Derby Hippodrome

It was 10 years ago today that a substantial part of the Derby Hippodrome was demolished leaving it open to the elements and further decay.

Designed by Newcastle-upon-Tyne architects Marshall and Tweedy, the Hippodrome was built on the site of Derby’s first private lunatic asylum on the corner of Green Lane and Macklin Street.

As a 2,000-seat theatre the Hippodrome was a popular destination for the residents of Derby along with those from further a field and a haunt for showbiz top talent. An early claim to fame is that the dressing room provided the location in 1927 for the celebrated music entertainer Bud Flanagan to write his best-known song, “Underneath the Arches” with the arches in question being underneath Derby’s Friargate Station.

With the coming of “the talkies” in 1927 the appeal of live entertainment waned, and the theatre was converted to a cinema in 1930, however this phase was short-lived, and the building closed in 1940. Being brought by Stoll Theatre Corporation in 1950 the building was returned to it’s roots and many A-listers such as Morecambe & Wise, Cliff Richard and Ken Dodd gave sold out shows.

It was only 9 years later that the doors closed yet again and in 1961 Mecca became the new owners turning it into one of their bingo halls and remaining in this form until 2007.

After being left unoccupied until 2008 the building was bought by a developer, Christopher Anthony, who had visions of turning the Grade II listed building into a multi-storey car park. Under the pretence of the guise of carrying out repairs Mr Anthony instructed ‘A B Demolition’, to bring a large excavator onto the site and commence the demolition of the building. Fortunately, there was an intervention and the demolition work was stopped but not before substantial sections were destroyed including the removal of structural metal beams supporting the roof, the side walls, stage house and flytower.

Since the time that theses works were carried out the building has remained unoccupied and un-repaired with several arson attacks causing further damage. However, the building is not un-cared-for with a local organisation ‘Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust’ continuing to shrive to return the Hippodrome back to its former glory as a theatre.

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