Dudley Hippodrome – MUCH more than meets the eye as hidden Art Deco features rediscovered in over 150 photos

The recent refusal of listed status for Dudley Hippodrome from English Heritage calls into question whether their processes and decision-making are fit for purpose. As far as I am aware they had not even bothered to visit the building in the many years it has been campaigned for. Apparently they relied on second-hand information from the local Council which is openly fixated on demolishing Dudley’s last remaining professional theatre in favour of some Lego-look college student nursing buildings that could be slapped up anywhere. Are the people of Dudley not deserving of proper entertainment venues? I – and many other like me – think they ARE!

The Dudley Hippodrome Development Trust applied for the reconsideration of listed status for the solid and much-loved building in a well-crafted, complete and exemplary dossier which gave a range of authoritative sources, opinions and possibilities (all of which have been ignored by the Council), saying “Our application for Listing to be reconsidered included documents and 157 different photographs, all supporting ‘new evidence’ of remaining features which still exist within the building, despite the more recent alterations.”

As a rebuttal to English Heritage’s seemingly off-hand approach to making its original decision, scores of photos have come to light showing the existing detailing, fixtures and fittings that got overlooked, simply because it was hidden away behind false walls and ceilings and no-one bothered to look. Most of these original features have been unseen for over 40 years.

But now you can see for yourself that the interior of the Hippodrome, far from lacking character, is positively choc-full of it! As you can see in these photos, just a sample of the over 150, all courtesy of the DHDT Facebook page:

You’d have to be blind not to see the quality of these interiors. But of course English Heritage is a Government body, let’s not forget. And Dudley Council’s zero “vision” of demolition will produce nothing except thousands of tonnes of pollution raining down on local residents, and months upon months of disruption to residents and local motorists. Let’s hope the people of Dudley realise they deserve a better future- and a better Council – by voting appropriately at the May elections.

Decorative plasterwork under the dress circle auditorium level, by George Legge of Bryan’s Adamanta, Birmingham
Deco coving and detailed frieze, credits as above.
Further frieze work in foyer areas
Original Crittall windows, glazing and fixings
Dressing room door
Dressing room door
original stage winch
Ceiling roses hidden in false ceiling installation by Gala bingo
Bespoke Deco coving in foyer areas
Light fittings hidden over false ceilings
Auditorium grillework
Coving
Original terrazo flooring hidden under carpets
Birkby Wyke bricks from Bradford used in the construction of the theatre, once dubbed “the showcase of the West Midlands”

Messages from the stars- from the Hippodrome’s opening souvenir brochure

4 Replies to “Dudley Hippodrome – MUCH more than meets the eye as hidden Art Deco features rediscovered in over 150 photos”

  1. Councils are only interested in demolishing buildings of this calibre and the cost of doing so never appears to be a problem but in other areas they always appear to be conviently short of finance. I have been involved with an independent cinema designed by the Hippodrome Architect Archibald Hurley Robinson the Plaza Rugeley now a Wetherspoons pub and the similarities can be seen in the interior architectural decor. The former Plaza Dudley was also to his credit and it’s possibly the only town where the Theatre and Cinema adjacent to each other were designed by the same architect. When not designing cinemas he relaxed by tending his roses being a keen gardener. A sad loss if the Plaza goes but it will be remembered.

    1. Thank You for your interesting points and information, Chris. We are definitely of the same mind! Its also worth noting that although Mr Hurley Robinson designed many cinemas, the Dudley Hippodrome was his only theatre, and therefore of even greater importance to preserve the only example of a building type by a significant local architect.

  2. The Dudley Hippodrome is a wonderful building capable of being transformed into an amazing space not just for the local community but for all residents and visitors to the Midlands. That the theatre is not valued by officials is as baffling as it is wrong and it is missing a great opportunity. Apartments, university buildings or student accommodation do not draw in visitors but bring a desolate empty blandness to the locality – witness parts of Coventry and many other cities who have fallen into the trap compared to Stratford upon Avon, Buxton or Glyndebourne where the theatres are a foundation for the local economy. Get a grip!

    1. I could not agree with you more, Colin! Thanks for making your points so well. The people of the area and their families and future generations deserve a quality professional venue of this size. The problem for Dudley is that while its few current attractions look to the past, the Dudley Hippodrome could give a vital professional platform to stars of the future. I find it shocking beyond words that Dudley Council couldn’t care less about the future generations of its citizens.

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