Guest post by the Museum of London

Visiting the Past: Wilton’s Music Hall

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Wilton’s Music Hall is one of the oldest surviving music halls in the world, and offers a glimpse of a bygone age of popular entertainment.

When John Wilton unveiled his “magnificent new music hall” in 1859, it was the newest venue in a thriving scene. During the late 19th and early 20th century, East London had more music hall theatres than any other part of the country. Music hall entertainment was raucous and rapid-fire; its acts often quirky and outrageous and its audiences legendarily bawdy and restless.

Many acts on the Wilton’s stage performed comic songs in character. An enchanted 1872 reviewer described the performance of impressionist Annie Delemont:

“Miss Delemont, who has a beautiful voice and is a superior vocalist, sang serial comic ditties in a way which charmed all who listened to her.”

Upon John Wilton’s death in 1880, Wilton’s was taken over by the East End Mission of the Methodist Church who were determined to help relieve the notorious poverty in the area. They used the building as a soup kitchen and as a refuge for people whose homes had been bombed during World War II.

The Grade II listing building then fell into disrepair until 10 years ago, when it began to be used as a music and events venue.

Museum of LondonWilton’s Music Hall has just re-opened its auditorium after completing the first phase of a grand refurbishment. It is hosting a production of The Great Gatsby until 23 March 2013. Find out more about the history of the building or catch a show.

Guest post by the Museum of London as part of our Visiting the Past series. More London history next week