A Souvenir of the London Hippodrome
and welcome to this Special Feature on the Playgoer's Souvenir of the
London Hippodrome from 1902,
kindly sent in by Iain Wotherspoon who says: 'The water spectacle finale,
"The Bandits", which is mentioned in this article ran
from the 16th of June to the 29th of November, 1902.
(My Great, Great, Great Uncle, Charles Weir played the dashing hero
The article includes details of the building, what it was like to sit in its lavish auditorium, and the fantastic variety of acts gracing its stage. The article is illustrated with wonderful images of the building and some of its performers. Enjoy!
There are a great many more articles on the London Hippodrome on this site and you will find an index to them all here.
This Special Feature was first created in October 2008 but was updated in March 2015 when all seperate pages were combined into this one.
The Hippodrome has been classed among the wonders of the London, and, like Westminster Abbey, is one of the "sights." Moreover, the Hippodrome may claim the still higher distinction of being unique as a place of entertainment combining the specialties of the circus with the attractions of the variety stage; whilst its huge water shows, its splendid stage equipment, and its wonderful mechanical contrivances make it a showplace without rival. It is decorated in the Flemish style, with marble stairs and walls, and mosaic floors and painted ceilings.
Perrhaps the mention of the fact that the Hippodrome cost a quarter of a million to erect will convey a clearer conception of the beauty of this triumph of architectural construction.
When Mr. H. E. Moss, the managing director, threw open the doors some three years ago, it was never supposed that the London Hippodrome, with two shows daily, would attain to the gigantic success it has undoubtedly achieved, but the genius of the man who during twenty years has caused no less than seventeen handsome "Empires" to spring up throughout the land, viewed his biggest venture with the calm confidence which comes to a full knowledge of the public want and repeated successes in the past.
Right - Mrs Gertrude Scott, one of the actresses appearing in the new Hippodrome sensation, The Bandits.
The London Hippodrome can and does accommodate upwards of six thousand persons daily, while in the suburbs and provinces no less than 50,000 persons have amusement provided for them at Moss's Empires. This fact almost places Mr. H. E. Moss in the category of a public benefactor; at any rate, that is the opinion probably of the shareholders of the company who enjoyed a dividend of twelve and a half percent, on the ordinary shares.
The magnificence of the Hippodrome impresses you most as you sit in your comfortable stall, whilst listening to the music of the splendid band led by Mr. Carl Kiefert, the well known conductor, composer, and orchestrator.
Your programme will tell you that below the arena there is a huge tank 8 feet deep and 23 feet in circumference which, when the flooring of the arena has been lowered to the bottom, plays a sensational part in the stirring water dramas of Siberia and Talley Ho in the past, and of The Bandits of to-day.
Above - Caption Reads: The Interior of The London Hippodrome is decorated in the Flemish Renaissance style. The auditorium is of very fine proportions, being quite free from any stiffness which usually pervades a circus, while, thanks to the cantilever system, every seat commands a clear and uninterrupted view of the arena and stage. The arena, with its ingenious and elaborate machinery, is one of the most interesting mechanical devices of modern days. It has three entrances; one opposite the stage, and one on either side of the proscenium, and through these latter water can be made to flow when necessary for boats, naval displays, etc. A feature of the ceiling is an opening in the centre surrounded by an open colonnade, with handsome balcony front. This gallery is a great acquisition; high dives can be taken into the water n the arena below, and snow storms and lime-light effects can be worked from it.
Nor must one forget Eddie E. Gifford, the one legged cyclist, who not long ago dived from the roof of the building into the cool depth of this body of water; whilst another phase of the resources of the tank is on the occasions, all too rare, when the eight fountains are set to playing, by which means mighty jets of water are sent up almost to the roof, falling in cascades of diamond saphire, and ruby drops under the coloured limelight: needless to say, the result is beautiful to behold and delightfully refreshing.
Besides the general uses of the arena for equestrian feats, tumbling, and bicycling, it serves frequently as a huge menagerie, and the lion-tamers, Herr Seeth and Mdlle. Heliot, and others, have already given blood curdling exhibitions in the midst of the stalls, and in perfect safety as regards the spectators.
For those shows an ingenious contrivance in the shape of a huge grille rises, under hydraulic pressure, round the edge of the arena, forming a complete cage. But the mechanical wonders do not cease here for indeed one might fill pages in describing the novel methods of electric lighting, ventilation, and heating. I must, however, say a few words respecting the stage.
It is supported by a system of girders, and, by the application of hydraulic rams, can be lowered some six or seven feet, thus bringing it on the level of the arena. By this expedient the stage and arena can be made to form one plane at will, affording opportunities of bringing together for spectacular purposes large bodies of coryphees, soldiers, horses, elephants, etc., and all the grand features in the magnificent displays and tableaux which have made the annual pantomimes the talk of the town, thanks to the wonderful stage management of Mr. Frank Parker.
Right - Caption Reads: White marble stairs, mosaic floors, and marble walls (with rich molded work and artistic paintings) furnish the wide entrance corridor which leads through a quaint semi-circular opening into the grand foyer. This is one of the handsomest in London; it has eight rich marble columns (forming the apartment into eight sides), the walls are lined with marble, and the whole of the ceiling is a painted glass dome, which at night is illuminated by electric light. The foyer is sumptuously furnished with velvet-pile carpet and luxurious upholstered settees, etc.
One can but give a "snap-shot" description of the "show" at the Hippodrome, for the reason that the programme is constantly being changed; indeed, novelty and excellence are the two watchwords of the establishment. Wherever a new and surprising turn presents itself in any part of the world, it is at once secured for the Hippodrome, and irrespectively of cost. On some occasions a salary of £300 per week has been paid for one item alone.
Above - Caption Reads: To the right of the foyer is the grand saloon. It is fitted and furnished as a ship's saloon; the walls and ceiling are covered with fumed oak, and the counter and fittings are in keeping with the idea, even to portholes, which show a view of the sea beyond. A gallery is formed at the top, with a sky-light over; and the costumes of the attendants are semi-naval.
Place aux dames, I will introduce Mddle. Helene Gerard, a bewitching young lady, who, from a fairy chariot of flowers, directs her highly trained horse "Leopard" to go through the most remarkable steps and evolutions of the haute ecole, while her tricky dogs pass in and out of the spokes of the wheels of the chariot whilst it parades the arena. It is a graceful and refined turn. It is the lady's father who is depicted in the photograph. If you desire to see the lady, you will have to go to the Hippodrome.
If you desire to see the lady, you will have to go to the Hippodrome as I am told by Mr. Henry W. Garrick, the courteous Press representative, that the demand for Mddle. Gerard's picture far exceeds the supply.
An important and regular item is the Edisonograph. So smart is the gentleman who takes the animated pictures that the views seem almost to anticipate the events. For instance, you see processions, races, and football contests at the Hippodrome almost before you have had time to read about them in the papers.
Right - Caption Reads: The Main Entrance to the Hippodrome - at the corner of Cranbourne Street and Charing Cross Road. The roof tower is crowned with a beautiful open iron-work ornament on top of which is a fine group in bronze representing a chariot and horses driven by a Roman.
And what have we here? Why, it's Marcelline in another disguise; but his cleverness defies very long concealment, for there is only one Marcelline in the world. The funniest droll that ever set a house in a roar, yet he never utters a syllable. His pantomime is far more eloquent than his words could be. Probably, the secret of his success is the sympathy he evokes, for your heart goes out to this little man, with his bon-homie, his quaint antics, and his marvelous acrobatic feats. Since the opening of the Hippodrome, Marcelline has scarcely ever been "out of bill." He is the unqualified delight of "grown-ups" as well as of the children.
Left - Caption Reads: "Marceline," a great favourite - especially with the children - at the Hippodrome.
A favourite turn, too, with the latter, is the Klein family who ride on single wheels without seat or handle-bars, and go through musical rides, pretty evolutions, and acrobatic dexterities, while the eldest member of the family, a youth presumably of some sixteen years, revolves on his hind wheels, takes his machine to pieces as he rides, and turns a somersault over the saddle before reseating himself.
A little black boy supplies the comic element of this turn with much success. I unfortunately, am not able to give a photograph of M. Salamonsky, seated in Knight's armour on his famous horse, caparisoned as for the titling lists. His artistic make-up forms a symphony in white, and when the lights are turned down most charming effects are produced by coloured lime-light, after the manner of miss Louie Fuller; indeed, in one part of the performance the horseman, on a revolving platform, imitates that lady's skirt-dancing. However, what will attract greater attention is the horse's step-dancing. It is the most perfect I have ever witnessed.
Then Everhart, the Champion Hoop Manipulator, performs with a series of hoops (as seen in the photograph), twisting them by a turn of the wrist until they seem to obey him like sentient beings, circling about him, running away, yet coming back to frisk over his shoulders and all around him.
Right - Mr. Frank Parker, the Hippodrome's stage manager.
Quite a different turn is that given by Mr. Paul Conchas, a strong-man, who plays with cannon balls and Krupp shells of immense weight, catching them on his back just below the nape of his neck. It is rather painful to watch him, as, in case the shell failed to fall fair on the desired spot, the consequence would be too serious to name. However, as an athlete, M. Conchas is a picture of strength and symmetry; in fact, I do not know a more perfect anatomical study.
Above - Miss Madge Girdlestone in the new Hippodrome Sensation, The Bandits.
Above - A "turn" at the Hippodrome. The Klein family trick cycle riders.
Above - Another "turn" at the Hippodrome. Mddle. Gerard, seated in the fairy-like chariot here depicted, directs her highly-trained horse "Leopard" to go through some remarkable steps and evolutions.
Above - Caption Reads: The Great Everhart show does wonderful things with hoops at the Hippodrome
The new Hippodrome sensation, The Bandits, written by Alicia Ramsay and Rudolph de Cordova, is played by a distinguished company, including the well known actresses, Miss Madge Girdlestone and Miss Gertrude Scott. Mr. Albert Hengler's study of water-plunging horses takes the last curtain; in point of fact they are the raison d'etre of the drama, which is written with sparse literary care.
Left - Plan of The New London Hippodrome
Therefore, to "cut the crackle and come to the 'osses," we will jump to the 4th scene - "The Eagle's Nest." This gives you a view up a ravine where a brigand chief holds captive the bride of his brother, the great Count Antonio. An attempt at rescue is about to be made by the soldiery, but as they approach they are fired upon, and in consequence have to plunge off the bridge to save their lives. The Count, however, is more successful, and putting the lady into his coach, prepares to flee with her to safety, but an explosion of dynamite in the mill-house sets free the pent up waters, which rush with irresistible force down the valley, sweeping the bridge and the coach with its plunging team into the river.
It presents a most remarkable effect, thrilling and impressive as far as the audience is concerned. The horses have not yet been interviewed on the subject.
Finally, the Hippodrome is in every way so admirably conducted in the hands of Mr. H. E. Moss, its managing director, Mr. Frank Allen, its general manager, and Mr. Jas. Aynsley Cook, its business manager, that the action of the London County Council in withholding a full license is simply astonishing. T. Hanson Lewis, The Playgoer 1902.
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