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The Tivoli Theatre

One of Aberdeen's most important landmarks, a grant award of over £500,000 was made to the owners, The Tivoli Theatre Company Limited, to undertake comprehensive repairs to the external fabric including the roof, rainwater goods, masonry, windows and doors. The funding also aimed to reinstate much of the architectural detail on the Guild Street elevation of the A Grade Listed Building that had been lost over the years.

The Tivoli Theatre, which opened in December 1872, finally closed its doors in 1997, by which time it was used only as a bingo hall. Since then the building has fallen into serious disrepair and been placed on the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland.

The property was bought by local businessman Brian Hendry, chairman of the Tivoli Theatre Management Company, in July 2009, who pledged to repair the building and bring it back into use. The restoration and ultimate reopening of The Tivoli will be a pivotal link in helping to stimulate and regenerate the Green THI area.

A Nationally Important Theatre

The Tivoli is an outstanding and rare near-intact example of a Victorian theatre. It has a distinctive and striking entrance façade and an excellent interior decorative scheme. The building is the product of two renowned theatre architects, CJ Phipps and Frank Matcham.

The Tivoli contains the first large-scale use of concrete in a theatre building in Scotland. The entrance elevation uses red and grey granite to create a polychromatic, round arched pattern which makes an unusual and significant contribution to the streetscape.

In 1897 Frank Matcham was asked to redecorate some of the building and improve the fire exits. The Tivoli closed in 1906 after the opening of His Majesty's Theatre nearby. However, in preparation for re-opening in 1909, Matcham carried out a further scheme of improvements and reconstruction. The theatre re-opened in 1910. As a largely unaltered building, the interior has been described as one of the best remaining examples of Matcham's work in the United Kingdom.

The Tivoli was primarily a variety venue and hosted many famous Scottish performers, including Harry Lauder, traditional fiddlers, Andy Stewart and The White Heather Group. A popular theatre, the queues for performances often stretched down Guild Street in both directions.

The Architects

C J Phipps (1835-1897) is considered to be one of the first great theatre specialists of the Victorian Theatre. Based largely in England, his output includes The Garrick in London. He was succeeded by Matcham and others, whose designs tended to be more extravagant.

Frank Matcham (1854-1920), was one of the most respected theatre architects of the early twentieth century. Working around the UK, he designed more than 200 theatres, including the Kings Theatre in Glasgow, although only about 25 of his theatres now survive.

Timetable for the Works

Work on the external repairs and architectural reinstatement started in February 2011 and was completed in May 2012.

  • Project Architects: William Lippe Architects
  • Quantity Surveyors: Beedie Mitchell
  • Structural Engineers: WA Fairhurst & Partners
  • Main Contractor: Graeme Cheyne (Builders) Limited

Tivoli Project Progress Updates

Update February 2013

Work is underway on the Auditorium and Foyer that will see the Theatre reopen in September 2013. In the interim the Tivoli Theatre Company Limited has completed works to enable public viewing of the Auditorium as well as temporary exhibitions in the Foyer and former basement cafe. Full details are available at:

Update May 2012

A major milestone has been reached in the restoration of Aberdeen's historic Tivoli Theatre. The last piece of work on the repair and restoration of the external envelope of the building was completed on 19 April, when the last granite block, a replacement piece of one of the lintels, was put in place on the Guild Street frontage, although 'snagging' works are ongoing for a few more weeks.

Chairman of the Tivoli Theatre Company Ltd and building owner Brian Hendry said:

"We can safely say that the building has been saved for the next 100 years, with the help of the Green THI. There is no doubt that without the help of the THI and the groups involved in it that we would not have been able to carry out the works that are now being completed and save the building. This is an important step, marking the final piece of a large piece of work - the completion of the external refurbishment of the Tivoli Theatre. We are in the final stages of completing the THI-funded element of the works and are looking forward to restoring the interior."

Focus now switches to the internal works and a planning application has been submitted for the first phase, that will enable the public to view the auditorium which is scheduled to be open later this year.

A Bright New Future

Now that the works to the external envelop have been completed, The Tivoli Theatre Company proposes to restore the interior and bring it up to 21st century standards providing a mid-scale 450 seat auditorium, complemented by new rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms, dance studios/gymnasium, theatrical museum and café/bar, with additional retail, leisure and business spaces. It is anticipated that the internal works will take up to three years to complete.

Tivoli Prior to works commencing















The theatre frontage prior to works commencing in September 2009.

Tivoli Main Entrance pre-works 01

The entrance prior to works commencing.

Tivoli Main Entrance pre-works 02

The facade prior to works commencing.

Tivoli Main Auditorium pre-works 01 052010

Tivoli Main Auditorium pre-works 02 052010

The auditorium prior to works commencing.

Tivoli Main Auditorium ceiling pre-works 052010

The ceiling prior to works commencing.

  Tivoli Theatre Guild Street elevation on completion May 2012
The Guild Street side on completion May 2012

Rear Trinity Street elevation on completion May 2012
The Trinity Street side on completion May 2012 Completion reroofing and chimney works November 2011
Completed reroofing and chimney works November 2011.

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