This website is an introduction to the planned development of One Hippodrome Brighton.

This website is an introduction to the planned development of One Hippodrome Brighton.

The Hippodrome is an iconic building with an incredible past. We hope to create a theatre that will become a cultural mainstay for Brighton and Hove for decades to come, in an area that is in dire need of regeneration.

A strategic plan for the refurbishment of theatre is being drawn up including timescales for a phased development programme. Ultimately, our vision is for the Hippodrome to be run as a non-profit entity by professionals who understand where it will sit amongst Brighton’s theatres.

Two public consultation events will be held in spring 2019, where full details of the plans will be revealed. Dates and details to be released shortly.

The historic theatre, which has stood empty and left to ruin since 2007, was acquired by HIPP Investments in 2017 after plans to convert it into a cinema fell through.

Central to the redevelopment of the Grade II* Listed Building is the protection and restoration of the original theatre and the adjacent Hippodrome House. The proposal looks to create a multi-format performance space that will be operated by a suitably experienced operator, which will allow future generations to appreciate its history and splendour, whilst watching a variety of cultural performances.

As well as restoring the theatre, the proposal includes a theatrically themed 74-bedroom boutique hotel & spa and 26 serviced apartments that will front onto Middle Street and form part of Hippodrome House. The proposal includes encasing the existing domed roof of the venue in a rotund building that will house some of the apartments; protect and stabilize the existing structure and help celebrate the venue space below.

The Hippodrome is an iconic building with an incredible past. We hope to create a theatre that will become a cultural mainstay for Brighton and Hove for decades to come, in an area that is in dire need of regeneration.


Interestingly, from the start this building has been constrained by its surroundings and with restrictions on access to the site.

The site of the auditorium was occupied by small houses in a tight urban grain and which were demolished to make way for an Ice Rink.
The character of the site and the area was to fundamentally change with the development of a substantial Ice Rink, with a large glass domed roof, designed by Lewis Karslake. It survived as an Ice Rink for under four years.
The owner R Ellished Humfrey Bramall had to find a new use for the large building they owned and decided upon an indoor circus and commissioned Frank Matcham to undertake the first of his alterations to the building. He was mainly concerned with the interior and kept the existing façade largely intact but added the new name HIPPODROME in large relief letters between the two towers and altered the front façade by adding a central entrance and a canopy.
The Brighton Hippodrome Theatre and Circus opened in August 1901 but only lasted for one year when it was offered at auction in October 1902. It was at this stage, included in the lot, the double-fronted residence at no.52 Middle Street, now known as Hippodrome House, and a small cottage at no 50. It was bought by Thomas Barrasford, who owned a chain of music halls in the north of England. Matcham was retained as architect to undertake a further string of alterations to turn the circus into a theatre by widening the proscenium, replacing the circus ring with a raked floor in the stalls area along with the orchestra pit.
The Hippodrome Theatre of Varieties re-opened on 22 December 1902. Barrasford and his wife Maud moved into Hippodrome House, thus keeping it as its existing residential use.
Barrasford became seriously ill and died in February 1910 and soon after, the Hippodrome was acquired by Variety Theatres Controlling Company (VTCC), a company set up by two theatrical entrepreneurs, Sir Alfred Butt and Walter de Frece.
The Matcham stage arrangement and Proscenium arch only lasted 14 years with the first of several alterations carried out by the theatre architect J Emblin Walker.
Further alterations to the interior were made in the 1930s but no records apparently exist.
Minor alterations were made in the late 1940s including additional toilet accommodation and alterations to the foyer under taken by architect E M Lawson. It was at this time that the Matcham ticket booth in the centre of the main entrance on Middle Street was removed and the vestibule behind opened up. The middle of the three Matcham elements was then opened up to a new foyer.
The stage house was rebuilt by the architect E M Lawson in 1956.
The theatre was closed on Sunday 22 November with a performance by Chuck Berry.
The auditorium was converted by E M Lawson into a film and television studio with a flat floor installed over the stalls.
The Mecca Organisation took the building over and converted into a bingo hall. At about the same time two properties in Ship Street were demolished to create an open space that was added to the Hippodrome site as a car park, which reflects the site as it is today.
The entrance canopy was removed (and replaced in the 1990s).
It was given a Grade II* listing on 20th December.
The building was closed in August and the Academy Music Group (AMG) then took a lease on the site and spent several years developing a plan to create a music venue to join the Academy O2 chain, but it relied on a late-night license which was not granted because of the impact on the surrounding residential properties.
The Theatres Trust, the statutory advisory body on theatre conservation, placed the Hippodrome on its register of "buildings requiring special attention". On a list of 82 theatres in Britain, it was placed in the top ten at highest risk and has been at the top of that list for the last five years. The Theatres Trust Guide says that the Hippodrome 'is now probably the best surviving example of a circus - variety Theatre in Britain.'
A planning application to convert the building into an eight-screen cinema with restaurants was submitted and consented. The plans involved demolishing the stage, the fly-tower, all the back-stage facilities, the stalls and the orchestra pit. It also included the addition of a complete floor at balcony level, 'cutting' the main auditorium space in two.


Thank you for spending time finding out about the vision for One Hippodrome Brighton. If you have any general comments or questions, please get in contact using this form.