Hulme Hippodrome

A splendid music hall with a spectacular auditorium featuring a riot of gilded Rococo plasterwork. An iconic building of social, historical, and architectural significance, currently in a very poor state of repair.

Interior and stage of derelict theatre with ornate and colourful plasterwork, viewed from the balcony
Address
Warwick Street, Hulme, Manchester, M15 5EU
Risk Rating
8 (Community Value: 2, Star Rating: 3, Risk Factor: 3)
Owner
HHM20 Ltd (to be confirmed)
Architect
Joseph John Alley
Date of Construction
1901
Listing
Grade II / Asset of Community Value
Capacity
Estimated at 2,000

Significance

Hulme Hippodrome is a splendid Grade II listed music hall. It was constructed for the Broadhead Circuit which operated seventeen venues in the north-west of England, mostly now lost, but which made a significant contribution to working-class entertainment. It was the headquarters for this circuit. The Hippodrome was built alongside the Hulme Playhouse (1902) and designed by the same architect, Joseph John Alley and was by the Broadhead Circuit offices. The two theatres together represent an unusual twin theatre arrangement with strong group value and great significance.

The magnificent auditorium at the Hippodrome remains largely unaltered and is decorated in a spectacular riot of gilded Rococo plasterwork. The auditorium design incorporates straight rows of seats to the balconies; a characteristic of theatres designed by Alley for the Broadhead Circuit but unlike any contemporary theatre or music hall. It is an iconic building of social, historical, and architectural significance.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Hulme Hippodrome has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2006 when we started the list.

Hulme Hippodrome was last used for theatre in the 1960s and was used for bingo from 1962 until its closure in 1986. The Floral Hall, adjacent to the main theatre, was then used as a snooker hall. In 2003 evangelist group Gilbert Deya Ministries purchased the building and was operating from the ground floor of the Floral Hall, leaving the auditorium vacant and in a very poor state of repair. In 2017 Manchester City Council served the owner with a Dangerous Buildings Notice and closed the building.

The building was subsequently occupied by squatters, who were removed from the premises in April 2018. The building has been vacant ever since.
In January 2021, the Hippodrome was advertised for auction with an unrealistic guide price of £950k with misleading information that building had the potential for conversion to residential accommodation, which was subsequently removed at the request of campaigners, Theatres Trust and the council.

In response to the failed auction, Save Hulme Hippodrome launched a public campaign to stop such sales and bring the building back to its community, inviting the people of Hulme to play a part in the next stage of the theatre’s story. The building was withdrawn from sale on the day of the auction.

It has since been alleged that the building had been sold twice in quick succession prior to the attempted auction with an initial sale price to the previous long-term owner, the Gilbert Deya Ministry, of £450k. Investigation into these allegations is ongoing, however, the speed of sales and suggested substantial increase in sale price between initial sale and the price asked at auction is of great concern and indicative of the building being bought for speculative development and with little thought toward the building’s historic significance.

The building remains vacant and in an ever-worsening state of repair. Recent drone surveys carried out by Save Hulme Hippodrome indicate holes in the roof rendering the historic fibrous plaster extremely vulnerable to water damage. There is a need for urgent intervention to halt decay before irreparable damage is caused and the building is lost.

A section of the red brick façade with a  painted sign with blue HIPPODROME written on a white painted background

Theatre potential

The area surrounding the theatre has been substantially redeveloped, starting in the early 1960s in wide-area clearances, and with two further waves of urban regeneration. The theatre could find a use as part of the local community, not least being one of few surviving community buildings from pre-1960s. Manchester City Council is also keen to find a historic-led, sustainable and long-term use for the Hippodrome.

Following rumours in 2020 of redevelopment of the building to residential units, a new group Save Hulme Hippodrome formed with the ambition to save, restore and reopen the Hippodrome. Its vision is to restore the building as a community, music and arts hub. This would include increased and enhanced arts provision, and a social enterprise hub providing workshops, offices and retail spaces. There is also some support for a Museum of Manchester Musical Art. All of these proposed uses would be sympathetic to the building’s heritage significance and each has the sensitive restoration of the historic fabric of the theatre at its heart. Theatres Trust is working with the group to support this ambition.

In March 2021 Save Hulme Hippodrome started a Crowdfunder to support their campaign. It reached its target within five days and went on to raise £16,000 to help develop its proposals for the building. This has included a drone survey of the roof, which has shown it to be in a worrying state of disrepair.

The group is also continuing to raise the profile of the building within the local community, with key stakeholders and funders, and also within Manchester City Council. It has held various community events, including a street party celebrating the 120th anniversary of Hulme Hippodrome in October 2021.

Early conversations with Manchester City Council indicate that the council would, in principle, be supportive of the campaign group’s suggested reuse of the Hippodrome. However, the major challenge is the building’s ownership.

Current situation

The building is considered extremely vulnerable and in urgent need of intervention to prevent ongoing deterioration.

Manchester City Council planning department has been proactive in its attempts to engage with the Hippodrome’s owners. Past actions include offering to work with them to bring forward a proposal to secure the long-term future of the building and aiding them in the removal of squatters. It had also sought repair works to the building through a Section 215 notice. It is currently trying to clarify the ownership situation and engage with the owner to find a route to securing much-needed repair works as a matter of urgency.

In August 2021 Save Hulme Hippodrome was successful in its application to have the building listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). This protects the building for the next five years from any sudden sales by the current owner and gives the campaign group the legal right to a six-month pause in any sale to raise the funds required to purchase the building. This is a boost to efforts to acquire and secure the building for future community use.

The campaign group, Save Hulme Hippodrome, has a strong community outreach programme and this has included holding three outdoor community festivals in the summer months of 2021.

Update February 2022

The current Asset of Community Value listing for Hulme Hippodrome has been overturned following a challenge from one of the alleged owners. The building has subsequently been removed from the council’s list. The campaign group is currently seeking legal advice.

In February 2022 Manchester City Council served a Section 215 notice on the Hippodrome incorporating a schedule of maintenance works to remove the disamenity being caused by the building. The notice, which is displayed on the side of the Hippodrome, details 11 areas that require attention and timescales for these works to be completed. This includes repair work to damaged windows, roof tiles and rain water goods, and removal of vegetation growth and graffiti.

Theatres Trust continues to advise and support the campaign group in their work to save the Hippodrome to ensure the preservation of this important theatre.

Update June 2022

We have recently heard that the new owner of the building has appealed against the Section 215 and a court hearing has been set for July 2022.

Photos, Hulme Hippodrome, Ian Grundy