Built by pub owner John Wilton in 1858, Wilton's is the world's oldest surviving extant music hall, built on the back of a pub. It was closed in the 1880s and later became a Methodist church and then a rag warehouse. Once condemned, the Grade II-listed building was saved by the intervention of Sir Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers and Sir John Betjeman and, in 2003, was a finalist in the BBC series Restoration.
Though only 40 percent of the Music Hall is safe and in use, the venue plays host to a select number of theatrical and musical events each year. The Wilton’s Music Hall Trust has been set up to stabilise the building, at an estimated cost of £3.5 million. The theatre has been downgraded in this year’s TBAR as the team there is now in talks with the National Trust about safeguarding its future.
However, there was less happy news for those who did make this year’s top ten, including Derby Hippodrome, which was partially demolished in 2008 – an action for which its owner is being prosecuted – and is now under further threat as a planning application to turn the site into a car park has been submitted to the local council.
There are four new entries in the 2009 top ten, all of which are Grade II-listed: the Blackpool Opera House, the Brighton Hippodrome, the Doncaster Grand and the Theatre Royal Hyde. Others on the list are: Swindon Mechanics Institute, Plymouth Palace, Burnley Empire, Hulme Hippodrome and Playhouse in Manchester and the Globe Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees.
The Theatre Trust’s Register highlights theatres that have been abandoned and those suffering neglect under the hands of their owners. Of the 82 venues contained in the 2009 Register, 71 are in England, four in Scotland and seven in Wales. There are a total of 13 new additions this year and 11 removals.
Theatres Trust Director Mhora Samuel said today: "The Trust exists to promote the better protection of theatres. Each year we publish the Theatres Buildings at Risk Register to raise awareness of the threats facing theatres. Some of our most architecturally significant theatres still lie abandoned or are under threat from redevelopment. Many could come back to life as theatres or become cultural centres for local communities. We must do everything we can to make local authorities and owners aware of their responsibilities. The Trust’s aim is to prevent the loss of theatres, such as Glasgow’s Coliseum which was lost in a fire in May and had to be demolished."
Established in 1976 “to promote the better protection of theatres”, the Theatres Trust is the National Advisory Public Body for theatres and a statutory consultee on planning applications affecting land on which there is a theatre. The Trust champions all theatres, historic, contemporary and new, as important places in our lives and supports and develops awareness of the protection and needs of UK theatres. The TBAR was started in 2006.
The 2009 Risk Register can be searched online at www.theatrestrust.org.uk.