, Kilburn Empire, Islington Empire, Croydon Empire, Shoreditch Olympia, Hammersmith Palace, Camberwell Palace, Ealing Hippodrome, Balham Hippodrome, Poplar Hippodrome, Putney Hippodrome, Paris Alhambra (closed for summer season), Rotherhithe Hippodrome, Willesden Hippodrome, Peckham Hippodrome, Woolwich Hippodrome, Ilford Hippodrome, Clapham Junction Grand, Brighton Hippodrome, Richmond Hippodrome, Coventry Empire, Brixton Empress, Swindon Empire, Brussels Alhambra (closed for summer season), Southsea King’s Theatre, Leeds Hippodrome, St Helens Hippodrome. Birmingham Hippodrome, Liverpool Hippodrome, Nottingham Hippodrome, Keighley Hippodrome, Sheffield Hippodrome, Newcastle Pavilion, Glasgow Pavilion
December Former office of the Barrasford Tour at 11 Leicester Place (now moved to 39 Charing Cross Road) is offered to let, ‘suitable for agents or dance studio’. Maud Barrasford at Court Theatre, Brighton is handling the matter (Tom being seriously ill).

February 1 Tom Barrasford dies at his home, Hippodrome House, adjacent to the theatre.
February 5 Tom Barrasford’s funeral at Brighton Extra-Mural Cemetery. ‘The coffin . . . was covered with floral tributes from relatives, personal friends, and the staffs at the places of amusement in England, and Paris and Berlin with which the deceased gentleman was associated.’ [Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 12 February 1910]
• The theatre is sold to Variety Theatres Controlling Company (VTCC), headed by Walter de Frece, owner of a chain of music halls, most of them called Hippodrome.
November? W H Boardman (previously at Pavilion Theatre, Newcastle) appointed provincial manager for Variety Theatres Controlling Company with headquarters at Brighton.


July 13 Four drawings of alterations to the roof of the projector chambers, etc by J Emblin Walker submitted to Brighton Borough Council.
July 20 Plans approved by Brighton Borough Council.
• Architect J Emblin Walker makes changes to the auditorium and stage house.

February 4 Application for full liquor licence in Palm Court restaurant. Hearing adjourned until 4 March.
June 23 Palm Court opens to the public. Visit by cadre of Sussex Yeomanry just home from active service.

March Palm Court granted a liquor licence. ‘The Palm Court has become so popular that it is necessary to advise patrons to book their tables.’

• The Palm Court & Lounge offers teas and light refreshments.

January ‘Picture shows on Sunday evenings are becoming increasingly popular and another new departure which is likely to be attended with a large measure of success are the Thés Dansants, which are to be held daily in the Palm Court.’ Continuous performance 6 to 10:30; doors open 5.30.
February ‘The Sunday evening kinematograph entertainment is growing in popularity every week, which is not to be wondered at as the Hippodrome makes an ideal picture house. The daily Thés Dansants in the beautiful Palm Court are also meeting with much favour. In the Hippodrome itself, prices have been reduced this week.’
June 23 Maud Barrasford still producing music hall acts, eg Dream Stars with John Blackburn Taylor.
September Musical director: Ernest G Oram.
December 24 ‘Coming of age’ celebrated. William Faulkner chief electrician since opening day. W H Boardman here for 13 years, A Coote Suggit nearly as long.

July 17 W H Boardman’s resignation, effective in October, reported in The Stage. He has turned down an offer of an important position with VTCC in favour of developing ‘his interests in a wider sphere of professional activity abroad’.
October Gen Mgr Harry Masters, Asst mgr A Coote Suggit. No permanent mus dir.

May Mr W H Bebby appointed manager, after 14 years at Newcastle Hippodrome, replacing Harry Masters. A Coote-Suggit remains assistant manager.

May Hippodrome and Palm Court acquired by General Theatre Corporation (GTC), which becomes a subsidiary of Gaumont-British Picture Corporation (GBPC), along with the Court Theatre and Billiard Room.
September George Black becomes managing director of GTC. Bert Brown becomes Hippodrome manager (by mid September), from Hippodrome Newcastle. previously at Hippodrome, Leeds; musical director: Horace Sheldon, stage manager: Richard Hart.

April 5 New building plans for a garage submitted to Brighton Borough Council by S Tiltman for D Penfold.
• General Theatre Corporation (GTC) merges with Moss Empires to form Moss Empires Group under George Black.
• Projection room added, alterations to circle seating and the entrance canopy.

March 3 In second house Max Miller establishes a record for a single variety turn by performing for 41 minutes without a break.
• New entrance canopy.

• Moss Empires planning to close theatres, aiming for a chain of 12-14 theatres ‘of the caliber of the London Palladium’.

• 20-21 Ship Street demolished and site cleared about now; it provides access to the rear of the Hippodrome.
May 18 A door and leaded glass are damaged during mod and rockers incidents. A 16-year-old was fined £20 and £15 towards the costs of the damage on May 20.
• Brighton Corporation considers acquisition to secure the future of the building but decides against. The Corporation's Planning Committee suggests demolition to build a multi-storey car park.
November 22 Last Sunday night pop concert. Theatre closes.
• Associated TeleVision (ATV) takes over Stoll Theatres Corporation and Moss Empires. [Prince Littler, head of Stoll Moss, was a director of ATV.]
• Brighton County Borough Corporation considers acquisition to secure the future of the building but decides against it. The Corporation's Planning Committee reportedly favours demolition to build a multi-storey car park.
December 10 Prince Littler tells The Stage that he will remain in control of Moss and Stoll policy and has confirmation in writing that there will be no closing or demolition of theatres.

October Bernard Delfont, head of Moss Empires, visits the Hippodrome with colleagues Robert Nexbitt and Rex Henshall to assess the potential for creating a luxury night spot on the model of the Talk of the Town at the London Hippodrome.

• ATV is acquired by Lew Grade’s Associated Communications Corporation (ACC).
August 29 Planning approval for use of theatre (excluding flats above) and car park for production of films and recorded programmes for TV. The new lessee is World Colour Services.

January 19 Freehold of the Hippodrome Theatre and land adjoining is to be registered in the Tunbridge Wells District Land Registry by Moss Empires.
March 25 The entire property is let on a full repairing and insurance lease for a term of 50 years to Mecca.
May 4 The Stage reports on its front page that the new lessee, Mecca, has applied for planning permission for change of use. Moss Empires applied for a court order and has repossessed the theatre [from World Colour Services]. The plan to collaborate with Fortes to convert the building into a ‘luxury night-spot on the lines of the West End’s Talk of the Town’ (October 1965) fell through.
June 16 Approval for change of use from TV studio theatre to use within Class XIX of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1965.
October 12 The Stage reports that Mecca has acquired the Hippodrome to open as a bingo hall later in the year, scotching for good ‘local speculation as to the possibility of raising funds to reopen’ the theatre.
November 7 Approval for bingo club and prize bingo area.
November 13 High Court issues a winding-up order for World Colour Services (registered office: York Road Chambers, Bognor Regis) on a petition by Scaffolding (Great Britain) Ltd.

April 13 The Stage reports that Mecca’s manager, Peter Shiels, plans to introduce old-time music hall in late-night shows ‘on the lines of the Northern Clubs’ from May. Members of the bingo club (free membership) will be charged 25p admission. Mecca will apply for a licence to serve drinks in the auditorium as well as the licensed bars.
June 9 Opening night for Olde Tyme Music Hall. Any performers who ever appeared at the Hippodrome are invited with all eats and drinks on the house.

July 15 Planning approval for erection of replacement entrance canopy.

December 20 English Heritage lists the Hippodrome and Hippodrome House as Grade II*.

September 10 The freehold is offered for sale at an auction held by Conrad Ritblat & Co at the Crystal Room of the May Fair Inter-Continental Hotel, London. The annual rent is £44,240, geared to the Retail Price Index. It was noted that it was expected to rise to at least £66,000 at the next review on March 1988.

• Rank Organisation acquires Mecca Bingo and rebrands its Top Rank bingo operations with the Mecca name.

November 11 Planning application refused for alterations to ground, first and second floors including patio terrace at rear of second floor flat. Four dormer windows on front elevation, together with external decorations.


June 2 Planning approval for provision of four dormer windows on Middle Street elevation. Alterations on existing ground, first and second floors, including terrace to rear of second-floor flat. External alterations and removal of existing sign to front.

August 8 Planning approval for erection of front wall and entry gates to car park in Ship Street.
September 20 Planning approval for internal alterations to re-arrange seating, bar and refreshment facilities, installation of mezzanine floor and external alterations including the extension of the entrance canopy across frontage.

June 4 Retrospective planning permission for existing extract duct on east (rear) elevation to terminate at roof level, and installation of air supply unit at first floor level.

October 11 Planning consent to Mecca Bingo Club for ‘minor internal alterations’.

February 7 Planning approval for minor internal alterations.

October The freehold is acquired by London Merchant Securities (LMS) for £1.6m. Rent for the Hippodrome is £109,796 a year. LMS already owns Dukes Lane.

August 18 Kuig Property Investments No 6 Ltd incorporated in Jersey (company number 89862).

August 8 Mecca Bingo closes.
• Between now and January 2007 Rank Organisation sells the site to Derwent London.

January 31 Derwent London (new name for LMS) values Dukes Lane and the Hippodrome site at £13.1m.
February 16 Academy Music Group (AMG, of which LiveNation is principal shareholder) acquires 30-year lease.
June 11 Planning application submitted by AMG for external and internal redevelopment of the auditorium, including the provision of tiered standing areas, toilet facilities and escape routes.
September 6 Planning application withdrawn before being determined.
September 12? Derwent London sells Dukes Lane and the Hippodrome site to Cheval Properties for £20.0m. Defined as 'A multi-let central shopping centre and entertainment venue totaling 5,950m2 and producing £0.9 million per annum'. Of this an estimated £0.2m comes from the AMG lease. At some point hereafter Cheval transfers ownership to Jersey-based Kuig Properties Investments No 6 Ltd. Kuig is a subsidiary of Fifth Belfry Property Investments plc, a Dublin-registered (soon?) investment vehicle for clients of Allied Irish Banks, which becomes the mortgagee.

• The Hippodrome is included on The Theatres Trust list of Theatre Buildings at Risk (TBAR).

February 24 LiveNation expects to submit a planning application for a scheme costing more than £9m.
July 27 Squatters are evicted from Hippodrome House.
summer/autumn Academy Music Group/LiveNation abandons music venue proposal following advice from BHCC Licensing Panel that a late-night licence is at best unlikely.
October 29 LiveNation presents cinema/restaurant plans to The Theatres Trust.
November 20 LiveNation presents cinema/restaurant plan to BHCC.

February 11 Site visit by Mark Price (The Theatres Trust), Sam Johnson (English Heritage), Russ Duly (LiveNation), Rob Fraser (BHCC), Russ Drage and Rich Brown (Russ Drage Architects) and Chris Moore (Alaska). Proposal is for an eight-screen cinema and restaurant.
April 18 Indigo Planning meeting with BHCC planning department and Russ Drage Architects. Plans are for cinema and restaurants include new structures. No specific mention of Vue.
April 21 The Argus reports plans to turn the Hippodrome into a cinema. 'An amazing opportunity'—Cllr Geoffrey Bowden.
April 24 Indigo tells BHCC that the site area is 0.49ha and thus not subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Council agrees on 28 May.
May 21 Site visit by developers and BHCC officers.
June 6 Site visit by developers with BHCC officers and English Heritage.
October 11 Planning officer Adrian Smith's formal pre-application advice to Indigo Planning, dismissing the need for any more theatres.
October 15 English Heritage pre-application advice to Indigo Planning.
October 18 (17:00-21:00) and 19 (10:00-14:00) Public exhibition of plans in the Hippodrome Service Yard.
October 20 Professor Gavin Henderson, principal of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and former director of the Brighton Festival, convenes a meeting at the Friends Meeting House. The packed hall hears presentations for and against the proposed cinema development.
December 20 Planning applications BH2013/04348 and /04351 submitted by Indigo Planning on behalf of Kuig Property Investments No 6. Rejected by BHCC as incomplete.

February 8 First meeting of Our Brighton Hippodrome organised by Jevon Antoni-Jay.
February 11 Planning applications registered July 9 OBH asks the Secretary of State to call in the planning applications, nominates the Hippodrome as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) and submits an FOI request to see the District Valuer's report.
July 16 BHCC planning committee approves Kuig/Alaska/Indigo application.
September 18 The Theatres Trust press conference about Theatre Buildings at Risk (TBAR) at the Theatre Royal. The Hippodrome is #1 on the list, partly because of the threatened conversion.
September 19 Planning minister Brandon Lewis rejects the call-in request.
November 28 Planning approval decided. Agreement between BHCC, Kuig Property Investments No 6 and Allied Irish Banks signed.
December Kuig puts Dukes Lane and the Hippodrome on the market with a target price of £22m.

April 24 The Hippodrome site is acquired by Academy Music Group (AMG).
June 2 Brighton Hippodrome CIC and OBH meet with AMG and others at the Theatres Trust. This leads to the formation of a Stakeholder Group. AMG allows the group a six-month window of opportunity to develop plans.
July 22 Inception meeting of the Stakeholder Group with Colliers International, appointed to produce an options and viability report.
September 17 Brighton Hippodrome is #1 on The Theatres Trust list of Theatre Buildings at Risk (TBAR) for the third year running.
November Colliers International's report shows that theatre restoration would be possible in two phases, each separately viable.

September 12 Brighton Hippodrome is #1 on The Theatres Trust list of Theatre Buildings at Risk (TBAR) for the fourth year running.

January 16 Academy Music Group grants a six-month exclusivity agreement to a development consortium.
March 9 Brighton and Hove City Council adopts the character statement for the Old Town Conservation Area, sponsored by Brighton Hippodrome CIC.
July 19AMG grants a two-month exclusivity to another developer. This is extended for a further four weeks.
November 7 A new owner, Hippodrome Investments Ltd, owned by Hansard Trust Company, acquires the freehold for £2.075m. Hansard's principal shareholder is Millenium Trust Company, registered in St Kitts & Nevis, West Indies.


Page updated 15 August 2021
Compilation © David Fisher, used with permission
Not to be reproduced