Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall

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Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall
Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, Singapore - 20101126.jpg
Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall
Former names Town Hall and Victoria Memorial Hall
General information
Type Theatre, concert hall
Architectural style Neoclassical
Location Singapore
Coordinates 1°17′17.7″N 103°51′5.9″E / 1.288250°N 103.851639°E / 1.288250; 103.851639
Construction started 1855
Completed 1909
Design and construction
Architect John Bennett
Alexander Murray
Regent A. J. Bidwell
Designations National monument

The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is an complex of two buildings and a clock tower joined together by a common corridor, and serves as a performing arts center in the civic district of Singapore. The oldest part of the building was first built in 1862, and the complex was completed in 1909. The complex has undergone a number of renovations and refurbishment, mostly recently in 2010 when the complex was closed for a four-year renovation project. It reopened on 15 July 2014.[1][2]

The buildings in the complex have been used for a number of purposes, such as public events, political meetings, exhibitions, musical and stage performances, and for a brief period as a hospital. The concert hall is used as a performance venue by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), and the complex is managed by The Esplanade Co Ltd.[3] The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall was gazetted as a national monument on 14 February 1992.[4]


Town Hall, Singapore - ca. 1880

The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall first began as the Town Hall in 1862. In the early 1900s a second public hall was built next to it joined by a clock tower to form a larger complex.

Construction of Town Hall[edit]

The Town Hall was built to replace the function of the older Assembly Rooms, where local operas and dramas had been held, that had fallen into disrepair. The foundation stone was laid in 1855, and the building completed in 1862.[5]

Designed by the Municipal Engineer, John Bennett, it was built during an era of Victorian Revivalism that was occurring in Britain. Its design hence reflected this architectural influence with Italianate windows, and was the first among Singapore buildings to reflect this style. The completed town hall originally housed both a theatre on the ground floor, as well as offices of various government agencies and meeting rooms on the second floor. It also housed the Singapore Library from 1862 to 1876. However, the town hall was unable to cope with increasing demand for the use of both and by 1893, the offices had moved out of the town hall.

Construction of Victoria Memorial Hall[edit]

Victoria Theatre and Victoria Memorial Hall, 1930s

In 1901, it was decided that a public hall would be built in memory of Queen Victoria who died that year. Public funds for its construction amounting to $368,000 were collected, exceeding the construction costs, thus leaving a surplus of $22,000 for renovation of the town hall so that it blends in with the new hall.[6] The foundation stone was laid on the occasion of King Edward VII's coronation celebration on 10 August 1902, and the new building was built between 1903 and 1905 next to the Town Hall.

The memorial hall was initially drawn up by Major Alexander Murray and the Public Works Department, with further input by R. A. J. Bidwell from an architectural firm, Swan & Maclaren to harmonise the tow neighbouring buildings.

Construction of Clock Tower and renovation of Town Hall[edit]

The two buildings, the town hall and the Victoria Memorial Hall, were joined together by a clock tower built in 1906 to give the impression of a single building. The 54 metre-high tower connects the two buildings with a common corridor, and is topped by a timepiece donated by the Straits Trading Company. The tower is built on an axial line with the Anderson Bridge nearby. Renovation on the Town Hall began in July 1906. A portico was duplicated on the town hall mirroring that of the new Memorial Hall, creating a unified appearance.

The construction of the signature clock tower was delayed due to delays in donation of the clock and chimes by the Straits Trading Company. The clock, four meters wide, weighs 1 tonne and had cost $6000.[5] Its dial faces look in four directions, and there is a bell turret above it, capped by a cupola.[7]


Statue of Stamford Raffles in front of the clock tower

The Victoria Memorial Hall was officially opened by the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir John Anderson on 18 October 1905. The renovated Town Hall was reopened on 11 February 1909. The Pirates of Penzance was the first performance to be staged in the renovated building when it re-opened.[6] The town hall was renamed Victoria Theatre.[8]

On 6 February 1919, which marked the centenary of Singapore's founding, a statue of Stamford Raffles by T. Woolner was moved from the Padang to the front of the memorial hall. The statue was complemented with a new semicircular colonnade and a pool.

Historical events and uses[edit]

In the lead-up to World War II, the memorial hall was used as a hospital for victims of bombing raids by the Japanese forces during the Battle of Singapore before their successful occupation of the colony. During the occupation, the buildings themselves escaped major physical damage, although the colonnade was destroyed, and Raffles's statue moved to the National Museum. At the end of the war, the statue was returned to its original site in 1946. In 1947 The Straits Settlements coat of arms that was hung on the tympanum of both wings of the building was replaced by the newly formed coat of arms of the Crown Colony of Singapore. It was later brought down in 1959 to make a plaster cast of the Coat of Arms of Singapore, which was topped of with two flagpoles with the Flag of Singapore on it.

A number of civic as well as historical significant events were held on the premise. The Memorial Hall served as the venue for Japanese war crime trials from 1946 to 1947. From 1948 onward, the Hall was used as the centre during elections for the briefing of election officials and the counting of ballot papers. On 21 November 1954, it was the venue where the People's Action Party was founded. Two public meetings of the Rendel Commission were held 1953 and 1955 in the hall to review the Constitution of the Colony of Singapore in preparation for its independence.[4] On 15 February 1963, Singapore's pilot television broadcasting service, Television Singapura, was launched here.[4]

Interior of Victoria Concert Hall in 2006, before the latest refurbishment

The town hall underwent major renovation between 1952 and 1958, and it was also internally restructured to allow air-conditioning and soundproofing to be installed. In 1979, the memorial hall was renovated again to accommodate the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), upon which it was renamed as the Victoria Concert Hall. Additional works up to the 1980s added a gallery to the Concert Hall, adding seating capacity and enclosing the second storey balconies on the front and back facades with glass.

Refurbishment (2010–2014)[edit]

The refurbished interior of Victoria Concert Hall, 2014

In June 2010, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall were closed for major renovations. The S$180-million refurbishment was undertaken by W Architects,[5] and Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) Singapore as the project manager and quantity surveyor, with Architectural Restoration Consultants Pte Ltd (ARC) as its conservator and Arup Singapore Pte Ltd as acoustician and theatre planner. The refurbishment repaired and updated the buildings to meet contemporary standards. The façade of the buildings is retained, and some elements belonging to the original 1905 structure restored. This includes reinstating the central passageway between the theatre and the concert hall, which leads to the Arts House. New spaces was created to accommodate building services and for commercial rental and amenities like a café.[9] While the significant interior features of the concert hall were retained, most of the theatre (save the façade) was completely demolished during the renovations.

Refurbished interior of Victoria Theatre

The monument now boasts new spaces for the public, performers and support crew. The theatre has new changing rooms and a loading bay, while the central atrium has been opened up and has become an additional area for the hosting of arts activities.

But having new spaces means some sacrifices were necessary. For instance, the theatre now seats fewer people - about 600 from some 900 before - to free up space in what is now the atrium. The concert hall's balcony was also made smaller and higher, so that acoustics are not compromised for those sitting below.[2]

Facilities (1990s–2000s)[edit]

Foyer of Victoria Theatre

The Victoria Theatre had a seating capacity of 904, with a stage 167.28 square metres in size. The Victoria Concert Hall had 883 seats, and a stage which could be expanded up to 139.76 square metres in area. The concert hall was considered the venue with the best acoustics in the city, and was the main performance venue for the SSO until the completion of the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in 2002 whereby the orchestra moved its home base to take advantage of superior acoustics and facilities brought about by technological and architectural advances over the years.


  1. ^ NAC Arts Venues. Retrieved on 4 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b John Leong. "A sneak peek into the new Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall". Channel News Asia. Archived from the original on 15 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall". Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. 
  4. ^ a b c "Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall". National Heritage Board. 
  5. ^ a b c Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall – NLB Infopedia. Retrieved on 4 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b Susan Tsang (2008). Discover Singapore: The City's History & Culture Redefined. Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd. p. 202. ISBN 978-9812613653. 
  7. ^ Preservation of Monuments Board. "Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall". Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Marianne Rogerson (28 February 2011). In Singapore: 60 Fabulous Adventures in the City. Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd. p. 28. ISBN 9789814435406. 
  9. ^ National Arts Council. "Key Consultants Appointed for Refurbishment of Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall". Retrieved 4 July 2013. 

External links[edit]