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Tameside Hippodrome


Beginning life in November 1904 as the Ashton Empire and Hippodrome, Tameside Hippodrome was part of the Broadhead Circuit. In the early years it featured variety acts. The front façade was originally typical of J J Alley - a simple three bay, red brick frontage with sparse yellow brick relief and broad gable, decorated dentil detailing to recessed windows, string-courses and parapet returns as well as corbels and ball finials to ends. It incorporated a shop on either side of the central entrance.

The central projecting bay was rendered in 1933. Recent research and careful measurement has revealed that this did not involve the insertion of new windows as previously thought. The windows are original to the 1904 building and it is believed that the entire 1904 brick façade is intact underneath. Photographic evidence has proven that the stained glass in the building, previously thought to be 1930s Art Deco, was in fact part of the original 1904 building also and closely resembles an early design by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The central bay now has a triangular pediment (added in 1976). The original pillar-supported canopy was replaced with a streamlined cantilevered one in 1933, to which a pediment was added in 1993. 1960s tiles, 1990s pilasters, and 2005 doors along the ground floor.

Previously a 2,000 capacity three-tier auditorium with boxes, the auditorium was completely reconstructed in 1933 with a 600-seat cantilevered single-span circle. The full seating capacity was reduced to 1,600. Clean streamlined Art Deco style. Plasterwork detailing similar to that of the Plaza Cinema in Stockport (same architect, Drury & Gomersall), with embellished proscenium arch, chevroned organ grills topped with a sunburst. Coved lighting throughout, full height pilasters and niches. The sidewalls were once finished in fanciful Art Deco plaster relief, some of which remains to either side of the organ chambers and to the upper section of the circle. The former 100-seat first floor café was remodelled in the 1960s to form a bar, and altered again in 1976 and 1990. All the original coving and plasterwork detail from 1933 remains intact both here and in the ground floor foyer which houses the modern box office and front-of-house sales. The original 1904 stage remains, along with its safety curtain - although the counterweight mechanism and operating system were updated in 2005. The double-height fly tower incorporates the original wooden grid although hemp flying was replaced in 1982 with 35 sets of single-purchase counterweight sets. To the rear of the stage are the original eight dressing rooms. Further to the rear is the engine house, where the theatre originally produced its own electricity. This was converted in 2005 to provide further dressing rooms, laundry and offices. The theatre closed in April 2008. A threat of demolition in 2009 was halted by statutory listing. 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.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1904 - 2008: Theatre
Current state
Current use
Dark (currently at risk)
Oldham Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, OL6 7SE, England
Further details
Other names
Empire Hippodrome , New Empire , ABC , Tameside Theatre
  • 1904 Owner/Management: Broadhead Circuit, owner (on death of William, to Percy, son)
  • 1904 Design/Construction:
    J J Alley
    - Architect
  • 1904 - 2008 Use: Theatre
  • 1914 Alteration: 1904 Bioscope Box remodelled.
  • 1933 Alteration: converted to super-cinema; auditorium and foyers redesigned, removing balcony and installing cantilevered circle. Bioscope Box removed.
    Drury & Gomersall
    - Architect
  • 1934 Owner/Management: Union, taken over by Union Circuit, and later ABC, owner
  • 1935 Alteration: facade redesigned; theatre boxes removed and Compton organ installed.
    Drury & Gomersall
    - Architect
  • 1964 Owner/Management: EMI (as part of take-over), owner
  • 1975 Owner/Management: Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, lessees
  • 1976 Alteration: refurbished; organ removed (architect unknown).
  • 1983 Owner/Management: Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, owner
  • 1983 Alteration: refurbished; hemp flying system replaced by counterweight system (architect unknown).
  • 1983 - 2007 Owner/Management: Apollo Leisure/Live Nation, lessee
  • 2005 Alteration: Safety curtain mechanism updated; engine house behind stage house converted to dressing rooms, laundry and offices.
  • Capacity
  • Capacity
    1933: 1600
    1983: 1262
  • Capacity
  • Listing
Stage type
Proscenium raked
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: 1910: Depth: 12.19m Width 27.43m 1983: Depth: 12.19m Width SL: 9.84m SR: 10.7m
Proscenium width: 1910: 10.67m 1983: 10.59m
Height to grid: 12.8m
Inside proscenium: 30.48m
Orchestra pit: -