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The Non Gambling Delights of the Hippodrome Casino

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London Hippodrome

 The Hippodrome in a French Renaissance style, faced in red Mansfield stone, occupying a prominent five storey block above Leicester Square Tube Station

A couple of weeks ago I met up with Julie Chandler for lunch and asked her if we could visit the Hippodrome Casino, as I was covering it as one of my stops for a guided walk round Chinatown later that evening. Julie's initial reaction was "Good God going to a casino in the middle of the afternoon" however as soon as we walked through the doors she was as charmed as I was with its beautiful interior.  We approached the information desk to see if they could provide us with any tantalising snippets of information and were delighted when Aysha offered to take us on an impromptu free guided tour of the building from its exclusive high rollers room to its ladies toilets.

The Hippodrome opened in 1900 and was built as a theatre which featured variety and circus acts. It  originally had installed a 100,000 gallon water tank where elephants and polar bears performed. It was designed by Frank Matcham who was the leading theatre architect of his day, whose best known theatre is the London Palladium. It was during this time a young Charlie Chaplin and the escape artist Harry Houdini performed here.

London Hippodrome

The Chariot with rearing horses, seated on a metal crown, dominates the skyline - this fantastic view is taken from the smoking terrace

The Hippodrome Casino opened in July 2012 after its current owners Simon and Jimmy Thomas undertaking a £40 million refurbishment project which has re-instated many of its original features. It's one of Britain's largest casinos with three gaming floors, five bars, a restaurant, private dining rooms and an intimate cabaret theatre.

London Hippodrome

 The proscenium arch, above the stage, incorporating a pediment & a central cartouche with the "H" monogram

Today the former theatre auditorium has been transformed into the main gaming hall with its most notable feature being the proscenium arch above the original stage.

The restoration work involved Cadmium Designs, the leading architects, working along side English Heritage, the Theatres Trust, Westminster Council and Alan Baxter and Associates. The task of reinstating the theatre's original decorative features was given to Locker and Riley, plaster work specialists, which won them the 2012 FPDC Plaisterers' award. They employed techniques simular to those used in Matcham's time recreate the original plaster work by mainly using historic photographs as much of  the original interior had been lost in the late 1950s.

London Hippodrome

 The lighting in the Heliot Restaurant complete with the original pullies from its Talk of the Town era

The Heliot Restaurant named after Claire Heliot a former lion tamer who performed here, is located on the first floor balcony and this is where the orchestra would have originally performed. 

London Hippodrome

One of the private dining rooms decorated with Talk of the Town memorabilia

Over the years the building has had many incarnations. In 1957 the theatre was re-opened as The Talk of the Town and it was during this time internationally famous stars such as Shirley Bassey (my faviourite), Judy Garland and Sammy Davis Jr performed. 

London Hippodrome

One of the private dining rooms decorated with Talk of the Town memorabilia including an ashtray and poster 

London Hippodrome

One of fourteen lifts installed in the building - this one, which is reserved for VIP uses, has retained its original 1930s style surround

London Hippodrome

Original decorative wall tiles 

London Hippodrome

Beautiful plaster work in one of the entrance halls

The plaster work is in a classical style incorporating cartouches, strapwork and decorative mouldings.  

London Hippodrome

 Detail of plaster work in one of the entrance halls

London Hippodrome

 Detail of plaster work in one of the entrance halls

London Hippodrome

Inside one of the ladies toilets which includes a seperate seating area & free hair straighteners  

A big thank you to Aysha for showing us around. We loved our tour and were delighted that so many of its charming original features had been restored. We've decided to return soon to enjoy its facilities and you never know you might bump into us in the casino in the middle of the afternoon.

Practical Information 

Address:  Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square, WC2H 7JH

Nearest Tube Station:  Leicester Square is in Travelcard Zone 1 and the casino is adjacent to Exit 2.

Opening Hours:  24 hours a day/ 7 days a week.

Free admission. No membership required. NB:  Visitors need to be at least 18 years old. ID required after midnight.

Website:  http://www.hippodromecasino.com/

The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.