The Theatres Trust

Birmingham Hippodrome

  • Theatre ID
  • Built / Converted
  • Current state
  • Current use
  • Address
    Hurst Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4TB, England


Opened in 1899 as the Tower of Varieties and Circus, a music hall with a circus ring which could be flooded. It had a tall Moorish tower. Interior completely reconstructed in 1900 as Tivoli Theatre of Varieties, with a fine neo-Classical auditorium with one very deep fan-shaped balcony, twelve boxes and seating accommodation for over 2000. In 1963 the foyer and main facade were completely refurbished and the tower was demolished. Further major alterations in 1980/1 improved the dressing rooms to accommodate 100 artists, raised the grid from 15.25m (50ft) to 22m (72ft), and redecorated and reseated the auditorium to excellent effect. With later improvements, the Hippodrome is the major regional touring house for opera and ballet in the Midlands and, since 1990, the home of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. The main façe and part of the returns were clad in 1984 with coloured glass fibre material in a sort of post-modern classic. Parts of the 1899 theatre remain visible externally. The auditorium design appears to be in line of descent from Manchester Palace (1913) and Drury Lane (1922) with three bays of boxes set between fluted Ionic columns on either side of the proscenium opening. There is a single balcony, with a long curving front, reflecting later, cinema-influenced styles. The annexe built in 1990 on land newly acquired, to provide the Birmingham Royal Ballet with its headquarters, is a self-contained unit, but linked to the theatre. It has a brick façe with mirror glass windows and contains offices and four spacious studios. A further major extension and improvement project in 2000 included a complete overhaul of the theatre’s public and backstage areas, the addition of a 200 seat studio theatre, a centre for the treatment of dance injuries and a striking new façe, carried around the Hurst Street/Thorp Street corner.

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Side Elevation of Birmingham Hippodrome, 1988
© Theatres Trust

Exterior of the Birmingham Hippodrome, 1988
© Theatres Trust

Side and rear elevation of Birmingham Hippodrome taken during refurbishments, 2000
© Theatres Trust

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  • Other names
    Tower of Varieties & Circus, Tivoli Theatre of Varieties, Hippodrome; Barrasford’s Hippodrome; Hippodrome Theatre of Varieties; Tivoli, Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Theatre
  • Events
    • Owner/Management: (ii) Dance Xchange
    • Owner/Management: Sub-lessees: (i) Birmingham Royal Ballet
    • Owner/Management: Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust Ltd, lessees
    • Owner/Management: Birmingham City Council, freeholders
    • Owner/Management: For earlier owners, managers etc, see notes on file
    • 1899 Design/Construction:
      • F Horton & Co (Birmingham) - Consultant: Internal Decorations
    • 1899 Design/Construction:
      • F W Lloyd - Architect
    • 1900 Alteration: auditorium rebuilt and stage enlarged
      • F W Lloyd - Architect
    • 1914 Alteration: redesigned (not known if work executed)
      • Charles Collett - Architect
    • 1917 Alteration: altered internally
      • Bertie Crewe - Architect
    • 1925 Alteration: auditorium rebuilt
      • Burdwood & Mitchell - Architect
    • 1963 Alteration: tower and part frontage demolished; main façade redone; altered internally
      • Edwin M Lawson - Architect
    • 1981 Design/Construction:
      • John Wyckham Assoc - Consultant: Theatre Consultants
    • 1981 Alteration: major alterations and improvements
      • J Seymour Harris Partnership - Architect
    • 1984 Alteration: stage extended; other alterations
      • J Seymour Harris Partnership - Architect
    • 1986 Alteration: exterior clad in glass fibre coloured facing
      • J Seymour Harris Partnership - Architect
    • 1990 Alteration: Birmingham Royal Ballet HQ built
      • J Seymour Harris Partnership - Architect
    • 1992 Alteration: stalls rake increased; other improvements
      • J Seymour Harris Partnership - Architect
    • 1994 Alteration: restaurant enlarged
      • J Seymour Harris Partnership - Architect
    • 2000 Alteration: completely refurbished; second theatre space created; new façade constructed
      • Associated Architects/Law & Dunbar-Nasmith - Architect
  • Capacities
    • Original: 1900
    • Later: 1900: 2600 plus boxes 1912: 3000 1975: 1948 198
    • Current: 1887
  • Listings
    • Grade Not listed
  • Stage type
    • Flat, with 81 counterweight lines
  • Dimensions
    • Stage dimensions: 1912 Depth: 38ft Width SL: 40ft SR: 40ft 1925 Depth: 33ft 9in 1993 Depth: 68ft Width SL: 42.5ft SR: 42.5ft
    • Proscenium width: 42ft (12.79m)
    • Height to grid: 1925: 48ft 1993: 72ft
    • Inside proscenium: 42ft
    • Orchestra pit: variable to accommodate up to 100

Of the period

Auditorium of the Empire Theatre during conversion to the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 1993
Festival (Edinburgh)

Have you seen?

The Gods at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 1993
Royal Lyceum

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