Derby Hippodrome

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

Derby Hippodrome
Green Lane, Derby, Derbyshire DE1 1ES
Risk Rating
6 (Community Rating: 2, Star Value: 1, Risk Factor: 3)
Local Authority
Derby City Council
Blake Finance
Marshall & Tweedy
Date of Construction
Grade II
1,000-1,200 (estimated)


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.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Derby Hippodrome has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2006 when we started the list.

Following the end of the former theatre’s use as a bingo hall in 2006, substantial damage was caused in 2008 when the then-owner was supposed to be undertaking essential repair works.  Since then, there have been incidents of arson and vandalism leading to the destruction of the front of house.

Disastrously these works have left the theatre partially demolished. There is now vegetation growth throughout the now-unroofed building. It is believed that the current owner has plans for the redevelopment of the site that would inevitably lead to the loss of the theatre.

While the building has the potential to provide the city with an elegant lyric theatre or live music venue, its fate is inextricably linked to the council’s decision on cultural provision within the city.

Theatre potential

The Hippodrome has the potential to be rebuilt and restored for either theatre or music use that could provide Derby with an elegant 1,000-1,200 capacity venue that is not currently available in the city.  However, finding a solution to restoring the Hippodrome has been hindered by both the private ownership of the building and by a lack of clarity regarding the wider cultural ambition for Derby.

Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust (DHRT) was formed in 2010 following the partial demolition of the auditorium and stage house in 2008. It has been actively campaigning to secure, restore and reopen the building and has commissioned work to evidence the viability of this. Theatres Trust has been providing the group with advice and support throughout this time.

Work undertaken by DHRT to evidence the viability of the building has included:

  • In 2016 - a structural assessment and valuation of the property demonstrating that the main structure was sound
  • In 2018 – completing a high-level business plan and viability study for the building that provided for a phased approach to restoring the building, allowing for active use while proposals are developed and funding sought for the full-scale restoration of the venue
  • In 2020/21 – DHRT and Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust (DHBT) were awarded a Theatres Trust's Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme grantof £15,000 to support a detailed study into the operational viability of the Hippodrome, undertaken by arts consultancy Bonnar Keenlyside. The final report identified that the theatre building has a potential future as a live music venue. 

Current situation

The future of the Hippodrome must be seen against the wider cultural ambition for Derby. A significant regeneration scheme for the Becketwell area of the city is underway, being delivered by a private property developer, alongside Derby City Council. Phase One of construction was completed in Sept 2023 and work is now underway on Phase Two, a new 3,500-capacity events and conference venue, which will be operated by ASM Global, a leading venue management and services company, and producer of live experiences. Completion and handover to the operator is scheduled for early 2025.

Derby City Council, together with Derby Theatre and the University of Derby, has secured £20m from the Levelling Up Fund which is also due to improve the cultural provision across the city centre. While the original proposal had been to create a new learning theatre on the site of the Assembly Rooms, this plan has been abandoned due to rising costs. The current scheme (November 2023) will see the funding split between the Guildhall Theatre and Derby Theatre to enhance their existing facilities. 

While regeneration will undoubtedly benefit the Hippodrome, neither of these development schemes address the historic site and could go much further to integrate the building within the proposals. Theatres Trust, DHRT and DHBT continue to push the role of the Hippodrome within the regeneration of the area and the opportunities that this elegant Grade II building could offer in terms of the setting, cultural offer to complement that of the wider city, and economic and community benefit.

In April 2023 DHRT received a grant from our Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities programme to take forward the recommendations from the 2021 Bonnar Keenleyside operational viability study. Working with DHBT as a key partner this work will create a road map to move the Hippodrome from being a derelict building to a destination music venue. This includes identifying the vision and mission of the venue and exploring governance and operational options, as well as engaging the public and stakeholders in the process.

In the meantime, the state and condition of the building continues to deteriorate. In 2021, following a grant from Historic England, Derby City Council sought to employ specialist consultant structural engineers to undertake a condition survey of the structure, with a view to preparing an Urgent Works Notice. Unfortunately, this work was delayed due to difficulties with the tendering process and budgetary constraints within the council.  However, specialist consultants were able to access the property in September 2023 to survey the building and prepare a list of urgent works. Historic England continue to work with the council to move this process forward, which could ultimately lead to the compulsory purchase of the building.

Theatres Trust will continue to advocate for action to prevent further decline in the condition of the building and support Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust and Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust in developing a viable future for the building, should there be a change of ownership.

Main photo Derby Hippodrome, Theatres Trust