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Theatres in Wednesbury, West Midlands

The Theatre Royal, Upper High Street, Wednesbury

Later - The Theatre Royal & Hippodrome / Hippodrome

The Era - Saturday 26 December 1891The Theatre Royal was situated on Upper High Street, Wednesbury, and was built by architects Messrs Joynson Brothers for the proprietor Mr Edward Darbey. It was a two tier Theatre in the Renaissance style of architecture, accommodating approximately 1,300 people seated in Balcony, Pit and Stalls, the former having a promenade around the seating.

The Theatre, which opened on the 8th February 1892, replaced the earlier Theatre Royal which was situated on a different site in Wednesbury that had been in existence from at least 1858 but was sold to the Salvation Army in 1883 for £1,000. That Theatre is said to have been able to seat nearly 2,000 people.

The main entrance to the Balcony and Stalls of the new Theatre Royal was on the High Street via a five foot wide stone staircase with fireproof landings and floors. The floor of the Pit was laid with wooden blocks, to ensure warmth and alleviate noise, with the floor of the Stalls being laid with encaustic tiles. Doors were made to open outwards with fire hydrants present throughout the building. The Balcony was supported on seven ornamental cast-iron columns, and had slips each side extending to meet the proscenium. The auditorium ceiling was alcoved and panelled.

There were two refreshment bars, and a smoke room and bar with ample toilets accommodation throughout. Lighting and ventilation arrangements were of the most modern type for the time.

Either side of the main entrance at the front of the Theatre were several shops incorporated in the building facade with mahogany fittings and lead lights.

The Stage was described as very large, and capable of mounting the largest of productions. A complete stock of new and expensive scenery had been made by Mr Riddell, the resident carpenter and painted by Mr Glenny, a well known artist. The stage gas fittings were installed by Mr Hallett. On stage right was the Dressing Room block being described as commodious for the actors and actresses.

A full and efficient orchestra had been engaged under the direction of Mr James Hicks, R.A.M. The Theatre General Manager was Mr George Kimberley. The Theatre Royal opened on the 8th February 1892, with Messrs Humphries and Moore's touring company presenting the play 'The Mysteries of the Seven Sisters.' The large company comprised, Mr James P. Moore, Mr Frank Wilton, Mr George Francis, Mr David Carmichael, Mr H.J.Worth, Mr J. L. Stanley, Mr Frank Breen, Mr B. Schofield, Mr Fred Clarke, Mr F. Townsend, Mr F. Punchard, Mr Holden Dale, Mr Edward Sheen, Mr George Bellamy, Mr Dromez, Mr Walter Veasey, Miss Nita Rae, Miss Isabel Innes, Miss Maud Marsden, and Miss Emily Schofield.

'The Mystery of the Seven Sisters' played each evening apart from the Friday evening when 'First Class' was performed.

From 1910 the Theatre began to present Variety and Revues, with the Theatre's name being changed to 'Theatre Royal and Hippodrome.' In March 1927 It was renamed 'Hippodrome.' And in the Summer of 1936 it was refurbished and reseated. Shows presented through the 30's and 40's were touring Variety productions and Revue's.

In 1951 The Theatre was equipped to screen films which it did with film showings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with live Theatre shows presented on each Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This policy continued until 1955 when the Theatre reverted back to solely live theatre performances. The seating capacity by this time is recorded as 586 seats.

A notice for the auction of 'Theatrical Equipment' from the Hippodrome Theatre, Wednesbury in 1960 - From the Birmingham Daily Post, 5th of April 1960.H. J. Barlow had bought the Theatre before 1938 and had run it as a variety Theatre. After the end of the war in 1945 he ran it with a Repertory company presenting a different play each week, but by the 1950's the Theatre was losing money. Barlow closed the Theatre in 1954 for a period of three years, re-opening again in 1957 for one last try at making it work. A report in the Birmingham Daily Post, dated Thursday 19th March 1959, stated that he could not find a buyer for the Theatre. He said 'It is like a stab to the heart to see the Theatre go but the public does not seem to have any interest in it any more.'

The Hippodrome Theatre was closed on the 10th October 1959 with a production of 'Gigi' by the Derwent Players and the Theatre was finally demolished in the early 1960's.

Right - A notice for the auction of 'Theatrical Equipment' from the Hippodrome Theatre, Wednesbury in 1960 - From the Birmingham Daily Post, 5th of April 1960.

Some photographs of the Theatre can be seen on the Cinema Treasures website here. Actor Jack Leslie had at one time Managed the Theatre before finding fame as Jack Walker in ITV's 'Coronation Street.'

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt in June 2019.

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

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