The Old Finsbury Town Hall

The Old Finsbury Town Hall (Grade II* listed) is no ordinary performing arts centre. One of the capital’s hidden treasures with its rich Victorian heritage, it provides students with an inspiring backdrop to their training.

Before opening the building as a stunning student venue in 2007, Urdang spent two years restoring this beautiful landmark to its former glory, ensuring it met the needs of students and their training and allowing full disabled access.

The course has hugely benefitted from the academy’s relocation in The Old Finsbury Town Hall. This is a bold and imaginative step that has not only provided Urdang with a suite of sparkling new studios and other facilities but has also rejuvenated staff and generated a sense of pride. One third year student said “We’re so lucky that we’ve had a breakthrough – the New Urdang! I feel privileged to be here.”

Ofsted

About The Old Finsbury Town Hall

In the heart of London, just down the road from Sadler’s Wells, the building is used by an extraordinary and prestigious variety of performing arts icons. We host auditions and rehearsals for many West End musicals, dance and theatre companies and are used for TV productions, commercials, documentaries and fashion shoots. This gives the students an added value to their training – they see their chosen profession at work brushing shoulders with leading industry professionals as they go about their training.

Studios & Facilities

As well as the stunning Great Hall and classic Council Chamber, the Old Finsbury Town Hall is equipped with 5 studios and a large singing room. In addition, it boasts an IT suite, café, treatment room, student common area, changing room facilities, staff room, large wardrobe and production facilities. As well as use for student training and performances, the impressive rooms are regularly used for community events, weddings, corporate and other uses such as evening dance and drama classes. Profits generated from events go towards the Urdang Academy’s Student Bursaries Scheme, supporting outstanding talent in The Performing Arts. Available for function and studio hire, the building has a range of rooms and studios suitable for a variety of activities. Studio Dimensions

  • Great Hall – 22m x 12.8m
  • Council Chamber – 14.3m x 8.5m
  • Studio 2 – 12.2m x 12.2m
  • Studio 3 – 12.8m x 6.1m
  • Studio 4 – 12.5m x 6.1m
  • Studio 5 – 6.4m x 8.2m
  • Studio 6 – 8.8m x 12.5m
  • Meeting Room – 6.4m x 5.2m

Every purpose built, functional studio is fully equipped with a piano/electric keyboard and PA sound system.

For studio hire and pricing information please contact our Studio Hire department on 0207 713 7710 or email studios@theurdangacademy.com

For event hire and pricing information please contact Ziggy on 020 7713 7710 Ext: 2234 
or email ziggy@theurdangacademy.com

Contact The Old Finsbury Town Hall, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4RP. T: 020 7713 7710

The History of The Old Finsbury Town Hall

On the intersection of six Finsbury streets, set in an island bound by Rosebery Avenue, Garnault Place and Rosoman Street, lies the town hall for the former borough of Finsbury. This outstanding example of late 19th century civic architecture provides a fitting monument to the proud inhabitants of this tiny borough on the edge of the city.

Before the six streets became lined with houses and shops, paths existed that crossed fields belonging to the New River Company. Later, on the intersection stood a watch-house erected for the local Paving and Lighting Commissioners, then in 1857 this was replaced by a vestry hall for the parish of Clerkenwell. Prior to the formation of the borough councils the parish vestries would have been responsible for collecting local taxes, looking after the poor and the sick, and keeping the streets clean and safe. In 1892 the Clerkenwell Vestry decided that larger premises were needed to conduct business efficiently. An architectural competition was arranged and from eleven sets of plans submitted, those of C. Evans Vaughan were selected.

The contract for the building work was given to Charles Dearing and Sons of Islington (then a separate borough) as their quote of £14,712 and 13 shillings was lowest. The completed Vestry Hall was opened in 1895 by Lord Rosebery barely a month after the completion of Rosebery Avenue. The 1857 Vestry Hall did not survive into the 20th century. Originally, the Vestry had planned to sell the old hall, but decided on demolition to make way for an extension to the New Town Hall. The extension, again the work of C. Evans Vaughan, was completed in 1899 and included an indoor stone yard, which survived only until 1901.

The Architecture

According to Nikolaus Pevsner, the famous architectural guide writer, Evans Vaughan’s design of the Town Hall’s brick and stonework is “free Flemish Renaissance” in style. There are Baroque influences seen in the female figures and carved frieze above the first floor at the Rosoman Street and Garnault Place junction. Many internal and external details are heavily influenced by the Art Nouveau – quite a radical statement considering when the Town Hall was built. The exterior glass and wrought iron canopy above the main entrance on Rosebery Avenue is one such Art Nouveau detail; the stained glass very reminiscent of the Tiffany lamps that were so popular in the early 20th century. The public hall on the first floor has some elaborate Art Nouveau features, such as the winged figures lining the walls and holding the sprays of light bulbs.

Town Hall At Work

When the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury was formed in 1900 the offices of several old vestries were absorbed. The municipal offices of Clerkenwell were already housed in the Town Hall, but those of St. Luke’s Vestry also needed accommodation there.

Throughout the early 20th century office space was rearranged to cope with increasing workloads. In 1928 a Special Town Hall Committee agreed a warehouse conversion on Rosebery Avenue to serve as an annexe to the main buildings, providing more office space. The Town Hall provided a focal point for the municipal life in Finsbury. In 1929, for example the buildings housed the Town Clerk’s Department, the Borough Accountants, the Public Health and Borough Engineers departments. Additionally there would have been committee rooms, the Councillor’s rooms and the Mayor’s Parlour. The first floor housed the Council Chamber and the public halls used for civic functions and public hire. Finsbury Council actively encouraged local residents to regard the Town Hall as their civic home resulting in a wide range of activities being held there for many years.

In 1965 the system of municipal administration again altered and functions of the Finsbury Council were absorbed by the newly extended Islington. From this point on the main function of the Town Hall became that of registrar for Islington, administering family records for the area. June 2003 saw this final Council function removed to the Islington Town Hall in Upper Street. Finsbury Town Hall retains many of its original features inside and out.

(Written by the Islington Local History Centre)

Today

In October 2005 the Finsbury Town Hall was acquired by The Urdang Academy. A long established performing arts school that was formerly based in Covent Garden. Urdang restored the building before relocating there in January 2007. The Urdang Academy uses the building during the day and open classes are available in the evening. Urdang have restored the building to its former glory. This enables the local community to use it again along with Islington Council who hold regular public meetings and events. Urdang is also able to offer a comprehensive wedding package as well as holding events and functions. All profits generated from events go towards the Urdang Academy’s Student Bursaries Scheme, supporting outstanding talent in The Performing Arts.

Funding Urdang students

The Urdang Academy hires out the facilities for community, weddings, corporate and other uses such as evening dance and drama classes all of which brings in revenue to assist us in supporting students offering scholarships and subsidised fees to those in financial need.