The Hippodrome is one of London’s most famous buildings, and has served as a venue for entertainment of all types for over a century.
Given that the city has hundreds of significant buildings within its boundaries, the fact that the Hippodrome stands out is all the more impressive.
If you want to learn more about the history of the place, going from music hall theatre to live casino venue, and how it has evolved over the years, read on for a potted look at its storied past.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Situated in the heart of the British capital, the London Hippodrome first flung its doors open to the public all the way back in 1900.
While the name itself refers to equestrian pursuits, it was conceived as a place where the most popular music hall acts of the day could wow crowds from around the world.
At the time it was aiming to deliver true spectacle to audiences, with a stage that could be adapted to accommodate everything from comedians and orchestras to aquatic performances involving seafaring craft floating in a huge tank.
The more outlandish aspects of the Hippodrome’s design were toned down within a decade, and for the first half of the 20th century it pivoted towards full-blown theatrics.
Various firsts were achieved under this new guise, including the fledgling performance of jazz music and the debut of the ballet Swan Lake.
Night life makeover
By the late 1950s, audience tastes in London were changing, along with the social expectations of the times, and the Hippodrome was more than ready to adapt to fit in with adjusted cultural norms.
While the exterior remained the same, the interior was stripped out and reconfigured to allow it to reopen as the Talk of the Town, a nightclub which saw performances from the likes of Cilla Black, Cliff Richard and Tom Jones.
In time the nightlife scene itself would pivot away from live performances, leading to another overhaul in 1983 at which point renowned promoter Peter Stringfellow would steward the Hippodrome in its new guise.
For a time, the venue went from strength to strength, with the club aspect joined by a popular restaurant, but London’s crowds can be fickle, and in the first years of the new millennium, the Hippodrome was all but forgotten.
Following several re-shufflings of the lease ownership, the Hippodrome emerged like a phoenix from the ashes in 2009 when a father-son team from Leicester took it over and aimed to take it back to its roots from a design standpoint, while also converting it for use as a casino.
Spending a reported £40 million on this transformation, the duo behind it eventually reintroduced the capital to the Hippodrome in 2012, with then-Mayor Boris Johnson overseeing the opening of the venue.
An impressive four levels of casino gaming space are housed within its historic exterior, in addition to a sextet of stylish bars, an award-winning restaurant and a cabaret theatre which still hosts musical acts and performers, much like the venue did throughout the 20th century.
In the years since it became one of London’s top casinos, the Hippodrome has also been used to host live events focusing on gambling, including poker tournaments which have been broadcast to audiences around the globe.
So there you have it; the Hippodrome is an enduring entertainment hotspot in a city where many of its competitors and contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. Furthermore, it looks set to enjoy further successes going forward as London remains a draw for international crowds.