Theatres in Hull

The Hull History Centre holds a large amount of material relating to Hull’s theatres, including playbills, posters, programmes, photographs, some production material (such as scripts), and ephemera. There are also books and other published material on theatres in Hull. Our holdings are listed at the bottom of this page.

History of Hull’s theatres

The first record of a play presented in Hull was of the Mystery Play of Noah’s Flood, performed outside Holy Trinity Church in 1473. At this time, plays were based on Bible stories with an emphasis on moral messages rather than focusing on entertainment. Little more is known about what sort of plays were performed in the Middle Ages, including the performers and venues. The yard of an inn or tavern may have been a common place for performances.

It is reputed that some plays were performed in a building on Whitefriargate, first mentioned in the Hull Corporation records in 1598. A travelling company of players came to Hull in 1599, but were quickly shut down by the Corporation, who saw plays as ungodly and wicked. Some writers have even speculated that this was William Shakespeare’s company, with Shakespeare himself in tow, but sadly we will probably never know for sure whether this is true.

By the eighteenth century attitudes had changed. In 1748 a travelling company took a room in Manor Alley, and some of the members of the corporation formed a company, using the Assembly Rooms in Dagger Lane to perform plays. In 1767, Tate Wilkinson built a theatre on Lowgate which was known as Hull Old Theatre. In 1769 a playhouse was erected in Hull and the first Theatre Royal was built on Finkle Street. The licence was given to Tate Wilkinson and it became important in the development of drama and theatre in Hull.

In 1809 work had begun on a second "Theatre Royal", this time on Humber Street. It was considered one of the best buildings outside of London. A decade later another theatre was built on the corner of Humber Street and Queens Street, and was initially called the Humber Street Circus. It changed its name almost every season, with names including including Summer Theatre and Clarence Theatre, before being demolished in 1836.

During the nineteenth century several more theatres were built in Hull. The Adelphi Theatre on Wellington Street was built in 1827. On Paragon Street was the Royal Amphitheatre, later renamed Queen’s Theatre, which had seating for 3,000 and was reputed to be the largest theatre in the country.

Between 1869 and 1871 the Queen's Theatre and the third incarnation of the Theatre Royal both disappeared, leaving Hull without any large theatres. Music halls were now in fashion, and those in Hull included the Mechanics Music Hall and Public Rooms on Jarratt Street.

A fourth Theatre Royal was built on the old Queen's Theatre site on Paragon Street in 1871. It was later renamed the Tivoli, and continued to operate into the twentieth century.

The predecessor to the Hull New Theatre was the Public Rooms (built 1830) on the corner of Jarratt Street and Kingston Square. The Assembly Rooms next door were purchased in 1930, and on 16 October 1939 the Hull New Theatre opened. New Theatre was refurbished in the 2010s, coinciding with Hull City of Culture, and in 2019 it celebrated its 80th anniversary.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, several theatres were converted to cinemas due to the growing popularity of film. The Tivoli on Paragon Street became a cinema in 1929, and a new cinema, the Regal Theatre, was opened in 1934. Despite this, the Regal played host to live performers and performances, including Hull’s own David Whitfield. In the 1960s the venue, then branded as the ABC Cinema, hosted performances by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Other theatres in Hull included Humberside Theatre which performed at the Spring Street Theatre from 1970, while in 1971 Hull Truck Theatre began. Initially Hull Truck rented a property on Coltman Street where they rehearsed, before becoming synonymous with the Spring Street Theatre which was their home from 1984 to 2007. The company then relocated to Hull Truck Theatre on Ferensway, which opened in 2009.

Chronological list of theatres in Hull

Chronological list of theatres in Hull

NameLocationDates of operation

Hull Old Theatre



First Theatre Royal

Finkle Street


Second Theatre Royal

Humber Street


Humber Street Circus (later the Minor Theatre, Humber Street Theatre, Summer Theatre, Sans Pareil, Royal Clarence Theatre, and Royal Kingston Theatre)

Humber Street



Wellington Street


Public Rooms

Kingston Square


Royal Amphitheatre, later Queen’s Theatre

Paragon Street


Alhambra Palace (later the Hippodrome)

Porter Street


Third Theatre Royal

Humber Street


Fourth Theatre Royal (later the Tivoli)

Paragon Street


Grand Opera House and Theatre

George Street


Palace Theatre

Anlaby Road


Alexandra Theatre

Charlotte Street


The Repertory Theatre (merged with Little Theatre in 1933)

Kingston Square


Little Theatre (including former Repertory Theatre from 1933)

Kingston Square


New Theatre

Kingston Square


Spring Street Theatre/Hull Truck Theatre

Spring Street


Hull Truck Theatre



Theatre material held at Hull History Centre

Records of Hull theatres and writers

Alexandra Theatre, 1902-1937 [L DTAT]

Grand Theatre, 1893-1930 [L DTGT]

Hull Screen (formerly Hull Film Theatre), 1969-2006 [L DTHS]

Hull Truck Theatre, 1980-present [L DTHT]

Little Theatre, Hull, (inc. Hull Repertory Theatre) 1926-1939 [L DTLT]

Hull New Theatre, 1939-present [L DTNT]

Palace Theatre, Hull, 1928-1956 [L DTPT]

Regal Theatre, later Regal Cinema then ABC Cinema 1954-1955 [L DTR]

Spring Street Theatre, 1969-1991 [L DTSS]

Theatre Royal, Hull, 1770-1872 [L DTTR]

Tivoli Theatre, Hull, 1927-1954 [L DTT]

Records relating to the Little and New Theatre, 1789-1958 [C DFBN]

Records of Humberside Theatre in Education (TIE), 1983-1996 [U DHE]

Hull Theatre Royal Playbills, 1796-1881 [U DP215]

Papers of Alan Plater, 1936-2012 [U DPR]

Papers of Richard Bean, 1968-2018 [U DRBE]

Hull Theatre programmes, 1924-1947 [U DX304]

Theatre Playbills Collection, 1760s-1970s [U PN]

Related material


Burgess, Peter. History of Hull Theatres and Music Halls. [L.794]

Heritage Information Centre. Theatres and Cinema in Hull. [L.794]


Items of Tate Wilkinson, 1790-1801 [L SP/59]

Newcuttings and memorabilia on Fewlass Llewelyn [L SP/145]

Miscellaneous building plans relating to cinema and theatres [C TAB/B]

We also hold material relating to local musical and amateur dramatic societies who performed at various venues across Hull, including Hull City Hall. Search the online catalogue for further details.