Willesden Hippodrome Theatre
161-163 High Street,
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The Willesden Empire Hippodrome Theatre was confusingly located in Harlesden, although it was not too far from Willesden Junction Railway Station in this west London inner city district. It was opened by Walter Gibbons as a music hall/variety theatre in September 1907. In 1908, the name was shortened to Willesden Hippodrome Theatre.
Designed by noted theatre architect Frank Matcham, seating was provided for 864 in the orchestra stalls and pit, 517 in the circle and 602 in the gallery. It had a 40 feet wide proscenium, a 30 feet deep stage and eight dressing rooms.
It was taken over by Sydney Bernstein’s Granada Theatres Ltd. chain from 3rd September 1927 and after some reconstruction was re-opened on 12th September 1927 with a programme policy of cine/variety. From March 1928 it was managed by the Denman/Gaumont group, but was not successful and went back to live theatre use from 28th January 1929.
It was closed in May 1930, and was taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) in August 1930. Now running films only it operated as a cinema until September 1938. It then re-opened as a music hall/variety theatre, with films shown on Sundays, when live performances were prohibited.
The Willesden Hippodrome Theatre was destroyed by German bombs in August/September 1940. The remains of the building stood on the High Street for many years, becoming an unofficial playground for local children, who trespassed onto the property. The remains were demolished in 1957. In the 1960’s an office block was built on the site. Known as Harlesden House, it originally served as a Government Labour Exchange now a Job Centre Plus.
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