Hulme Hippodrome

A music hall with a spectacular auditorium with gilded Rococo plasterwork and a Floral Hall, an Edwardian atrium and waiting area for theatre patrons. An iconic building of social, historical, and architectural significance; currently in poor repair.

Interior and stage of derelict theatre with ornate and colourful plasterwork, viewed from the balcony
Warwick Street, Hulme, Manchester, M15 5EU
Risk Rating
8 (Community Value: 2, Star Rating: 3, Risk Factor: 3)
HHM20 Ltd
Joseph John Alley
Date of Construction
Grade II
Estimated at c.1,300


Hulme Hippodrome is a splendid Grade II listed music hall. It was constructed for the Broadhead Circuit which operated 17 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 The two theatres together represent an unusual twin theatre arrangement with strong group value and great significance.

The Hippodrome continued in use as a theatre until 1962, predominately as a variety theatre, however with a period as a repertory theatre during and after World War II. Between 1950-56 the Hippodrome was rented on Sundays by the BBC to make radio programmes with invited live audiences. This period was the peak of Northern Variety with its distinctive working-class humour such as Variety Fanfare being broadcast nationally from the venue. Twenty different variety programme titles were made at the Hippodrome, including Morecambe and Wise’s first programme series of their own.

The uses of the building throughout the years have meant that the Hippodrome’s magnificent auditorium remains largely unaltered and the spectacular gilded Rococo plasterwork had remained remarkably intact. The unusual auditorium design of 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, also remains.

The Hippodrome 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.

The Hippodrome was last used for theatre in the 1960s; and was in bingo use from 1962 until its closure in 1986. The Floral Hall, adjacent to the main theatre and by then with added floors and ceilings, was used as a snooker hall. Previous owner Gilbert Deya Ministries purchased the building in 2003,operating from the ground floor of the Floral Hall only and 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 and misleading information that stated the building had the potential for conversion to residential accommodation. It was removed from the auction at the request of campaigners, Theatres Trust, and the council.

It subsequently emerged that the Hippodrome had been sold twice in quick succession prior to the attempted auction, with an initial sale to a private individual for £450k and a further (same day) sale, at an increased value, to newly formed company HHM20 Ltd. Land Registry only registered the first change in ownership in August 2023 after queries regarding the sale and requests for further information had been met

The building remains vacant and vulnerable. Two drone surveys (2021 and 2022) carried out by Save Hulme Hippodrome indicate the increasing scale of 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. There is also concern that the condition of the Hippodrome roof is contributing to a worsening condition in the adjacent Playhouse where, in November 2023, it was reported that water ingress through the party wall is now starting to affect roof timbers.

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 a further wave of urban regeneration in the 1990s. The theatre could find a use as part of the local community, not least being one of few surviving community buildings from the pre1960s. 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 building. Its vision is to restore it 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. 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 has been working with the group to support this ambition.

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. Its one-month Crowdfunder to support its campaign reached its target within five days.

The group is also continuing to raise the profile of the building within the local community, with key stakeholders and funders, and within Manchester City Council. It has held and continues to hold, various community events and an oral history project with those in the community who remember working / visiting the theatre as children in the 1950s.

The group has recently successfully applied to the Architectural Heritage Fund for a grant to help evidence the viability of the Hippodrome as a local community and arts centre.

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.

Current situation

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

Manchester City Council’s planning department has been proactive in its attempts to engage with the Hippodrome’s owners past and present. Past actions include offering to work with the Gilbert Deya Ministries to bring forward a proposal to secure the long-term future of the building.

In February 2022, Manchester City Council served a new Section 215 notice of disamenity to all possible owners of the Hippodrome. The notice detailed 11 areas that required attention and timescales for these works to be completed. This included repair work to damaged windows, roof tiles, and rainwater goods, and removal of vegetation growth and graffiti. HHM20 Ltd appealed against the Section 215 in July 2022. New timescales were agreed upon for HHM20 Ltd to carry out survey and investigation work. At the second court hearing for the Section 215 in January 2023, the appeal was dismissed, and the original notice was upheld although with minor variations included omitting the repair works to the roof. HHM20 Ltd was also ordered to pay the council’s legal costs.  

The court agreement also required that the owner and their development team undertake a feasibility study to provide a realistic assessment of potential viable new uses within Hulme Hippodrome.  

While HHM20 Ltd has undertaken a number of the works outlined in the S215 notice, it is not clear whether all works have been completed. In the meantime, the roof has yet to be repaired and the building continues to deteriorate. In response, Save Hulme Hippodrome has launched a petition to get the owner to fix the holes in the roof and requesting the council to enforce the action if necessary.

Save Hulme Hippodrome would like to buy the Hippodrome and restore it to its former glory for community use. The group has publicly announced that there is an angel investor, who would help to purchase the theatre should the current owner be willing to sell at a suitable valuation.

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

Update April 2024

We have awarded Save Hulme Hippodrome a grant through our Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities grants programme. Read the full story.

Photos, Hulme Hippodrome, Ian Grundy