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Theatres in Accrington, Lancashire

The Prince's Theatre - The Hippodrome

The Accrington Hippodrome, Ellison Street, Accrington

Later - The New Hippodrome Theatre

A February 1954 Poster for a Kayes Brothers Circus Production called 'Circus Parade' at the New Hippodrome Theatre, Accrington - Courtesy David Garratt.There have been two Theatres with the Hippodrome name standing on the same site in Accrington. The first was built and opened in 1903 and was of wooden construction, however, this Theatre caught fire on June 26th of 1908, and was burnt to the ground.

The replacement Theatre, named 'The New Hippodrome', was built in the record time of four and a half months, the contractors being Messrs J. Parkinson and Sons, of Blackpool. Work commenced on August 5th 1908, and the new Theatre opened on the 21st December the same year. The Architect being the eminent Mr Bertie Crewe of London.

Right - A February 1954 Poster for a Kayes Brothers Circus Production called 'Circus Parade' at the New Hippodrome Theatre, Accrington - Courtesy David Garratt.

The ERA newspaper dated 2nd January 1909 states:- 'The wonderful expedition with which the Hippodrome has been erected is regarded as having something like a local record in the way of quick work in putting up and fitting big buildings. From the very first any amount of 'bustle' was exhibited, and though it was only on August 5th that the contractors commenced work, the building itself was practically finished two or three weeks ago, and even the internal fittings are in a commendably forward state.'

It was stated that Music Hall and Variety programmes would be the main fare, complete with early Bioscope films as part of the programme, although it was hoped to also have Grand Opera visit the Hippodrome.

The Theatre was built with its frontage on Ellison Street, Accrington. Built of brick and stone, and operated by the Weisker Brothers of Liverpool. The Theatre was built on the most up to date principles. All entrances were from the front of the Theatre, but to permit two performances per night, separate exit doors were incorporated to facilitate a quick turn round of the audiences.

A lithograph showing the Auditorium of Bertie Crewe's New Hippodrome Theatre, Accrington - From the ERA, 2nd January 1909. Seating accommodation was provided for 1,600 people but with standing room etc., 2,000 persons could be entertained per performance. The Theatre seating was arranged in the Stalls, Pit (to the rear) downstairs, above which was the Circle, and above that the Gallery. There was one box either side of the proscenium arch. The auditorium was lavishly decorated with fibrous plaster work carried out by F. De Jong, of London. Instead of a painted Act Drop, plush tableaux house curtains were hung.

Left - A lithograph showing the Auditorium of Bertie Crewe's New Hippodrome Theatre, Accrington - From the ERA, 2nd January 1909.

The stage was between 30 and 32 feet wide by 24 feet deep with a 28 feet wide proscenium arch. A fireproof safety curtain was installed in addition to a sprinkler system. Throughout the building fire appliances were fitted, with the latest spring coupling fire apparatus in the 'flies' and in the front of house. The scenery was provided by the well known artists, Wilkins Bros, of Liverpool. Backstage there were 6 dressing rooms.

The popular Theatre Manager Mr W. Mould from the previous Hippodrome on the site was employed as the new Theatre Manager, assisted by Mr Dudley, formerly of Wilson Barrett's company and the Prince of Wales, London, as advertising manager. The stage manager was Mr Dempsey. The orchestra's conductor was Mr Taylor, of St Helens. A. R. Dean, of Birmingham supplied the upholstering. Electrical installation were by Morrisons, of Blackpool, with the plumbing and heating installations by J. Tweedale and Co of Newcastle.

In July of 1910 a new company was formed to operate the Theatre retaining a mixture of Variety and films, but by 1912 it became a live Theatre again, due to competition from Accrington's other cinemas, but despite this it reverted back to screening films from 1913.

On the 29th August 1929 the Hippodrome was the first to screen the 'talkie' film 'The Donovan Affair'. It continued as a cinema until the 1940's, reverting back to live theatrical presentation of Revues, and Variety. However, as with many Theatres in the 1950's, Nude Revues were presented until the Theatre's final closure in 1955. The Hippodrome then stood unused until the late 1960's when it was demolished, being replaced by a yard for Jewson's Building Merchants.

The above article on the Hippodrome Theatre, Accrington was researched and written for this site by David Garratt in November 2019.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Accrington in December 1871.

The Prince's Theatre, 5 Edgar Street, Accrington

Later - The Prince's Picture Theatre

A Google StreetView Image showing the site of the former Prince's Theatre, Accrington, and next door what remains of the former Empire Cinema - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image showing the site of the former Prince's Theatre, Accrington, and next door what remains of the former Empire Cinema - Click to Interact.

An Advertisement for the opening of the New Prince's Theatre, Accrington - From the Burnley Express, 4th of March 1882.The Prince's Theatre was situated at 5 Edgar Street, Accrington, and opened on Monday the 6th of March 1882 with a production of the drama 'Rip Van Winkle'. The Theatre was built for Mr John Ormerod, as proprietor, with Mr John Ormerod as the Lessee and Manager. The Manchester Times of Saturday the 11th of March 1882 states:- 'A new Theatre opened on Monday evening in Accrington – The Prince's. It has been built by Mr John Ormerod. The House was crowded. Mr Ald Haywood read the prologue, and the company sang the National Anthem.'

Right - An Advertisement for the opening of the New Prince's Theatre, Accrington - From the Burnley Express, 4th of March 1882.

The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser reported on the 9th November 1882 that on the evening of Tuesday the 7th November 1882 'Mr Charles M Hermann, the manager of the 'Uncle Toms Cabin' company, met with a serious accident. While Mr Hermann was preparing the revolvers behind the scenes two barrels exploded in his face, severely burning his forehead and left eye.'

Right from the beginning Pantomime made an annual Christmas appearance and at Christmas 1883 'Aladdin' was presented by Jas. Buchanan with Miss Clara Nicholls as Princess Badroubadour.

In 1885 the Theatre evidently closed for reconstruction and material enlargement, re-opening on Monday the 7th of September 1885. The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, dated Tuesday 8th September 1885, reports:- 'A considerable amount of money has been spent on the building, which will now hold 2500 people. It is beautifully furnished and fitted up with all modern improvements. Mr Watson who designed the Grand Theatre Leeds is the architect. In his opening address, Mr Speakman chief of Mr Wilson Barrett's Silver King company said the Theatre was one of the most comfortable in Lancashire.'

The Theatre presented Plays and Melodrama, and also had visits of Opera. Early productions included:-

Christmas 1899 the pantomime 'Little Red Riding Hood' was presented featuring Miss Rose St George as Roland, Miss Jenna Venor as Fairy Goldheart, and Miss Amanda Aubrey as Red Riding Hood, plus The Six Royal Welchman, and the Rhondda Valley Glee Singers. The Pantomime ending featured the Grand Transformation scene into the Harlequinade; 'Falke', a comic opera, week commencing 28th January 1901; 'What a Woman Did', week commencing 15th August 1904; 'Dare-Devil Dorothy', week commencing 30th September 1907; 'The Sinned', week commencing 18th October 1909; 'Alone in London' by Harriet Jay, week commencing 28th February 1910.

The Theatre was redecorated in August 1909 and had now changed it's productions policy to staging Variety acts, with early silent films as part of the programme.

By 1920 the Theatre had gone over to being a full time cinema, renamed 'The Prince's Picture Theatre,' but later reverted back to live theatrical presentations, and also reverting back to the name 'The Prince's Theatre.' Revues were popular at this time, and J. Gordon Flemming presented 'When the Clock Stops', advertised as a 'timely' revue during the week commencing 30th August 1926. The cast included Cameron Hall, Doris Davies, Oscar Williams, Coral Dark, Cecile Barnes and the Victor Clockwork girls.

The Theatre was later operated by the Star Cinemas Chain of Leeds but was eventually destroyed by fire in 1964. It had been situated adjacent to the Empire Picture Palace which at the time was operating as a Bingo Hall. After Bingo the Empire reopened again as a cinema now calling itself the New Prince's Cinema, so the Prince's name lived on.

A Google StreetView Image showing what remains of the former Empire Cinema, Accrington, and beyond it the site of the former Prince's Theatre - Click to Interact.The fire which destroyed the old Prince's Theatre meant that it was subsequently demolished. When flattened the site became a car park to the adjacent Empire / New Prince's Cinema. Eventually this cinema also closed for the last time and was converted to a plumber's Merchants. By 1998 the Empire building was converted for housing with office space on the ground floor but the Theatre's facade still exists to this day.

Right - A Google StreetView Image showing what remains of the former Empire Cinema, Accrington, and beyond it the site of the former Prince's Theatre - Click to Interact.

The above article on the Prince's Theatre, Accrington was researched and written for this site by David Garratt in September 2019.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Accrington in December 1871.

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