The Public Hall

  • 15 Jan 2012
  • Worcester People and Places
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The building in the Cornmarket was built on the north side of the piazza, on the side of the old Wheatsheaf Inn. It had two halls, the large one being 97ft. long and 40ft broad, and 40ft high, and was one of the best lighted in the kingdom, having a dome, which later, was destroyed by fire. It cost £7,000 in £10 shares, and failing in its purpose was sold for £1,710 as a Music Hall. In 1875, William Laslett sold the building to the Corporation for £2,200. For years the Hall had a chequered career. It was used for Saturday Penny Readings, at which Harry Day was the chief attraction. Charles Dickens twice came to read his own works; once in 1867, to read Christmas Carol, and again in 1867 to read Dr.Marigold and the trial from Pickwick Papers. Here Mark Lennon interpreted Falstaff, Sims Reeves, the great Worcester tenor sang 'My Pretty Jane', and Souza, with his remarkable band of exhibitionists, gave a farewell performance. Here too, Jenny Lind sang to raise funds for a chapel at the Worcester Royal Infirmary, Dvorak conducted his own work, Stabat Mater; and Elgar his symphonies and the Dream of Gerontius. To many the Hall was remembered for the music of the Festival Choral Society, with Ivor Atkins conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, with Edgar Day on the powerful organ; for the Sunday Niht Military Band Concerts, or the Secondary School prize distibution musical items under the baton of Miss Lilian Tyers. There was entertainment of another kind in the Bijou Minstrels with Tom Thumb; and Cherry Kearton's wild life lantern lectures, and the coming of the Bioscope with the advertisement claiming 'No rain'. By the 1890's the building had become known as the Public Hall, and was the principal hall used for electioneering. In the days before radio and television, when public meetings were an important part of the campaign, each party tried to secure the hall for the vital eve-of-poll meeting. On one memorable day, hot summer evening, a band was hired to play outside to drown the speakers inside, for the windows were wide open. Of course, this inevitably led to the bandsmen being roughly handled. During the 1939-45 War the building was used as a British Restaurant where comparatively good meals were available to help out the meagre civilian rations. The W.V.S also ran a Welcome Club in the evenings, with on a Sunday night, a 15 minute Epilogue. After the War the hallhad many uses and was called the Majestic. It was eventually demolished in 1966 to make yet another space for cars. Its demolition completely spoilt the enclosed and intimate piazza of the Cornmarket.