On 6 February 1919, which marked the centenary of Singapore's founding, a statue of Stamford Raffles by T. Woolner was moved from the Padang to the front of the memorial hall. The statue was complimented with a new semicircular colonnade and a pool.
In the lead-up to World War II, the memorial hall was used as a hospital for victims of bombing raids by the Japanese forces during the Battle of Singapore before their successful occupation of the colony. During the occupation, the buildings themselves escaped major physical damage, although the colonnade was destroyed, and Raffles's statue moved to the National Museum. At the end of the war, the statue was returned to its original site in 1946. In 1947 The Straits Settlements coat of arms that was hung on the tympanum of both wings of the building was replaced by the newly formed coat of arms of the Crown Colony of Singapore. It was later brought down in 1959 to make a plaster cast of the Coat of Arms of Singapore, which was topped of with two flagpoles with the Flag of Singapore on it. The hall also served as the venue for Japanese war crime trials.
In 1954, the memorial hall underwent renovations by Swan & Maclaren, and on 21 November, it was the venue where the People's Action Party was founded. The town hall was also internally restructured to allow air-conditioning and soundproofing to be added. It was reopened as the Victoria Theatre.
In 1979, the memorial hall was renovated again to accommodate the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), upon which it was renamed as the Victoria Concert Hall. Additional works up to the 1980s added a gallery to the Concert Hall, adding seating capacity and enclosing the second storey balconies on the front and back facades with glass.
The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall was gazetted as a national monument on 14 February 1992. In June 2010, the complex was closed for major renovations. The S$180-million refurbishment is being undertaken by W Architects. The buildings, whose facades will be retained, will reopen in 2013/2014.
Construction of Town Hall Edit
The complex started off with the building of a town hall in 1862, with the foundation stone laid in 1855, to replace the function of older Assembly Rooms, where local operas and dramas had been held, that had fallen into disrepair.
Designed by the Municipal Engineer, John Bennett, it was built during an era of Victorian Revivalism that was occurring in Britain. Its design hence reflected this architectural influence with Italianate windows, and was the first among Singapore buildings to reflect this style.
The completed town hall originally housed both a theatre on the first floor as well as offices and meeting rooms on the second floor. However, the town hall was unable to cope with increasing demand for the use of both and by 1883, the offices had moved out of the town hall.
In 1901, construction for a neighbouring building began in memory of Queen Victoria, with the foundation laid in 1902 and officially opened by the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir John Anderson on 18 October 1905 as the Victoria Memorial Hall. Public funds for its construction amounting to $368,000 were collected, exceeding the construction costs, thus leaving a surplus of $22,000 for refurbishments.
The memorial hall was designed by Major Alexander Murray and the Public Works Department, with additional input by R. A. J. Bidwell from an architectural firm, Swan & Maclaren to harmonise it with the neighbouring town hall. The town hall was also renovated, thus creating a unified appearance by 1909.
Construction of Clock Tower Edit
The construction of the signature clock tower was delayed till its completion in 1906, due to delays in donation of the clock and chimes by the Straits Trading Company. The clock, four meters wide, weighs 1 tonne and had cost $6000. Its dial faces look in four directions, and there is a bell turret above it, capped by a cupola.
Standing between the two buildings and connecting them with a common corridor, it rises to a height of 54 metres, and is topped by a timepiece donated by the Straits Trading Company. The tower is built on an axial line with the Anderson Bridge nearby.
Facilities (1990s-2000s) Edit
The Victoria Theatre had a seating capacity of 904, with a stage 167.28 square metres in size. The Victoria Concert Hall had 883 seats, and a stage which could be expanded up to 139.76 square metres in area. The concert hall was considered the venue with the best acoustics in the city, and was the main performance venue for the SSO until the completion of the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in 2002 whereby the orchestra moved its home base to take advantage of superior acoustics and facilities brought about by technological and architectural advances over the years.
Refurbishment (2010–2013/2014) Edit
In June 2010, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall were closed for major renovations. The S$180-million refurbishment is being undertaken by W Architects, with Architectural Restoration Consultants Pte Ltd (ARC) as its conservator and Arup Singapore Pte Ltd as acoustician and theatre planner. The refurbishment will repair and update the buildings to meet contemporary standards. The façade of the buildings will be retained, and some elements belonging to the original 1905 structure will be restored. This includes reinstating the central passageway between the theatre and the concert hall, which leads to the Arts House. New spaces will also be created to accommodate building services and for commercial rental and amenities like a café.