Numerous developments regarding “Theatre at Risk” Hulme Hippodrome

Hulme Hippodrome is unlikely to last much longer without major interventions.

Those in Manchester City Council responsible for protecting listed buildings have written to the unresponsive owners of Hulme Hippodrome insisting on urgent repair works. If repairs are not carried out then the Council has powers to do the works itself, charge the owners, and has powers to start proceedings for compulsory purchase, which would be a good thing all round in my opinion.

Meanwhile, the lively and committed campaign group Save Hulme Hippodrome have been doing some interesting research on the building’s architect.

Here’s what they found. Manchester-born multi-talented John Joseph Alley began his architectural career in his mid-50’s & was 70 before he described himself as architect. He received little architectural training. Working exclusively for WH Broadhead he designed 12 theatres in Manchester, including the Hulme Hippodrome.

Born in Chorlton-on-Medlock, JJ Alley son of John Alley, decorator & his wife Mary. Jobs inc. Lecturer of Polygraphy (printing multiple colours simultaneously); sign-writer; consulting & practical decorator & sign-writer; topographical antiquarian & scientific draughtsman, librarian & book seller, journalist, Lecturer and Public Reader, Topographic Antiquarian & Scientific Draughtsman & Modeller; journalist; illustrative journalist. He gives “Architect” as his occupation in the 1911 census, taken a year before his death.

Whatever his passions or qualifications, he produced many fine buildings of which Hulme Hippodrome is one of the last remaining examples, and should be brought back into public use as soon as possible.

The facts behind the current obfuscation about the ownership of Hulme Hippodrome

The actual ownership of the Hulme Hippodrome is confounding efforts to protect it from winter damage, say the Save Hulme Hippodrome organisation, which places the theatre in further jeopardy from deterioration beyond recovery.

The Save Hulme Hippodrome group said “The current “owners” of The Hulme Hippodrome, HHM20 Limited, have now asked for a review of the Manchester City Council decision to list The Hulme Hippodrome as an asset of community value.

In our view this is delaying tactics & the ACV to protect the building has been granted on merit & any challenge merely serves to delay the upkeep.

From past experience this is “all of a piece”, meaning that the parties involved will seek to complicate matters with any public authority as far as possible in hope of causing confusion & delay. Sadly, we saw this behaviour in the previous criminal as well as civil proceedings.

Whilst they must have a fair hearing, not least because fairness benefits us too. However we need to be careful that fairness doesn’t cause delays in the urgent remedial works order made earlier this month works needed to stop the ongoing damage from rainwater ingress at scale.”

Let’s all wish them well with their preservation attempts.

On a happier final note, here’s a poster for the Hulme Hippodrome’s 1953/4 pantomime. Frank Randle was due to star but became ill and unable to appear, so comedian Ted Lune came out of retirement to star with his wife Valery Joy as Bo-Peep. According to helpful comments on the Save Hulme Hippodrome ‘s Twitter page from Jeff Hill, we learn this: “Iris Poliakova was found at a London theatre billed as “the cigar smoking strip tease artiste”. John Chilvers, the villain in this show, went on to make a significant contribution to Welsh theatre directing over 500 plays and writing pantos. Awarded MBE for his efforts.”

Hulme Hippodrome celebrates 120th anniversary! plus Update

On October 7th, Manchester’s critically at-risk Hulme Hippodrome celebrated its 120th anniversary with images of its illustrious history are projected onto the building itself, shown to an invited audience of local people. It certainly looks like like everyone had a good time, as well as raising the profile of the beleaguered Hippodrome.

All this and cake too! Who could resist! Happy Birthday to the Hippo and best wishes to all those fighting to save it from greedy developers.

Here’s a couple of photos from the celebration, courtesy of the campaign organisers’ Twitter feed

UPDATE: on 12th October the Campaign Tweeted this – Save Hulme Hippodrome has received legal advice that building is owned by HHM20 Ltd. “We’ve reached out to the owner on numerous occasions & had no response, we’re sending call out to the owner to speak to us & work on a solution now that it can’t be sold for redevelopment.”

“We’re doubling our energy. We are even more determined to succeed. Our intention now is to put as much pressure as we can on the owner and the regulators to get the building back for Hulme and Manchester. It will not survive another winter.”

“It can’t survive another winter….” Please help TODAY to save Hulme Hippodrome

Photo via Victorian Society website

The much-neglected Hulme Hippodrome has had good news in recent days. Its recent listing as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) may just be the turning point in its beleaguered history.

The 1900-seat theatre was built in 1901, and in 1902 another theatre, the Pavilion was built right alongside, with the adjoining arcade housing the head offices of the important Broadhead circuit of theatres, who built and owned both theatres. The Hippodrome also contains another large space, the Floral Hall, as big again as the theatre. So I am sure that you can imagine this is a major combination of buildings, significant for many reasons – both architectural and historical.

Hulme Hippodrome was last used for theatre in the 1960s and then bingo from the mid-1970s until its closure in 1986, from which time it has deteriorated due to non-use and lack of regular maintenance. Hulme Hippodrome has been on the Theatres at Risk Register each year since 2006, when they started the list.

Those wanting to know the full backstory can read it at the ever-dependable Theatres Trust website here.

A religious organisation bought the Hippodrome and operated out of the foyer until the Council slapped a Dangerous Buildings notice on them, during which time the building has been slowly decaying with no upkeep apparent. After invasion by squatters caused further damage, the building was later cleared and secured.

Recently the building was subject to a number of quick attempted sales at inflated prices. However, these sales were stopped and are being investigated as having not disclosed the building being Grade II listed and misleadingly offering it for redevelopment.

The Save the Hulme Hippodrome campaign group was started at the start of 2021 in response to these attempted sales. It has raised a significant amount by Crowdfunding from supporters (including myself), and campaigned for the Hippodrome to become an Asset of Community Value (ACV), which was agreed in mid-August.

Working in partnership with the Theatres Trust, the group has created an sensible and ambitious vision, a detailed and costed Action Plan for the restoration of the building including phased community uses from the earliest safe point possible and is well-placed to further explore that, given appropriate support.

The religious group which owned the buildings before these recent attempted sales may well find the Hippodrome back in its ownership. However, in 2017 the leader of the group was indicted to Africa on charges of child trafficking.

The group is now lobbying the Charities Commission and asks for your help too.

The Group says: “We expect that senior managers at the Charity Commission will be meeting in the next few days to decide whether the building remains with the disgraced charity and is allowed to continue to rot, or whether the Charity Commission will intervene and use their legal powers to hand over the building to an organisation which will secure it and bring it back into community use.

We hope that you will be able to assist us in rescuing the building from dereliction and ensure its future as a community asset. We are encouraging all our supporters to make their feelings known today to the Charity Commission, and a template letter is available in the link below to send. Please share this far and wide.”

You can find the template letter here or find it reproduced in full for you to cut and paste below

I’ve sent my email.

Will you please send yours?

Thank You for your help in trying to bring Hulme Hippodrome back from the brink.


Dear Helen Stephenson

Hulme Hippodrome and Gilbert Deya Ministries (Charity ref# 1051722)

I am writing to request that the Commission acts promptly to intervene on or before the 30 September 2021 to facilitate the return of the Hulme Hippodrome building to the community before it becomes derelict beyond repair. It will not withstand the damages of another winter.

You will be aware that HM Land Registry (HMLR) have now issued a “warning of cancellation” and have written to the solicitors of parties in the chain, saying the pending sales will collapse on 30 September 2021 because of non-compliance with Rule 16 of the Land Registry Rules 2003 unless there is full compliance beforehand. If this happens, the default is that the building would revert to the disgraced GDM charity.

I am asking you to use your powers given by Parliament to secure Hulme Hippodrome and place it fairly with a responsible organisation which will protect the building and ensure it becomes an active community asset once again.

Save Hulme Hippodrome Ltd (SHH) is a non-profit company and has been leading the campaign to save the Hulme Hippodrome, a Grade 2 listed building and has the support of the Manchester City Council. SHH has a detailed and costed Action Plan for the restoration of the building including phased community uses from the earliest safe point possible. SHH has followed legal advice and attempted to negotiate a fair use of the building in utmost good faith with the current owner/s, but nothing at all was forthcoming.

SHH has been actively seeking to rescue the Hippodrome since January 2021 when they uncovered a complicated chain of sales of the building leading to a failed attempt to auction the Grade 2 historic theatre for development. Through their actions the building is now legally registered as an Asset of Community Value. SHH has obtained a RICS-compliant independent valuation and this has been shared with Charity Commission officers and the Interim Managers. I hope that you will be able to assist here in rescuing the building from dereliction and ensure its future as a community asset.

Yours sincerely

UPDATE 30 September

I have just received this from the Charities Commission

Dear Mr Donaldson,

Thank you for your recent email to our Chief Executive, Helen Stephenson, in relation to Floral Hall/The Hulme Hippodrome. As the Head of Investigations, your concerns were passed to me and I am responding on the CEO’s behalf.

In your email, you raised concerns about the sale of the Hulme Hippodrome building and, in particular, the upcoming deadline that HM Land Registry (HMLR) have given the buyer to provide further information. 

The Charity Commission has considered the validity of the sale and concluded that it was a valid sale (disposal of land), in accordance with the Charities Act 2011. Despite the failure by the charity to comply with some of the statutory requirements, the sale was valid. The sale was also considered by appointed Interim Managers of the charity, and they reached the same conclusion. Therefore, the current buyer/owners will remain responsible for it, and the Commission no longer have a regulatory role in the matter.  This would be subject to change should new evidence be received about the validity of the sale. We would, in that instance, take appropriate action, as necessary.  

In consideration of the HMLR’s letter to K & K Solicitors, we note the ongoing objection. Our understanding of the “Warning of cancellation” is that the HMLR will cancel the application to register title unless they receive a full reply to their requisitionsThe letter also set out what will happen if an application is cancelled.  It has been noted that it did not include the sale being considered invalid or being set aside.

We have, therefore, advised the Secretary of Save the Hulme Hippodrome to contact the HMLR about this matter.

Thank you again for writing to us to express your concerns.

Yours sincerely,
Amy Spiller
Head of Investigations
Charities Commission

Hulme Hippodrome hosts a garden party on July 25th

Having just been delighted by the arrival in the post of my new SAVE HULME HIPPO T-shirt (see below), I was further pleased to see the announcement of a Garden Party at the Hulme Hippodrome on Sunday 25th July, from 1pm until 4pm which is, as they describe it, “an afternoon of food, talks and music to say Thank You for your support”.

1.00pm – Welcome drink, registering and signing people up

1.15pm – Walk around of Hulme Hip 

1.30pm   Presentation from the board  Directors + questions

2.00pm – Lunch + musical accompaniment 

2.40pm   Heritage Talk

3.00pm – Introduce future events

3.15pm – Planning for the future of the Hippodrome

Although too far away to attend myself, I hope that anyone in or around the Manchester area will get out and support them.

I’m delighted with my Save the Hippo T-shirt!

Hulme Hippodrome in UK’s most at risk Victorian buildings

Hulme Hippodrome, photo courtesy Victorian Society website

The respected Victorian Society has included Manchester’s Hulme Hippodrome in its Top Ten most endangered buildings for 2019.

Opening on 10 October 1901 in the Manchester suburb of Hulme, the Grand Junction Theatre and Floral Hall (as it was originally known) seated 2,000 upon opening (with a further 1,000 seats in the adjoining Floral Hall.) It was designed by J J Alley, who designed a number of Manchester theatres including the Hulme Playhouse which was built the following year right next door to the Hippodrome, both theatres being joined by an arcade. Both theatres were part of the Broadhead circuit, which built its head office along the arcade between the two theatres.

The theatre fell into disuse in the mid-1980s and has been slowly decaying ever since.

The ornate, Grade II-listed building was bought at auction in May this year by a church group and there are major concerns for this vulnerable landmark building which is in a very fragile state of health.

Christopher Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, said ‘There is nothing sadder than a shuttered theatre. Central Manchester’s increasing prosperity has not yet spread to Hulme, which cannot afford to lose assets such as this splendid building.’

I managed to find a short film (below) taken in 2012 which allows us inside the Hulme Hippodrome, which as you can see was already rotting away under an undignified amateur paint job. Thanks to YouTube poster lazyeyebailey for the video.