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Main Details

Primary ReferenceNJ90NW0110
NRHE Card No.NJ90NW183
NRHE Numlink 20090
HES LB No. 19991
Site Form Standing Structure
Site Condition Complete 2
Details Music Hall designed by Archibald Simpson, 1820, and opened in 1822, originally known as the Assembly Rooms. A large hall added by James Matthews 1858-9, and with murals by Robert Douglas Strachan 1899 - circa 1909. The finance for the project was brought together by a few wealthy landowners who wanted to have a private meeting club in town. The Rooms originally provided facilities for the Club members to game, dance, dine and play billiards. The part designed by Simpson as the Assembly Rooms is the part fronting on to Union Street. Built of polished and dressed grey granite, it is tall, single-storey, neo-Greek building with an impressive ionic portico fronting the building. The Rooms were designed by Simpson when he was at the top of his profession and have been called his 'outstanding contribution to Union Street'. It remains today a largely original and unspoiled example of his work. The foundation stone, on the corner of Union Street and South Silver Street, has a commemorative plaque that reads: 'Aberdeen Public Rooms. Built by subscription, founded with Masonic honours by James Earl of Fife, Depute Grand Master of Scotland, April 26, 1820. First Year of the reign of George the Fourth'. In 1858 a new joint stock company, the Aberdeen Music Hall Company, purchased the Assembly Rooms. They planned to enlarge the rooms. In 1858-59 the company added a new Concert Hall, designed By James Matthews, to the rear of Simpson's Rooms. The Concert Hall was initially known as the Music Hall, and that name came to cover the entire building. The Music Hall has seen some dramatic events over the course of its history. In November 1912 four suffragettes were charged after disrupting a meeting being held by Prime Minister Lloyd George. Amongst its many functions the Music Hall can claim to be Aberdeen's first cinema. Just nine months after the first public demonstration of the kinematograph by the Lumieres brothers in Paris, 18 short films were shown on the 28th, 29th and 30th September 1896, including one that featured hand stencilled colour. During the 1860s it was claimed that the largest tea party in Scotland with over 2000 supporters of abstinence took place here. In the 1920s with competition from cinemas and dance halls numbers attending events at the Music Hall began to dwindle. The Hall was bankrupt by 1928 when the Town Council agreed to purchase it for £34000. Under its new council managers the Hall continued to provide musical and traditional 'variety' entertainment but also wrestling and boxing. Many began to feel that this was unsuitable for the building. Moreover the fabric of the building was beginning to suffer by this period: many began to call for it to be demolished. This reached a head in 1960 and plans to demolish the building were drawn up in 1961. Opinions were divided but the building was retained by the Council, in 1968, after an extended public debate. The Hall continues to remain in Council hands and was refurbished at a cost of over £3 million in 1986. The fortunes of the Assembly Rooms and subsequent Music Hall are symptomatic of the changes in public taste over the last century and a half. Many of the great Victorian institutions, theatres such as the Tivoli and the beach entertainment at the Pavilion fell out of fashion. The Pavilion was closed and the Tivoli stands unused today. Other buildings came into municipal hands, which saved them: this is true not only of the Music Hall but also His Majesty's Theatre. In the foyer of the Music Hall was a bronze plaque commemorating those from Aberdeen who fought to defend democracy in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39: following redevelopment of the Music Hall in 2018 the plaque as taken into the care of the Unite union. On the easy wall of the building is a plaque to the entertainer Harry Gordon (1893-1957) who performed here.
Last Update07/09/2022
Updated Bycpalmer
Date of Compilation13/09/2017

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National Grid Reference: NJ 9374 0604

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