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Published: 25 September 2021

By Andy Ross

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Wilton's Music Hall

In 1859 John Wilton built a Victorian Music Hall behind a row of buildings on Graces Alley in the East End of the capital.

Wilton's ambition was to provide West End glamour, comfort and first-rate entertainment for the working people of the area and it brought that glamour for thirty years until it closed in 1881. It saw famous performers; George Ware sang ‘The Boy I love is up in the Gallery' and George Laybourne "Champagne Charlie", both popular music-hall songs. 

The building became a Methodist Mission and continued to work in the community for nearly 70 years. By the 1960s though the area was scheduled for redevelopment and the now-closed rag-sorting warehouse (for this is what it had become) was in danger. The poet John Betjeman was persuaded to speak at a public meeting along with theatre historian John Earl to save the theatre and it finally was bought by the Greater London Council. 

In 1970 Spike Milligan persuaded the BBC to produce "The Handsomest Room in Town" in the hall and finally it began toi live life again as a venue for performance and filming. By 2015, after restoration, Wilton's Music Hall reopened fully, structurally sound and true to its founder's vision. 

Nowadays the beautiful building is well-used. This most well-known and respected theatre once again takes its place as the most complete music hall survivor from the Victorian age. Where better to see a performance of Cole Porter by those subversive songsters "The Tiger Lillies"?

You can read more about the history of the building here