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Bo'ness, 10 Hope Street, The Hippodrome

Cinema (20th Century), Club (20th Century), Theatre (20th Century)

Site Name Bo'ness, 10 Hope Street, The Hippodrome

Classification Cinema (20th Century), Club (20th Century), Theatre (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Hamilton Lane; North Street; Hippodrome Cinema

Canmore ID 48166

Site Number NS98SE 43

NGR NS 99845 81681

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Falkirk
  • Parish Bo'ness And Carriden
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Falkirk
  • Former County West Lothian

Site Management (22 June 1994)

2 storey shallow-domed auditorium in a Modern Movement style by Matthew Steele, one of the earliest cinemas in Scotland. It is abutted by John Taylor's 2 storey domed ticket office extension of 1926. The theatre is harled with rendered details. A square windowed projection sits on the north face with a stepped cornice. The 2 windows above sit under a continuous splayed hood and capping cornice. A tall parapet with pronouced clasping blocks and cornice is slightly set back. The interior is now much altered, with the theatre converted into a cinema in 1916 and converted for bingo use in 1960. However, the 1940s projection suite and main decoration remain intact.


Construction (1911)

ARCHITECT: Matthew Steele, 1911

Architect of Ticket Office: John Taylor, 1926

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Watching Brief (June 2007)

A watching brief was undertaken by Headland Archaeology.

RCAHMS Manuscript Ref. MS 5702

Note (29 June 2009)

This building is believed to be the oldest purpose-built cinema surviving in Scotland. Following renovation, it reopened as a cinema on 9 April 2009.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 29 June 2009.

Note (December 2017)

Birth of a New Technology

Imagine a world with no social media, internet, television, cinema or even radio. Take away all our mass media and life wound be very different. Cinema was the first of these new technologies to sweep the world, ushering in the dawn of modern mass culture. The water cooler moment had been born, before the invention of the water cooler!

If we think about cinema in Scotland then Bo’ness may not be one of the first places to come to mind. However, it was an early hotbed of activity. The Early Cinemas in Scotland Research Project identified one cinema venue in nearby Linlithgow, one in Queensferry, two in Grangemouth and seven in Bo’ness - the same number as found in the far larger town of Dunfermline; and well ahead of Stirling, which had four.

The first film show in Bo’ness took place in the Drill Hall on 27th December 1897. It was later joined by the Town Hall as a venue, following the latter’s opening in 1904. Neither were dedicated cinemas, as they hosted a range of activities and entertainments.

In 1909, the Edinburgh cineaste, Louis Dickson, took over the Drill Hall, partly as a place to show his own films of local events. He renamed it the Picture Palace. The following year, a hall in the town centre was converted into the Electric Theatre, with a capacity of 400 people. The gauntlet had been thrown down to Dickson who responded by taking things to a new level: a purpose built cinema. Thus was born the Hippodrome, taking its name from the greatest stadium in Constantinople, home to horse and chariot racing.

The chosen architect was Matthew Steele. Born in Bo’ness but trained in Glasgow, Steele had returned to Bo’ness in 1905, setting up in independent practice. He was immediately successful, with a busy order book right through to the start of the First World War. His work included houses, shops, offices and the like; and masonic lodge was the closest that he had come to an entertainment venue, so a cinema was a new challenge. Drawings were submitted in 1911 and the building opened on 11 March 1912 with a capacity of over 700.


This site falls within the Bo'ness Town Centre Area of Townscape Character (NS98SE 201), which was defined as part of the RCAHMS Urban Survey Programme 2013. Text relating to the historical development and topography, and present character of the Bo'ness Town Centre Area of Townscape Character can be viewed at site NS98SE 201.

Information from RCAHMS (LK), January 2014


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