The Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall are the oldest theatres in Singapore. They have played significant roles in the lives of many people. Throughout its 105 years history, it has witnessed the growth, fall and development of Singapore. The venue has gone through several facelifts in the 50s, 70s and 90s. In 2010, the grand dame will finally close for a long overdue upgrading, restoring both venues to its the former glory and charm.
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. 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.