Report (Permission Visit) - Hulme Hippodrome, Manchester - December 2017 | Theatres and Cinemas | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report (Permission Visit) Hulme Hippodrome, Manchester - December 2017


TV Locations Aficionado
28DL Full Member
Another one from the Hippodrome! Permission granted by the kind squatters, although not by the owner. Please amend to '(Permission Visit)' if deemed more appropriate!

I've been doing lots of research into this place and it has quite a fascinating history - it's alot to read, but if you can be bothered, below is the story from its initial years as a theatre to its most recent use by a seemingly dodgy religious organisation - plus connections with some questionable characters.

Early years

Built in 1901, the Grade II-listed Hulme Hippodrome was opened as the ‘Grand Junction Theatre and Floral Hall’ by the Broadhead Circuit, a chain of theatres in the North West. The Hippodrome originally played host to melodramatic performances, but became a music hall soon after in 1905, due to its large seating capacity (3,000). This was in comparison to that of the adjoining Playhouse (the original ‘Hippodrome’), which was built immediately after the Hippodrome in 1902 – boasting only half the number of seats. The Playhouse therefore went on to host the melodramatic performances instead, under the same ownership as the Hippodrome.

Later years

During its years as a theatre between 1901 and 1962, the Hippodrome saw names such as Laurel and Hardy, Nina Simone and George Formby perform on its stage. In 1932, the theatre was sold to Buxton Estates and subsequently operated by the J and Cyril Lever Theatre company from 1933, until it was taken over by Brennans Cinemas in 1938 who later also purchased the neighbouring Playhouse in 1950.


Following this change in ownership, both theatres were refurbished and the capacity of the Hippodrome was reduced to 2,000 as a result. It was in 1955 – when the connected Playhouse was acquired by the BBC for use as a TV and radio recording studio – that the arcade which linked the two venues was sealed and the theatres became independent (other than by way of an easement which allows the Playhouse to continue to use various elements of the Hippodrome’s plumbing).

Jimmy Savile

In 1960, infamous Manchester nightclub owner, Bill Benny, bought the Hippodrome following his retirement from pro wrestling and retained its use as a theatre. In 1963, Benny died from a heart attack during sex – just a year after selling the Hippodrome to Mecca Bingo at a £15k profit. It is reported that, Benny’s friend/associate, Jimmy Savile, arrived at the scene of the death just hours later. A possible explanation for this, other than Savile’s morbidness, was that Savile was keen to recover paperwork from the sale of the Hippodrome due to a possible money-making scam undertaken by the two (linked to Savile’s connection with Mecca), however this has never been proven.

Entertainment venue

From 1962 onwards, Mecca utilised the Hippodrome as a bingo and casino venue, which saw the theatre subject to a number of internal alterations. In 1971, the four shop units at 47-53 (odd numbers) Preston Street (now pedestrianised) were converted and metal cladding was installed inside – both for bingo use. However, the cladding was fortunately removed in 2012 and previously obscured original interior features became visible again. In 1977, the venue became known as the Mecca Social Club and, following the closure of a short-lived nightclub element in 1986, the Floral Hall part of the building became a billiard/snooker room with lounge bar in 1987.


In 2003, the property was purchased by the Gilbert Deya Ministries as their Manchester church (‘Branch 4’), whose now offline website lists it as a “magnificent historic building in Manchester, exclusive hall hire for all functions, wedding, parties conferences” [sic]. However, the Hippodrome became vacant following allegations of child trafficking against the self-styled ‘Archbishop’ Gilbert Deya. In August this year, Deya was extradited from the UK to Kenya to face charges and was denied bail by the Kenyan courts in October.

The Gilbert Deya Ministries charity continues to operate without Deya as a trustee, however an inquiry was launched in 2016 amidst allegations that the charity was selling Aldi olive oil as a ‘miracle cure’ for cancer and HIV. Despite this, ownership of the Hippodrome remains under the charity. It should be noted that the adjacent Playhouse is owned by an unrelated religious organisation, who are not associated with any of the aforementioned activities.


During the summer of 2017, squatters successfully took occupation of the Hippodrome. Their aim was to open it to the local community as a café, arts centre, library and perhaps even a soup kitchen; however, Gilbert Deya Ministries have recently initiated legal proceedings to evict them, with alleged encouragement from Manchester City Council. In October this year, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service acknowledged the building as ‘Other Premises Open to Public’ under a fire safety Prohibition Notice that was issued, although the squatters have now barricaded the building and are no longer permitting entry to any non-residents due to eviction concerns.


Rococo plasterwork

On stage


Circle from left box

Circle from above



Proscenium arch

Main ceiling


Damaged ceiling

Lighting room





Gilbert Deya Ministries literature - 'Victory on Demonic Attacks'

Fire safety notice

Entablature detail (sorry for graininess)

Full set of photos at https://flic.kr/s/aHsm88Hgfb.

Thanks for reading! :thumb