Tameside Hippodrome

A rare theatre survival, illustrating the inter-war fashion of adaption to cinema, and retaining a wealth of Art Deco features from the 1930s re-fit.

View from the back of the balcony across the stalls to the stage at Tameside Hippodrome.
Address
Oldham Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL6 7SE
Risk Rating
5 (Community Rating: 2, Star Value: 2, Risk Factor: 1 )
Local Group
Ashton Empire and Hippodrome (Building) Ltd
Architect
Joseph John Alley, Drury & Gomersall
Date of Construction
1904
Listing
Grade II
Capacity
1,262

Significance

Tameside Hippodrome is Ashton-under-Lyne’s only Grade II listed, purpose-built theatre. Its architectural significance illustrates the inter-war fashion of adaption to cinema. It is a rare survival, retaining a wealth of Art Deco features from the 1930s re-fit, including the coving and plasterwork detail in the café and ground floor foyer. Recent research and careful measurement have revealed that the 1930s changes to the central portion of the façade were not as invasive as previously thought. The windows are in fact original to the 1904 building with the stained-glass design closely resembling an early design by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is believed that the entire 1904 brick façade is intact underneath.

Orange, red and gold accented Art Deco Tameside Hippodrome auditorium, from the back of the steep-raked, red seated balcony down to the safety curtain with SAFETY CURTAIN written in gold letering on a being and maroon background

Why is this theatre at risk?

Tameside Hippodrome has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2009.

The Hippodrome closed in 2008. A threat of demolition in 2009 was halted when the building was listed. A condition survey was last completed in 2014 which showed considerable repair works are required, but it remains vacant and there are ongoing concerns about its deterioration, particularly the roof.

In October 2020 Tameside Council added the Hippodrome to its list of assets for disposal. The conditions stipulate that acquisition proposals require a level of social and financial sustainability. While this could help provide a route for asset transfer to community ownership and onward to restoration and live performance use, the potentially wide scope of the conditions cast additional uncertainty around the building’s future.

Theatre potential

The Hippodrome is well placed in the town, in an area proposed for regeneration. The theatre is well equipped and could be reopened.

Current situation

A local group has been campaigning for the building with the ambition to upgrade and refurbish the theatre to its former glory. In 2020 the group set up Ashton Empire and Hippodrome (Building) Ltd, a private company limited by guarantee with the aim that this company could take the acquisition of the building, carry out the necessary works to restore the theatre, and be responsible for the maintenance of the building fabric.

Theatres Trust has been providing the group with early-stage capital project advice and is supportive of the ambition to reopen the theatre for the people of Ashton-Under-Lyne. The Architectural Heritage Fund is also interested in the building, and the Theatres Trust has had a number of conversations about how both organisations can work together to support the group.

With the Hippodrome added to Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council’s list of assets for disposal, Theatres Trust has been in contact with the council to understand how it intends to proceed.

Further work is required to update the 2014 condition survey before a Community Asset Transfer process can begin. The council now needs to find funding for this piece of work.

In the meantime, the Theatres Trust is working closely with the campaign group, and developing plans to widen the Board membership to ensure the group can meet eligibility criteria for a Community Asset Transfer, once the council can proceed, and unlock potential funding to support the development of a business case.

Theatres Trust will continue to provide advice and support to see this important theatre reopened for its local community.

Main photo Tameside Hippodrome, Theatres Trust. Internal photos Tameside Hippodrome, Tim Abram Photos