Search

Victorian Silvertown church keeping music hall alive

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 September 2016

Vincent Hayes (centre) on stage at the Brick Lane Music Hall

Vincent Hayes (centre) on stage at the Brick Lane Music Hall

Archant

Tucked away in a Victorian church, 200 metres from the runway of a busy international airport, first-time visitors to the Brick Lane Music Hall would be forgiven for thinking they’ve come to the wrong place.

St Mark's Church in Silvertown was opened in 1862St Mark's Church in Silvertown was opened in 1862

St Mark’s, in North Woolwich Road, Silvertown, has been home to the theatre since 2003, but that is just the latest chapter of its colourful 154-year history.

Music hall founder Vincent Hayes, 60, says: “We’re here in this beautiful church and I’m sure it’s been put to a use that the architect would be very happy with, because it’s for the good of the community.

“This is the first building they see when they’re flying into City Airport and this is the only theatre of its kind in the country.”

After a severe outbreak of cholera swept through the Silvertown in 1859, an appeal was placed in The Times to raise funds for a church to serve the beleaguered community.

Brick Lane Music HallBrick Lane Music Hall

Designed by architect Samuel Teulon, the building has played a vital part in the community since opening in 1862, offering schooling to the local children.

During the First World War the nearby Brunner Mond chemical factory was used for making TNT explosives.

In January 1917 a freak explosion – said to have been heard 100 miles away in Southampton – completely demolished the factory and devastated a substantial part of Silvertown, killing 73 people and injuring 400 more.

Somehow still standing, the church was used as a temporary home for many of those rendered homeless.

Brick Lane Music HallBrick Lane Music Hall

An import industrial centre, the surrounding area was bombed heavily during the Second World War and some services were forced to take place in bomb shelters.

The neighbouring vicarage was reduced to rubble through the raids and the area where it stood subsequently turned into allotments.

Following the decline of the Dockside industries through the 20th century, the church closed its doors in 1974 and almost burned down in 1981.

Luckily, an almighty stack of pigeon guano fell through the collapsing roof and put out the flames.

St Mark's Church in SilvertownSt Mark's Church in Silvertown

Allocated for continued community use, the building was finally rescued and restored and offered to the music hall following its temporary relocation from Brick Lane to Shoreditch.

Since then the grade II listed building has played host to family-friendly variety shows bringing vaudeville and slapstick back to the Docklands.

“It’s entertainment for the people,” added Vincent, who was made an MBE in 2003.

“It’s all about proper gags, there’s no bad language or anything offensive – it’s a gentle experience.

Vincent on stageVincent on stage

Despite never having advertised or been awarded a grant, the venue is a testament to the power of word-of-mouth and is booked up until 2018.

“I love making people happy,” he added. “Who wouldn’t want to do that?

“Newham is not filled with grade II listed buildings but this is one they can be really proud of because it ticks all the boxes.”

Visit bricklanemusichall.co.uk

Related articles

Latest Newham Stories

09:35

Essex Senior League: Saffron Walden Town 4 Clapton 0

Essex Senior League
12:00

A young filmmaker has shone a spotlight on an outreach scheme trying to tackle knife crime.

United Kingdom

The power of sport remains unrivalled in its ability to inspire change, improve lives and unite communities.

Premier League

Councillor Susan Masters, Clare Roche, Head of Fundraising at Richard House and Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz.

Newham
Yesterday, 18:11

London Lions maintained their lead at the top of the BBL Championship with victory on the road against Worcester Wolves.

LIONS
Yesterday, 17:00

Imam Haque lives in East Ham, and soon he’ll begin training for his first London Marathon, for Age UK.

European Union
Yesterday, 16:56

Leyton Orient came from behind to beat Bromley and extend their unbeaten run in the National League to six matches, while also returning to the top of the table.

Dean Brill
Yesterday, 16:00

The inexperienced teenager tasked with overseeing West Ham United women’s team will have his journey followed in a new BBC Three series.

United Kingdom

PROMOTED CONTENT

Have you spent time as an unpaid carer? If you are over the age of 25 and living in Newham, the Working for Carers scheme can help you take the first steps back to employment.

Hanson Fernandes’ journey began in 2015 when he arrived in London from Goa, India.

Newsletter Sign Up

Newham Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Newham Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now