The History Of The Hippodrome

Reading the morning papers over breakfast on the 16th January 1900 must have been a particular pleasure for Edward Moss, managing director of the London Hippodrome and chairman of Moss Empires Limited. “Stupendous, even in these days of magnificence – putting its immediate rivals in the shade” was the conclusion of the Telegraph’s theatre critic after attending the grand opening night at London’s latest entertainment venue. “There are few more brilliant things to be seen in London than the auditorium of this Hippodrome when lighted by electricity, and thronged, as it was last night, by well-dressed pleasure-seekers,” wrote The Globe. The Evening Standard echoed this admiration noting how, “both in comfort, and the quality of the entertainment, everything that money can command would be provided”, adding that the show, “ran with the precision of a machine”. Moss could not have wished for better reviews.

And so began the incredible history of one of London’s theatrical icons.

From day one it provided a stage for ground breaking spectacle, forever pushing the boundaries of entertainment. It opened as a circus theatre with a 100,000 gallon pool (mentioned in an episode of Downton Abbey!) with elephants, polar bears and carriages pulled by racing teams of horses.

Works in 1909 enlarged the stage and advanced the proscenium to suit the theatre for variety and, from 1912, revue-style performances. Harry Houdini performed there and the venue staged the country’s first ever performance of Swan Lake.

In the 1950s the Hippodrome was transformed into the legendary Talk of the Town, and featured a host of major stars including the now world-famous residency of Judy Garland, subject of the Oscar-winning film ‘Judy’ starring Rene Zelwegger.

After various reincarnations, including a nightclub under the management of Peter Stringfellow, in 2008 the venue returned to its roots as a circus venue for burlesque cabaret La Clique, which closed in June 2009.

The Thomas family then spent years renovating and transforming the site, incorporating the adjacent Cranbourn Mansions, to open on July 13th 2012 the UK’s largest…and subsequently most popular…casino and entertainment venue. Once again, the Hippodrome is reinvented and world class.

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