Hippodrome Theatre

Byerley Road,
Shildon, DL4

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Hippodrome Shildon showing 'A Kind Of Loving' shortly before closure in 1962.

The Hippodrome Theatre was opened in around 1911 for variety shows and film performances. The architect is unknown and it was considered to be a fairly plain building that originally had a seating capacity for 1,400. It was equipped with full stage facilities, the stage being 35 feet deep and the proscenium 30 feet wide. There were seven dressing rooms.

It was taken over by the General Theatre Corporation in March 1928 and in May 1928 was part of the Gaumont Theatres chain. It was leased out to Thompson’s Enterprises in June 1929.

Closed in the mid-1960’s, it was converted into a bingo club. This use continued until 1993, when the building was put up ‘For Sale’. It then became empty and derelict and was fire damaged. It was demolished in 1994.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Ian
Ian on December 14, 2008 at 4:16 am

At the time of demolition there was talk of the stage grid and machinery being dismantled and saved – does anyone know if this actually happened?

Two exterior photographs from 1994 here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stagedoor/332053553/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stagedoor/332053554/

terry
terry on December 14, 2008 at 10:43 am

The Hippodrome had been a Blacks' theatre at one time, but for most of its life it was owned and operated by the Middlesbrough based Thompsons Enterprises (aka North of England Cinemas)and this was the Company who operated it when it closed in late Summer 1962 with the Shildon Amateur Operatic Society stage production of ‘The Desert Song’

It was a very large building (stadium plan) for the size of the town and whilst it could not be described as elaborate, it had a big cinema feel to it and the cinemascope screen was impressive. I saw ‘King of Kings’ (Jeffrey Hunter) and ‘The Young Ones’ (Cliff Richard) there, amongst others. I also remember well its fancy ‘house tabs’ which had theatrical style satin stripes at the foot of them and the projectionists had a habit of showing the BBFC Certificate (a practice frowned upon by the BBFC) onto them!

My sister’s father-in-law ( a well known citizen of the town who owned the main joinery business and was also the Master of the Town Band)lived close to the Hippodrome and he could not resist having a peek inside the building as the demolition team moved in in 1996.

Surprisingly, for its vintage it was steel framed and the demolition squad said that the building was so well constructed that it would have stood for another 100 years even in its neglected condition.

What a great pity that Shildon Council did not save the place for use as a multi purpose auditorium………they also flattened the Essoldo which was originally a Mechanics' Institute built by the Stockton and Darlington Railway, no less! What is Shildon’s pride and joy these days? Locomotion, part of The National Railway Museum. In Timothy Hackworth’s house (Hackworth was a contemporary of George Stephenson)there is a section devoted to the town’s cinemas including huge photos of the Hippodrome which was showing ‘A Kind of Loving’ at the time.

terry
terry on May 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm

I have uploaded a watercolour of the Hippodrome purportedly showing ‘Ben Hur’. Actually, I saw ‘Ben Hur’ at Bishop Auckland Hippodrome (Essoldo) on a Friday Evening in early 1962 and this was followed by a visit 3 nights later to see ‘King Of Kings’ at nearby Shildon Hippodrome, the subject of the painting. Biblical Epics were all the rage back then!

terry
terry on May 30, 2015 at 2:09 pm

I have also uploaded a Panto Programme from 1960 in the photos section.

terry
terry on March 11, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Image uploaded to photos section.

terry
terry on May 16, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Image uploaded to photos section.

terry
terry on May 16, 2018 at 5:47 pm

My Dad was Chief Projectionist at the Hippodrome in the early 1950’s when it was operated by Thompsons Enterprises of Middlesbrough.

This company had strong ties with Gaumont (later part of Rank who also operated Odeon Cinemas)from whom Thompsons acquired the venue.

Conversely, many former Thompsons theatres were sold to Denman and GTC (divisons of Gaumont British) including the huge Middlesbrough Hippodrome which still exists in a drastically altered form as a large Nightclub.

Thompsons had their own ice cream brand, ‘Erimus’ (no Lyons Maid or Walls at the Hipp) and it was manufactured on Longlands Road, Middlesbrough very close to Thompsons' Majestic Cinema.

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