The Oldest Grand Music Hall in the World
Wiltonís Music Hall, in London, was returned to active life in 1999 after a long period spent dusty, cobwebby and eerily silent. Yet 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.
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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. Wiltonís is the only building where the physical nature of a giant mid-Victorian London music hall of the 1850s-70s can still be studied and experienced. The cast iron barley sugar columns have survived the ravages of time as has the balcony. In Wilton's day 1500 people used to cram into the music hall to hear the top acts. Artistes from the Royal Opera House were lured over in full costume to perform late night favourite arias.
In the first dock strike of 1889 it served 2000 meals a day to the strikers and was the HQ for the people of the East End who gathered to stop Mosley's fascists in the Battle of Cable Street. In World War II it gave shelter to a badly blitzed community. In 1956 Wilton's was sold and used as a rag warehouse.
Many people have helped to save Wilton's Ė they include Sir John Betjeman, Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers, Rory Bremner, Liza Minnelli, Norma Dunbar, Roy Hudd and Christopher Biggins.
In 2004 the newly formed Wilton's Music Hall Trust began a campaign to save the building and open it to the public for guided tours, performances, education programmes for the local community, and events.
The hall can be hired for parties, wedding receptions and photo shoots.
Tours last 50 minutes and cost £5.
Appointments can be made to to see it by calling 020 7702 9555.
Groups must not be less than 10 people or more than 70 people.
Web: Wiltonís Music Hall