London’s last surviving mid-Victorian music hall is back from the brink, fully reopening after four years of restoration work.
Wilton’s Music Hall in the East End was under threat from closure back in 2011 before enough funding came through to carry out urgent repair work.
Tim Ronalds Architects have masterminded the Grade II*-listed theatre’s £4 million refurbishment, preserving whatever was possible, including fireplaces, window frames, disused roofs and even holes in the wall considered charming. They also opened up 40% of the space – comprising four Georgian houses and a former alehouse – that was previously inaccessible.
‘Recognising that it is impossible for new work to take on the qualities of depth and texture that come with age,’ say the architects, ‘we chose to adopt the materials and methods of the original buildings without any attempt at artificial ageing.
‘Not to pretend to be old, but to avoid any strident contrasts that might wake visitors from the dreamlike experience of Wilton’s.’
Much of the refurb involved making the auditorium fit for purpose in the 21st century. Additions to Wilton’s Music Hall include a new purpose-built studio for hosting educational workshops.
The venue is named after John Wilton, a pub landlord who commissioned the auditorium’s construction in 1858 and incorporated the four houses and former alehouse into one building.
‘Long live this wonderful building,’ adds actor David Suchet, an East London local and a long-term supporter of Wilton’s. ‘It is such a unique cultural and historic landmark for the East End, London and beyond and it gives me such pleasure to think of all the people that will enjoy and benefit from its performance and heritage programme.’