Summer has arrived and everyone is eager to get Friday
finished and enjoy the weekend sun. Today we look at the event Wilton’s on the
But Wilton’s is not on a Green? Back in 1980 it was!
Grace’s Alley had always been a narrow street leading to Wellclose Square, typical of the tightly packed east end. Following the slum clearances of the 1960s Wilton’s neighbours were swept away and, where it once faced rows of similar brick houses, it now looked out over an empty space that would eventually become the Shapla Primary School.
The restoration campaign had begun in earnest in the late-1970s, overseen by Peter Honri and Canon Peter Delaney. A dedicated group called the ‘Friends of Wilton’s’ were instrumental in building awareness of Wilton’s plight and counted the great and good of variety entertainment among its members.
The passion to save Wilton’s had succeeded and the building stood in splendid isolation. There was equally a drive to rescue the disappearing art of variety and ensure the unique performance heritage was maintained for future generations. Restricted by health and safety considerations from accessing the hall, fundraising events had to be mounted in available spaces with performers such as Roy Hudd coming forward to mount their own events to support the wider campaign. The fundraising during the period was very much a hands on approach and this can be traced in the letters and committee minutes in our archive.
Events like Wilton’s on the Green certainly show the commitment of those campaigning for Wilton’s but it is difficult to appreciate on a sunny day the impact of entering the atmospheric spaces themselves. There were sufficient funds that by 1983 restoration work had begun on the exterior restoration and soon the rest of the area would be covered in scaffolding as our neighbours remerged and the Green was rendered to history.
Beginning with these early efforts it would take another three decades of campaigns and fundraising to see Wilton’s finally reopened and restored.