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Darlington Civic Theatre

A Grade II Listed Building in Park East, Darlington

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Latitude: 54.5246 / 54°31'28"N

Longitude: -1.5484 / 1°32'54"W

OS Eastings: 429324

OS Northings: 514459

OS Grid: NZ293144

Mapcode National: GBR KJM3.KV

Mapcode Global: WHC5X.5JXR

Entry Name: Darlington Civic Theatre

Listing Date: 13 August 2008

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1392707

English Heritage Legacy ID: 504985

Location: Darlington, DL1

County: Darlington

Electoral Ward/Division: Park East

Built-Up Area: Darlington

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Darlington St Hilda and St Columba

Church of England Diocese: Durham

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Listing Text

907/0/10028 PARKGATE
13-AUG-08 Darlington Civic Theatre

Theatre, built in 1907 by G F Ward of Owen & Ward to designs by G. Gordon Hoskins of Darlington.

MATERIALS: red brick with terracotta dressings and slate roof

PLAN: rectangular; central auditorium with a stage at the west end and flanking corridors around the three other sides giving access to administrative rooms, dressing rooms and foyers.

EXTERIOR: Main (south) elevation: symmetrical 3 bay, 3 stage entrance pavilion with centrally placed main doors flanked by paired rectangular windows. The replacement cast iron canopy over has a pair of keyed occuli above. At first floor level ionic pilasters with swags support a scrolled gable with a semi-circular lunette and exaggerated voussoirs creating a 'sunburst' pattern. This is flanked by tall round-headed windows. A prominent pyramidal roof with iron cresting, towers above the gable. To the right of the entrance pavilion a plain single bay with a semi-circular lunette on the first floor, functions as the main stair to the dress circle. To the left are 2 identical bays with paired round-headed windows on the ground floor, and single large semi-circular lunettes at first floor level flanked by ionic pilasters supporting shaped gables above; a modern attic level extension rises slightly above. The two end bays are plain with a stage door and 4-pane sash windows. Right Return to Borough Road: symmetrical 3 bay, 2 stage entrance pavilion with two double height round-headed doorways flanking a round-headed 3-light window, with on the first floor a row of 3 sash windows with keyed surrounds and a rectangular plaque bearing 'NEW HIPPODROME' below a shaped gable. Above this rises a later brick projection room. To either side are single bays with a variety of window forms including keyed occuli and sliding sashes. The right end bay is a modern brick extension which is not of special interest.

INTERIOR: the main entrance off Parkgate gives access to the front stalls and dress circle foyer; the double height foyer has an elegantly half panelled rear wall with original box office in centre. The original doorway to front stalls is to the right with original double 10-pane glass doors with a semi-circular fanlight above, flanked by fluted ionic columns. The upper foyer walls are plain with a series of large plaster panels. A plain arched opening to the right leads up the main staircase to the dress gallery with a plain entrance to the right giving modern access to the rear stalls The auditorium has a dress circle and a balcony above with a single pedimented box on either side at circle level. All are ornamented with fine and richly decorated plaster ornamentation. The rectangular proscenium has a roll moulding and a central cartouche and the ante-proscenium walls and the area above the proscenium are decorated with bolection mouldings in a square panelled design. The circular ceiling set in a square has plaster ornamentation at each corner. Five sets of original fire-extinguisher fittings are present within the auditorium.

HISTORY: Original designs were prepared by the Darlington architect G. Gordon Hoskins in 1907 for Signor Rino Pepe but the theatre was built under the supervision of George F Ward, of the theatre specialists Owen & Ward of Birmingham. Signor Pepe was a theatre impresario who created a chain of music halls across northern England and who also developed the 'Pepiscope' for showing films as part of his variety routines. The building was constructed by local builder Mackenzie Bros. and it opened on the 2nd September 1907 with a capacity of 1210. When originally constructed, the building carried two names, The Hippodrome on the Borough Road elevation and Palace Theatre on the Parkgate/Borough Road corner. After Pepe's death in 1927 the theatre underwent uncertain times, compounded by the competition from cinema; at one stage the theatre was equipped with a projection box at the rear of the upper circle. As with all good theatres it is said to be haunted by numerous ghosts including that of Signor Pepe himself. In 1966 Darlington Borough Council who had taken over the building some years earlier, renamed it the Civic Theatre; the ornamental canopy is a replica of the original which was destroyed by a traffic accident in the 1960s. The interior was restored during the 1990s and the building extended to the rear.

Chris Lloyd, Of Fish and Actors, 100 years of Darlington Civic Theatre, Memories of Darlington 5, 2007; Civic Theatre History, Darlington Borough Council.

http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/resources/theatres/show/1549-civic-darlington; Accessed on 1 May 2008


This theatre of 1907 is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* as a relatively rare survivor of an early variety theatre which pre-dates the Cinematographic Act of 1909, which prescribed the design of such buildings

* it has a distinctive exterior, whose balanced composition and detailing has not been compromised by the modern additions

* the original design and decorative scheme of the interior is well executed and largely intact

* the auditorium is complete with all key features remaining including the stage, fly hall, boxes, circle and gallery; significantly the original fly grid remains in place

* although there has been some alteration to the circulation within the theatre, this is minimal and reversible

* in the national context it compares favourably with listed examples of a similar date.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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