De Montfort Hall
In the early part of the twentieth century the only large meeting hall in Leicester was the Temperance Hall in Granby Street. It was privately owned by Thomas Cook and because alcohol was not allowed on the premises its use was restricted. The City Council felt that what Leicester really needed was a large concert hall.
Despite arguments about the cost of such a project, a site near to Victoria Park was selected. Critics complained that the site of the hall would be too far from the city centre and the position was entirely wrong. Eventually the firm of Stockdale Harrison was eventually commissioned to build the hall and it was designed by Shirley Harrison, who also designed the Usher Hall, Edinburgh.
Completed in 1913 at a cost of £21,000 and named after Simon de Montfort, a former Earl of Leicester, De Montfort Hall was hailed as one of the finest concert halls of its kind in the country. It had excellent acoustics and seating for 3,000 people, all with unobstructed view. Orchestra conductors from all over the world have praised it as one of the finest hall they have performed in. In August 1942 Dr Malcolm Sargent conducted both the Halle Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at De Montfort Hall.
The De Montfort Hall organ was a gift to the town by local industrialist Alfred Corah and it was inaugurated in 1914 when a recital was given to the employees of N. Corah and Sons. It is assumed to be the only surviving example of a large concert organ constructed by the Leicester organ builders, Stephen Taylor & Son Ltd.
Over the years De Montfort Hall has been the scene of some of Leicester’s most memorable occasions. Dancing was a favourite pastime for local people during the war years and the hall had its own residential band called the Metronomes Dance Band which proved a very popular attraction. The famous Joe Loss Orchestra also appeared there in 1943.
With the arrival of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ many of the famous groups of the day appeared there, including the Beatles, who performed there in 1963 and 1964. Today De Montfort Hall is still the main concert venue for Leicester offering a variety of entertainment from jazz, ballet and opera through to comedy and West End musicals.
It is the 100th anniversary of the opening of De Montfort Hall this year, check their website regularly to find out about special events:
Stevenson, J. 1995 Leicester through the Ages. Newtown Linford, Leicestershire: Kairo Press.
Ed. David Nash and David Reeder. 1993 Leicester in the Twentieth Century. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Alan Sutton Publishing