Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms
Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England


The Empire Theatre, Church Street, Blackpool.


The Empire Theatre was designed by John Dent Harker of Manchester, and built in Church Street for the Blackpool Princess Company. It opened in 1895 as a theatre & ballroom but there were financial problems and in 1897 it was sold to a local syndicate. It became a variety theatre and was at the time the only music hall in Blackpool; most entertainers came from London. In 1900, The Empire was renamed 'The Hippodrome.'

Newspaper article relating to the opening of the Empire Theatre, Blackpool

 The Era, Saturday, 13th July, 1895. 


The new Empire Theatre of Varieties, the latest addition to Blackpool's numerous places of entertainment, was opened on the 4th inst. In response to the invitation of the management, there was a large and fashionable gathering. Madame Levanti's Bohemian ladies' orchestra played the National Anthem, Miss Florence Fish singing the solo, the audience meanwhile standing. The orchestra then played a sprightly march, appropriately named "Our Empire,' after which Mr Cookson, the manager, who was enthusiastically received, stepped to the front and gracetully acknowledged the compliment the audience had paid the directorate in so handsomely responding to the invitations issued. With a passing request that any little imperfections in the performance caused by the hurried nature of the arrangements might be overlooked, "the genial Charlie" expressed the hope that the entertainment would be worthy of their appreciation, and that the place would gain a high reputation.

Excellent turns were contributed by Miss Maggie Duggan, whose male impersonations were very suer cessful ; Mr Quinton Gibson, one of the best 'female impersonators of the present day ; Mr Lester Barrett, humourist; Mr John Renson and Miss Rose Waite, song and dance artists ; Miss. Lottie Collard, Mr Dick Gehlard, Miss Marie Stuart, and soloists from the ladies orchestra. A ball followed.

The Empire Theatre, Church Street, Blackpool.The building occupies a commanding position at the top of Church-street, and is in the centre of the town. It has been built by Messrs Peters, of Rochdale, from the designs of Mr J. D. Harker, A.R.I.B.A., of Manchester, at a cost of about £30,000.

The interior has been tastefully decorated in the Italian Renaissance style by Mr R. Bennett, of Manchester, and the elaborate decorative work of the proscenium and balconies has been executed by the London Plastic Decorative and Papier Mache Company (Limited).

The proscenium is very fine, being 32ft. wide and 25ft. high. Mr T. E. Ryan, of London, has painted a very pretty act-drop, and the other scenery is by Mr H. Lemaistre. of the Manchester Theatre Royal. The stage appointments are excellent, and special provision has been made for the comfort of artists, the dressing-rooms being fitted with hot and cold water, the latter being heated by electricity, and there is an ingenious contrivance for heating curling tongs. The stage is separated from the auditorium by an asbestos fire-proof curtain, made by Messrs Tollerton, of Leeds ; and Messrs Lowcock and Co., of Manchester, have installed the electric light.

The company's original intention was to provide dancing and variety entertainments for thousands of holiday makers who go to Blackpool every summer, but the refusal of the magistrates to grant them a singing and dancing licence will cause the directors to alter their plans. Application for a dramatic licence, however, was made to the Town Council, and the Watch Committee recommended that it should he granted.

The subject came before the Town Council on the 2d inst., when Mr Councillor Sergenson (the manager of the Grand Theatre and lessee of the Prince of Wales's Theatre) objected to the licence being granted, and protested against the way in which the Watch Committee had come to their decision. He said he did not object in any personal or partial spirit, but when he wanted to open his new theatre at a certain date and made application for a licence, it was deferred on the ground that the building was not reads-. He thought it was his duty to protect himself as far as possible, and it was a question whether they were not overdoing these entertainments in Blackpool. The Empire people had applied to the magistrates for a music, dancing, and singing licence, but it was refused, though the place was built for singing and dancing, and as a music hall.

Then they applied for a dramatic licence, for which they had no use, as he was informed that not a single dramatic company was engaged. The entertainments, he maintained, would be largely, if not altogether, of a music hall character. A dramatic licence was not necessary for a music hall, and the proper place to apply for a licence was before the magistrates.

It was for one purpose only, that of drinking, that the application was made. Mr Councillor Ward said the application for a dramatic licence was made over a month ago, and before the refusal of the magistrates to grant a music and dancing licence. The matter had only been deferred by the Watch Committee until the building was more complete, and certain provisions had been made. The Committee were now prepared to treat the applicants as they did other places of entertainment in the town.

Mr Alderman Buckley was astounded at the attitude taken up by Mr Councillor Sergenson, who was chairman of the Advertising Committee, which spent £1,700 a-year in trying to induce people to visit Blackpool, but who was now declaring that they were overdoing the town with amusements. Mr Councillor Sergenson asked the Town Clerk if a dramatic licence carried with it power to permit dancing. The Town Clerk expressed the opinion that it did not. Mr Councillor Sergenson--Not without making a special appeal to the magistrates The Town Clerk—No, but they could appeal to the Queen's Bench. Eventually the recommendation of the Committee was carried, and the licence granted.

In 1900, The Empire was renamed 'The Hippodrome.'