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The Hippodrome, Bo'ness

The Hippodrome, Bo'ness

Earliest surviving purpose built cinema in Scotland, restored for the local community

Overview

Bo’ness Hippodrome is said to be Scotland’s earliest surviving purpose built cinema, having been constructed in 1911. It is a rare example of pre-art deco cinema architecture and is A-listed.

The building was used as a cinema until the 1970s, then as a bingo hall until the late 1980s, following which it remained empty until Scottish Historic Buildings Trust were gifted ownership in 1996.

A number of options for restoration were considered, with work eventually beginning in 2006 to return the building back to its original use as a cinema.

Hippodrome

The Hippodrome © Paul Zanre

Approach

The Bo’ness Hippodrome was commissioned by a local amateur filmmaker, Louis Dickson, and designed by architect Matthew Steel. It was opened in 1911 on a prominent corner position between the busy harbour and Main Street.

Once Scottish Historic Buildings Trust took ownership of the un-occupied building they assessed options for restoration. The redevelopment began in September 2006, and was completed in January 2008. The restoration has been sensitive, retaining the original form of circular auditorium with shallow domed roof. The later 1930s additions of toilets, office accommodation, projector room and reception area have also been generally unaltered, with respect given to early fabric, furniture and fittings. Original seating, signage and sanitaryware has been restored and retained where possible.

Once the building refurbishment was complete, Falkirk Council took a lease of the building and completed a £250,000 technical fit-out, to allow a year round programme of cinema screenings and events to be held. The cinema is very successful, operated by the Falkirk Community Trust.

 

Performance

The restoration project took 15 months to complete and cost £1.8million. Funding was gratefully received from Bo’ness Townscape Initiative, Historic Scotland, the Architectural Heritage Fund, Falkirk Environment Trust and the Manifold Trust.

The project has had great awards success, including Winner of the Community Benefit category at the RICS Scotland Awards 2011 and Best Building at the Stirling Society of Scottish Architects 2010 awards.

Bo’ness now has a new community facility, helping to revitalise the town, and the Hippodrome has been returned to its original silver screen purpose.

 

"The Hippodrome offers all the comfort and high quality of a modern-day cinema, but with all the glamour of an old-style picture house... If you haven't been yet, treat yourself and go."

Councillor Adrian Mahoney

Lessons

The decline of the Hippodrome as a cinema in the 1970s is reflected in the fate of Bo’ness itself. Bo’ness is a 17th century harbour town which grew due to involvement with coal and salt panning industries. However, with the decline of these industries there was a general economic decline in the town and a lack of investment in buildings and infrastructure.

This trend is being reversed through the Bo’ness Townscape Heritage Initiative which was set up to halt the decay of local historical building fabric and increase awareness and engagement of the local communities with the town’s heritage architecture.

The restoration and reopening of the Hippodrome will help to revitalise Bo'ness and its local community.

Hippodrome

Hippodrome Auditorium

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