Victorian London - Buildings, Monuments and Museums - Exeter Hall

This building stands on the north side of the Strand and is dedicated to piety and virtue. Its architecture and materials are, therefore, of corresponding holiness and worth. Staircases of highly polished marble, with bannisters of cedar, curiously inlaid with gold, lead to the various magnificent chambers of this magnificent structure. In one place we see Sidonian tapestries and hangings of Tyre - in another the carvings and painting of Egypt, with flaming carbuncles and all the jewelled glories of the East.
    Great, however, as the material beauties of the Hall, they are as nothing to the moral excellence of hundreds of the pilgrims who, from all corners of England, at times congregate, and talk and sing there. It is at the Hall that the fireside philanthropist, the good and easy man, for whom life has been one long lounge on a velvet sofa - it is there that he displays his practical benevolence, talking for hours on the glory of shipping white pastors to Africa to baptise the negro; or, if they climate will not have it so, to die there. It is at the Hall that "model farms" and model morals, and model preachers, and model mouse-traps are determined upon, and all for the civilization and future glorification of the now benighted black. It is from the Hall that the doomed captain - the devoted crew, receive their sailing orders to carry bibles down the Niger, just as far as Death will permit the import. And it is from the Hall that the good and pious, having voted a supply of religion to the black, depart for their own comfortable homes, having, to their exceeding content, indicated their Christianity, by paying a pound, singing a hymn, and - taking care of themselves.
    It is at the Hall that young ladies - deep in Montgomery's Satan, and more, most patient readers of his Luther - are taught a wholesome hatred of the Pope and all his works.
    It is at the Hall that the red-hot sectarian - the pulpit darling of many tea-tables - denounces the enjoyments of the world, and , as it has been, would have this beautiful earth clothed in sober drab!
    It is at the Hall that at certain seasons Bigotry holds her witch-like sabbaths, and the Sinful Woman of Rome puts on her finest scarlet!
    Reader, pause and humble yourself at the steps of the fabric, for Exeter Hall is an amulet abouyt the neck of wicked London - as pillar of camphor in the city of the sick.

source: Punch, Jan.-Jun. 1842 

source: The Illustrated London News, 1843

source: The Illustrated London News, 1843

source: The Illustrated London News, 1844


Exeter Hall ... To the oratorios occasionally performed here during the winter and spring, admission is obtainable, by tickets only, price 3s., the evenings of performance, which commence at 7 o'clock, being regularly advertised in the newspapers.

Exeter Hall, Strand. - This edifice was erected in 1830, from designs by Mr. Gandy Deering, for the meeting of religious, charitab1e, and scientific institutions. The principal entrance is between two houses in the Strand, but there is one at the western extremity of the building. It consists of a portico, formed by two pillars, and two pilasters, over which is an entablature with the Greek compound Philadelpheion, signifying fraternal love. Beyond is the vestibule. The ground-floor is occupied by offices, committee-rooms, and a room for small meetings, 58 feet by 31 feet, capable of holding 800 persons. On the upper floor is the principal room, 136 feet by 76 feet, capable of accommodating 2500 persons. The building cost about 30,0001. Oratorios are occasionally performed here in a style of great excellence.

source: Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

EXETER HALL in the STRAND. A large proprietary building on the north side of the Strand, completed in 1831, (J.P.Deering, architect). The Hall is 131 feet long, 76 feet wide, and 45 feet high; and will contain, in comfort, more than 3000 persons. It is let for the annual "May Meetings" of the several religious societies, and for concerts, in which the unrivalled music of Handel is at times performed, with a chorus of 600 voices accompanying it.

source: Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

see also George Sala in Twice Round the Clock - click here

EXETER HALL, Strand, built by Deering in 1831, was much enlarged by S. W. Daukes in 1850. Its length is 130 feet, width 76 feet, height 45 feet. Below there is a much smaller room, and various offices are also provided for within the building.
    Performances at Exeter Hall have usually a religious character. The Sacred Harmonic Society here produces, on a splendid scale, the oratorios of the great masters. In the month of May the various religious societies of the Metropolis attract hither clerical dignitaries, benevolent noblemen, charitable old ladies, and audiences select and impassioned, whose pecuniary contributions represent a vast yearly aggregate.

source: Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865


No. 372, on the north side of the Strand, a large proprietary establishment, was commenced in 1829 (Gandy Deering, architect), and was originally intended for religious and charitable Societies, and their meetings. It has a narrow frontage in the Strand, but the premises extend in the rear nearly from Burleigh-street to Exeter- street. The Strand entrance is Graeco-Corinthian, and has two columns and pilasters, and the word PHILADELPHEION [in Greek in the original text, ed.] (Loving Brothers) sculptured in the attic. A double staircase leads to the Great Hall, beneath which are a smaller one, and passages leading to the offices of several Societies.
    The Great Hall, opened in 1831, is now used for the "May Meetings" of religious societies, and for the Sacred Harmonic Society's and other concerts. This Hall has been twice enlarged, is now 131 ft. 6 in. long, 76 ft. 9 in. wide, and 45 ft. high, and will accommodate upwards of 3000 persons. At the east end is an organ and orchestra, the property of the Sacred Harmonic Society; at the west end is a large gallery, extending partly along the sides; and on the floor are seats rising in part amphitheatrically; also a platform for the speakers, and a large carved chair. In 1850, the area of the hall was lengthened nearly forty feet; the flat-panelled ceiling was also removed, and a coved one inserted, without disturbing the slating in the roof; S. W. Daukes, architect. Nearly eighty tons of iron were introduced into the roof, which, with the new ceiling, is one-third less weight than the original roof.
    Thus the ceiling gained 15 feet in height at the ends, and 12 feet in the centre; and the sound and ventilation are much improved. The Orchestra is on the acoustic principle successfully adopted by Mr. Costa at the Philharmonic Society; it is 76 feet wide, 11 feet more than the Birmingham Town-Hall orchestra. Every member can see the conductor; the organ-player sees his baton in a glass, among the phalanx of instrumentalists. The works of Handel, Haydn, and Mozart are here given with mighty effect; and Spohr and Mendelssohn have here conducted their own productions. The Organ, built by Walker in 1840, is 30 feet wide and 40 feet high: it has 2187 pipes; the longest are 20 feet from the base, diameter 15 inches, weight of each 4 cwt.; in gilding one-half of each pipe 750 leaves of gold were used: there are three rows of keys and two octaves of pedals.
    From April to the, end of May, various Societies hold their anniversary meetings at Exeter Hall. The smaller hail holds about 1000 persons, and a third hall 250, Haydon has painted the Meeting of Anti-Slavery Delegates in the Great Hall, June 12, 1840, under the presidency of the venerable Thomas Clarkson, then in his 81st year. On June 1, 1840, Prince Albert presided in the Great Hall at the first public meeting of the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade, this being the Prince's first appearance at any public meeting in England.
    Exeter Hall, with its various religious and benevolent aggregations, is one field with many encampments of distinct tribes. "Wesleyan, Church, Baptist missionary societies, all maintain a certain degree of reserve towards each other, all are jealous of the claims of rival sects, and yet all are attracted by a common sense of religious earnestness. The independent and often mutually repelling bodies who congregate in Exeter Hall are one in spirit, with all their differences. Without a pervading organization, they are a church." -Spectator newspaper.
Mr. Hullah's system of popular Singing was formerly illustrated here, when 2000 pupils combined their voices in the performances.

source: John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867

source: Routledge's Popular Guide to London, [c.1873]


One of the most familiar features of the Strand is the Corinthian portico of Exeter Hall, on the north side of the street, the headquarters of the Young Men's Christian Association, and much in request for the May meetings. It is clear from our view that the authorities of the Association do not ignore the desirability of that muscular Christianity which was so strongly inculcated by Charles Kingsley. At the back of the building is an excellently fitted-up Gymnasium, where classes are held on three evenings a week, attended by some sixty young men, who are mostly, but not all, members of the "Y.M.C.A.". Among them are not a few really accomplished gymnasts. Formerly the Gymnasium of the Association was situated in Long Acre.

source: The Queen's London, 1896