The substantial building on the corner of Chichester Road and Warwick Street, Hulme, contains not just one theatre, but two, standing side-by-side!
The Grand Junction Theatre and Floral Hall opened in 1901, with a capacity of 3000, while the smaller Hippodrome Theatre (The NIA Centre) was completed the following year and could seat 1500. An arcade originally ran between the two structures, which is now closed off.
In 1905, the two theatres swapped names, adding greatly to the likelihood that they would be confused over time!
My pictures show the interior of the older, larger theatre, now generally called Hulme Hippodrome, which is further away from Chichester Road. Renamed the Second Manchester Repertory Theatre in 1942, it was subsequently converted for use as a bingo hall and casino in the early ’60s.
My friends played bingo here around 1989/90. If I’d known how impressive the building was inside, I would have joined them!
Hulme Hippodrome’s current owners are Gilbert Deya Ministries who use a space adjacent to the theatre auditorium for church services.
Very sadly, the interior of the main theatre is in a state of chronic disrepair, due to lead tiles having been stolen from the roof. Daylight is visible backstage and the paintwork is peeling dramatically due to the damp. I have been told that the council and the universities are keen to save the theatre building but are unwilling to enter any partnership with the owners, following accusations of child trafficking.
Over the years it has been used as a cinema (Junction Picture House 1929-1951), a BBC studio (BBC Playhouse 1956-1987), and a cultural centre (NIA Centre 1991-2000); the building has remained vacant since 2000.
Both theatres were designed by the same architect, J. J. Alley for ‘The Broadhead Circuit’, which was a music hall circuit of ‘No. 2′ theatres (smaller or provincial theatres) all over the North West of England, managed from offices in Hulme:
Both theatres are currently Grade II listed; it is possible that one or both may be upgraded to Grade II* in the future. The * can improve funding opportunities but can also impose restrictions upon development possibilities.
Contact Tony Wright at The Youth Village on 0794 342 4981.