Wiltons Music Hall
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Wiltons Music Hall

Wilton's is the world's oldest surviving grand music hall.


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.

Location: Graces Alley, Off Ensign Street, E1 8JB


My GtGtGt Grandfather, Matthew Eltham (1796 - 1864), was the proprietor of the Prince of Denmark and sold it to John Wilton. It was he (Matthew) that installed the mahogany fittings and included the 1st stage of a concert room (known as The Albion) The Prince of Denmark became known as The Old Mahogany Bar once the fittings were installed. (Angie)
Posted by Angie on 2009-05-18
Yes have been there, 1990, from Australia. My wifes GGG.father was born and lived at No 5 Graces Alley. So we have a great affinity with Wiltons. Still trying to establish were No5 was and if it was part of Wiltons and whether Williams fsther William Goridge was artistic or just a blow-in. Are ther any residential maps of 1851, his d of b? (william stanford)
Posted by william stanford on 2008-09-20