IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
4th April 1984 Michael Frayn's Benefactors premieres in London
4th April 1956 Enid Bagnold's Chalk Garden, premieres in London
4th April 1940 Born today: Bijan, Iran, mens apparel designer (Beverly Hills, NYC, London)
4th April 1929 New Moon musical opens in London
Wiltons Music Hall
Wilton's is the world's oldest surviving grand music hall.
Location: Graces Alley, Off Ensign Street, E1 8JB
Description: Here, in the 1850s and 60s, classical overtures, opera and operetta, choral, contemporary and folk songs were enormously popular, long before old time music hall evolved. John Wilton built this theatre behind his public house, The Prince of Denmark in 1858, in Graces Alley, E1. The pub was locally famous as the first to use mahogany fittings. Wilton's was described as the Handsomest Room in Town
It became very popular so he kept extending the room. When he ran out of space he bought the entire row of five terraced houses next to the pub and built along the back yards. It is all higgledy-piggledy. From the front you wouldn't know that there was a music hall there.
He ran the music hall until 1880 when he died. A new landlord tried to keep it going but they couldn't keep up with changes in building regulations. It was taken over by Methodists who ran the building as a mission until the 1930s. That is when it started to fall apart.
Like much of this area of east London the dance hall was scheduled for demolition after the war, but poet Sir John Betjeman found out about it and campaigned for it to be listed. It was given Grade II listed status in 1962 and was given to the London Music Halls Trust. They did try to maintain it but it was very expensive. It fell into massive disrepair. Everything else was knocked down round here, but this couldn't be.
In 1999 the Wiltons Music Hall Trust began an extensive renovation, which is ongoing today.
A sun-burner chandelier with 300 gas jets and 27,000 cut crystals dominated a mirrored hall where George Leybourne (Champagne Charlie) sang.
Rumour has it that the first ever Can-Can was performed and promptly banned at Wilton's.
It was also one of the locations for the new Woody Allen movie that filmed in London in 2006, featuring Ewan Mcgregor and Colin Farrell.
Tagged in this Tour: Curios