Skip to main content



Opened by Carlo Gatti in 1867 as a music hall to replace the Hungerford Hall when Hungerford Market was demolished for the building of Charing Cross Station. 'Gatti's-under-the-Arches' was formed from two railway arches which were already licensed as a pub. After a long period during the twentieth century as a cinema, boxing arena and, during World War II, a fire station, it was taken over by the Players' Theatre Club who reconverted one of the arches to a music hall and supper room, a use which continued until the extensive redevelopment of Charing Cross Station in the late 1980s.

The exterior, set back from the then general shop frontages in Villiers Street, behind a vestigial garden, made no visual impact, being no more than the sparsely detailed filling of two arches.

The auditorium was apparently in the same position as the original music hall, as enchantingly recorded by Sickert, but Gatti's original floor was well below Street level. By the time it reopened as the Players' it had a sharply raked floor with a flat so-called 'shelf' at the back, behind which was a bar, nearly at ground level. The tunnel roof was masked by a striped velarium. There was a small buffet bar on the prompt side. No gallery. The proscenium was an architectural mishap, not helped in its latter days by the need to insert an additional means of escape. Get-in was through the auditorium. The wardrobe, beneath the 'shelf' was a tightly packed burrow. Conditions were such that the theatre should have failed instantly, but the Players' 'Late Joys' show became modern London's longest-running, constantly refreshed entertainment.

The Players' Theatre Club started in 6 New Compton Street, later moving to 43 King Street (the same address as Evans's historic Song and Supper Rooms), but the Arches gave them their first regular theatre, where they remained until the station redevelopment in 1987. After three years in a temporary home at the Duchess Theatre (q.v.), they moved to a new home under new arches further up Villiers Street (now the Charing Cross Theatre, q.v.).

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1867 - 1910: and 1946-1987
Current state
Current use
173 & 174 Hungerford Arches, Villiers Street, London, Westminster, WC2N, England
Further details
Other names
Players' Theatre , Arches Playhouse , Charing Cross Music Hall , Arena Cinema , Forum Cinema
  • 1867 Design/Construction: conversion of railway arches
  • 1867 Owner/Management: Carlo Gatti (and other members of the family)
  • 1867 - 1910 Use: and 1946-1987
  • 1903 Owner/Management: various managers (MH and cinema proprietors)
  • 1946 Alteration: re-conversion to music hall and supper room
  • 1946 Owner/Management: Leonard Sachs & Jean Anderson (Players’ Theatre Club)
  • 1949 Owner/Management: Don Gemmell, Reginald Woolley & Gervase Farjeon
  • 1987 Demolition: re-development of the site.
  • 1987 Owner/Management: Dominic Le Foe
  • Capacity
    ‘more than 1000’ (actually c.600)
  • Capacity
    1947: 350
    1971: 300
  • Listing
    Not listed
Stage type
Proscenium flat
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Depth: 6.86m
Proscenium width: 5.49m (18ft)
Height to grid: 5.33m
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: None