Photos of Wigan
Photos of Wigan

Wigan Album



Hippodrome Fire 1956
Photo: Keith
Views: 2,710
Item #: 31383
Taken from a 1956 edition of The Stage.
The Wigan Hippodrome was badly damaged when it caught fire on early Saturday morning, April 21st 1956.

The roof of this modern auditorium was completely destroyed, and on to the circle, which was badly damaged.

The stalls were not so badly hit and the stage and backstage quarters were saved by the safety curtain. The stalls capacity was 574, circle 345 and upper circle 350.

The Hippodrome was 56 years old, although the auditorium was completely rebuilt just before the war. For many years it was owned and run by the Worswick family, but now controlled by James Brennan (Hulme Hippodrome, Ltd., circuit).

The “We Never Clothed” revue was playing the week of the fire. Stage curtains and drapes were saved by the safety curtain, as were props and costumes of the “We Never Clothed” company.

Comment by: Owd viewer on 31st July 2019 at 00:17

My dad told me that Charlie Chaplin played there just before the fire, has anyone got a memory of this?.

Comment by: Mick LD on 31st July 2019 at 07:53

Owd Viewer - Chaplin did appear there in 1906 as a teenager, with Will Murray's Casey's Court troupe, and he had also appeared in a play at the Royal Court Theatre across the road from the 'Hipp', a short time before that, but he didn't perform in the years shortly before the fire.

Comment by: Albert.S. on 31st July 2019 at 11:39

My personal opinion is, that another theatre should have been built for the production of live performances’, or, has Wigan now got a theatre?.
Most towns seem to have a theatre. Did the cause of the fire ever materialise. I learned of this tragic fire, on the camp tannoy system, in Germany.

Comment by: Veronica on 31st July 2019 at 11:55

I remember the Hippodrome burning down. We were playing out in the street and noticed the sky was red and people were talking about it. I was taken there as a child a few times - sat up in the gods! All the steps we had to climb to get there. The only act I can remember was a 'cheeky lady' waving two feather fans about and she was so clever you couldn't see she hadn't a stitch on - or so it seemed. The only other memory I have is dropping an ice cream over the balcony, being upset because I couldn't have another one. Probably not as upset as the person it landed on! It was a great loss to Wigan the Hipp - it was not a regular outing, just a treat now and again.

Comment by: Helen of Troy on 31st July 2019 at 12:55

I remember going to a variety show at the Hippodrome in about 1949/50 maybe. One of the acts on stage was Betty Driver, alias Betty Turpin in Coronation Street much later in her career. Betty sang & played the piano, she wore a bright pink tulle dress & had a little white poodle with her. Also there was an artist who played the harmonica, cant recall his name & at the end of his act he threw small harmonicas out into the audience. The funny things you remember.....

Comment by: Veronica on 31st July 2019 at 13:07

Forgot to mention I was taken to a pantomime there - I think it was 'Dick Whittington' in the early fifties. I do remember that clearly.

Comment by: Philip G. on 31st July 2019 at 15:24

Perhaps the vaudeville Casey's will provide me with the clue needed during my search for the title of a song that was sung by Arthur Askey on one of several episodes of The Good Old Days given another airing on TV about two years' ago. But despite it having a great G&S 'patter' beat, the poor 'tube-recording allows me to identify only the three following lines with any degree of certainty:
Down in Casey's (opening line) . . .
. . . caught this Greyhound Racing passion (mid-div').
some went. . ., some went bow-wow-wow (strewth!).

Comment by: Xpat on 31st July 2019 at 16:51

Philip , There is a track called Woof! Yap! Bow wow wow ! On a Cd called Chirrup . Could that be the one ?

Comment by: Mick LD on 31st July 2019 at 18:12

Philip - that particular 'Good Old Days' programme originally went out on 16th April 1972.
Although I don't know the title of Arthur Askey's song, below are the words, taken from an online transcription of the dialogue of the entire programme . . .
Down in Casey's Court they're what you'd call right into fashion
Down in Casey's Court they've got the greyhound racing passion
Someone cleared the boatyard out and made a racing track
And everybody entered dogs
Any dogs, many dogs
There were four-a-penny dogs
They were a comely pet
Dogs too thin, dogs too stout
Dogs with whiskers and without
And some went woof, some went yap
Some went bow-wow-wow
Dogs too long, dogs too short
Freaks of every shape and sort
And some went woof, some went yap
Some went bow-wow-wow
Their tails were short and thick
Some were long and thin
Some came too far out
Some went too far in
Pugs and pups, pings and pongs
Wagged their little tos and froms
And some went woof, some went yap
Some went bow-wow-wow.

Comment by: Philip G. on 31st July 2019 at 21:05

Many, many thanks for your tremendous reply to my post regarding the vaudeville song, Mick.
I hadn't previously been aware of Casey's Court, but when combining my early grasp of the word Casey's with your recent photo of the old Hipp', your photos responses, and TVs The Good Old Days canon (your photo appealing in its own right), a worthy point at which to extend my search seemed to present itself; Evidently, becoming very much more.
I'll soon copy the lyrics, and will then - when I've calmed-down -, follow them with relish at the songs next airing.

Comment by: Mick LD on 31st July 2019 at 21:52

Glad to have been of help, Philip.
The link below is where I found the lyrics. If you click on the left hand blue 'Download Subtitles' button, it opens a transcript of the entire show.

Comment by: Philip G. on 31st July 2019 at 22:17

Keith, many thanks for your appealing photo, and my apologies to yourself, and Mick, for the confusion I so magnificently displayed in my response to Mick.
XPat, Many thanks for your suggested song title. I've since located an Arthur Askey CD which lists your suggestion - I now hold a 'fiver' in a sweaty palm that says 'You've nailed it'.

Comment by: Owd viewer on 31st July 2019 at 23:31

Thanks Mick, maybe it's my memory it is 60 years since he told me.

Comment by: Owd viewer on 31st July 2019 at 23:52

Albert, wigan has a theater, wigan little theater, I recommend it we go most performances.

Comment by: Veronica on 1st August 2019 at 08:07

Although Wigan Little Theatre is very good and has stood the test of time and produced brilliant performances,it isn't as grand as The Hippodrome was. Many famous acts appeared there on their 'way up' and more to the point held far more people - it was very popular and of its time.. I do wonder how it would have fared though if it hadn't burned down as time moved on. I don't suppose we'll ever know, as the Ritz in the sixties seemed to take over for the famous singing celebrities and The Emp. I recall seeing Tom Jones there in the sixties.

Comment by: Mick LD on 1st August 2019 at 09:09

Veronica's comment about acts appearing at the Hippodrome 'on their way up', reminds me of when I was the Scholes area bobby, almost forty years ago.
One day, I got talking to an elderly lady who lived in the Darlington St area, who in the 1950s, had provided 'digs' for many of the acts appearing at the Hippodrome.
On one occasion, she had a young Welsh girl in her teens as a guest.
That young Welsh girl wnet on to become Dame Shirley Bassey.

Comment by: Albert.S. on 1st August 2019 at 09:37

I appreciate your comment Own Viewer. In the late eighties, and early nineties I took my mother on several occasions, and we both thoroughly enjoyed the performances. When I see adverts in the national press, relating to theatre shows, showing top class artists, it is surprising how many provincial towns now have substantial theatres.

Comment by: Philip G. on 1st August 2019 at 17:24

Just played it with the words at hand for the first time Mick, - Much more enjoyable.

Comment by: MAY TAYLOR on 4th August 2019 at 14:25

Shirley Bassey was in the chorus line of a show at the HIPP in 1954,The Memories Of Jolsen.showing on Wigan holiday week, 3 chorus girls had digs in the Navigation Inn at Britannia Bridge.

Comment by: Mick LD on 5th August 2019 at 07:22

Many thanks for that, May Taylor.

Comment by: Albert.S. on 6th August 2019 at 15:14

Shirley Bassey’s voice was a regular entertainer, over the sound system, in the fifties, prior to start of the match, at Central Park.

Comment by: sandra coxhead nee fields on 27th September 2019 at 22:04

I lived in brookhouse st off darlington st and the house where I lived was where people from the hippodrome used to stay

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