Hastings Theatres and Halls
Later - The Hippodrome / De Luxe Cinema
Above - Drawing of the Empire Theatre of Varieties, Hastings - From 'The Playgoer' 1901 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon. Note: This appears to be the drawing that was used for the front cover of the Empire's Programmes, albeit edited and coloured in (See Below).
The Empire Theatre of Varieties, Hastings was designed by Ernest Runtz and was formerly opened on Thursday the 30th of March 1899 with a special matinee presided over by the local Mayor. The following Saturday saw its first variety show with acts including Marie Lloyd and Alec Hurley.
Right - A Programme for the Empire Theatre of Varieties, for the 2nd of September 1901 - Kindly donated by Mr. John Moffatt.
The ERA reported on the building itself in their 1st of April edition saying: - 'The site of the Empire Theatre of Varieties, Hastings, recently erected by the enterprise of Mr J. Brill, which was opened by the Mayor on Thursday, is that once occupied by the Marine Hotel and two houses on the west side in Pelham-place, and covers a superficial area of 7,860ft. It has a frontage to the Marine Parade of 131ft.
The main approach is from the Marine Parade, through an entrance hall which leads directly into the stalls, whence the circle is reached by a fireproof staircase. The pit entrance is approached from the Marine Parade by a spacious right of way on the west side of the theatre, and the gallery entrance is at the end of this right of way. The pit has an emergency exit leading directly into an open passage way on the north side of the building. The stalls seat 228 persons, and the pit 176. The grand circle is approached by a stone staircase 5ft. 6in. wide. A foyer overlooks the sea, and is provided with four large windows leading on to a balcony 18ft. above the pavement level. This part of the house seats 201. In the balcony on the grand circle level accommodation is provided for 395.
The scheme of colour adopted throughout has been terra-cotta, red, and old gold for the walls, the box and circle fronts and the ceiling being gilded, with an ivory-white ground. The draperies and upholstery are in amber satin and velvet, and the carpeting throughout is of neutral green. The act drop has been painted by Mr W. T. Hernsley. Mr Charles Buchel has painted a frieze over the proscenium opening, which represents the Rising of Venus from the Waters. Semi-circular decorative panels over the boxes symbolise the seasons. The work has been carried out from designs and under the superintendence of Messrs Ernest Runtz and Co. The Mayor, at the opening on Thursday, wished the hall every success, and said he had been promised by Mr Brill that the entertainments should always be of a healthy and elevating character.'
The ERA later reported on the opening of the Theatre in their 8th of April 1899 edition saying: - 'An event of great importance to this town has been the opening of this substantial and handsome building. The proprietors are the Empire Theatre of Varieties Syndicate; Managing Director, Mr John Brill ; Manager, Mr R. W. Steggles.
The formal opening of the building was performed by the Mayor (Alderman Frederick Tuppenney, J.P.) on Thursday, the 30th ult., at a special matinee. The numerous invitations to local residents issued by the proprietors were largely accepted, and the spacious building was crowded.
Left - Details for the Empire Theatre of Varieties programme shown above right, for the 2nd of September 1901 - Kindly donated by Mr. John Moffatt.
The orchestra performed a programme of music under Mr Edward P. Delevanti, who is the musical director, while the audience partook of refreshments which the management had liberally provided, and inspected the appointments and convenient inter-communications of the building. All were loud in praise of the elegance and refined taste of the decorations awl appointments. The Mayor, in addressing the assemblage from the stage, shortly recounted the history of the building, and expressed his conviction that the new variety theatre would supply a want that had been distinctly felt alike by inhabitants and visitors. The building, he said was replete with every modern requirement, and so admirably erected that no injury could arise to an audience should a panic at any time occur. He felt quite certain that the promoters of the undertaking would provide entertainments with which no fault could be found...
On Saturday this magnificent building was besieged by an enormous crowd. Every seat had its occupant, and some hundreds were content to remain promenading throughout the evening, while many hundreds more were necessarily denied admission altogether. A brilliant and varied programme had been provided for this splendid send-off by the public. Undoubtedly chief on the list was Miss Marie Lloyd, whose appearance was greeted with applause, and whose songs achieved a grand success. Mr Alec Hurley was another face and form evidently familiar to music hall patrons amongst visitors present, and his efforts pleased all greatly. A reception of the heartiest character was given to Miss Kitty Beresford, a very pleasing comedienne and danseuse. A very ingenious application of science was afforded in Rousby and Irving's electrical and musical entertainment. Miss Jessie Lindsay proved a very expert speciality dancer, and was determinedly encored for her successful efforts. Carl Hertz performed some of his clever illusions and made much merriment by his adroitness. Tiller's eight fairy dancers made an acceptable change in the turns, and Miss Minnie Cunningham was applauded to the echo for her Irish songs. Mr Charles Austin evoked hearty commendation as a popular mimic, and the Brothers Wartenburg, equilibrists gave an amusing turn. Mr George Adams, baritone vocalist, and Miss Alice Ormonde, serio-comedienne, submitted successful turns; Mr R. W. Steggles, the indefatigable manager, had a busy time this opening night, being nearly ubiquitous.'
Above - The former Empire / Hippodrome Theatre, Hastings
in September 2012 - Courtesy George Richmond
The Empire Theatre of Varieties, Hastings formerly opened on Thursday the 30th of March 1899 with a special matinee presided over by the local Mayor. The following Saturday saw its first variety show with acts including Marie Lloyd and Alec Hurley.
The Theatre would later become the Hippodrome in around 1907 when it became part of Walter de frese's Southern Hippodromes. It later became the De Luxe Cinema but was presenting Variety acts as part of the cinema programme as late as 1947.
Although the building is still standing, it was gutted internally in 1978 and is currently used as an amusement arcade.
A visitor to this site, Paul Hatch, says of the Theatre today: - 'Only the ground floor is used as an amusement arcade, the upper level being converted into a snooker hall and bingo Hall. The ground floor was completely gutted and no trace (at least in the public areas) remains of its original use. While I have never been in the bingo hall personally I have seen photos that imply the seating for the bingo is in fact part of the old circle and the photos clearly showed that some of the original decor and moldings from the original theatre remain.' - Paul Hatch.
Later - The Gaiety Cinema / Classic / Cannon / MGM / ABC / Odeon
Above - An early engraving of the Gaiety Theatre, Hastings - Courtesy Terry Kirtland
The Gaiety Theatre, Hastings was situated on Queen's Road, opposite the Town Hall and next to the Post Office, and was designed by Cross and Wells, of Hastings, and the well known Theatre Architect C.J. Phipps. The Theatre opened on the 1st of August 1882 and at the time was the only Theatre operating in the Town. The Gaiety had an auditorium with three tiers and a capacity of some 1,600 people.
Right - A Gaiety Theatre Programme for October the 25th 1926.
The Gaiety Theatre's last live show was a production of 'The Desert Song'. When this closed on the 14th of May 1932 the Theatre was then converted for Cinema use. The conversion meant that the auditorium was radically altered and the seating capacity reduced by 500. The Cinema reopened on the 12th of December 1932 with the films 'Rome Express' and 'The Music Box'.
Classic Cinemas bought the Theatre in 1966 and renamed it Classic, and then in 1972 it was split, providing one screen in the former circle and front stalls, and another in the former rear stalls. The Theatre was later tripled in 1984 when Cannon took over. The Theatre then passed into the hands of MGM, ABC, and then Odeon in 2001 who still run it today.
Above - A Google StreetView image of the former Gaiety Theatre, Hastings today - Click to Interact
Above - The side elevation of the former Gaiety Theatre in September 2012 - Courtesy George Richmond - The Name Gaiety Cinema can still be seen on the top of the Theatre's wall.
Above - The original main entrance of the former Gaiety Theatre can still be seen in this photograph of the building taken in September 2012 - Courtesy George Richmond
Above - The Gaiety Theatre Hastings, from a Programme October 25th 1926.
Above - The Pier Pavilion, Hastings. Built 1881. Demolished - 1951
was a summer Theatre at the landward end of Hastings pier which was
still operational in the mid 1960's. This Theatre was a home base
for Harry Hanson's Court Players, who often moved into the White Rock
Pavilion during the Winter Months.
Right - A review from 'The Stage' of 1898 for Arthur Lloyd's new Farcical, Musical Play 'An Amateur Detective' performed at the Pier Pavilion, Hastings for the first time on Monday May the 23rd 1898.
It is easy to dismiss the Court Players as a by-word
for "Tat" ; true that it was not unusual to see a red chintz
table cloth used as curtains one week and a table cloth the next,
true that the flats were often nailed together rather then cleat and
lines used and that the Hanson carpenter having removed those nails
at a week-end strike had to straiten them out for re-use rather then
buy new nails. However, on the basis that you get what you pay for,
by far and large Harry Hanson gave value for money, and audiences
returned week after week to see his plays.
Above Text kindly written for this site by Alan Chudley.
Arthur Lloyd and his wife Katty King played the Pier Pavilion in 1888, a notice in the ERA of the 8th of December that year says: 'PIER PAVILION - Manager, Mr J. D. Hunter. - This is the second week of Mr Arthur Lloyd and Miss Katty King's visit. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday they played The Rival Lovers, in which Mr J. D. Hunter appeared. The comedietta Her First Appearance, in which Mr Arthur Lloyd, Miss Katty King, and Mr J. E. Cowell took part, was also performed. For Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (to-night) we are promised the farcical comedy Major Baggs. Trillo, ventriloquist, is also here.' - The ERA, 8th December 1888.
Arthur Lloyd and his son and daughter are know to have played here in 1897. A notice in the ERA of the 29th of May reads: 'HASTINGS PIER PAVILION.- Entertainment Manager, Mr J. D. Hunter: - A welcome visit is paid here this week by Mr Arthur Lloyd and party which include Mr Harry King-Lloyd and Miss Annie King-Lloyd, who, in conjunction with Mr Hunter's company, produced on Monday Mr Lloyd's musical comedy Our Party ; or, the Nobleman in Disguise, a piece which forms a pleasant medium for introducing any required amount of comic sketches, character songs, or graceful dancing. Mr J. D. Hunter played Marmaduke Mugg, a parvenu, with unctuous humour and amusing effect; Miss Annie King-Lloyd played with sparkling vivacity as his daughter Gertrude; Miss Eva Bayley displayed bright humour and lively talent as Aunt Meg, Gertrude's aunt; Mr Arthur Lloyd was droll as Jimmy Ferguson, an adventurer, and gave a selection from his repertoire, followed by Mr Harry King-Lloyd in character songs, which won much applause; Mr Harry J. Crane gave assistance to the plot as Montague. The guests masquerading as dukes and duchesses, but in reality members of Montague's variety show, were played by Messrs John A. Thomson, C. W. Spencer, Carter Bligh, Misses Blanche Bayley and Cherry Wardroper. Mr Chas Hawker as Mugg's servant complete the cast.' - The ERA, 29th May 1897.
Whilst at the Pier Pavilion in
June of the same year, 1897,
the manager of the Theatre took the company on a picnic which was
reported in the ERA on the 5th of June saying:
'MR J. D. HUNTER, the popular manager and comedian, of the Pier Pavilion,
Hastings, last Thursday drove his company in a brake and four horses
Castle, a fine old ruin twelve miles from Hastings, surrounded
by a moat. There, in the castle, they had a jolly picnic, the caterers
being Mr and Mrs Smith, of the Pier Refreshments Buffets. The guests
included Mr and Mrs J. D. Hunter, Mr
Arthur Lloyd, Miss
Annie King-Lloyd, Mr Harry
King-Lloyd, the Misses Eva and Blanche Bayley, Miss Cherry Wardroper,
the Misses Katty, Lilly, and Dulcie King-Lloyd, Messrs C. W. Spencer,
Charles Hawker, Carter Bligh, Harry Krane, Mason Warboys, John Thomson,
&c.'' - The ERA, 5th June 1897.
Arthur Lloyd also performed at the Pier Pavilion Theatre in 1898, and he is known to have performed in Hastings in 1879 1886 1888 1890 1898 sometimes when touring with his popular review 'Two Hours of Genuine Fun'.
Sadly a major fire destroyed much of Hastings Pier on the 5th of October 2010 but, unlike the Brighton West Pier, the future now looks hopeful for this structure as it was announced in August 2013 that a £14 million renovation of the Pier was due to start in September. This would include refurbishing the Pavilion and building a new visitor centre. Further details can be found here.
Now - Corner of Courthouse Street and The Bourne, Hastings
Above - Postcard of The Theatre, Hastings, which was later converted into the Wesley Chapel. The card was sent in 1907 and is titled Hastings 'New & Old'
The Theatre, in Great Bourne Street, Hastings was built by Mr. Frederick Brooke in 1825 after obtaining a license from the Corporation of Hastings to perform Tragedies, Comedies, Interludes, Operas and Farces. The Theatre opened on August 18th that year with a cast of eight including Mr. and Mrs. Brooke, their two daughters and four other mail actors in a production of 'As You Like it' and 'A Roland for an Oliver.' Followed by Mrs. Brooke delivering an Epilogue. The Prologue was delivered by Mr. Brooke.
The prices of one of the first performances at the little Theatre were 4s for the Lower Boxes, 3s for the Upper Boxes, 2s for the Pit, and 6d for the Gallery.
Above - Rear of the Postcard of The Theatre, Hastings, sent in 1907.
The Theatre wasn't overly successful however and by 1830 a Mr. Edward had taken over the management of the building and, opening it on just a three nights a week basis, produced the three plays; "The Green-eyed Monster ", "Five in One" and "The Sergeant's Wife." These, according to the papers of the day, were not very well attended either.
The following year Coplestone Coward Hodges took over the running of the Theatre, and then later Charles Waldegrave and Thomas Styles became licensees but their luck was little better and by 1833 the Theatre was sold to a committee of local Wesleyans who set about converting the little Theatre into a Chapel.
In 1939 the building was demolished and a new plain brick chapel was built in its place, which opened on the 20th of March 1940. After church use ended in the building it was used for various purposes including a cafe, exhibition space, and reception venue, but has since been converted into 3 flats.
Right - A Google StreetView image of the site of the former Theatre
/ Wesley Chapel, Hastings - Click
Much of the research for the Wesley Chapel and former
Theatre was originally undertaken by J. Manwaring Baines, for many years
curator of the Hastings Museum, and author of 'Historic Hastings,' published
by F J Parsons Ltd, from which some of the above information was gleaned.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Formerly - The Warrior Square Opera House / Royal Concert Hall / Elite Picture Theatre
Above - The Elite Picture House can be seen in this aerial photograph from Britain From Above taken on the 24th of April 1929.
The Elite Cinema was situated in Warrior Square, St. Leonards-On-Sea near Hastings and originally opened as the Warrior Square Opera House and Concert Hall on the 13th of October 1879. The Theatre had seating for 1,000 people on one level. After the then Prince of Wales visited the Theatre for a Concert performance the Theatre was renamed the Royal Concert Hall. In the early 1900s the building was converted into a Roller Skating Rink and it was later used for Cycle Riding.
The Hall was closed in 1918 and then stood derelict until 1921 when it was converted for Cinema use with the addition of a Circle and an enlarged capacity of 1,600. It reopened under the new name of the Elite Picture Theatre on the 14th of March 1921 with the film 'The Auction Mart'.
The Cinema was equipped with a Western Electric Sound System for 'Talkies' in February 1930, and a new Facade was constructed in 1932.
The Cinema was bombed during the war in 1940 and had to close down but it was repaired and refurbished and reopened in 1941. However, it was damaged by bombs again just six months later and then remained closed until after the war. Repairs were then carried out and the reopening was set for the 23rd of June 1947 but a serious fire completely destroyed the building on its opening day, luckily before the public had entered the building.
The site then remained vacant for many years until part
of it was used to build a block of flats called Royal Terrace which
opened in 1986.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.
You may find the following pages from this site of interest: