The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.


Theatres in Loughborough, Leicestershire

The Sparrow Hill Theatre - The New Theatre Royal / Vint's Electric Hippodrome

See Also: Leicester Theatres - Ashby de la Zouch Theatres

The Sparrow Hill Theatre, Loughborough

Loughborough, like many towns in England, had visits from time to time from travelling theatre companies, who would set up for a week or a few night's performances in the local, Hall, barn, Town etc., (known as 'Fit Ups').

By 1822 it was decided to build a Georgian Playhouse by a company of local shareholders. This was erected in Sparrow Hill, Loughborough at a cost of £700. The Theatre called 'The Sparrow Hill Theatre' opened on Monday June 2nd 1823.

It is described as 'having extreme elegance and a lofty proscenium', together with a 'handsome ceiling'. Another attribute was that rather than be fitted with a heavy green baize drop curtain, a light weight drop curtain was provided, painted to resemble variegated marble with wreaths intersected octagonally.

The manager was Mr. Bennett of the Theatre Royal, Worcester (who had previously visited Loughborough and Ashby with his theatre companies). The season was to last for 6 weeks with performances on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. At the opening performance Mr. Bennett expressed to the packed audience that he 'hoped that by diligent attention to comfort and convenience of his patrons to be favoured with their kind support.' After, the whole company sang 'The National Anthem.' The company then performed 'Speed the Plough' and 'The Warlock of the Glen.'

Unlike today's Theatres, Georgian Playhouses were not open with performances every night. There were long periods of dark weeks, and advertisements were sporadic. The next advertisement we know of, was for 1836 when on January the 25th Master B. Grossmith (a celebrated juvenile actor) would perform.

In 1839 Mr. Watson, of the Leicester Theatre opened a short season after the Theatre had been closed for several years.

In 1840 a company had been unable to play at Leicester, and so chose to play for a week at Loughborough. This weeks engagement was followed by Mr. Batty presenting an exhibition of wild animals, after playing previously at Leicester.

In 1841 Mrs. and Master Owen played the Loughborough Theatre for a week, but when they returned for a further engagement in 1842, it is reported that their performance was so poor, that it resulted in no attendance, and they left town.

In 1843 Mr. Carter was manager and for four weeks in January and February presented 'Oliver Twist' to crowded audiences. The Autumn/Winter season in 1843 saw Messrs C & T Hilyard perform to good audiences. This engagement was followed by Mr. Whites Company of players.

In February 1845 Mr. Ryan was listed as the new manager, and stated that the Interior of the Theatre had been greatly improved and was now brilliantly lit by Gas. However, during a performance of 'The Galvanic Ring' the lights suddenly went out and their was a rush for the exits. The Stage Manager Mr. Donnelly tried to reassure the audience from the stage, but to no avail.

In 1846 Mr. Ryan returned to running the Theatre with prices at:- Boxes 1/6 pence (8 pence in today's money); Pit 6d (2.5 pence today); Gallery 3d (1.5 pence today); with a secondary price of Boxes only after 9.0pm offered at 1/- (5 pence today).

1848 saw Mr. Gill (the lessee of the Leicester Theatre) take over the management with a new season opening on February 3rd advertised as a 'talented company'. The Theatre had been thoroughly cleaned and newly decorated. 'Ladies may now pass an evening in it in comfort'.

On May 9th, 1848 the Theatre was put up for auction and purchased by T. Cradock esq, for the sum of £288.00, but the sale fell through, and from then onward the Theatre was only occasionally used.

In January 1852 there was a visit by Mr. Holloway (well known travelling comedian), who achieved tolerably good houses with his company.

In 1855, after undergoing extensive internal alterations and repairs, the Sparrow Hill Theatre opened as a Free Church.

In 1856 it underwent yet further transformation and was now let as a Lecture Hall and Music Salon. It was possibly at this point that the Theatre, like many others nationwide, had such structural alterations made that any future theatrical use was not possible.

In 1857 the building was in the hands of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows. Later occupants were The Temperance Society (the Nottingham Band of Hope), and finally an Auction mart. The building was surveyed in 1949 and the only parts of the Theatre remaining, were the remains of the under stage walls, together with some wall marks indicating original positions of floor, Boxes, Pit and Gallery.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Loghborough in November 1879.

The above article on the Sparrow Hill Theatre, Loughborough was written for this site by David Garratt in February 2018.

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

The New Theatre Royal, Packe Street and Mill Street, Loughborough

Later - Vint's Electric Hippodrome

A Variety Poster for the Theatre Royal, Loughborough in 1946 - Courtesy David Garratt.The 'New Theatre Royal' was built on a site in Packe Street, Loughborough, although the main entrance was down a long passage in Mill Street leading to a large smoking room (approx 100 feet in length) containing also the pay box.

The Theatre was built in 1904/5 for Mr A. Franks to the designs of a local Loughborough Architect Mr A. E. King.

Right - A Variety Poster for the Theatre Royal, Loughborough in 1946 - Courtesy David Garratt.

The Theatre's auditorium had two rows of stalls seating, behind which was the Pit on a raked floor (so that vision was improved). Either side of the stage was a stage Box and above the Pit was the Dress Circle, held up on iron pillars (not cantilevered). Behind the Dress Circle was the Upper Circle. There was no Gallery. The Theatre held 800 people.

It had a large stage being 57 feet by 31 feet. The Proscenium opening was 26 feet wide by 20 feet high. Underneath the stage was the dressing room accommodation.

The Theatre was lit by electricity, and heated by hot water radiators. Electricity drove internal fans to improve the ventilation.

The Theatre opened on Thursday January the 26th 1905 with Norman Macowan's Theatre Company performing 'Monsieur Beaucaire.' Then afterwards continued with a mixed fare of Plays, etc.

In 1910 the ownership passed to Mr Leon Vint, who opened the Theatre at Whitsuntide as 'Vint's Electric Hippodrome', showing films. However, by 1912, Variety played the Theatre again with the appearance of Mr Charles Coburn topping the bill, (famous for his song 'The Man who broke the Bank at Montecarlo).

By 1915 the Theatre had reverted to its original name of the 'New Theatre Royal'.

Its future life was as the story of many Provincial Theatres; 'chequered', having many 'ups and downs'.

By 1951 Revue and Vaudeville, together with the occasional play were being presented. However, the Theatre was soon struggling with competition from a new novelty; television, and was sold and closed in 1953. It did re-open momentarily for presentation of the Poole Academy's 'Cinderella', followed by Loughborough Amateur Operatic Society's production of 'Merry England', at the end of February. But then finally closed for good.

Thus the Theatre Royal presented live entertainment and film for 48 years to the public of Loughborough who's then nearest Theatre venue's were otherwise either in Leicester or Nottingham.

The above article on the New Theatre Royal, Loughborough was written for this site by David Garratt in February 2018.

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 kindly collated and sent in by B.F.

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