Portsmouth music scene

The Portsmouth Music Scene

The Town Hall and The Guildhall

Portsmouth Guildhall is the biggest events venue in the Hampshire city of Portsmouth in England. The original building at this location, completed in 1890, was designed in the neo-classical style by architect William Hill, who had earlier been responsible for the design of the town hall in Bolton. Local Architect Charles Bevis in partnership with Hill directed the construction, Hill died before the completion of the building with Bevis adding to the design. The building was originally called the Town Hall, but on 21 April 1926 it was announced that Portsmouth would be raised to the status of a city and the town hall was renamed the Guildhall. The building had a capacity of up to 2000. It was located in the city centre of Portsmouth, very close to the Portsmouth and Southsea railway station.

The Grand Organ

The grand organ was built and installed by Gray and Davison of London in 1889,
but it does not appear on the British Organ Archive listings.
A similar Gray and Davison organ still resides in Leeds City Hall.
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The specification of the original Gray & Davison Organ, said to be built 1889 was very unusual as it was of 61-note manual key compass even in 1889 - VERY forward looking! The key actions were Barker Lever to the Great, Swell & Solo with the Choir being completely mechanical (Tracker). The wind was raised by feeders, crank driven by an A.C. electric motor.

On the 18th May 1922, shortly before the Town became a City and the Town Hall became the Guildhall, a tender was submitted by Henry Willis & Sons of Liverpool, and other companies for the rebuilding of the organ to a pre-drawn specification by J. Arthur Meale (the Organist of Westminster Central Hall, London). The compay of James Jepson Binns eventually got the contract.
The Portsmouth Town Clerk at the time was F. Sparks.


The original Town Hall


Members of Portsmouth City Council, some Top Brass and Guests witness the laying of the
Foundation Stone for The Town Hall. 14th October 1886

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29th January 1909: Victor Grayson MP was attending the ninth annual national Labour Party Conference at Portsmouth Town Hall, alongside the socialist playwright George Bernard Shaw.

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12th November 1926 ----------------- 13th November 1926


23rd April 1931


Newman at the Guildhall 18th November 1932

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The Melody Makers played at the Guildhall in 1934


The Melody Maker South Coast Championships held at the Guildhall in 1934


Primrose Ball Portsmouth Guildhall April 1934


Southern Grammar School Prize giving 1935


6th January 1939

at the 1941 christmas party

At the 1941 Christmas party

4250631437x night

On 10th January, 1941, during the Second World War, the building was hit by incendiary bombs and was gutted. The interior and roof were totally destroyed, with just the outer walls and tower remaining, albit fire-damaged. The building was rebuilt after the war for 1.5 million, using war compensation funds, and on 8 June 1959 Her Majesty the Queen performed the re-opening ceremony. However, the interior was changed from the original and the external style is missing much of its original ornateness, especially the dome above the clock and the finials atop the balustrades around the roof.

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Rebuilding starts

Known events at the original Town/Guildhall

1886 October 14th laying of the Foundation Stone for The Town Hall.
1909 January 29th Labour Party Conference
1910 May 20th Memorial Service
1911 February 10th Portsmouth Teachers Whist dive
1912 Janusry 24th Muster of the National Reserve
1912 March 12th Free Church Council 'At Home'
1912 May 27th/29th 44th Annual Co-operative Congress
1920 January 27th Mrs Hampson's Fancy Dress Ball
1920 February 26th Concert for H M Forces
1924 September 27th The Rt Hon David Lloyd George MP is presentesd with the Freedom of the Borough by Mayor Alderman Corbin at the Town Hall
1926 November 12th British Legion Armistace Celebration Ball
1928 August 26th Rev. Edmund Potts Popular Sunday Service
1931 April 23rd Elgars 'Apostles'
1931 April 30th The Jackdaw of Rheims
1931 May 1st Special Orchestral Night
1931 May 2nd Hiawatha
1932 November 18th Newman and his Dance Band
1939 January 6th De Beer and his Famous Band present a Grand Variety Concert
1939 March 1st Moiseiwitsch pianoforte
1941 January 10th the building was hit by incendiary bombs and was gutted.

Click here for Guildhall 1959 to date
Click here for Guildhall 1959 opening
Click here for Guildhall Tickets and Posters


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