Royal Opera House . . .

The Royal Opera House which was demolished in 2003/4 dated from 1877 when it was opened as the Prince of Wales Circus. Closed for safety reasons in 1908, the interior was demolished and rebuilt as a theatre - called the Hippodrome - to the designs of Frank Tugwell. It had a major renovation in 1976 and closed due to abject mis-management in 1995 having been successfully run by the receivers for two years 1993/4 when a mix of films and a summer season of The Minstrel Show kept the theatre busy. Inadequately boarded up, with the electric pump which kept the basement dry turned off and various taps left turned on, the building flooded and rapidly deteriorated until a major arson attempt in 1998 ensured the destruction of the foyer block. Largely undamaged by the fire the theatre at the rear was left until 2003 when - despite its listed status it was deemed an eyesore and condemned.


Royal Opera House
January 2003

The stage - with temporary lighting after the flood waters had been pumped out. Part of the house curtain can be seen above the vandalised remnants of the cinema screen.


Royal Opera House
January 2003

The side walls with the unusual suspended stage box.

Royal Opera House
January 2003

The balcony fronts - still in good condition. Note the area of circle seating which has been attacked by an arsonist - to the left and rear of the central aisle.

Royal Opera House
February 2003

A detail of the plaster cherubs above the stage box.


Royal Opera House
February 2003

Demolition commences - virtually no light in the auditorium - but the extent of the flooding can be seen from the discoloured areas of the front stalls seats.

Royal Opera House
January 2004

The balconies still retain their plasterwork.


Royal Opera House
January 2004

Another view of the side wall boxes.

Royal Opera House
March 2004

The removal of the balconies is underway with the supporting metal work of the upper exposed and the debris covering the steps of the dress circle.

Royal Opera House
March 2004

A detail of the acorns and oak leaves plasterwork which surrounded the proscenium arch.

Royal Opera House
March 2004

Scaffolding has been erected to allow for the removal of the plasterwork from the proscenium arch - hopefully to be recreated in another theatre.


Royal Opera House
March 2004

There is more light now as a large part of the rear wall of the theatre has been removed and natural light floods the devastation inside.

Royal Opera House
March 2004

A view across the stage - note the bridge at the far side.

Royal Opera House
September 1991

A view from the rear of the dress circle when the Opera House was up and running.

Royal Opera House
March 2004

Taken from the same area - now looking through the remains of both balconies. The girders were in pristine condition, and like the rest of the metal from the theatre, have been sent to China for smelting. Clear as the day they were installed is the paintwork on the girders proclaiming the manufacturers - A D Dawnay & Sons Ltd of London and Cardiff.


Royal Opera House
April 2004

The proscenium arch has now been stripped of its plasterwork - which has been carefully packed away in crates.

Royal Opera House
May 2004

Much of the auditorium has now gone and the stage awaits its final act.


Royal Opera House
May 2004

These cast iron columns were part of the original circus building and had been hidden away for close on a century. When it was a circus there were boxes at an upper level strung between the columns.

Royal Opera House
May 2004

Amazingly some of the lead leaves and flowers adorning the top of the columns survived as had the gilt paint! This one was rescued and saved.


Royal Opera House
May 2004

Looking through the arch at blue sky beyond.

Royal Opera House
May 2004

The handrail and exit sign from the upper circle were obviously securely fixed!


Royal Opera House
May 2004

Through the arch from the rear of the stage and the remains of the auditorium.

Royal Opera House
May 2004

Across the stage from the same point as earlier - the bridge now fallen.


Royal Opera House
June 2004

Part of the rigging - the pegs were used to secure the ropes from the suspended scenery - note the grooves caused by many years of rope burn as sets were raised and lowered.

What a waste of a fine theatre - ideally suited to the town and with all the advantages of being on public transport routes and next to two large car parks. The most serious loss of a theatre in the UK for some considerable time.