Katherine Williamson, Local Studies & Reference Librarian at Darlington's Crown Street Library, writes about the wealth of materials relating to the history of this theatre, which are preserved at the library.

The Centre for Local Studies at Darlington Library in Crown Street  holds a wealth of material about the Civic Theatre, even dating back to the very early days of the Hippodrome in 1907.

The Local Studies collection has in it over 40,000 images, including photographs, watercolours, oil paintings and prints, and obviously only a small percentage of those are of the Theatre but there is a variety of images of the exterior of the building and its place in Parkgate over the decades. There are also interior images of the main auditorium, but also some of back stage areas. A good proportion of the images are of the performers themselves and these are sometimes used for people tracing their family history, if people have ancestors who were performers. Just this week a customer was looking through newspaper reports and old programmes to see whether his ancestors had performed in Darlington and were listed in programmes. Local newspaper listings are often good for this and the Centre for Local Studies has The Northern Echo, Evening Despatch, Darlington & Stockton Times and other less well known titles on microfilm. The newspapers are also interesting to look at to find out about stories relating to the theatre and its history from Rino Pepi, Anna Pavlova, to modern day stories, adverts and reviews.

The collection also has plans of the building although those tend to be of more recent times, but early maps of Darlington show the area before the theatre was built with its brick and tile yards, the tannery and fields just across the road!

We are always looking for new material to add to the collection, so if you have old programmes, posters or handbills for shows, we would be happy to receive donations, just call into the Centre for Local Studies at the library or email us on local.studies@darlington.gov.uk  The changes to the Theatre now are exciting and old material could possibly be useful in future displays either at the Theatre itself or in Local Studies. Some of our images are now available on flickr via our website at www2.darlington.gov.uk; just go to the Local and Family History pages. There is also a nice collection of theatre posters on that site – but they are from the Theatre Royal which was on Northgate, unfortunately we don’t have similar posters for the Hippodrome, but if you have one, let us know!