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 of the structure
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. 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. A central entrance porch and canopy were added in the mid-20th century, now removed. It was opened as Westminster Town Hall in 1883 and contained two public halls known as the Great & York Halls. They were used for a variety of purposes including musical concerts and as a venue for public meetings.
From 1933 on it was used as a Central London register office and was the venue for many celebrity weddings. This function closed in 1979 and the building stood empty for years getting a place on the Buildings at Risk Register. It was listed as a building of Special Architectural or Historic Interest on 15 March 1984.
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 (see Facadism). The rear of the building, containing the halls, was demolished and a circular office building, named the Asticus Building, was built on the site.
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. 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.
On 10 October 1925, Harry Pollitt, founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain was married here to Marjorie Brewer. Their best man and witness was Percy Glading, who would later be imprisoned for spying for the OGPU.
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. 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.
It was the location of the press conference that the Russell–Einstein Manifesto was released in 1955 in response to the threat of nuclear war and humanity destroying itself.
On 12 May 1960, over 1000 people attended the first public meeting of the Homosexual Law Reform Society.
It was also used as a central London register office for weddings from October 1933 to 1978. Notable people who were married there include; Donald Campbell (two marriages), Harrison Marks, Billy Butlin, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Dors, Peter Sellers, Bernard Bresslaw, Roger Moore, Orson Welles, Joan Collins, Adam Faith, Barry Gibb and Ringo Starr. On 18 August 1952, future Prime Minister Anthony Eden married Clarissa Spencer-Churchill, the niece of the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
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- Cumming, Ed (7 November 2011). "Caxton Hall: A pied-à-terre with a rich history". The Daily Telegraph.
- "Locations of Westminster registration records". Westminster City Council. 24 January 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
- MoLAS 2004 Report Archived 12 September 2012 at Archive.today Museum of London Archaeology, Caxton Hall, March 2004 . Accessed July 2011
- Mr. Eden weds niece of the Prime Minister ITN News, 18 August 1952. Accessed July 2011
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Caxton Hall.|
- Caxton Hall in Westminster and the marriage of Diana Dors to Dennis Hamilton Another Nickel in the Machine. Accessed July 2011. Many pictures of Caxton Hall events.