The theatre has gone.  The hotel still stands but is used for other purposes…while the memories of two visitors 70 years ago remain.

It was this week in February 1954 when a certain Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy arrived in Norwich to entertain the people of Norfolk and Suffolk at the dear old Hippodrome.

People who were lucky enough to get seats told me they couldn’t believe their eyes when the curtains opened and there stood the most famous comedy act in the world.

They were the lucky ones who had managed to get tickets to see Stan and Oliver when they arrived in the city as part of a national tour towards the end of their career during which they had made more than 100 films.

Eastern Daily Press: Our famous photograph of Laurel and Hardy leaving the Royal Hotel and heading for the Hippodrome,

Everyone who got to meet them, including our reviewer, said they were perfect gentlemen. Always finding the time to chat to the fans and sign autographs.

The famous photograph of the pair leaving the old Royal Hotel has been used time and time again and as we know they asked the taxi driver to take them to the stage door, not the front entrance which was reserved for ladies and gentlemen!

Opening in 1903 the former the Grand Opera House had played a leading role in Norwich and Norfolk life, attracting the biggest names in showbiz in all kinds of weird and wonderful acts.

Eastern Daily Press: The glory days of the Grand Opera House

The theatre was described as the “Handsomest Place of Amusement in the Eastern Counties” with “Unsurpassed Varity entertainment in or out of London.”

Stars in the early days included Charlie Chaplin, Marie Lloyd, Gracie Fields, The Crazy Gang, and a whole collection of nude and rude shows, plus circuses with live animals.

There was the display by the Russian wrestler who would take on members of the audience.

Then was the time actor Howard Arundel stopped the comedy Glamour Girl because of the hecklers and warned them to shut up or he would meet them outside after the performance. They did – shut up!

Eastern Daily Press: Our plaque remember the days of Laurel and Hardy not forgetting Archie (Cary Grant) Leach

In later years the likes of Morecambe and Wise played the theatre along with The Goons and dozens of top comedians but by the late 1950s times were changing.

Give yourself a round of applause, said compere Patrick Allen at the end of a recording for the Radio Luxembourg’s quiz Shilling a Second at the theatre in 1958. The last variety show at the Hippodrome.

Eastern Daily Press: Staff at the Hippodrome. A theatre, also a cinema at one time,  which entertained the people for so

The winning contestants included Margaret Lane, Mr and Mrs Ken Aldin, Constance Goodrum, Harry Pank and Kenneth Cooke.

It became the Norwich Playhouse but then closed. The council decided against restoring it and the demolition men moved in. Various features were sold off at rock-bottom prices.

This building had played a leading role in city life, providing work for people, holding large public meetings, and giving others the opportunity to see some of the biggest stars of the day.

Today people park their cars in the St Giles car park where the theatre once stood.

Eastern Daily Press: Demolition of the Hippodrome in 1966

Eastern Daily Press: Those were the days…Evening News paper boys being treated to a visit to the Hippodrome