Tameside Hippodrome Ashton-under-Lyne
Beginning life in November 1904 as the Ashton Empire and Hippodrome, Tameside Hippodrome was part of the Broadhead Circuit. In the early years it featured variety acts. The front face was originally typical of J J Alley - a simple three bay, red brick frontage with sparse yellow brick relief and broad gable, decorated dentil detailing to recessed windows, string-courses and parapet returns as well as corbels and ball finials to ends. It incorporated a shop on either side of the central entrance. The central projecting bay was rendered in 1933, and now has a triangular pediment (added in 1976). The original pillar-supported canopy was replaced with a streamlined cantilevered one in 1933, to which a pediment was added in 1993. 1960s tiles, 1990s pilasters, and 2005 doors along the ground floor. Previously a 2,000 capacity three-tier auditorium with boxes, the auditorium was completely reconstructed in 1933 with a 600-seat cantilevered single-span circle. The full seating capacity was reduced to 1,600. Clean streamlined Art Deco style. Plasterwork detailing similar to that of the Plaza Cinema in Stockport (architect, Drury & Gomersall), with embellished proscenium arch, chevroned organ grills topped with a sunburst. Coved lighting throughout, full height pilasters and niches. The sidewalls were once finished in fanciful Art Deco plaster relief, some of which remains to either side of the organ chambers and to the upper section of the circle. The former 100-seat first floor café as remodelled in the 1960s to form a bar, and altered again in 1976 and 1990. All the original coving and plasterwork detail from 1933 remains intact both here and in the ground floor foyer which houses the modern box office and front-of-house sales. The first floor windows also retain their 1933 Art Deco stained glass. The original 1904 stage remains, along with its safety curtain - although the counterweight mechanism and operating system were updated in 2005. The double-height fly tower incorporates the original wooden grid although hemp flying was replaced in 1982 with 35 sets of single-purchase counterweight sets. To the rear of the stage are the original eight dressing rooms. Further to the rear is the engine house, where the theatre originally produced its own electricity. This was converted in 2005 to provide further dressing rooms, laundry and offices. The theatre closed in April 2008. A threat of demolition in 2009 was halted by statutory listing. The building remains closed and empty, and therefore deteriorating.
Originally opened in 1904 as a live theatre, the Empire's auditorium was completely gutted in 1933 and the present stalls, plus single balcony, Art Deco interior was constructed. This replaced the previous two balconies plus box arrangement. The exterior was largely unchanged. The architects responsible for the present auditorium are Drury and Gomersall, the exterior and original were by J.J. Alley. It reopened on November 4th, 1933, was taken over by Union Cinemas in 1937 and then by ABC however it was not renamed ABC until 1963. It closed in April 1975 and reopened as a live theatre in May 1976 with s summer film season which lasted until 1986. Now open for live performances only, it is owned by Apollo / SFX / Clear Channel. Its future is a little uncertain, being the weakest programmed theatre in the company's four Greater Manchester theatres. Contributed by Ian Grundy