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- Category: A
- Date Added: 01/06/1979
- Supplementary Information Updated: 31/03/2004
- Local Authority: Falkirk
- Planning Authority: Falkirk
- Burgh: Bo'Ness
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NS 99842 81686
- Coordinates: 299842, 681686
Matthew Steele, 1911; roof rebuilt 1926; ticket office added by John Taylor, 1936. Early Modern Movement 2-stage circular hippodrome with basement, shallow-domed roof and clasping single, 2- and 3-storey flat-roofed, pavilions. Harl over stone (auditorium) and brick with rendered details. Rock-faced rubble base course, cill courses, tall set-back parapet-effect with pronounced clasping blocks.
NW (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: dominant circular auditorium to centre, with 2 small openings to 1st stage flanking almost full-height advanced panel (blocked at 1st stage) with stepped cornice and 2 small windows at 2nd stage giving way to further cornice and parapet-effect, with shallow polygonal roof behind. Tall pavilion clasping at left with deep-set 2-leaf 6-panelled timber door, further door to right and window beyond, broad Crittal window at 1st floor flanked by similar narrow lights surmounted by sign 'HIPPODROME' and small dome to left. Further tall pavilion to right with single door, and low projection in re-entrant angle to left, with wide-centre bipartite window and further narrow light.
NE (HAMILTON LAND) ELEVATION: dominant 3-storey pavilion elevation (housing projection room) with variety of openings and broad bowed cantilevered canopy over ground centre and right rising into bowed 1st and 2nd floors with lower bay to outer right.
SE (REAR) ELEVATION: variety of openings to circular auditorium at left and 2-stage advanced panel at right with polygonal timber structure on roof abutting taller outer right bay.
Windows mostly blocked, but those to 1936 ticket office extension with Crittal windows, those to NE bowed. Modern felt-type roofing materials.
INTERIOR: altered: circular auditorium to flanks of gallery, proscenium to S, serpentine gallery on cast-iron columns, theatre seats and ribbed ceiling. Bordered ceramic-tiled walls to toilets. Tiny dressing rooms behind stage. Black and white tiled floor and timber-panelling to foyer; timber-panelled manager's office. 2 early projectors by Thomas Houston of Rugby, and fittings retained in projection room. Further work undertaken 2006-08 with facilities inserted beneath gallery and reinstatement of 1920s paint scheme.
Statement of Special Interest
Bo'ness Hippodrome is of considerable importance as the oldest surviving building in Scotland erected purposely for cinema screenings and as an early example of a building incorporating Modern Movement detailing and ideals. The Modern Movement style of the Hippodrome is a good example of the work of distinctive local architect Matthew Steele who contributed much to the architectural character of the town. It is a local landmark and occupies a corner site.
The Hippodrome was built for a local showman, Louis Dickson: its name and unusual circular auditorium suggest that it was conceived as a multi-purpose venue for visiting circus troupes as well as variety and cinema shows. Dickson produced annual black and white films on topical local subjects, several of which survive today at the Scottish Film Archive. Original drawings dated 1911 (see www.scottishcinemas.org.uk) indicate that the Hippodrome was planned with an Operators box for a projector, and indeed are labelled 'Proposed Picture Palace, Hope Street'. For this reason it has a good claim to be considered as the oldest surviving purpose-built cinema in Scotland. It was opened by Provost Grant on 11th March 1912 and its role as a circus venue was evidently short-lived as it soon became a full-time cinema.
As originally built, The Hippodrome was flat-roofed and consisted of a circular auditorium with wrap-around gallery facing a proscenium and small stage. Ancillary space filled in the corners of the site. Two entrances with separate payboxes led in from Hope Street - one to the front stalls, one to the rear, where a stair accessed the balcony. The stalls were shown as seating 510, and the balcony 215 - although it seems as if the line of the balcony front may have been altered at a later stage. The balcony was supported on cast-iron pillars. A folding metal stair served as a fire escape for the balcony, and a tiny Operators Box was situated at the rear of the gallery.
In March 1926 the original flat roof was replaced by a pitched one. In about 1936 an additional floor was added over the entrance, topped by a dome, to create a new office and to allow the original office to be added to the foyer space. This work was carried out by the architect John Taylor. The new, enlarged entrance foyer was decorated with panelling rescued from a ship, which had been broken up locally. Various minor internal alterations had also been carried out in the early '30s. By 1947, the Hippodrome was being run by Caledonian Associated Cinemas, who employed their house architect, Alex Cattenach of Kingussie, to bring the facilities at the cinema up to date. The projection facilities were enlarged, the separate front stalls entrance was blocked up to create a new ladies toilet, and the orchestra pit was removed.
During the 1970s the cinema became a bingo hall and it had been unused since 1980. Refurbishment work by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust was undertaken in 2006-08 including new facilities inserted under the gallery and the reinstatement of a 1920s paint scheme. The building has now passed into the care of Falkirk Council and it is expected to once again operate as a cinema venue as well as a community space.
Category changed from B to A, 31 March 2004.
List description updated 2007-08 as part of the cinemas thematic study.
Editor P Cadell THIRD STATISTICAL ACCOUNT (1992). B Peter SCOTLAND'S SPLENDID THEATRES (1999), pp222-23. R Jacques FALKIRK AND DISTRICT (2001), p133. M Tilmouth and R Emmerson MATTHEW STEELE A BO'NESS ARCHITECT (Unpublished). Callendar House DEAN OF GUILD RECORDS Refs 10/1912 proposed dressing room (Aug 1912); 7/1921 proposed stage (Oct 1921); AOO5.511/01 alterations and erections (1929), /02 alterations to gallery (1930), /05 proposed reconstruction of and alterations to roof (1926); 10/1936 reconstruction of entrance (1936). www.scottishcinemas.org.uk (accessed 28 March 2008).
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