The music halls were the boom entertainment industry of their day, like today’s film, TV, record industry and musical stage all rolled into one, offering the only chance of fame and fortune to generations of aspiring entertainers. The tinkling memory of their songs is still a trigger for nostalgia about the Good Old Days, and even now such names as Marie Lloyd and Dan Leno are remembered with affection. But we know almost nothing about the many thousands of less famous men and women who made their living on the halls, not only as singers and dancers, but in many specialisms from contortionism and tank diving to shadow boxing and training performing cats.
This database was compiled in an attempt to fill in some of the teeming background to the music hall story. It is drawn from the advertisements inserted in the trade newspaper, The Era, by the leading group of 20-30 London music halls in the heyday.
The entire bill, including all performers and their descriptive ‘bill matter,’ plus whatever information was available about management, musicians, opening times and seat prices, was collected from the advertisements on the first week of each month every five years from 1865-1890. This adds up to some individual 9386 entries, and only scratches the surface of the vast databank of Victorian performance The Era represents.
You may look up anyone who you think might have appeared on the halls. Their entries will appear in a list, and you can click on each one for more detail – the date of the Era ad, the hall at which they were billed and its address within London. They probably appeared there for the rest of the month – and often people played two or three halls a night, racing between them in cabs.
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