Built in 1901 by the legendary theatre architect Frank Matcham, the
Hackney Empire with its electric lights, central heating and in-built
projection box, was a technological wonder of its time. The Empire is
one of the few Matcham theatres to have survived into the twenty-first
century, and is arguably the finest example of his work.
The Hackney Empire has always attracted the brightest stars of the day,
from the 'Queen of the Halls' Marie Lloyd, who lived in Graham Road just
behind the Empire and whose act consciously shocked and challenged her
audience, to Hollywood giants Charlie Chaplin and WC Fields.
Between the wars the Empire hosted burlesque, revues, plays and concerts
as well as variety. Louis Armstrong made a rare UK appearance on stage
at the Empire. Following the war, audiences flocked to see artists such
as Charlie Chester, Issy Bonn, Tony Hancock and Liberace, who had become