Caxton Hall

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Coordinates: 51°29′55″N 0°8′6.5″W / 51.49861°N 0.135139°W / 51.49861; -0.135139

Caxton Hall, 10 Caxton Street, London, SW1H 0AQ

Caxton Hall is a building on the corner of Caxton Street and Palmer Street, in Westminster, London, England. It is a Grade II listed building primarily noted for its historical associations. It hosted many mainstream and fringe political and artistic events and after the Second World War was the most popular register office used by high society and celebrities who required a civil marriage.

History[edit]

It was designed in 1878 by William Lee and F.J. Smith in an ornate Francois I style using red brick and pink sandstone, with slate roofs.[1] It won the competition for a hall design set by the parishes of St Margaret and St John; and was originally called the Westminster City Hall.[2] A central entrance porch and canopy were added in the mid-20th century, now removed.[1]

It was opened as Westminster Town Hall in 1883 and contained two public halls known as the Great & York Halls.[3] They were used for a variety of purposes including musical concerts and as a venue for public meetings.

The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), part of the British Suffragette movement held a ‘Women's Parliament’ at Caxton Hall at the beginning of each parliamentary session from 1907, with a subsequent procession to the Houses of Parliament and an attempt (always unsuccessful) to deliver a petition to the prime minister in person.[2] Caxton Hall's central role in the militant suffrage movement is now commemorated by a bronzed scroll sculpture that stands nearby in Christchurch Gardens open space.[4]

The occultist Alister Crowley and friends celebrated the Rites of Eleusis in the hall in October and November, 1910.

In 1940 it was the site of the assassination of Michael O'Dwyer, former Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab in India by Indian nationalist Udham Singh, as an act of revenge for the 1919 Amritsar massacre.[2][5]

During the Second World War it was used by the Ministry of Information as a venue for press conferences held by Winston Churchill and his ministers. This wartime role is marked by a commemorative plaque unveiled in 1991. [6]

The National Front, an openly neo-nazi British political party was formed at a meeting in Caxton Hall, Westminster on 7 February 1967. [7]

It was also used as a central London register office until 1979, many famous people being married there including Donald Campbell (two marriages), Harrison Marks, Billy Butlin, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Dors, Peter Sellers, Roger Moore, Orson Welles, Joan Collins, Yehudi Menuhin, Adam Faith, Robin Nedwell, Barry Gibb, and Ringo Starr.[2][8]

Future Prime Minister Anthony Eden married the niece of the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Clarissa Spencer-Churchill there on 18 August 1952.[2][9] The registry office closed in 1979 and the building stood empty for years getting a place on the Buildings at Risk Register.[2]

It was listed as a building of Special Architectural or Historic Interest on 15 March 1984.[1] It was redeveloped as apartments and offices in 2006. The facade and former register office at the front of the building facing Caxton Street were restored and retained being converted into luxury flats. The rear of the building, containing the halls, was demolished and a circular office building, named the Asticus Building, was built on the site.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Caxton Hall At the National Heritage List for England, English Heritage. List entry Number: 1357266. Accessed July 2011
  2. ^ a b c d e f CAXTON HALL The London Encyclopaedia, By Christopher Hibbert, Ben Weinreb, John Keay, Julia Keay, Matthew Weinreb, Pan Macmillan, 2009 ISBN 1-4050-4925-1
  3. ^ a b GLA planning report PDU/0583/01 2003
  4. ^ The women's suffrage movement: a reference guide, 1866–1928 , Elizabeth Crawford, 2001 – Page 262 [1]
  5. ^ Freedom fighters of India (in four volumes) – Page 270 Lion M. G. Agrawal – 2008 [2]
  6. ^ City of Westminster green plaques http://www.westminster.gov.uk/services/leisureandculture/greenplaques/
  7. ^ Ed Cumming (November 7, 2011). "Caxton Hall: A pied-à-terre with a rich history". The Daily Telegraph. 
  8. ^ MoLAS 2004 Report Museum of London Archaeology, Caxton Hall, March 2004 . Accessed July 2011
  9. ^ Mr. Eden weds niece of the Prime Minister ITN News, 18 August 1952. Accessed July 2011

External links[edit]