Hippodrome

Photo:Old Hippodrome (date unknown)

Old Hippodrome (date unknown)

Image reproduced with permission from Brighton History Centre

Photo:Outside the Hippodrome now Mecca Bingo

Outside the Hippodrome now Mecca Bingo

From a private collection

Jane appearing in less than her flimsies

by Rita Denman

In the 1930s when my father had his week holiday a regular family treat was to go to 'the Hip' as it was known locally. At that time it was a variety theatre and the programme was made up of dancers (tap was all the rage then) singers, speciality acts, comedy turns, musicians, ventriloquists and impersonators to name but a few. At the top of the bill was 'a big name'.

Waiting outside in anticipation
Prior to the doors opening, Middle Street was crowded with the prospective audience waiting to go in. The confectioner and tobacconist on the opposite side of the street did a steady trade. Anticipation grew as the doors to the Foyer were opened. The permanent aroma of cigars wafted out onto the street and there was a rush to the ticket office by those who had not pre-booked their seats to get the better positions. The expensive seating area on the ground floor, occupied by ladies and gentleman in their furs and finery, provided the pre-show entertainment for those of us who entered via a side door with a flight of stairs, to the upper circle, from where we had a bird's-eye view of the comings and goings of the 'toffs' downstairs.

Opulence, colour and decoration
We children sat wide-eyed at the opulence, the colour and decoration. There was a rectangular illuminated box on each side of the stage, which showed the number of the turn as the programme progressed. The orchestra coming into the orchestra pit from beneath the stage and the tuning-up brought childish anticipation to fever pitch. The lights lowered, the orchestra struck up the overture, and the last minute arrivals in the audience heralded the beginning of the show.

Embarrassment at the 'Jane' show
In the 1920s my father heard the great violinist Kreisler play at the Hippodrome. In the 30s my husband saw Tom Mix and in the 40s I saw the Daily Mirror character 'Jane'. I had been taken by a much older cousin who lived in Hanover Crescent (I think it was number 5) and ran it as a guest house. As a guest house proprietor, she received complimentary tickets to town theatres and she occasionally took me as a companion. The 'Jane' show had a nautical theme and in those days of childhood innocence even at the age of 14 or so I was distinctly embarrassed by 'Jane' appearing in less than her flimsies.

One of a series of memoirs about Rita's childhood in Elm Grove
Sent to the website by e-mail 28th October 2002
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
Rita, you mentioned 'Jane' at the Hippodrome but do you by any chance remember the film called, I think, 'The Adventures of Jane' made at the Brighton Film Studio in the early 1950s? I can't remember exactly where, but I think it was somewhere in the area between Queens Road and Seven Dials. I also came across Jane a couple of years ago at, of all places, the Lincolnshire Air Museum, where they have a WW2 RAF bomber named Jane, with her picture in all its flimsy glory painted on the side of its nose. I've enjoyed reading all of your memories on this site: it reminds me of 'another life' now far off in both time and distance.
By Arthur Loosley (10/03/2005)

I remember so well the Beatles concert at the Hippodrome because after the show they were smuggled out in a car(possibly a police car) and then they stopped along the Old London Road towards Black Lion and transferred into another car. However , I was quick enough to spot them and ran to the car and spoke with them and Paul kissed my hand and I don't think I washed it for a week. I only wish that I had been sharp enough to ask for autographs but at that time I was a young star struck teenager overwhelmed with the excitement of the moment. Such wonderful memories I have of growing up in Brighton and going every week with my dear Dad to the Hippodrome .I love your web site that I have just discovered.My Mum (now deceased) was one of "the faces" of the millenium, Frances Baldock.Do you have any photos in your archives?I now live in Hawaii and would be happy to hear from some of your readers. Aloha Ann White (nee Baldock)

By alamoanaannie@yahoo.com (20/02/2007)

I recall driving down Middle Street in my Mini Minor van and girls climbing all over the vehicle thinking I was smuggling the Beatles in. Luckily no-one was injured!

By John Snelling (03/09/2013)

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.