Behind The Scenes At Wilton's Music Hall

By M@ Last edited 24 months ago
Behind The Scenes At Wilton's Music Hall

Looking at the snap above, you wouldn't suspect that this building recently completed a £2.5 million renovation. But this is Wilton's Music Hall, where crumbling plaster is all part of the charm.

Unlike many East End venues, the shabbiness is genuine rather than chic. This is one of London's earliest music halls, dating from the mid-19th century but with adjoining rooms from the 18th. Now used for theatre and music gigs, it's always had that feel of a forgotten hideaway that might fall down at any moment.

The job of engineers Max Fordham was to shore up the building for 21st century health and safety requirements while maintaining the tatty appearance that every visitor comes to know and love. They've done an excellent job.

The main hall, entrance and bar area look exactly as ever, right down to the battered old sink that still clings to a corner of the auditorium. Much of the work lies hidden behind the scenes, with improved electrics, heating and ventilation. Where changes have been made to the public areas, they are barely perceptible, with the possible exception of the new staircase shown above.

Upstairs, an oh-so-inviting cocktail bar now sprawls in a ramshackle way across four or five rooms.

Ale and wine drinkers are still admirably served by the original Mahogany Bar at ground level. You can pop in any time, whether or not you're here for a show.

An exhibition space adds further allure. This tells the complex history of the buildings, which have served as a dockside pub, Methodist mission and rag warehouse as well as a music hall and theatre.

In May 2016, the refurbishment won RIBA's Building of the Year award for the 'stunning restoration' of Wilton's, which maintained its 'seductive and unforgettable' character.

You can visit this special venue Monday-Saturday to enjoy the main bar or Tuesday-Saturday for the cocktail bar. Or else book a ticket to one of the regular shows to experience the closest thing to architectural magic in the main hall. Wilton's also offers occasional historical tours of the building.

Wilton's Music Hall is at 1 Graces Alley E1 8JB. The nearest station is Tower Hill. Overground is Shadwell.

Last Updated 03 February 2017