The Prince of Wales Theatre (image 4) was built on vacant land on the south side of Ogle Road in 1882, the lease holder being F. W. (‘Joey’) Gordon, former manager of both the theatre and the adjoining Rainbow Music Hall in French Street. In 1905 the Prince of Wales was partially rebuilt and enlarged, reopening as the Hippodrome (image 1). The lease holder now was Mrs. Juliet Gordon, widow of F. W. Gordon and former (as Juliet Power) burlesque actress. In the inter-war years the Hippodrome was one of the town's most popular entertainment venues. Unlike its predecessor it concentrated on variety rather than drama.
The Hippodrome closed as a theatre on Saturday 25 March 1939: the Post Office had acquired the site for a proposed expansion of their next-door Telephone Exchange. On Monday, 27 March 1939, the Grand Theatre in Civic Centre Road re-opened as the “New Hippodrome”.
The Post Office’s plans for redevelopment were interrupted by the outbreak of war in September 1939, and by the Southampton Blitz 30 November 1940, when an incendiary bomb destroyed the upper floors of the Telephone Exchange and rendered the equipment in the lower floors unusable. The Exchange moved to temporary premises in the Coliseum, just around the corner, which was being used as a store for the Southampton Gaslight and Coke Company. Meanwhile the empty Hippodrome building was damaged but not destroyed in a later air raid on 7 July 1941, and then demolished between June and August 1942. The planned new Telephone exchange, built on the Hippodrome site, was finally opened 3 April 1954, and the temporary exchange at the Coliseum handed back to what had become British Gas.
Southampton Occasional Notes, by ‘Townsman’, p96. (HS/h)
History of Southampton’s Theatres and Music Halls 1766-1960, by Eric Harris. (HS/r)
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