The story of the Hippodrome
The Pendle Hippodrome Theatre is a Limited company providing a service with a professional standard to the local community. Owned by the Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company who perform two shows per year. We can accommodate for most needs such as full stage musicals, plays, pantomimes, stand up and even music videos.
Situated in Newmarket Street, standing behind St. Bartholomew's Parish Church, which dates back to 1122 AD and in the shadow of Colne's magnificent Victorian Gothic Town Hall you will find the Hippodrome Theatre. It is truly a local Theatre. The Theatre was built by a Colne man Mr George Fort, on land owned by him in Newmarket Street Colne, and under the supervision of architect Councilor RS Pilling of Colne using local stone from the old quarry. It opened on 21st September 1914.
The Hippodrome started its life as a cini-variety theatre which took the form of a variety bill with the silent film as the star turn, and for many years the theatre offered spectacular programmes to entertain the people of Colne. The Theatre carried on presenting a mixed programme of variety acts and silent films with great success until the arrival in the early 1930's of the 'talking pictures' and for the next thirty years enjoyed a run of presenting films for the public of Colne.
The next change for the Hippodrome followed the whim of popular culture and on June 8th 1964 "eyes down and look in" bingo had arrived. Whilst it may not have seemed an ideal form of entertainment for this once proud and splendid theatre in retrospect the game can be said to have saved this and many other theatre buildings from dereliction or the property developer.
In the spring of 1978 rumours of the closure of the Hippodrome were quickly verified and a meeting of the officials from the then three local operatic societies confirmed that, despite some misgivings, a home of our own was the way forward. The owners EMI proved to be sympathetic to our cause and negotiated a very fair deal for the purchase of the theatre. The main difficulty was that we had to produce the asking price within four weeks. Many varied, and some bizarre, methods of raising money were employed but finally and successfully in June 1978 the Hippodrome became ours.
For the first time in its history the Hippodrome was 'closed'. Years of neglect with little or no maintenance had given us a formidable task. We were, however, a group with determination, vision and a purpose. We optimistically aimed at re-opening in two years after an outlay of perhaps £20,000. In the event it took us nearly nine years and a cost of over £130,000 to restore the theatre. Well over 80% of the total was raised by our members who also put in over 60,000 man hours of labour, assisted in the latter part of the project by a major contribution of manpower from the Pendle Re-employment Project.
There were times when progress was slow and unforeseen problems seemed insurmountable. The dreaded ‘dry rot' proved to be a recurring nightmare and we removed all the plasterwork back to the brick and replaced much of the timberwork on stage with new treated timber. The entire roof was reslated, the outside repointed, and the old central heating system was replaced. The whole of the front area of the theatre consisted of a number of tiny rooms and these were knocked through to form a foyer area and gents and ladies toilets. The back of the auditorium was walled off to form a bar area and all the seats were removed, repainted, recovered and replaced. The fixtures and fittings and refurbishment were kept to the traditional and, when redecorating the auditorium we discovered that the walls took one whole roll of wallpaper per drop. The stage grid was rehung with ropes from the by now sadly dismantled Palace Theatre in Nelson.
The dressing room facilities were woefully inadequate and so an Urban Aid Grant was obtained and we built a two story dressing room block on the side of the theatre on land purchased from Bass North West in the Derby Arms yard.
We were extremely lucky to have some skilled and imaginative members and many more who became adept at all manner of tasks beyond their experience.
The theatre was finally reopened on Saturday 6th December 1986 by Simon Towneley Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire.
This was not the end but only the beginning. We have continued to improve our facilities over the years and are still growing and improving and still run purely by volunteers. The Hippodrome is one of a handful of true theatres in the country owned and run by amateurs. We are proud of our achievements and our beautiful Theatre.
The Theatre now operates as a Limited Company and Registered Charity administered by a Board of Directors elected from the Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company. We hold a full theatre licence and provide a venue for many local performers, charities, schools, drama and dance groups as well as being home for our own Theatre Company and our thriving Youth Theatre.