Formerly - The Corn Exchange - Later - The Rialto Bingo Hall
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Hippodrome Theatre, Airdrie - Click to Interact
The Corn Exchange Hall at 2 Hallcraig Street, complete with its pilasters and the town crest above the door, was built in 1856, and designed by architect James Thomson of Airdrie (who also designed the Airdrie County Buildings and his son designed the Sir John Wilson Town Hall.)
In 1908 the building was adapted by James Loudon to become the Airdrie Hippodrome with capacity for 1000 people.
Right - An early image of the Airdrie Hippodrome - Courtesy Graeme Smith.
Considerable internal changes were made in 1911, and a sloping floor installed.
One photograph shows posters for the showman Dr Walford Bodie M.D who excelled in magic, ventriloquism, hypnotism and electrical experiments. Styling himself as 'the British Edison' and assisted by 'la Belle Electra', he passed 30,000 volts through his body for the climax of his act, illuminating sixteen incandescent bulbs and two arc lamps held in his bare hands.
Left - The Bodie Hypnotic Waltz, a Dr Bodie music sheet with his sister as the pianist - Courtesy Graeme Smith.
Favourites included tenor J. H. Hamilton, violinist and composer Mackenzie Murdoch (shown right) known as The Scotch Paganini, and Lillie Langtry.
Right - Mackenzie Murdoch - Courtesy Graeme Smith.
Newspapers report that when Houdini played the Hippodrome, in 1913, thousands of people were unable to get tickets, so he put on an extra show for free out front. A crowd of 7,000 watched him being chained and handcuffed by the local police sergeant on the front steps of the theatre. Officials tried keeping him in a variety of sacks and crates too, but he kept getting loose. Finally the Water Torture Chamber was wheeled into sight and the fire brigade filled it up. Harry had little problem escaping from that as well!
Entertainments ranged from pantomimist George Lupino, actor Martin Harvey, the Graham Moffat Comedy Players, Australia`s foremost illusionist Pharos.......... to Nina Gordon, Astley`s Comedy Circus, the Futami Family of Japanese artistes, the Flying Winskills, and the Wedburns.
In 1917 the Hippodrome hosted a week of opera provided by the John Ridding Opera Company (shown below) who performed seven operas - Maritana - Il Trovatore - The Bohemian Girl - The Daughter of the Regiment - The Lily of Killarney - Rigoletto and finally Faust.
Above - The John Ridding Opera Singers in 1908 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.
In 1918 a company, Airdrie Market Buildings and Picture House Limited, was formed by a Motherwell firm to acquire the buildings. Three years later its shares were bought by James Loudon and his wife, lessees of the Hippodrome, and in 1929 they leased the property to the Rialto Picture House, for cinema and cine-variety until 1938, a regular performer being Jack Radcliffe.
It was subsequently sold in 1949 to the Crescent Cinema Company, owned by Alex Frutin of the Metropole Theatre, Glasgow. From 1962 to 2007 it operated as the well equipped Rialto Bingo Hall.
The building continues and is being converted for residential use.
This Article on the Airdrie Hippodrome, was written by Graeme Smith and kindly sent in for inclusion on this site by him in January 2013.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre you are willing to share please Contact me.
Later - La Scala
Above - An early image of the Public Hall, Airdrie - Courtesy Graeme Smith.
The Public Hall was built in 1867 for the Airdrie Public Hall Company Limited.
(Sir) Frank Benson (shown right) made his first appearance as an actor/manager on the 8th May 1883 as a member of the Walter Bentley Company, a company which Benson then bought over. Bentley`s real name was William Begg, son of a Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and a grandson of Dr James Begg of New Monklands. It was the venue for many years for concerts, bands, numerous meetings and entertainments run by the Good Templars.
Right - Sir Frank Benson - Courtesy Graeme Smith.
At the turn of the century Bioscope pictures were added, and by 1911 it was part of a chain of picture houses run by J. J. Bennell, originally from Manchester, who had been a travelling salesman for Sidney Carter's Pictures.
Bennell started his BB Picture Houses (Bright and Beautiful) in 1907 when he took over the Wellington Palace, Commercial Road, Glasgow which previously had been run as a variety house by the Good Templars.
Renamed La Scala in 1928 it was demolished in 1953 after a fire.
This Article on the Airdrie Public Hall, was written by Graeme Smith and kindly sent in for inclusion on this site by him in January 2013.
If you have any more information or images for this Building you are willing to share please Contact me.
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