Exeter Hall

Last updated

Engraving depicting the exterior of Exeter Hall, reproduced on a 1905 postcard. Exeter Hall.jpg
Engraving depicting the exterior of Exeter Hall, reproduced on a 1905 postcard.

Exeter Hall was a hall on the north side of the Strand, London, England. It was erected between 1829 and 1831 on the site of Exeter Exchange, to designs by John Peter Gandy, [1] the brother of the visionary architect Joseph Michael Gandy. The site had formerly been occupied by part of Exeter House (formerly Burghley House and Cecil House), the London residence of the Earls of Exeter, almost opposite the Savoy Hotel. The official opening date was 29 March 1831.

Strand, London major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster, London, England

Strand is a major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster, Central London. It runs just over 34 mile (1,200 m) from Trafalgar Square eastwards to Temple Bar, where the road becomes Fleet Street inside the City of London, and is part of the A4, a main road running west from inner London.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.


The façade in The Strand featured a prominent recessed central extrance behind a screen of paired Corinthian columns set into a reserved Late Georgian front of housing over shopfronts. The smaller hall's auditorium could hold around 1,000 people, and the main hall's auditorium could hold more than 4,000 people. [2] Exeter Hall hosted religious and philanthropic meetings, including those of the Protestant Reformation Society (founded in 1827), the Protestant Association (revived in 1835), and the Trinitarian Bible Society (founded in 1831).

Corinthian order Latest of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture

The Corinthian order is the last developed of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The other two are the Doric order which was the earliest, followed by the Ionic order. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, two more orders were added to the canon, the Tuscan order and the Composite order. The Corinthian, with its offshoot the Composite, is the most ornate of the orders. This architectural style is characterized by slender fluted columns and elaborate capitals decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls. There are many variations.

Trinitarian Bible Society an organization founded in 1831

The Trinitarian Bible Society was founded in 1831 "to promote the Glory of God and the salvation of men by circulating, both at home and abroad, in dependence on the Divine blessing, the Holy Scriptures, which are given by inspiration of God and are able to make men wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

On 30 June 1834 the South Australia Company hosted a huge 7-hour public meeting there to support the establishment of the free colony of South Australia. [3]

South Australia State of Australia

South Australia is a state in the southern central part of Australia. It covers some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of 983,482 square kilometres (379,725 sq mi), it is the fourth-largest of Australia's states and territories by area, and fifth largest by population. It has a total of 1.7 million people, and its population is the second most highly centralised in Australia, after Western Australia, with more than 77 percent of South Australians living in the capital, Adelaide, or its environs. Other population centres in the state are relatively small; Mount Gambier, the second largest centre, has a population of 28,684.

The meetings of the Anti-Slavery Society (founded in 1823) took place at Exeter Hall, and such was the significance of these political meetings that the phrase "Exeter Hall" became a metonym for the Anti-Slavery lobby. [4] In addition to its primary function as a meeting place, it functioned as the headquarters of the YMCA (founded in 1844), and (from 1836) as a concert hall for the Sacred Harmonic Society. Hector Berlioz first conducted concerts in Exeter Hall in 1852, and he conducted again there in 1855. [5]

Anti-Slavery Society everyday name of two different British organisations

The Anti-Slavery Society was the everyday name of two different British organisations.

YMCA worldwide organization

The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), sometimes regionally called the Y, is a worldwide organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, with more than 64 million beneficiaries from 120 national associations. It was founded on 6 June 1844 by Sir George Williams in London and aims to put Christian principles into practice by developing a healthy "body, mind, and spirit".

The Sacred Harmonic Society (1832-1888) was an amateur musical organization of London. It was organized for the weekly practice of sacred music and the performance of oratorios and other sacred music.

On May 10, 1871, “a meeting in support of the Foreign missions of the Free Church of Scotland, and of the Presbyterian Church of England” was hosted in Exeter Hall. The former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab in British India, Sir D. F. MacLeod, presided over the meeting, which featured speakers such as Rev. H. L. Mackenzie, of the Swatow Mission in China. [6]

Punjab Province (British India) former province of British India

Punjab, also spelled Panjab, was a province of British India. Most of the Punjab region was annexed by the East India Company in 1849, and was one of the last areas of the Indian subcontinent to fall under British control. In 1858, the Punjab, along with the rest of British India, came under the direct rule of the British crown. The province comprised five administrative divisions, Delhi, Jullundur, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi and a number of princely states. In 1947, the partition of India led to the province being divided into East Punjab and West Punjab, in the newly created Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan respectively.

Presidencies and provinces of British India administrative divisions of British governance in India

The Provinces of India, earlier Presidencies of British India and still earlier, Presidency towns, were the administrative divisions of British governance in India. Collectively, they were called British India. In one form or another, they existed between 1612 and 1947, conventionally divided into three historical periods:

Donald Friell McLeod Scottish civil servant

Sir Donald Friell McLeod was a Lieutenant Governor of British Punjab. He was one of the founders of Lahore Oriental College, now part of the Punjab University and is generally remembered as a philanthropic administrator and promoter of education.

Exeter Hall was sold[ by whom? ] to the J. Lyons & Co. group, which assumed ownership of the building on 27 July 1907. [7] The building was torn down and the Strand Palace Hotel built in its place, opening in September, 1909.

Strand Palace Hotel hotel on the Strand, London, England

The Strand Palace Hotel is a large hotel on the north side of the Strand, London, England, positioned close to Covent Garden, Aldwych, Trafalgar Square and the River Thames.

A contemporary description

The following is from 1838: [8]

[The Freemasons Hall] is capable of containing 1600 persons, but as such accommodation was even then very insufficient for the numbers who wished to attend the meetings, ladies were excluded from those of the Bible Society; and at the Church Missionary, and other popular anniversaries, the crowd was overwhelming. This was peculiarly inconvenient to the Chairman and speakers; for as the room was always filled long before the time for opening the proceedings, and there is no entrance to the platform but through the body of the hall, the difficulty of reaching the chair, and the speakers' seats, was extreme.

It was therefore determined, about the year 1828-9, by some influential persons, to enter into a scheme for building an immense edifice, which should contain a room large enough to hold any meeting, however numerous, with a smaller hall for lesser audiences, and a variety of committee rooms and offices, to be occupied by several societies, then crowded into the house. No. 32, Sackville Street, Piccadilly, and in other private buildings.

The site of Exeter Change, in the Strand, was selected, as central and convenient, and the fabric, known as Exeter Hall, was completed in 1831.

It is a large building, but from its very narrow frontage towards the Strand, is likely, at first sight, to disappoint those who come to London with their ideas of its exterior formed from what they have heard of its interior dimensions. It has scarcely any visible front, excepting a lofty entrance, between two handsome Corinthian pillars; so that many persons, who have intended to visit it, have passed by its entrance without perceiving that any public building was near them. At those hours when any large meeting is assembling or dispersing, few can mistake Exeter Hall; the living tide, which then pours in or out of its doors, is generally such as to impede the free passage of the Strand on that side; and the line of carriages, which extends far along the street in front, and up to the side entrance, is equally striking, when any great assembly is expected to break up.

The grand doorway, in the Strand, leads into a wide interior space, from whence ascend two curved flights of stairs, one on each side, which meet in one broad straight flight above, leading to the great hall, and under the junction of which opens a spacious passage. This joins, at right angles, the passage from the side entrance, so that the ground plan of these passages resembles a capital T, with rooms opening on each side of the upper line.

Meeting of the Royal Humane Society in the Great Hall of Exeter Hall in the 1840s. Royal Humane Society Meeting in Exeter Hall.jpg
Meeting of the Royal Humane Society in the Great Hall of Exeter Hall in the 1840s.

On the lower floor are the smaller hall, (a room said to be capable of containing 1000 persons, the gallery included,) the offices of the Reformation Society, that of the Protestant Association, &c., with a room now called the Directors' Room, in which those committees, whose offices are in distant parts of London, assemble to proceed to the hall, when they hold their public meetings there. The back-stairs, leading to the raised seats, galleries, and platform of the larger hall, and also round the gallery leading to the first floor offices, are situated behind the rooms Nos. 8 and 9, occupied by the Reformation Society.

The large room of Exeter Hall was built to contain 4000 persons, with a splendid range of raised seats, to the left of the main entrance, a spacious area in front of it, and a platform, which of itself will accommodate 500 persons, to the right. At the back of the platform were formerly two sunk galleries, like the side-boxes of a theatre, which were opened or closed at pleasure, by means of moveable planks, which may be put aside during the progress of a meeting. They are now thrown completely open. The platform itself is elevated about six feet above the floor of the area, or central seats, and is finished in front by a handsome iron rail; the large and ornamental bars of which, placed about one foot from each other, are connected at top by a thick mahogany spar. In the centre of its front row stands the chair, which in form much resembles that of King Edward the Confessor, in Westminster Abbey. It is of handsomely carved mahogany, with massy open elbows, and is cushioned, in the seat and back, with purple leather. Its dimensions are very large, and any gentleman of small, or even of moderate size, who may preside, can never be said to fill it. Very few chairmen appear to advantage there; some seem lost in it, others, at a loss how to occupy it, and where to sit in it, whether backwards or forwards, upright or lounging, to the right or to the left. Those who have seen it tenanted by Lord Winchelsea, will agree that few sit there with greater dignity, or appear more advantageously to themselves.

To the right and left are common mahogany chairs for the speakers, and behind these are rows of high-backed benches, rising gradually above each other, and intersected by two flights of steps, which extend from the front row up to the entrances at the back. At upper corners are covered staircases, communicating with these entrances, the tops of which formerly joined the sunk galleries, and were often occupied by rows of ladies, more adventurous or less punctual than the rest. The platform is nominally appropriated to gentlemen, but the more curious sex seldom fail to get admittance there, in limited (or sometimes in large) numbers.

This original plan of Exeter Hall was, however, found insufficient to accommodate the overflowing audiences who crowded thither; and in 1834-5, a large and heavy gallery was erected at the back of the raised seats, supported by the four massive pillars which stand near the mouths of the upper stairs. In 1836-7, the front comers of the platform were extended forwards, into galleries, reaching half way down the area, along the walls; that to the left of the Chair is merely a continuation of the platform itself, but that to the right is railed off for lady-friends of the Presidents and Committee, and is entered by a small back stair.

With all this enlargement, however, the Hall is still insufficient for the crowds who often flock thither, as is well known by the audiences of the various Missionary and some other societies. When the room is quite filled, the finest view of it is from the deep recesses behind the platform. The scene visible from thence is truly magnificent. Below you lies the platform, slanting downwards, and extending into a crescent shape, with its crowds, sitting or standing; beyond them is the large flat surface of the area, its close benches all filled, and the avenues among them occupied by chairs, or by persons who are fain to stand, for want of sitting-room. Behind this are the raised seats, gradually appearing one behind another, and equal to half the size of the whole room; all again fully crowded, and the descending steps among the benches filled by the standing multitude. Over their heads, the whole scene is crowned by the back gallery, at a height of many feet, behind the crimson draperies which extend among the pillars, and this is completely full also. Those who wish to realize the saying of "a sea of heads", should take this view of Exeter Hall, on some popular occasion. When such an assembly rises, for prayer or praise, at the beginning or end of a meeting, the sight is still more stupendous; and the degree of sound they are able to produce, in the way of cheering or singing, is almost incredible. There have been occasions when that vast room has rung with the voices of those assembled within its walls; and a second peal of cheers succeeding, before the echoes of the first have died away, the noise altogether has been of a nature that few persons could bear unmoved.

Meeting of the Anti-Corn Law League in Exeter Hall in 1846. 1846 - Anti-Corn Law League Meeting.jpg
Meeting of the Anti-Corn Law League in Exeter Hall in 1846.

The Hall is lighted by a range of large square-cornered windows along its left side, at a height of fourteen or fifteen feet from the ground, and also by sliding windows in the top, which serve besides as ventilators. The roof is very lofty and handsomely ornamented, and in the centre is a large square elevation, around which are placed the ventilating windows, which open or shut from the leads outside.

The Lower Hall has no such advantage, and is ventilated by the ordinary windows, placed on each side of the room; one range opening into the back street, and the other into the main cross-passage of the building. It is similar to the larger Hall, excepting that it has no raised seats ; and the gallery, platform, &c., are all on a smaller scale, suited to the size of the apartment.

A gallery extends round that part of the first floor which is not occupied by the Upper Hall, from which open the offices of the Jews (A reference to the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, a Jewish Christian missionary society now known as the Church's Ministry Among Jewish People or CMJ), District Visiting, Hibernian, European Missionary, and other societies. Stairs from thence lead to the gallery of the lesser Hall, the raised seats of the large Hall, to its side-doors, (beneath the platform), to the platform itself, and to the sunk galleries.

These numerous staircases and passages render the back part of the building somewhat intricate; and strangers are constantly losing their way among them. When any large meeting is held, door-keepers, policemen, and other persons are stationed at the various stairs, to receive the tickets, and direct the company to their different destinations.

Notwithstanding this, confusion often arises when, both Halls are occupied at once, which is constantly the case during the early part of May. Another inconvenience attending such occasions is, that the plaudits of the upper and larger audience frequently drown the voices of those who are addressing the smaller one below; as they are situated immediately under the right side of the large Hall. Should the applause over-head not be very loud, it seems to arise from the lower Room, and many an inexperienced speaker has paused for his hearers to cease their cheers, when in reality the noise came from above, and had no reference to him whatever, but was addressed to some orator up stairs, perhaps expressing opinions diametrically opposed to his own…

Related Research Articles

Chatsworth House stately home in Derbyshire, England

Chatsworth House is a stately home in Derbyshire, England, in the Derbyshire Dales 3.5 miles (5.6 km) northeast of Bakewell and 9 miles (14 km) west of Chesterfield. The seat of the Duke of Devonshire, it has been home to the Cavendish family since 1549.

National Diet Building parliament building of Japan

The National Diet Building is the building where both houses of the National Diet of Japan meet. It is located at Nagatachō 1-chome 7-1, Chiyoda, Tokyo.

Old Parliament House, Canberra former house of the Parliament of Australia

Old Parliament House, known formerly as the Provisional Parliament House, was the seat of the Parliament of Australia from 1927 to 1988. The building began operation on 9 May 1927 after Parliament's relocation from Melbourne to the new capital, Canberra. In 1988, the Commonwealth Parliament transferred to the new Parliament House on Capital Hill. It also serves as a venue for temporary exhibitions, lectures and concerts.

Brisbane Showgrounds

Brisbane Showgrounds is located at 600 Gregory Terrace, Bowen Hills, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and was established in 1875. It hosts almost 300 events each year, with the largest being the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka).

Capesthorne Hall manor in Cheshire, England

Capesthorne Hall is a country house near the village of Siddington, Cheshire, England. The house and its private chapel were built in the early 18th century, replacing an earlier hall and chapel nearby. They were built to Neoclassical designs by William Smith and (probably) his son Francis. Later in the 18th century, the house was extended by the addition of an orangery and a drawing room. In the 1830s the house was remodelled by Edward Blore; the work included the addition of an extension and a frontage in Jacobean style, and joining the central block to the service wings. In about 1837 the orangery was replaced by a large conservatory designed by Joseph Paxton. In 1861 the main part of the house was virtually destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt by Anthony Salvin, who generally followed Blore's designs but made modifications to the front, rebuilt the back of the house in Jacobean style, and altered the interior. There were further alterations later in the 19th century, including remodelling of the Saloon. During the Second World War the hall was used by the Red Cross, but subsequent deterioration prompted a restoration.

Oakwell Hall Grade I listed historic house museum in the United Kingdom

Oakwell Hall is an Elizabethan manor house in Birstall, West Yorkshire, England. The Grade I listed hall is set in period gardens surrounded by 110 acres (0.45 km2) of country park.

Choir (architecture) part of a church

A choir, also sometimes called quire, is the area of a church or cathedral that provides seating for the clergy and church choir. It is in the western part of the chancel, between the nave and the sanctuary, which houses the altar and Church tabernacle. In larger medieval churches it contained choir-stalls, seating aligned with the side of the church, so at right-angles to the seating for the congregation in the nave. Smaller medieval churches may not have a choir in the architectural sense at all, and they are often lacking in churches built by all denominations after the Protestant Reformation, though the Gothic Revival revived them as a distinct feature.

Cecil House refers to two historical mansions on The Strand, London, in the vicinity of the Savoy. The first was a 16th-century house on the north side, where the Strand Palace Hotel now stands. The second was built in the early 17th century on the south side nearly opposite, where Shell Mex House stands today.

Maddermarket Theatre theatre in Norwich, England

The Maddermarket Theatre is a British theatre located in St. John's Alley in Norwich, Norfolk, England. It was founded in 1921 by Nugent Monck.

Caves of Nerja Cave and archaeological site in Spain

The Caves of Nerja are a series of caverns close to the town of Nerja in the Province of Málaga, Spain. Stretching for almost 5 kilometres (3.1 mi), the caverns are one of Spain's major tourist attractions. Concerts are regularly held in one of the chambers, which forms a natural amphitheatre.

Brooklyn Theatre fire

The Brooklyn Theatre fire was a catastrophic theatre fire that broke out on the evening of December 5, 1876 in the city of Brooklyn. The fire took place at the Brooklyn Theatre, near the corner of Washington and Johnson streets, with over a thousand guests attending. The conflagration killed at least 278 individuals, with some accounts reporting more than 300 dead. One hundred and three unidentified victims were interred in a common grave at Green-Wood Cemetery. An obelisk marks the burial site near the main entrance at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street. More than two dozen identified victims were interred individually in separate sections at the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn.

Adana Center for Arts and Culture

Adana Center for Arts and Culture is a public facility for cultural events, operating at the historical state building of Adana that served as a school for most of its history. The center is located on the west bank of Seyhan River just south of the Taşköprü, on Seyhan Street.

Nakhtpaaten or Nakht was an ancient Egyptian vizier during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten of the 18th dynasty.

Quetta Memorial Precinct

The Quetta Memorial Precinct is a heritage-listed Anglican church precinct in Douglas Street, Thursday Island, Shire of Torres, Queensland, Australia. The precinct comprises the All Souls and St Bartholomew's Cathedral Church, the Bishop's House, and the Church Hall. The precinct was built as a memorial to the 134 lives lost in the shipwreck of the RMS Quetta on 28 February 1890. The Church was designed in 1892-1893 by architect John H. Buckeridge. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 27 July 2001.

Merrion Hall

The Merrion Hall is a former Plymouth Brethren church built by Alfred Gresham Jones and completed in 1863 that was located near Merrion Square in Dublin, Ireland. It has been reconstructed and renovated and is now a hotel but the facade has been retained.

Porch a room or gallery at the front entrance of a building forming a low front

A porch is a term used in architecture to describe a room or gallery located in front of the entrance of a building forming a low front, and placed in front of the facade of the building it commands. It can be defined more simply as a "projecting building that houses the entrance door of a building or as a vestibule, or hall.

Alexandra Building

Alexandra Building is a heritage-listed commercial building at 451-455 Ruthven Street, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. It was designed by Toowoomba architect Henry James (Harry) Marks and built in 1902 by James Renwick. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 16 October 2008.

Baroona Hall

Baroona Hall is a heritage-listed community hall at 15-17 Caxton Street, Petrie Terrace, City of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It was designed by Richard Gailey and built from 1883 to 1884 by James Stuart Martin. It is also known as Caxton Street Hall, Josephsons Clothing Factory, and United Brothers Lodge. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992.

Foresters Hall, Paddington

Foresters' Hall is a heritage-listed community hall at 16 Latrobe Terrace, Paddington, City of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It was designed by Alexander Brown Wilson and built in 1888 by W Taylor. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 18 April 1997.

Mackay Masonic Temple

Mackay Masonic Temple is a heritage-listed masonic temple at 57 Wood Street, Mackay, Mackay Region, Queensland, Australia. It was designed by F. H. Faircloth and built in 1925 by William Ptrick Guthrie. It is also known as Masonic Hall. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 14 August 2009.


  1. Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 3rd ed. (Yale University Press, 1995), s.v. "Gandy, afterwards Deering, John Peter". Exeter Hall was one of his last architectural commissions before inheriting a fortune, adopting the additional surname Deering and retiring to the country as a gentleman.
  2. Anon, Random Recollections of Exeter Hall, in 1834–1837; by One of The Protestant Party, James Nisbet and Co., (London), 1838, p.7.
  3. http://www.exploringaustralia.com.au/history.php?s=adel
  4. Storrs, Sir Ronald (1945). Orientations. London: Nicholson and Watson. p. 88.
  5. Berlioz in London: Exeter Hall.
  6. "PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY MEETING". The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record. 1 May 1871.
  7. The Sphere. 27 July 1907, p.8.
  8. Random Recollections of Exeter Hall, in 1834–1837; by One of The Protestant Party, (1838), pp.5–13.

Coordinates: 51°30′40″N0°07′16″W / 51.511°N 0.121°W / 51.511; -0.121