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Wilton's Music Hall collection

History of Wilton's Music Hall

Wilton’s Music Hall began life in the 1830s as the ‘Prince of Denmark Public House’. It was also known as the ‘Old Mahogany Bar’, on account of its mahogany counters and fittings. In 1845 Matthew Eltham acquired a licence for the building, using the name ‘Albion Saloon’. In circa 1850 it was acquired by John Wilton, who rebuilt it as a music hall in 1853. Wilton then purchased properties adjoining the building, which enabled him to obtain the rear land. This led the way for the construction by Jacob Maggs of a larger music hall in 1858. Wilton's was modelled on other successful London halls of the time, including the second Canterbury Hall (1854), Evan's New (Supper Room) Music Hall (1856), and Weston's (1857) (later known as the 'The Royal Holborn'). Today Wilton's is the only surviving example.

The lease to Wilton’s was later owned by George Fredericks, and by 1874 it was known as ‘Frederick's Royal Palace of Varieties’. Following a fire in 1877, it was rebuilt, probably by J. Buckley Wilson of Wilson, Wilcox and Wilson of Swansea. The rebuilding included the introduction of a raked auditorium floor and proscenium arch. In 1888 the East End Mission of the Methodist Church reopened Wilton's as a church. The Mission used it until 1956, sfter which time it became a rag sorting depot and warehouse. In 1964 a campaign was led by Sir John Betjeman to save the building from demolition, leading to the purchase of Wilton’s by the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1966.

Wilton's is now owned by the Wilton's Music Hall Trust. In June 2007 the World Monuments Fund added the building to its list of the world's ‘100 most endangered sites’.

The history is based on the following sources:

‘British Music Hall. An Illustrated history’, Richard Anthony Baker (2005)
‘Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950’, John Earl and Michael Sell (2000)
‘John Wilton’s Music Hall, The Handsomest Room in Town’, Peter Honri (1985)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilton%27s_Music_Hall [accessed 13 October 2008]

Scope and Content of the collection

The digitised items are sourced from archives held by Wilton's Music Hall at its base in Tower Hamlets, East London.

Copyright holders

Wilton's Music Hall Trust; Broomhill Trust; AEA Consulting.

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