I seem to have raised some eyebrows with the revelation that the BBC's unloved Brock House, now facing Broxit, was once a concert hall.
Here's more detail, from an East Marylebone survey lodged with the Bartlett School of Architecture.
The site of St Paul’s Chapel was redeveloped in 1907–8 with the present building,
originally a concert hall. At first it was known as St James’s Hall, being
intended as a successor to the Regent Street building of that name – lateVictorian
London’s principal concert venue – which had been demolished in
1905, its primacy passing to the nearby Queen’s Hall.
The Howard de Walden
Estate leased the ground here to the estate agent James Boyton, but it was
Edgar S. Perry who was given the project to build a concert hall above
ground-floor showrooms, through his firm Perry Brothers, to plans by the
architects Joseph &Smithem. The scheme was revised to meet certain LCC bjections, toning down richly fenestrated Baroque elevations to leave largely
blind flank walls. Arthur Blomfield Jackson, C. J. Phipps’s former
partner and son-in-law, also drew plans (of the lower floors), and is
sometimes credited as architect of the building.
There was seating for 882 in
the stalls and balcony, and standing room for another 106. Below was a piano
showroom and basement restaurant. The west end had a pr ojecting bow
behind the stage.
The hall, which opened with a series of promenade concerts by the
newly formed St James’s Hall Orchestra, was not a success. Despite a
flirtation with cinema use in 1912 the auditorium remained largely unused.
Cluett Lock, the hall’s manager, then applied for a renewed music licence,
and made adaptations in 1913–14 (with W. A. Lewis as architect) for a reopening
as the Philharmonic Hall. The ground floor became a motor
showroom for Watkins & Doncaster Ltd, the basement a garage and tea-room.
Despite its new name, the auditorium was still used mainly as a cinema (Lock
was secretary of the Kinematograph Renters Society) and also as a ‘lantern
hall’ for illustrated lectures. It opened with a talk about Scott’s Antarctic Expedition and it was here in 1919–20 that Sir Ernest Shackleton lectured with
slides and films about the Imperial Trans-Antarctic or Endurance expedition.
During the same period the black American band, the Southern Syncopated
Orchestra, managed by George Lattimore, gave regular twice-daily
performances. A new proprietor, Arthur St Hill Brock, then kept the cinema
going, specializing in travel films. In 1929–30 he employed the architects Yates
Cook & Derbyshire to oversee a thorough reconstruction of the building as
Brock House. The upper storeys were wholly rebuilt internally as offices, and
were given new fenestration, an attic storey and a flat west end. The ground
floor was opened up further with more shop windows. The Women’s League
of Health and Beauty was briefly present in 1932–3 before the BBC began its
still continuing occupation of the upper storeys. The ground floor was occupied by the Automotive Products Group as Automotive House until the