The Malt Cross: One of Britain's last Victorian music halls
The glamour and lights of the music hall were an exciting part of Nottingham's entertainment industry in the Victorian era, and the Malt Cross remains as one of the last remaining venues that celebrates this vibrant time.
The site of the Malt Cross was originally a public house built in 1760 which stood on St James's Street which was one of Nottingham's most notorious thoroughfares. In 1877 the site was bought and redeveloped by builder and entrepreneur Charles Weldon who commissioned architect Edwin Hill to design an impressive glazed arched roof. This roof was made of laminated timber arching over an ornately styled two -tier performance space. There were two further floors below the music halls which were know as the lounging vaults were further performances could be enjoyed in the underground restaurant which became the Malt Cross Billiards Saloon in the 1890s. The site also features a sandstone cave which forms part of Nottingham's cave network. It was originally the ale cellar for the music hall but is now used as a performance and education space. By 1900 the Malt Cross was one of 11 music halls in the city centre area and was described as 'the best adapted for visitors to the city'.
The music hall hosted a variety of notable Victorian performers and was very successful until the turn of the 20th century. Due to declining moral standards and a damaged reputation the hall lost its licence and consequently closed in 1911. The site was sold in 1914 and became a storage warehouse run by H.G. Chapman & Watson. This business thrived for over 40 years, ensuring that the music hall site was not demolished, as was the fate of the vast majority of Nottingham's other music halls. In 1967 the site was sold to Mario and Romano Berni who converted the lower floors into a glamorous Italian restaurant called 'Trattoria Conti'. This marked a new era in the history of the Malt Cross and saw the upper and lower floors of the site separated into two separate trading areas.
The upper floors of the building were reopened as a live music venue in 1983 and brought the old music hall traditions back to the Malt Cross Stage. In 1989 the site became The Potter's House who ran it as Christian café. This was the first time the site had been used in this way and sat in motion an ongoing relationship with local churches.
In 1997 the Malt Cross was redeveloped as a modern music and arts venue thanks to £2 million of Heritage Lottery funding. In 2003 it was set up as a charitable trust which seeks to protect the building and create a safe environment for people in the city. In 2014 it was the recipient of a further £1.38 million which was used to redevelop the lower floors of the music hall and reunite the upper and lower areas of the site for the first time since 1967
Today the Malt Cross is a vibrant café bar, a venue for live music and the home of Street Pastors who offer support to the young or vulnerable on Friday and Saturday nights.