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Wilton's Music Hall
Grace's Alley
Off Ensign Street
London
E1 8JB
020 7702 2789
info@wiltons.org.uk
http://www.wiltons.org.uk/
Nearest Tube/Train Station:
Tower Hill
DINING SNACKS BAR
 
Wilton's Music Hall History

Wilton’s is a unique building comprising a mid-19th Century grand music hall attached to an 18th Century terrace of three houses and a pub. Originally an alehouse it was known as The Mahogany Bar, reputedly because the landlord was the first to install a mahogany bar and fittings in his pub.

John Wilton bought the business in c.1850, enlarged the concert room three years later, and replaced it with his ‘Magnificent New Music Hall’ in 1859. He furnished the hall with mirrors, chandeliers and decorative paintwork, and installed the finest heating, lighting and ventilation systems of the day. In the thirty years Wilton’s was a music hall, many of the best remembered acts of early popular entertainment performed here, from George Ware who wrote ‘The Boy I love is up in the Gallery’ to Arthur Lloyd and George Leybourne (Champagne Charlie) two of the first music hall stars to perform for royalty.

Towards the end of the 19th Century the East End had become notorious for extreme poverty and terrible living conditions. Religious organisations tried to help. In 1888 Wilton’s was bought by the East London Methodist Mission, renamed The Mahogany Bar Mission and for some time considered ‘Methodism’s finest hall’. During the Great Dock Strike of 1889, a soup kitchen was set up at The Mahogany Bar feeding a thousand meals a day to the starving dockers’ families.

The Mission remained open for nearly 70 years, through some of the most testing periods in East End history including the 1936 Mosley March and the London blitz. Throughout that time the Methodists campaigned against social abuses, welcomed people of all creeds and ethnicity, and gave invaluable support to the local community, particularly the needy children of the area.

After the second world war The Methodists had to leave and Wilton’s was scheduled for demolition. Fortunately a campaign was started to save the building with support from persons such as Sir John Betjeman, Peter Sellars and Spike Milligan and was grade 2* listed in 1971. However it remained empty and fell derelict from 1956 onwards, suffering much structural damage and decay. It started to reopen as a theatre and concert hall in 1997. Frances Mayhew, the current Managing and Artistic Director took over the building in 2004, having worked previously at Wilton’s in the late 90s as an intern. It was again derelict and in debt. Over the last decade or so she has been bringing the building back to life, brick by brick, audience member by audience member, penny by penny. Now this stunning Music Hall is a thriving arts and heritage venue entertaining thousands of people each year.

 

Wilton's Music Hall
Nearest Tube/Train Station:
Tower Hill
click here for a big map


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