Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Cocktails at the World's Oldest Surviving Music Hall...

The last time we were in London, Dan and I signed up for a date night with a difference. We took a backstage tour of what might be the East End's best-kept secret

and it was amazing. I'm talking about a place called Wilton's – only one of the very few surviving music halls in the world. I have a sneaky feeling that if us here at Ellie & Co like this kind of thing, there will be a fair share of people reading this blog that will enjoy it, too...

You'll find Wilton's, with its beautiful crumbling red facade consisting of five Victorian house fronts,
hidden down a dark alleyway near Whitechapel in London's East End. Dating back to 1743, it was once a pub serving drinks from the city's first ever mahogany bar to rowdy crowds of hardy London dock workers. Imagine the sight!  

A local business man called John Wilton bought the alehouse sometime in the 19th century, and built a grand old concert room behind the mahogany bar, which soon became a theatre saloon and music hall. For most of the 20th century however, it narrowly escaped demolition during the slum clearance schemes of East London, after a time sitting empty and derelict, left to crumble away... 

Luckily, long-time Spitalfields resident, Frances Mayhew, knew about the building and was so passionate to see its revival, she started raising funds in the 1990s to restore it. The 'deliberately ramshackle' look you see today, all that peeling paint, dusty chandeliers and crumbling walls, is all part of its recent multi-million-pound refurbishment which saw the building stripped down to its bare bones to evoke the atmosphere of a bygone era and make your entrance into Wilton’s special.

Like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, we head around the back of the tumbledown mahogany bar, through a small passage into the vast, barrel-vaulted music hall.

I can't quite believe my eyes as I look around me at this vast room, and listen in awe at all the stories our guide tells us, trying to imagine the crowds of people that once packed out this church-like hall, and imagining seeing the unfortunate murder of one heckler... Our imaginations fired with visions of raucous nights of fun and debauchery, we leave the hall behind and head upstairs to explore the maze of rooms...

What was once the artist's 'Green Room' has been turned into a cool little cocktail bar – the perfect place for a date or after-work soiree with a difference, away from all those ordinary London pubs and bars. Drinks are served from early evening, so we grab ourselves a cosy candle-lit corner, and sip our drinks as we try to imagine it's 1859 and the entertainment at Wilton's music hall downstairs in full swing... 

You'll find Wilton's Music Hall at 1 Graces Alley, London E1 8JB. 


  1. Brilliant photos, I love this place.

  2. Love hearing about more obscure must visits in London! Thanks for posting! X

    1. You're welcome! It's so intriguing - next plan is to see a show there. x