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Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

Theatres in Derby, Derbyshire, East Midlands

The Derby Theatre / Derby Playhouse - The Derby Hippodrome - The Grand Theatre

See also - Chatsworth House Theatre, Derbyshire - Andrew Melville

The Derby Theatre, Eagle Centre, Theatre Walk, Derby

Formerly - The Derby Playhouse

A Google StreetView Image of the Derby Theatre, formerly the Derby Playhouse - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Derby Theatre, formerly the Derby Playhouse - Click to Interact

The Derby Theatre is situated within the Eagle Shopping Centre off Theatre Walk in Derby. It was opened in 2009 and is run by the University of Derby with funding from the Arts Council of England as a training house for theatre students. When it first opened it was run in conjunction with Derby Live, which was Derby Council's performing arts programme, and originally staged visiting productions as well as its own student productions, but this ceased in 2012 and the Theatre is now run solely by the University. The Theatre has seating for 535 in its single level auditorium, and a fully equipped stage, orchestra pit, and dressing rooms. There is also a small 'experimental' Studio Theatre with seating for 110, and a rehearsal space and wardrobe facilities in the University's former Arts College and Metro Cinema on Green Lane.

Although the Derby Theatre opened in 2009 the building actually began life back in the 1970s as the Derby Playhouse, opening on the 20th of September 1975 with a production of 'My Fair Lady'. The Theatre was designed by Roderick Ham, who also designed the Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead. From its opening it was run by Derby Playhouse Ltd, a Company which had been in operation since 1948. The Playhouse got into financial difficulties in 2007 however, and closed the following year after a final performance of 'The Killing of Sister George' in October 2008.

You may like to visit the Derby Theatre's own website here.

The Derby Hippodrome, Green Lane, Derby

The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

Above - The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

A programme for 'White Birds' which was performed at the Derby Hippodrome in the week of the 20th of February 1928 - Courtesy Roy Cross.The Derby Hippodrome was designed by Marshall & Tweedy as a large Variety Theatre and opened on the 20th of July 1914 with a production called 'September Morn'

Right and Below - A programme for 'White Birds' which was performed at the Derby Hippodrome in the week of the 20th of February 1928 - Courtesy Roy Cross.

A programme for 'White Birds' which was performed at the Derby Hippodrome in the week of the 20th of February 1928 - Courtesy Roy Cross.The auditorium of the Hippodrome was constructed on three levels with Stalls, below ground, and two Circles, with a capacity of over 2,000, although currently this is estimated as a slightly lower 1,800.

The Theatre had a successful few decades as a live theatre before being converted for cinema use in September 1930. The first film to be shown at the new Cinema was 'Sunnyside Up' on the 15th of September that year. Cinema use continued up until 1950 when the then owners, J. Arthur Rank, sold the building providing it was not to be used as a Cinema.

An early photograph of the Derby Hippodrome - Source unknown.

Above - An early photograph of the Derby Hippodrome - Source unknown.

Consequently the Derby Hippodrome reopened on the 23rd of December 1950 having been converted back to live theatre use after a short closure of two months. This was timely as the other Theatre in Derby, The Grand, had closed only two weeks earlier.

The Theatre was again successful, this time run by the Stoll Theatres Corporation, putting on all manor of shows, although Variety was its main fair. However, with the blossoming of Television in the 1950s, like so many other Theatres around the Country, the Hippodrome's success was not to last.

In January 1959, after the Christmas Pantomime was over, the Hippodrome closed its doors as a live Theatre for the last time. The Theatre remained dark and its future looked uncertain but in 1962 it was bought by Mecca and converted for Bingo use.

The auditorium of the Derby Hippodrome in the 1920s - From a programme for 'White Birds' which was performed at the Derby Hippodrome in the week of the 20th of February 1928 - Courtesy Roy Cross.

Above - The auditorium of the Derby Hippodrome in the 1920s - From a programme for 'White Birds' which was performed at the Derby Hippodrome in the week of the 20th of February 1928 - Courtesy Roy Cross.

Bingo at the Hippodrome went on right up until 2007 but since then the Theatre's future has really hung in the balance. The Theatre was Grade II Listed in 1992 and you would think that this would have protected the building but not so.

In March 2008 contractors for the owner, Christopher Anthony, who were supposed to be carrying out work to repair the roof, as ordered by the local Council, managed to destroy it instead, and caused a huge amount of damage to the auditorium in the process. In fact local residents feared that the Theatre was being demolished, such was the extent of the destruction.

Derby City Council acted fast and stopped any further destruction and the owners were ordered to make the building safe. However, a protracted battle has ensued with the developers saying they would appeal the Council's decision and the Council backing down from enforcing their earlier orders.

The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

Above - The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

The Side and Rear Elevations of the Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

Above - The Side and Rear Elevations of the Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

The damaged Rear Elevation of the Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland.In February 2009 the Theatres Trust were notified of a pre-application to demolish the auditorium of the Grade II listed Hippodrome Theatre and replace it with a multi-storey car park but this was not approved and by November 2010 Derby City Council had almost completed work to make the building safe at a cost of around £40,000, which they hoped to claim back from the building’s owner, Christopher Anthony.

Right - The damaged Rear Elevation of the Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland.

A Google StreetView image of the Derby Hippodrome - Click to Interact.On the 26th of November 2011 a serious fire broke out in the building and the Theatre's future became even more bleak as a result. There are many photographs of the Theatre after the fire here.

Above Left - A Google StreetView image of the Derby Hippodrome - Click to Interact.

More of Paul Bland's images from June 2014 can be seen below.

 Part of the damaged roof of the Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland.

Above - Part of the damaged roof of the Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland.

The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

Above - The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

Above - The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

Above - The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

Above - The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

Above - The Derby Hippodrome in June 2014 - Courtesy Paul Bland

The Grand Theatre, 9 Babbington Lane, Derby

Other Names - Tiffanys / The Ritzy - Eclipse / McClusky’s

A Google StreetView Image of the former Grand Theatre, Derby - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Grand Theatre, Derby - Click to Interact

A programme for 'On Monday Next' at the Grand Theatre Derby in 1949, which was also running at the Comedy Theatre in London at the same time and was quite a success - Courtesy Alan Chudley.The Grand Theatre, Derby was built for Andrew Melville by Oliver Essex and opened on Thursday March the 25th 1886 with a production of 'Rip Van Winkle' which was followed two weeks later by a season of Operas. The Stage Newspaper reported briefly on the Theatre in their March 26th 1886 edition saying:- 'For the opening of Mr. Melville's new theatre at Derby yesterday (Thursday) arrangements were made with the L. and N. W. Railway to run a special train to Birmingham after the performance... Mr. John Jourdain has been engaged by Mr. B. Sherwood, of the T.R., Wakefield, as his business manager.' - The Stage, March 26th 1886.

Right - A programme for 'On Monday Next' at the Grand Theatre Derby in 1949, which was also running at the Comedy Theatre in London at the same time and was quite a success - Courtesy Alan Chudley.

The Derby Mercury reported on the imminent opening of the Derby Grand Theatre in their March 24th 1886 edition, with much detail on its proposed first year's productions, saying:- 'Mr. Melville, the proprietor of our new Grand Theatre, which will open to-morrow, has now given us an indication of his prospective arrangements, and we must congratulate him and the public of Derby on the many good things in store for them.

In starting a new theatre there are many difficulties in engaging most important Companies, whose arrangements are made sometimes very far ahead, and who cannot always be persuaded to leave large towns to try new ground, but Mr. Melville has been singularly fortunate in securing a list of attractions which at once reflects credit on his enterprise and immediately demonstrates that he has not only built in Derby a theatre worthy of any town in England, but intends to conduct that theatre in the best possible manner...

A programme for 'On Monday Next' at the Grand Theatre Derby in 1949, which was also running at the Comedy Theatre in London at the same time and was quite a success - Courtesy Alan Chudley.

Above - A programme for 'On Monday Next' at the Grand Theatre Derby in 1949, which was also running at the Comedy Theatre in London at the same time and was quite a success - Courtesy Alan Chudley.

...The inaugural performances will be given by Mr. Melville and his own company from the Grand Theatre, Birmingham, and will consist of Mr. Melville's own version of Washington Irving's quaint story, "Rip Van Winkle," with Mr. Melville as Rip, a character that he has played with much success in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Bristol, and Birmingham. The company will include the well-known tenor, Mr. John Child, Miss Elise Lewis, Mr. Harry Cane, Mr. Pope Dryden, Miss Maude Stafford, and numerous others, with full band and chorus.

Mr. Melville's representations, extending over nine nights, will be followed by the Carl Rosa Opera Company, the selected operas for the week being - Monday, "Carmen" (Madame Mario Roze); Tuesday, " Mignon" (Madame Georgina Burns and Madame Julia Gaylord); Wednesday, "Manon" (new opera) (Madame Marie Roze); Thursday, "Faust" (Madame Julia Gaylord); Friday, "Nadeshda" (new opera) (Madame Georgina Burns) ; Saturday morning, "The Bohemian Girl" (Madame 'Julia Gaylord); Saturday evening, "Ruy Blas" (new opera) (Madame Marie Roze).

It will thus be seen that three new operas will be produced during this short season, viz., Nadeshda,"Manon," and Ruy Blas"). The prospective engagements include Mr. Wilson Barrett "Silver King" Company; Messrs. Bruce and Robertson's "Caste" Company; "Human Nature" Company, with Mr. Augustus Harris's Company from Drury-lane; Mr. Chas. Hawtrey's "Private Secretary" Company, from the Globe Theatre; Mr, Wilson Barrett's "Lights o' London" Company; the Beatrice Company, under the direction of Mr. Frank Harvey; the popular comedian, Mr Edward Terry, supported by his own company; Mr. Wilson Barrett's "Hoodman Blind" Company; "In the Ranks," with Messrs. A, and S. Gatti's Company from the Adelphi Theatre, London; the Drury Lane success, "The World," with Mr. Clarence Holt's company; the popular comedian, Mr. Edward Compton, in a series of old English comedies; Messrs. Ferguson and Mack, in a new eccentric comedy drama entitled "Irish Aristocracy ;" Messrs. Bruce and Robertson's company, in a round of the late T. W. Robertson's Prince of Wales and Haymarket successes; the new Princess's drama, "The Lord Harry." Mrs. Weldon, who made her debut as an actress at Mr. Melville's theatre in Birmingham, has arranged to appear in Derby with her own touring company in "Not Alone." Mr. George Lupino, from Drury Lane, has been engaged to appear with the Lupino family for an early date. ''My Sweetheart ;" the latest Adelphi success, "Harbour Lights;" " Not Guilty," "Millions of Money," "Driven from Home," "Uncle Tom's Cabin" are also included in Mr. Melville's engagements. Arrangements have also been made for D'Oyley Carte's opera companies, "Les Cloches de Corneville" and other comic operas.

To look forward to next Christmas seems a long way off now, but it will come, and with it the pantomime, which will be produced on a scale of importance in keeping with the theatre, and calling into requisition all the resources of the large stage, which, it may be mentioned, has been constructed on an American principle, involving great depth and height, which enables a scene to be set in the "cellars," shown on the stage, and hoisted up out of sight into the " flies," without the aid of roller or folding the scene in any way. It may be mentioned that the greatest height of the gridiron in the new theatre is about 80ft., which accounts for the big tower which can be seen at the back of the stage. The depth of the cellar is about 30ft.

Arrangements have also been made for the appearance of Mr. J. L. Toole, Mr. Barry Sullivan, and other artistes; and from Mr. Melville's statement, we may announce that engagements have been made or are pending for important attractions extending far into the year 1887. Mr. Melville has been in correspondence with Mr. Henry Irving with a view to arranging a few performances of the Lyceum company in Derby, but nothing has yet been definitely settled.

MR. MELVILLE : AUTHOR, ACTOR, AND MANAGER

Mr. Andrew Melville, is not only a theatre builder, manager, and actor, but also an author, ant the opening programme [at the Derby Grand Theatre] is entirely from his own pen, for he is responsible for the musical version of "Rip Van Winkle," founded on Washington Irving's quaint legend of the Kaatskill Mountains, and a new musical and afterpiece entitled "The Silver Flagon." In both pieces Mr. Melville will play the principal character, and introduce himself to a Derby audience in a quadruple capacity, projector and proprietor of the theatre, manager, author, and actor. The magnificent scenery has been specially painted for both productions, and will give some idea of the resources of the establishment. The various characters in both pieces will be sustained by Mr. Melville's own company from his Grand Theatre, Birmingham, and comprises a long list of artistes well-known in operatic and musical circles, prominent among them being the popular tenor. Mr, John Child, who will be locally favourably remembered; Miss Maude Stafford, one of the principals of Mr, George Conquest's company; Miss Elsie Lewis, who has recently concluded a successful engagement, as Dick Whittington at the Grand Theatre, Leeds: Miss Violet Newham; Mr. Harry Cane, a comedian of exceptional ability; Mr, Pope Dryden; Mr. Henry Newton; Miss Louisa Appleby, and numerous others.

One of the features in the theatre will be a first-class orchestra of picked instrumentalists, under the baton of Mr. S. T. Tute. The scenery has been painted by Mr. Alfred Whyatt and Mr. D. Buchan Young. The Mayor, Charles Leech, Esq., will take part in the opening ceremony, which is definitely fixed for Thursday next.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Derby Mercury, March 24th 1886.

The Derby Grand opened on March the 25th 1886 with a production of 'Rip Van Winkle' and went on to have a very distinguished early career as can be seen from the articles above. Despite this, alterations to the building were soon deemed necessary, and in 1893 the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham was called in to alter the auditorium and the main entrance to the Theatre. The work took two months but amazingly the Theatre remained open throughout most of the reconstruction with the work being covered up for each performance. The alterations were reported on in the ERA, in their 2nd of December 1893 edition, where they said:- '...The structural alterations consist of the addition of four new private boxes at the sides of the proscenium, with staircases giving access to same and continued down to the stalls. The boxes are beautifully decorated in colours and gold, being upholstered and draped with electric blue plush curtains and valence. The dress circle has been re-arranged and the seats upholstered, and new carpet laid down here and in the promenades. The raised seating at the rear has been separated from the promenade with an arched colonnade, having turned ornamental columns, and fitted with velvet curtains made to raise and loop up when on a full house these seats might he required. This is a very effective alteration, and gives a warm and cosy appearance to the circle...

An audience and the orchestra of the Grand Theatre, Derby in the 1950s - Courtesy John West

Above - An audience and the orchestra of the Grand Theatre, Derby in the 1950s - Courtesy John West

...The gallery has been rearranged and the front and centre portion separated and formed into an amphitheatre. New lobbies, with swing doors, have been formed to all the pit, circle, and gallery entrances, and act for the purpose of excluding draughts for which the theatre was particularly noted; and, to still further add to the comfort of tie audience, Mr Purcell has had the whole building, including dressing-rooms and stage, heated with hot water pipes and coils. The floor of the stalls and the stairs therefrom have been carpeted and the seating divided out with brass arms.

The entrance from Babington-lane has been much improved by the erection of an iron and coloured glass shelter over the front pavement to shield the carriage patrons from inclement weather, and the Babington vestibule has been made particularly attractive by the addition of new folding doors, with handsome coloured glass fixed at the entrance. The floors have been laid with encaustic tiles, the ceiling covered with a raised decoration, and the wall papered and painted. This decoration is carried up the staircase into the large crush room. The openings at the foot of the principal staircases are hung with velvet curtains. A real Axminster carpet covers the stairs and the crush room which is fitted with mirrors, and the window and door openings, draped with plush velvet curtains and valences, present a most luxurious appearance.

The whole of the auditorium has been redecorated, the prevailing tints being terra cotta and light bronze green, picked out with gold. The sides of the gallery, which originally presented a very meagre appearance, being simply brickwork, have been divided out with plaster arches and deep friezes, and subject paintings have been introduced. The walls of the auditorium are covered with a rich toned paper, a new Stott's sunlight has been fixed in the ceiling, and other improvements effected. Mr Purcell may now be congratulated on being the owner of one of the handsomest theatres in the provinces.'

The above text (edited) in quotes was first published in the ERA, 2nd of December 1893.

A Google StreetView Image of the former Grand Theatre, Derby - Click to Interact.A few years after the above alterations were carried out the Grand the Theatre had electricity installed in 1897.

The auditorium was again reconstructed by Frank Matcham in 1900 and by 1908 the capacity is known to have been around 2,500.

Right - A Google StreetView Image of the former Grand Theatre, Derby - Click to Interact.

The Grand closed as a live Theatre on the 9th of December 1950 and in 1959 the building was converted into a Dance Hall.

The Theatre's facade is all that remains today but the space it occupied is currently being used as a Chinese Restaurant.

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

Arthur Lloyd is know to have performed in Derby in 1879 and 1903.

Some archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.

Other Pages that may be of Interest