The King’s Arms, 68 Great Titchfield St., Fitzrovia, London W1

(Olaudah Equiano lived two minutes’ walk away, at what is now 73 Riding House Street, formerly 10 Union Street, from which he published The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano in 1789. A City of Westminster commemorative green plaque was unveiled there on 11 October 2000.)

Victor Glasstone writes in The Theatres Trust Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950 (eds. John Earl & Michael Sell):

Edward Lewis PARAIRE, (1826-1882)
Nothing is known of Finch Hill’s early background. He was in partnership with Paraire (who came of a French family naturalised in Britain) from c.1856-c.1870 about which time the partnership seems to have been dissolved. Both were still in practice in the late 1870s, with separate addresses in the same street. They both described themselves as ‘architect and surveyor’. They were famous pub architects; Paraire later also designed churches and banks. Besides their few straight commercial theatres, including the splendid Hoxton Britannia, they were a main link in the pub-into-music hall development. A design for ‘a music hall in Covent Garden’ (presumably Evans’s) was exhibited by Hill at the Royal Academy in 1856. Paraire exhibited the Britannia design in 1859.

Their early music halls were typical of the time: rectangular rooms with a single narrow balcony and a raised platform-stage at the end, set within an alcove. Later theatres were charming and simple: double balconies running round to the proscenium arch, with boxes formed just by curtaining at the ends. The decoration had a crisp fresh quality, quite different from the three-dimensional voluptuousness of the later 1870s and 1880s. Being built before the days of strict building regulations the theatres had almost no street facade, merely thin almost domestic slivers being presented to the street.”

From: Victorian Pubs (1984), by Mark Girouard:

“…The architecture of all these halls was considerably chaster than the entertainments which took place in them. Finch Hill was a master of the opulent but never licentious classicism of the 1850s. Audiences knocked back their beer in sumptuous settings designed by an architect who knew the churches of Gibbs, Archer and Hawksmoor. With the exception of the Britannia none of them had proper auditoria; this, incidentally, was the main reason why none of them survived, for in the course of the century the form of the music-hall was to develop closer and closer to that of the theatre and they were rebuilt as a result. Finch Hill’s inspiration was literally ecclesiastical; his halls had level floors and galleried aisles leading the eye to a ceremonial culmination above a raised platform at what one is tempted to call the ritual east end. The hall at Evans’s had arched arcades reminiscent of Gibbs’s St Martin-in-the-Fields, and the Oxford Music Hall had more than a touch of Hawksmoor’s St Anne’s, Limehouse.

At the Britannia the theatre was attached to the rear of a tavern of the same name which was also rebuilt by Hill and Paraire. Weston’s grew out of the Seven Tankards and Punchbowl; the Oxford incorporated the rebuilt Boar and Castle. Hill and Paraire also designed or altered numerous pubs where no music-hall element was involved, though some of them were built for publicans who ran music-halls elsewhere: the King’s Arms, Titchfield Street (1859), for instance, and the Rising Sun, Euston Road (1861), were both built for the Turnham family, who ran Turnham’s Music Hall (the forerunner of the Metropolitan) in Edgware Road, and who also employed Hill and Paraire for the Philharmonic Hall, Islington. In all, the firm did documented work at twenty pubs, and in addition Paraire designed at least another half-dozen after Finch Hill died or retired in about 1867. It amounted to a sizable public house practice, even if still much smaller than the monster practices of the late nineteenth century.”

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