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Report - - Derby Hippodrome / Walkers Bingo 16-03-08 | Theatres and Cinemas |

Report - Derby Hippodrome / Walkers Bingo 16-03-08

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Derby Hippodrome

Located on the corner of Macklin Street and Green Lane is the huge former Hippodrome Theatre latterly known as Walkers Bingo.

First a bit of history

The Derby Hippodrome was a purpose built theatre and Variety house and had a 2,300 capacity. It was converted in 1930 into an 1,800 seat cinema, becoming a theatre once more for only 9 years until 1959. Three years later the theatre was purchased by Mecca Group who converted the theatre into a Bingo Social Club.

Opening in 1914 as the Derby Hippodrome, Music Hall and Palace of Varieties. The architects were Marshall and Tweedy of Newcastle upon Tyne. The opening show on 20 July 1914. was 'September Morn' and was well received by a packed auditorium
Built on the corner of Green Lane and Macklin Street it was on the site of Derby's first private lunatic asylum and close to the slums of Trafalgar Street and Waterloo Street in the Little City area of the town. The more comfortable houses in Compton and Wilson Streets were set to house costumiers and theatre staff as well as offering accommodation to visiting stars.

The theatre was described as "palatial" with an elaborate first floor foyer and comfortable lounges where lady attendants served dainties to the better off clientele. The dress circle balcony was especially rich in decoration and the novelty of ladies and gentleman's toilets on each floor was popular.
Over the next 45 years the theatre was to produce 1,158 live programmes in two periods from 1914-1930 and 1950 -1959, in the intervening years it was converted into a cinema but on the 28th October 1950 the Hippodrome closed as a cinema and live theatre was restored once more on 23 December 1950.

However in 1956 ITV hit the Midlands and people could now see regular screening of their idols for the price of a hire purchase agreement. Live entertainment at the Hippodrome died almost overnight. The exploitation of "girlie" shows hastened the demise as families boycotted these acts. The theatre started to close for long summer recesses.
By 1959 it was all over. The management declared that the theatre was not viable and closed after the Christmas pantomime. Derby was horrified, but the theatre remained idle until bought by Mecca in 1962 and refurbished as a Bingo hall.
Owned by Walker's Bingo until 2007 the Bingo type of entertainment lasted longer than any other and it is a tribute to these companies that the fabric of this grade II listed building is - however tenuously - still preserved*. (More of this later)

Unfortunately on Friday the of February this year a small fire broke out under the stage behind the orchestra pit. This is a part of the report in the 'STAGE' Newspaper from Thursday the 14th Feb:
Around 30 firefighters spent most of last Friday night tackling the fire. It is believed it was started in the orchestra pit, but did not spread because it was behind the fire curtain. No structural damage was caused.
The Grade II listed building, formerly a theatre and more recently a bingo hall, is currently not in use. But owner Christopher Anthony, who bought the venue last year, is thought to have told Derby City Council that he wants to knock it down.
Mhora Samuel of The Theatres Trust said: “I’m devastated by news of the fire. This vacant theatre was clearly very vulnerable and the owner should now take responsibility to make it safe and ensure that further damage doesn’t occur.
“The Theatres Trust will be working closely with Derby City Council to try and secure the theatre. First of all we have to find out the full extent of the damage.â€Â

I've walked past this old theatre numerous time during the past few years and seen it go from Bingo to closure. Last weekend the opportunity to see inside presented itself :cool: After seeing pictures on this site Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust it looked like would be a great explore and as the theatre had closed just over a year ago it would be mint inside.

After Walkers Bingo closed a Mr Christopher Antony bought the theatre for the development opportunity of its land, However the theatre is listed grade II.

I know there had been a small fire but this was confined to the understage area. So there would be little damage in the main auditorium, how wrong I was...

After looking at the listing schedule damage other than fire has destroyed nearly all those parts specified in the schedule.

Thanks for reading this far, I just wanted to give you some background. You will draw your own conclusions regarding the damage and how it occurred. According to the Derby Evening Telegraph both the local council and the local newspaper have tried to contact Mr Antony regarding the building and it's re-use, but he's been uncontactable....




The former Stalls


Stage left box


Circle front removed! with builders hazard tape. Didn't think vandals used this :mad:


Sliding text


Lobby ceiling plasterwork


View from the circle





Across the front of the circle


Stage left proscenium box and 'missing' plaster work


Top of the proscenium


Rear circle lobby



Up to the circle


Top of the staircase



Circle bar


Gods bar


Up in the gods. A window is open and blowing the light fittings about.


This is a bit grainy but it the only picture I've got of the ceiling in the auditorium.


Back down again to the front of the stalls.


The controls for the 'iron' (safety curtain).

After expecting so much it was a really upsetting to see this theatre in such a bad way. This is what happens when a listed building comes into the hands of someone who doesn't care....

* Quote from Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust Just before closure.

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Re: Derby Hippodrome / Walkers Bingo REPORT 16-03-08

Highly critical press release just been put out tonight by the Theatres Trust:


And some pics of what it looked like in its glory days on the same site:

Hippodrome | Theatres Trust
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Re: Derby Hippodrome / Walkers Bingo REPORT 16-03-08

Another scathing Theatres Trust press release:

"...unprecedented in the history of the Trust..."
"...injunction to prevent the owner going on-site...."


Reassuring that the council appear to be serious about stopping further demolition and making good what has already been done.


rebmeM LD82
Regular User
Re: Derby Hippodrome / Walkers Bingo REPORT 16-03-08

FOR FUCK SAKE..... Look at the photos. How was that EVER emergency restoration work. Are people plain simple, or are their back pockets simply too full??

The videos are even more shocking.

I know one of them is featured on the papers website, but there's 4 of them on you tube, and they horrified me when I watched them, the detruction is so blatent :(