New Hippodrome Theatre, Coventry.

New Hippodrome Theatre,

Hales Street,

Coventry, CV1 1JD


Date opened:  Monday 1st November 1937.

Date closed as a theatre:  Thursday 6th June 1985.

Owner:  Sam Herbert Newsome.

Architects:  W. Stanley Hattrell & Partners.

Seating Capacity:  Stalls~1014. Dress Circle~ 640. Upper Circle~ 462. Boxes~ 20. Total: 2136.

Renamed in 1955:  Coventry Theatre.

Under new ownership:  The Grade Organisation who eventually passed it across ABC/EMI & Bernard Delfont.

Seasonal cinema introduced:  1969 to 1975.

First film shown:  ‘Gone with the Wind’ starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Presented in 70mm.

Building demolished:  2002.


Gleaming in the sunlight, but soon to become history. c1925.

The Coventry Hippodrome, with the hoardings in place announcing its successor.

With three theatres in Coventry with the name Hippodrome, the first, little more than a corrugated metal clad structure, being built during 1884 at Pool Meadow. The third and final Hippodrome was on Hales Street, constructed on a site next door to the second, thirty one year old theatre bearing the same name.

Sam H. Newsome.

Impresario Sam Herbert Newsome was the man who drove the scheme forward to provide a new and exciting large Art Deco theatre. He chose architects W. Stanley Hattrell & Partners. With site clearance and construction starting in December 1936.

The sheer, bland façade, punctuated with small windows had a boxy appearance. The proscenium was 50 feet wide, the stage 39 feet deep and there were 12 dressing rooms. Seating was provided for 1014  patrons in the stalls, 640 in the dress circle and 462 in the upper circle. The two boxes positioned either side of the proscenium combined had 20 seats, with a total capacity of 2136.

Both balconies were steeply raked and the modern sleek lines of the auditorium focused the eye towards the stage with little ornate plasterwork to interfere with the Art Deco appearance. Two troughs of lay lights ran the width of the main ceiling with circular house lights fittings provided light from the under balconies. 

Lighting was concealed within the layers of ribbed bands that ran across the ceiling and partly down the splay walls next to the proscenium. Ceiling ventilation grillwork was placed in a line mid way of these bands. Further panels of grillwork and finer horizontal bands ran along the lower reaches of the splay walls.   

The two Hippodromes, side by side.

The New Hippodrome Theatre opened on Monday 1st November 1937. The Hippodrome on the opposite corner had closed the previous day and was demolished soon after.

The popular musician of the time Harry Roy, appeared with his band at the Gala Opening.

Performing on stage at the opening of the New Hippdrome, Coventry ~ Harry Roy & his band.

Miraculously despite a direct bomb hit which fortunately didn’t explode, the theatre survived the WWII bombing of Coventry, becoming a nationally well-known venue for big band concerts and shows.

The sleek modern bar of the New Hippodrome Theatre Coventry.

Sam H. Newsome was well known for his spectacular shows across the Midlands and beyond.

His pantomimes were legendary and he certainly planned to use his new theatre as a platform for his splendid stage productions. The New Hippodrome Theatre soon became known as ‘The Showplace Of The Midlands’. A varied programme of stars from radio and music hall, variety and later stars from TV.

In 1955 the theatre was renamed the Coventry Theatre to give it a more local and unique name, remaining under the management of Sam H Newsome.

The scene outside Coventry station when film stars Laurel and Hardy arrived. The two comedians appeared at the Hippodrome for two weeks. 25th August 1947

The Hippodrome attracted many top stars during its six-decade run. Such as Julie Andrews, Gracie Fields, Cliff Richard, Shirley Bassey, George Formby, Arthur Haynes, Arthur Askey, Harry Secombe, Norman Wisdom, Helen Landis, Ken Dodd, Edmund Hockridge, Al Read, Margaret Lockwood, Katherine Hepburn and Laurel and Hardy performed at the theatre.

Ken Dodd’s first appearance was way down the bill at the Coventry Hippodrome in the late 1950s.   He said: “I appeared at the Coventry Hippodrome, which was a beautiful old building during 1956 when Sam Newsome was in charge there.
“I appeared all through the autumn season. Singer Jill Day topped the bill, and I stayed with Tommy Cooper out in Kenilworth.”  Ken Dodd returned to the Hippodrome two years later, this time as top of the bill.

Norman Wisdom at the Hippodrome

During 1958 it was an associate theatre within the Stoll Circuit. As business dropped sharply during the early 1960s, Sam H. Newsome applied for a rates reduction in 1963, which was rejected by the council. It was the decade of pop concerts with the theatre presenting acts like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, Roy Orbison, the Walker Brothers, etc.

The Coventry Theatre Hales Street, Coventry 28th January 1963

A major change came when Sam Newsome decided to sell the theatre during 1967 to the Grade Organisation who eventually passed it across ABC/EMI and Bernard Delfont, who presented numerous stage shows there.  Cinema was introduced during the the summer months from 1969 to 1975 when stage shows became scarce.

Presented in 70mm.

June 1969 saw a nine week run of the classic movie “Gone with the Wind”. 70mm projection had been installed with the movie being shown on a giant of a screen. Other blockbuster films followed like David Lean’s masterpiece, Dr Zhivago.

In 1979 it was taken over by Paul Gregg’s Apollo Theatre Company with yet another name change to the Coventry Apollo. Birmingham theatres and venues were proving to be a challenge by attracting the big name productions.

The final curtain artist~ Barbara Dickson.

After six years the theatre closed on Thursday 6th June 1985 after staging a “Sold Out” show, when Barbara Dickson headed the bill.

As a Gala Bingo Club.

It had been bought by Gala Bingo who operated it as a bingo hall until final closure. It was compulsory purchased by Coventry City Council in 2000.

The whole site had been meant to be levelled by the end of 2001, but in September demolition work was held up by five months after workers found the building was riddled with brown and white asbestos.

The final chapter for this iconic theatre.

They also found problems with flooding in the basement from an underground stream. By 2002 demolition was complete, clearing the site for the Millennium Place project.


Peter Lawley~

The late Peter Lee built a beautiful scale model of this, supported by singing idol Vince Hill who had performed there. See the full page obituary in the latest CTA Bulletin and the tribute in Screentrade.
I remember a CTA visit to it on bingo in the 80s. Veteran Bert Royle still worked there.
During the blitz he dug an unexploded bomb out of the lift shaft to save the theatre. As a result a dance band was broadcasting from the stage the following day. Imagine the fat Nazi Lutwaffe Boss Goering ‘s fury when he heard that and realised that he hadn’t completely destroyed the city, but merely strengthened its resolve!