Birmingham Hippodrome

495

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 façade 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 façade 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 façade, carried around the Hurst Street/Thorp Street corner.

Built / Converted
1899
Dates of use
Current state
Extant
Current use
Theatre
Address
Hurst Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4TB, England
Website-
Further details
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: Birmingham City Council, freeholders
  • Owner/Management: Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust Ltd, lessees
  • Owner/Management: Sub-lessees: (i) Birmingham Royal Ballet
  • Owner/Management: (ii) Dance Xchange
  • Owner/Management: For earlier owners, managers etc, see notes on file
  • 1899 Design/Construction:
    F W Lloyd
    - Architect
  • 1899 Design/Construction:
    F Horton & Co (Birmingham)
    - Consultant
    internal decorations
  • 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 Alteration: major alterations and improvements
    J Seymour Harris Partnership
    - Architect
  • 1981 Design/Construction:
    John Wyckham Assoc
    - Consultant
    theatre consultants
  • 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
  • Capacity
    Original
    Description
    1900
  • Capacity
    Later
    Description
    1900: 2600 plus boxes
    1912: 3000
    1975: 1948
    198
  • Capacity
    Current
    Description
    1887
Listings
  • Listing
    Not listed
Stage type
Flat, with 81 counterweight lines
Building 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