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
Preston Street, Hulme, Manchester, M15 5EU
Risk Rating
7 (Community Value: 1, Star Rating: 3, Risk Factor: 3 )
Owner
Gilbert Deya Ministries
Operator
Gilbert Deya Ministries
Architect
Joseph John Alley
Date of Construction
1901
Listing
Grade II
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. The Hippodrome was built alongside the Hulme Playhouse (1902) and designed by the same architect, Joseph John Alley; the two were reportedly connected by an arcade which was flanked 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 the mid-1970s 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 foyer only, 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.

The Hippodrome is in an ever-worsening state of repair and in urgent need of intervention to halt decay before irreparable damage is caused and the building lost.

The owner has previously suggested that it would be interested in selling the building and there have been rumours that a developer is interested in redeveloping the site for residential accommodation, an unacceptable future for the building which would inevitably lead to its loss.

In January 2021, the Hippodrome was advertised for auction with an unrealistic guide price of £950k, misleadingly noting that the building had the potential for conversion to residential accommodation. At the request of Theatres Trust and the council, reference to residential use has since been removed and the auctioneer is advising interested parties that redevelopment as residential will not be acceptable. However, there remains a risk of the building being bought for speculative development.

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 in the last 20 years and the theatre could find a use as part of the local community. Manchester City Council is also keen to find a historic-led, sustainable, long-term use for the Hippodrome.

Following rumours in 2020 of redevelopment of the building to residential units, a new group Save the Hulme Hippodrome has come together with the ambition to save, restore and reopen the Hippodrome. Its vision is to restore the building and the adjacent Playhouse as a community, music and arts hub. This would include increased and enhanced arts provision, a social enterprise hub providing workshops, offices and retail spaces, and a Museum of Manchester Musical Art, while guaranteeing the restoration and preservation of the historic fabric of both theatres. Theatres Trust is working with the group to support this ambition.

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, offering to work with them to bring forward a proposal to secure the long-term future of the building. It has also previously sought repair works to the building through a Section 215 notice and aided the owners in removal of squatters. More recently the council has requested that a full structural survey is carried out to understand and inform necessary future repair work.

The formation of the new campaign group brings hopes that a new future can be found for the Hippodrome. Early conversations with the council indicate that it would, in principle, be supportive of the campaign group’s suggested reuse of the Hippodrome. However, the major challenge is the building’s ownership and the unrealistic financial expectations at auction. 

Update February 2021

In response to the auction, Save the Hulme Hippodrome has launched a public campaign to stop the sale 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 group has also started a crowdfunder aimed at raising £10,000 to pay for initial legal and survey costs, which would be vital first steps in acquiring the building and starting planning for its future as a venue for the community. 

The building was withdrawn from sale on the day of the auction.

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

Update April 2021

Save the Hulme Hippodrome is urgently looking for residents of Manchester and the surrounding eight boroughs to sign the application to have the building listed as an Asset of Community Value. To qualify you must be registered to vote (you must be listed on the Electoral Roll) in Manchester or in a neighbouring council- Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Tameside, Stockport, Cheshire East, Trafford, and Salford (not Wigan or Bolton).

If you can help, please get in touch with the group with your full name and postal address at  savehulmehippodrome@nia.digital

Update September 2021

Hulme Hippodrome is now legally an Asset of Community Value – ACV. The application by Save Hulme Hippodrome (SHH) Ltd was agreed by Manchester City Council on 18 August 2021. This protects the building for the next five years from any sudden sales by the current owner. It gives the campaign group the legal right to a six-month pause in any sale to raise the funds required to purchase the building. It is a boost to efforts to acquire and secure the building for future community use.

Photos, Hulme Hippodrome, Ian Grundy