When Walthamstow first began to grow, there was little in the way of organised public entertainment. Until the 1860s the only public spaces were churches and chapels, which were only open to their own members, and pubs, which were open to all.
The first purpose built concert all in Walthamstow opened in the 1860s, but proved short-lived – the town was not yet really big enough to sustain a professional music venue. But in the 1880s a local stockbroker, philanthropist and amateur composer, J F C Read, built the Victoria Hall in Hoe Street
Until the 1850s public meetings were generally held in pubs and hotels, and impromptu entertainments were often in the same places. By the middle of the nineteenth century, music hall was coming into being – performances, originally held in pubs, during which the audience could eat, drink and smoke as well as listening to music and watching dance and comedy.
In the earlier years of the nineteenth century working hours were long and there was no right to paid holidays. For example, most domestic servants were expected to work from early in the morning until late at night with a few hours’ respite on Sunday afternoons, but no time to do much other than sitting and chatting.
But in the 1870s bank holidays became a legal requirement, and this gave all working people at least a few days a year when they could go out and have fun. This coincided with the expansion of cheap railway fares, and it was then that many Londoners could spend a day enjoying themselves – going to the theatre or having a day out, in the country or at the seaside. It was also then that bank holiday crowds became notorious.