Wilton's Music Hall
|Wilton's Music Hall|
The entrance to Wilton's lies between two houses on Grace's Alley.
|Address||Grace's Alley, Cable Street|
|City||Tower Hamlets, London|
|Designation||Grade II* listed|
|Owned by||Wilton's Music Hall Trust|
|Capacity||400 hall and gallery|
|Type||Saloon music hall|
|Years active||1828 - 1888
1999 - present
|Rebuilt||1878 J. Buckley Wilson
1979-89 Peter Newson
|Other names||1828 Prince of Denmark Public House
1839 Mahogany Bar
1878 Frederick's Royal Palace of Varieties
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, off Cable Street in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is one of very few surviving music halls in its original state.
Originally known as the Mahogany Bar from 1839, Wilton's came into the ownership of John Wilton in 1850. Wilton commissioned contractors to build a Music hall in 1858 on the same site as the former concert room of the public house. The hall accommodated 1,500 people, most of whom were from working-class backgrounds.
Wilton's passed into several ownerships during the 1870s before being destroyed by fire in 1877. An eight-year rebuild commenced that year before the building was bought by the East End Mission of the Methodist Church, who took possession of the building and established a church there in 1888. The church ceased in 1956 and briefly became a rag storage warehouse. By 1964, the buildings future remained uncertain and a petition was launched to secure it from demolishers. The campaign, led by the poet John Betjeman was a success and Wilton's was bought by Greater London Council who preserved it until 1999 when it was bought by the Broomhill Opera Company.
In June 2007 the World Monuments Fund added the building to its list of the world's "100 most endangered sites". Today, the hall is used for operatic and theatrical productions and is owned by the Wilton's Music Hall Trust.
Wilton's was originally known as the Mahogany Bar from 1839 and came into the ownership of John Wilton in about 1850 who then changed its name. 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. It could accommodate 1,500 people, most of whom were working-class. 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.
Wilton's passed into the ownership of George Robinson in 1870, George Fredericks in 1874, and then in 1877 to Henry Hodkinson. Wilton's closed in 1877 as a result of a fire and was rebuilt over an eight-year period. In 1885 the East End Mission of the Methodist Church took possession of the building and established a church there in 1888. The church ceased in 1956 and became a rag warehouse. By 1964, the buildings future remained uncertain and a petition was launched to secure it from demolishers, led by John Betjeman. The campaign was successful and Wilton's was bought by Greater London Council.
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.
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 Royal Holborn'). Wilton's remains the only surviving example.
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. The Music Hall was featured on the BBC television series Restoration in 2003 as a nominee for the south-east segment of the show, alongside Broomfield House in Enfield and Darnley Mausoleum in Kent. The building won the South West category, with the series' overall winner announced as Victoria Baths in Manchester. In June 2007 the World Monuments Fund added the building to its list of the world's "100 most endangered sites".
- 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.
- Baker, p. 113
- Building News 15 April 1859
- In praise of Wilton's music hall The Guardian, 8 June 2007
- English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (206024)". Images of England. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- Baker, Richard, Anthony (2005). British Music Hall: An Illustrated History. London: Sutton Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7-509-3685-1.
- 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)
The Somnambulist: a novel by Essie Fox and published by Orion Books, which features Wilton's Music Hall http://www.essiefox.com
- Wilton's Music Hall site
- Theatres Trust database entry
- Wilton's theatre history (Arthur Lloyd site)
- 2003 BBC Restoration candidates
- A Little of What You Fancy (1968) at the Internet Movie Database
- 'Wiltons' - The Handsomest Hall in Town (1970) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
- Wilton's Music Hall Posters held by the University of East London's East London Theatre Archive