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Wilton's Music Hall
The entrance to Wilton's lies between two houses on Grace's Alley.
Address
Graces Alley, Cable Street
City
Designation Grade II* listed
Architect Jacob Maggs
Owned by Wilton's Music Hall Trust
Capacity 400 hall and gallery
Type Saloon music hall
Opened 1828
Years active 1828 - 1888
1999 - present
Rebuilt 1878 J. Buckley Wilson
1979-89 Peter Newson
Previous names 1828 Prince of Denmark Public House
1839 Mahogany Bar
1878 Frederick's Royal Palace of Varieties
Current use Theatre
www.wiltons.org.uk
Coordinates: 51°30′38″N 0°04′01″W / 51.510680°N 0.066930°W / 51.510680; -0.066930

Wilton's Music Hall is a grade II* listed building, built as a music hall and now a more general-purpose performance space in Grace's Alley[1], off Cable Street in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is one of very few surviving music halls in its original state.

Contents

History

Originally, the Prince of Denmark Public House (1828, also known as the Mahogany Bar, from c.1839) owned by Matthew Eltham.

The Mahogany Bar came into the ownership of John Wilton in about 1850. The Music hall was built for him in 1858 by Jacob Maggs, on the same site, as the former concert room of the public house. The bar, itself, was retained as the public entrance, and the hall was built in the area behind the existing block of houses. This was common practice at the time, as 'street frontage' for music halls was very expensive.

The music hall passed into the ownership of George Robinson (1870), to George Fredericks in 1874, and then in 1877 to Henry Hodkinson. The hall was rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1877,[2] by J. Buckley Wilson of Wilson, Wilcox and Wilson of Swansea, when a raked auditorium floor and proscenium arch were introduced and re-opened as Frederick's Royal Palace of Varieties. In 1880, John Wilton died, aged 60.

The theatre is an unrestored example of the 'giant pub hall'. In the theatre, a single gallery, on three sides and supported by 'barley sugar' cast iron pillars, rises above a large rectangular hall and a high stage with a proscenium arch. In its heyday, a 'sun-burner' chandelier of 300 gas jets and 27,000 cut crystals, illuminated a mirrored hall. Today, charring is still visible in the rafters, where the chimney exhausted the heat of this massive device. The hall would have had space for supper tables, a benched area, and promenades around the outside for standing customers[3].

Wilton's was modelled on many other successful London halls of the time, including the second Canterbury Hall (1854) in Lambeth, Evans Music-and-Supper Rooms (1856) in Covent Garden, and Weston's (1857) (later known as the 'The Royal Holborn'). Wilton's remains the only surviving example.

The interior of Wilton's (being set for a wedding). The lines of tables give some idea of how it was used as a supper club.

Wilton's became a mission hall in 1888, and by 1963, it had become a rag sorting depot. The building survived use as a church, fire, flood and war intact, but virtually derelict. After a campaign in 1964 led by Sir John Betjeman to list the building, and save it from demolition, the hall was finally purchased by the GLC in 1966 and transferred to the Music Hall Trust. Wilton's was returned to performance by Broomhill Opera in 1999, and is currently used for both opera and theatrical productions. It is now owned by the Wilton's Music Hall Trust - who are attempting to raise money for the stabilisation and restoration of the building. In June 2007 the World Monuments Fund added the building to its list of the world's "100 most endangered sites".[4]

George Leybourne, known as Champagne Charlie appeared here, and the first ever Can-can in London was (reputedly) performed here, and promptly banned.

Wilton's was given the protection of Grade II* listed building status in April 1971.[5]

See also

References

  1. ^ Graces Alley is named after the former Cistercian house that stood on the site, known as St Mary of Graces, founded in 1350, by Edward III in gratitude for the naval victory at Sluis. Between 1348-9, the district had been used as one of the City of London's main plague pits.
  2. ^ The Times (Saturday 1 September 1877): "In regard to the destruction of Wilton's music-hall at the east of London on Thursday morning, it may be added that the total burning of the hall was not the only damage ..."
  3. ^ Building News 15 April 1859
  4. ^ In praise of Wilton's music hall The Guardian, 2007-06-08
  5. ^ Images of England — details from listed building database (206024) accessed 9 December 2008
  • John Earl and Michael Sell Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950, pp. 147-8 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
  • Peter Honri John Wilton’s Music Hall, The Handsomest Room in Town (1985)
  • Diana Howard London Theatres and Music Halls 1850-1950 (1970)

External links

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