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Rolling Stones performing

Our Story

Since 1867 we have been at the heart of Bristol’s cultural life. We are so proud and grateful to have played such an important role in our city and the lives of our audiences for so long.

Bristol Beacon is yours. A venue full of memories and special moments, and a historic meeting place for the city.

Challenge and change have been embraced with one thing in mind: to keep amazing live music playing.

Our story is one of a music hive buzzing with people having fun, making connections, learning, exploring, creating waves and weaving a thousand narratives. In 2020, we started a new chapter, changing our name from Colston Hall to Bristol Beacon.

1800s

1861 Original site of Colston’s School put up for auction when the school is moved to Stapleton. The site was purchased by the Colston Hall Co. to build a “commodious hall for public meetings, entertainments, etc.”

20 Sep 1867 The main hall opens with a meeting of the Missionary Society

1868 Wine merchants J. R. Philllips lease the bonded cellars under Colston Hall and would continue to do so for nearly 100 years

Oct 1873 Lesser Hall, later known as The Little Theatre and now known as The Lantern, and entrance foyer designed in the Bristol Byzantine architectural style opens

1 Sep 1898 The first fire breaks out, spreading from Messrs Clarke’s clothing factory next door, and destroys the main hall

1900 – 1930s

27 Nov 1900 The restored and remodelled Hall reopens

1 May 1909 Suffragettes Vera Holme and Elsie Howey hide in the grand pipe of the organ and interrupt a political speech by Augustine Birrell

1914 The Hall is used as a recruiting office for WWI

1919 Bought by the Corporation of Bristol for the city for £65,000

1924 Impresario Charles H. Lockier begins his long association with Colston Hall, staging classical and pop acts for the next 40 years

28 Mar 1934 6,000 people demonstrate outside a talk by the British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley, with some BUF members injured

1935 The Rapier Players begin their repertory theatre company, producing a new play every week and performing it six days out of seven in The Little Theatre until 1963

1940s – 1960s

5 Feb 1945 Another fire destroys the main hall again; this time thought to have started from a cigarette discarded during a dance band show by Carroll Gibbons and his Savoy Hotel Orpheans. Due to post-war shortages, it would be six years before the venue reopened.

7 Jul 1951 The fourth version of the Hall is opened to mark the Festival of Britain by the Duke of Gloucester

3 Apr 1956 Stan Kenton plays as part of his British tour which marked the end of the Musicians Union ban on foreign acts, and heralded a new chapter in live jazz in the UK

1963 Bristol Old Vic take on management of the Little Theatre, ending in the 1980s

1960s – 1990s

Our stage has played host to major artists, bands and orchestras – here is just a small selection.

1959 & 1965 Duke Ellington

Of Duke Ellington, The Bristol Post wrote: “It has musical brilliance and humour, and it swings like mad.”

1961 Ella Fitzgerald & Oscar Peterson

1963 & 1964 The Beatles

The Beatles made their debut at the Hall in March 1963 as part of the Tommy Roe/Chris Montez tour. But it was their concert on 10 November 1964, the last date of the tour, which has gone down in Bristol folklore.

The Manager of the Hall Ken Cowley was furious when, as the band finished ‘If I Fell’ and were about to begin their finale, four local students managed to gain access to the stage lighting gantries and tip bags of flour onto the Beatles’ heads.

1964 & 1971 The Rolling Stones

1965 The Tamla-Motown Show

Featuring The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and a 14 year-old Stevie Wonder

1969 Fleetwood Mac

1976 Bob Marley

1989 Nina Simone

The High Priestess of Soul played for the first time since 1967

1992 Take That

1998 Portishead

The first concert to have the seats removed to allow for standing in the stalls, Portishead played a homecoming show on 7 and 8 June following the release of their second album

2002 Brian Wilson

The Beach Boys icon returned to the stage to perform Pet Sounds in full

2000 – present

2000 The Harbourside Centre project collapses after it was not awarded funding, scuppering plans for a huge conference and performance space at Canons’ Marsh. This starts the 25 year process to transform the Colston Hall into a world-class concert venue

Dec 2003 The final wrestling show at the Colston Hall, which had been running for over 50 years, and at its height held weekly matches

2007 Colston House demolished and work begins building the new Colston Hall foyer (phase one of the transformation) in its place

Sep 2009 New foyer opens

May 2011 Bristol Music Trust was formed to manage Colston Hall and support music and music education across the region

2017  150th anniversary celebrations take place, including concerts, tours, free gigs and a concert on Bristol Harbourside featuring the Outlook Orchestra. Bristol Music Trust announce the intention to reopen under a new name as part of the forthcoming transformation. A consultation programme is launched

2018 Work begins on phase two of the transformation, the largest capital arts programme ever to take place in the south west

2020 Colston Hall is renamed the Bristol Beacon following a three year consultation and the Black Lives Matter protests that toppled the statue of Edward Colston

We’re working on it…

Our Story is rich and full of fascinating tales.

We have been working in partnership with National Lottery Heritage Fund and Bristol Archives to digitise our archives and bring our story to life.

The archives can be explored online via the Bristol Archives website.

As part of our transformation programme we are working on developing a new heritage area.