Derby Hippodrome

A large variety theatre, which could become an elegant touring house for Derby, despite its semi-demolished state.

20080815 mp derbyhippodrome 012 detail
Address
Green Lane, Derby, Derbyshire DE1 1ES
Risk Rating
5 (Community Rating: 1, Star Rating: 1, Risk Factor: 3 )
Local Authority
Derby City Council
Owner
Blake Finance
Architect
Marshall & Tweedy
Date of Construction
1914
Listing
Grade II
Capacity
1,000-1,200 (estimated)

Significance

Derby Hippodrome is a large, Grade II listed variety theatre, built in 1914. It is a rare survival from an early stage in the crossover period when buildings were being constructed for both live theatre and cinema. This building form proved to be the model for most cinema design from the 1930s onwards. The theatre has the potential to be rebuilt and restored to theatre use, and could provide Derby with an elegant 1,000-1,200-seat theatre for the sort of commercial touring productions the city can’t currently accommodate.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Since the former theatre’s use as a bingo hall ended in 2007, there have been incidents of arson, other small fires and vandalism. Further substantial damage was caused in 2008 when the then-owner undertook essential repair works. Disastrously these works have left the theatre partially demolished. There is now vegetation growth throughout and Japanese knotweed reported in the now-unroofed auditorium. It is believed that the current owner has plans for the redevelopment of the site which would inevitably lead to the demolition of the theatre.

While the building has the potential to provide the city with an elegant lyric theatre, its fate is inextricably linked to the council’s decision on cultural provision within the city, the preferred plans for which are now to restore and reopen the Assembly Rooms.

Current situation

Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust (DHRT) has been trying to secure and rebuild the theatre. The group successfully listed the site of Derby Hippodrome as an Asset of Community Value in 2013 and received approval for planning and listed building applications to rebuild the front of house as a café, offices and meeting spaces on four floors and construct roofing over the auditorium and stage house.

In January 2016, the group secured a Heritage Lottery start-up grant which has allowed it to demonstrate that the main structure of the theatre is sound and to obtain a valuation of the property in its present condition. Theatres Trust has been providing the group with further funding advice.

This last year has seen DHRT commission a high-level business plan and viability study for the building. The proposals suggest a phased approach to restoring the theatre, with phase 1 including restoring and reopening the front of house spaces and providing a temporary useable space within the auditorium footprint. It is envisaged that this temporary space could be used as a community hall, hosting workshops and meetings, as well as performances by local groups. This phased approach to building works will allow animation and use of the building while proposals are being developed for a larger capital works project. The group has also been supported in this work by a post-graduate student at Derby University who has provided plans for the scheme.

Meanwhile, the council is progressing with proposals for the regeneration of Becketwell, the area around the Hippodrome, and has reportedly bought up several local properties for redevelopment. DHRT is in discussion about the role of the Hippodrome in the regeneration of the area and the opportunities that this elegant Grade II building could offer both in terms of setting and community benefit.

Image: Derby Hippodrome, Theatres Trust