Our History

October 2023 marks our 40th anniversary as an Arts Centre!

But where did it all begin...?

Our History

The Queen’s Hall (and more generally Beaumont Street) was developed in a Victorian era of expansion and optimism for both private and public life. In 1857, the Corn Exchange Company was formed with an ambition to build a permanent home for weekly agricultural markets and fairs in a building housing a mixture of private and public activity - offices in the North Wing, the Corn Exchange in the centre and the Town Hall in the South Wing. It opened on 13 September 1866 for a total cost of £8,000.

Between 1866 and 1917, the Queen’s Hall played host to balls, concerts and recitals, and a music hall. The Corn Exchange itself, however, became less used as the agricultural economy hit hard times and the building was used more as a lettings space – private parties, exhibitions and indoor sports activities. In 1917, beset by financial difficulties, the Corn Exchange Company closed the building. In 1921, The Hexham Entertainments Company, formed by Thomas Herbert Scott, bought the building and transformed the South Wing into the 650 seat Queen’s Cinema.

Three years later, the Corn Exchange became the Queen’s Hall ballroom, with a dance floor known for its 1,000 springs! As well as regular Saturday evening dances, the ballroom hosted major events in the social calendar of the time such as the Hunt Ball with attendances often reaching the 900 person capacity. There was a fire which caused significant damage to the cinema February 1931. However, this was quickly dealt with and the current art deco features were then created.

After the Second World War, the business became less viable. Competition from TV caused a decline in cinema audiences and a lack of reinvestment into the building saw the facility deteriorating. In the 1960's, the cinema was converted into a Bingo Hall that ran until the mid 70’s, by which time the building was in an advance state of decay. In 1975 Northumberland County Council and Tynedale District Council jointly purchased the building for development, opening in stages from 1981 - 83. The configuration was very much as it is today with the Theatre in the South Wing, Library in the central exchange and a Café and mixed office usage in the North Wing.

As part of a general trend in local authority devolution, Queen’s Hall Arts acquired a 99 year lease on the building in 2001 and set about making the building fit for the 21st Century. In 2003, the reception areas were opened out to create spacious rooms and gallery spaces with improved accessibility. In 2004, the Theatre was renovated and re-seated. In 2008, the North Wing was developed and spaces restored to their original proportions to be let out to creative businesses.

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