Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR
Main hall 1864-7. Entrance and lobby 1869-73. Rebuilt in 1900. Rebuilt internally 1950-1. New foyer and atrium added 2007-9.
Foster and Wood (19th century). Existing concert hall interior, J.N. Meredith, City Architect (1950-1). New foyer and atrium Levitt Bernstein Associates (21st century).
Yellow brick with limestone, sandstone, terracotta and faience dressings.
Copper fronted on the new foyer.
Concert hall and meetings
Please check the website for details of shows and box office opening times. Closed Sundays unless there is a show and Bank Holidays.
The Colston Hall has been Bristol’s main concert hall since it opened in 1867. Pop, jazz, folk and classical have all featured. Musical legends who have performed here include the Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix and Duke Ellington in the 1960s through to Bob Dylan and Nitin Sawhney in later decades. In its earlier years many important political meetings were also held here, by the Suffragettes among others. Wrestling matches were staged at the Hall between 1951 and 2003.
The Victorian frontage features a series of arches. Its first-floor arcade openings contain relief sculpture images of music, wrestling and dance that date from the 1960s and reflect the building’s creative uses. Between 2007 and 2009 an extensive redevelopment project expanded the Hall’s possibilities and accessibility. The old building stayed as the main performance space but a striking new foyer was added. This features a glass atrium and a dramatic gold-coloured frontage of recycled copper that faces the Centre and catches the light in striking ways.
Since it first opened Colston Hall has been reworked and rebuilt in a variety of ways, to improve the use of the building and in response to fires. In 1898 a fire broke out in the nearby Clark’s clothing factory which spread to the Hall and destroyed it. The second hall was opened in 1901 and Colston Hall went on to survive the Blitz – it remained open, providing shelter for the audience during air raids.
Again fire destroyed the hall in 1945, this time from a discarded cigarette, and the building didn’t reopen until 1951. The City Council was planning to demolish the hall for a much smaller venue after the 1945 fire. The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham famously berated them publicly during a performance in May 1949, stating ‘I expect to read in the local press on Tuesday morning that this pernicious scheme has been abandoned’, and it was.
Remodelling in the early 2000s cost £20 million. The new foyer’s spacious glass atrium was built over five storeys. It boasts a box office, meeting, rehearsal, education, and small performance spaces and a bar and restaurant. A series of bridge walkways on upper levels link the foyer with the older building.