So in my previous blog I reflected on the need to value Shropshire’s historical collection, soon to be housed in the restored and remodelled Music Hall. An outstanding collection in a remarkable range of buildings that are themselves, historical artefacts. It’s not been an easy journey. As the plaster was stripped back, decades of dodgy interventions were uncovered and created a few heart-stopping moments when solid walls were found to be not so solid after all. Armed with my trusty camera, I’ve taken a peak inside to let you see just how dramatic that intervention had to be. Thankfully, the worst is over and there are now real glimpses of just how spectacular the transformation is.
For over a hundred years, the main building was a theatre. The windows were blocked out and a stage took up one end of a room that had originally been designed for dances and mind-improving lectures. Now, the windows are clear, allowing natural light to flood in and reveal a spectacular ceiling.
It’s a great space and will be the main exhibition hall.
Regulars to the Music Hall will be familiar with the space as a theatre with a stage but the stage has gone and the room is open plan, as originally intended. The second of these two shots was taken from the balcony which will provide another exhibition space and a great view down into the main gallery.
The Music Hall is really a collection of buildings from a range of periods as outlined in part I of this blog. The most significant section is Vaughan’s Mansion, and early medieval residence on two floors. The ground floor would have been storage for goods and livestock. The first floor would have been the accommodation and space for entertaining. For it’s time, it’s an impressive building and a statement only a wealthy merchant could afford to make. In recent years the basement was a small cinema, the precursor to the OMH which stands outside; a wool-trading hall now a bijou digital cinema and coffee-room – another excellent example of the effective, complimentary use restored, historical buildings.
Anyone with any understanding of historic building renovation will appreciate that no amount of pre-planning or setting of budgets can anticipate the surprises you find when you peel back the layers. They’re the kind of surprises that inevitably increase costs and push back completion dates. The Music Hall is no exception as the next few photos attest.
A central supporting wall was found to end before it reached the ground, requiring substantial engineering intervention and a sizeable quantity of French oak and modern metalwork.
This space will become the Roman Gallery, reflecting the period of occupation that included a visit by Emperor Hadrian to nearby Wroxeter. It’s an example of how the collection at the Shropshire Museum will link to the wider landscape.
In the loft of Vaughan’s, the intervention is even more industrial but necessary, all the same.
I appreciate that these images may not show the Old Girl in her best light and may give an impression that there’s still a mountain to climb but the corner has been turned and it’s the home straight. I’ve followed this project with interest from within the local authority that began the work and now as an interested bystander. I’ve always been passionate about Shropshire’s history and I can think of no better stage on which to display the artefacts that tell that epic story. When the doors do open, I’ll be first in the queue.