Victorian London - Theatre and Shows - Theatres and Venues- Strand Musick Hall

Upon a small scale may be mentioned those of Tottenham Court Road, Berwick Street and the Minor Theatre, Catherine Street, Strand; in the two latter of which not less than ten different companies perform. Tickets are delivered gratis by the performers to their friends, and are procured, in their respective neighbourhoods, without much difficulty.

The Picture of London, 1810

[The Minor Theatre, a private theatre for amateurs, went through a variety of incarnations and uses, including as the Harmonic Theatre in 1816, the Theatre Mecanique in 1820, the Argus Subscription Theatre, the Theatre of Variety in 1823, the Thespian Institute in 1830, before becoming the Royal Pantheon in 1839, then the Little Catherine Street Theatre, and the Gem in 1861; then the Strand Musick Hall. See Lost Theatres of London by Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson for more information]

This establishment, which is promoted by a Joint Stock Company (The Strand Musick Hall Company) after numerous delays, opens to the public to-morrow, though probably it will never have a more crowded or attentive audience than at its inauguration last evening.
    Continental Gothic is the basis of this eclectic design, and if the architect has succeeded in erecting a structure which, departing from recognised codes, outrages none, he trusts that unity and comprehensiveness in the execution of a difficult task will obtain for him a just appreciation of his work.
    The main building as it at present exists, which constitutes what may be called the Hall proper, covers ground running E. and W. from opposite the Lyceum Theatre, in Wellington Street, Strand, to Catherine Street, where it has a present frontage of seventy feet, from which to Wellington Street the depth is over a hundred and ten feet.
    The Company have acquired the land upon which will ultimately extend the main building to Exeter Street on the N., where it will possess a frontage of about sixty feet.
    The Hall is approached from the Strand by a building ninety-six feet long, with a frontage of thirty-six feet to the Strand, which contains besides the spacious corridors and grand staircase saloon (forming communications from the Strand with all parts of the building), commodious and elegant dining and smoking rooms, with waiters' serving rooms, and lavatory and dressing rooms for visitors to each; and immediately communicating with the Hall proper on the ground, balcony, and box floors, refreshment bars or buffets, which will be used as luncheon bars and for the service of the dining-rooms during the day, and as buffets for the use of the Hall in the evening.
    The building has been erected from the designs and details of Mr. E. Bassett Keeling, of Gray's Inn, and under the superintendence of himself and Mr. H. H. Collins, the joint architects to the Company. The whole of the coloured decorations, which are of~ a very novel and elaborate character, have been executed from the special directions of Mr. Keeling, under whose independent control the whole of the decorative portions of the building have been carried out. Among those connected with the building we may mention that the general contractors were Messrs. Trollope and Sons. The whole of the gas arrangements have been executed by M~ssrs. Defries and Sons. The ventilating apparatus, lifts, etc have been under the care of Mr. Wilson W. Phipson C.E. All ornamental wrought iron work in the front building is by Hart and Sons, and the copper folia tions are by Brawn, of Birmingham. The painting and decorations have been executed by Mr. Geo Foxley, and the greater portion of the stone carving has been undertaken by Mr. Tolmie.
    The ventilation of the whole structure has received the greatest attention at the hands of Mr. Wilson W. Phipson, and it is hoped that a degree of success has been secured which will render the Strand Musick Hall the best ventilated public building in London.
    Vocal and Instrumental Operatic Selections will fill a prominent place in the nightly programmes, and will be arranged upon a novel plan, calculated to afford full scope at once for the talent of the singers and for the skill of the orchestral performers. The symphonies of the Great Masters will occasionally be rendered, but at the same time the light and effervescent works of the composers of the hour will receive their full share of attention. The aim of the Directors of the Strand Musick Hall will be to please all tastes, save only those which are depraved. They purpose to enable the classical amateur to revel in the emanations of the loftiest genius - the lover of sparkling dance music to drink in the capering melodies to his heart's content - the worshipper of grand lyric inspirations to depart well satisfied with his treat - the adorer of the simple ballad to feel that he has had his full share of enjoyment - and the patron of comic singing to recognise that his special predilections have not been uncared for. In the last- named department it may be almost needless to say that every feature introduced will be jealously and rigorously scrutinised, and carefully kept free from anything that could shock the most refined taste or grate upon the most delicate susceptibilities.
    Smoking and drinking have, in the establishments heretofore called Music Halls, sat elbow to elbow - with harmony. The Directors of the Strand Musick Hall have thought it fitting to bestow this designation upon their building, inasmuch as it is a Hall devoted to the performance of music - but as the music given will be of a superior class, they expect from their visitors an equally exalted etiquette. Creature corn- forts - both nicotian and alcoholic - will be found at the spacious buffets, and in the corridors and saloons which surround the Hall. Visitors will have all the facilities they could desire for their puflings and their potations, but not within the Hall, which I is consecrated to music.
    From a circular distributed in the Hall by Messrs. - Defries we extract the following:
    The novel system invented and patented by Messrs. J. Defies and Sons, who have had the entire management of everything concerning the lighting of the building, will form one of the prominent features of - the Hall, and cannot fail to create a total innovation in the system hitherto adopted in lighting Theatres, Concert-rooms, and other large buildings. This new system combines that great desideratum of allying with the nearest approach to a soft daylight a system - of thorough and complete ventilation throughout the building. Hence to Messrs. J. Defries and Sons is due the full credit of having overcome those difficulties which had hitherto arisen in lighting, and the same time introducing a proper system of ventilation; and their patent is destined to form a new era in the principle of lighting. The numerous audiences which will no doubt visit this new resort of amusement will fully appreciate the beautiful amalgamation of colours produced without there being any show of gas. The light is entirely given from the top of the building, and by a combination of coloured sheets of glass and prisms, a soft and radiant light is thrown into every part of the building. The system of ventilation is so perfect, that a continual current of fresh air is introduced throughout the building, whilst the impure air, as well as the heat, is carried away through the top of the building by the powerful current which is established.
    To convey a slight idea of the vast importance of Messrs. J. Defries and Sons' new patent, it will be sufficient to state that there are several thousands of burners. The lighting chamber contains upwards of 350 ventilating tubes, the whole of which are conducted into enormous shafts, in which a proper vacuum has been established, thus causing an unvarying upward current, so that heat as well as the vitiated air is constantly conveyed out of the building. The thorough lighting of all our principal Opera Houses, Theatres, Music Halls, etc., bear full testimony to the vast resources of Messrs. J. Defries & Sons, but they have now in this new method surpassed anything hitherto produced.'

The Era, 16 October 1864