Trident Hall

Park Row, SE10

Unbusy Ben asks:

Trident Hall at the beginning/end of Crane Street, what goes on in there ( I thought it was where sailors did their Christmas panto’s) and who owns it?

The Phantom replies:

It’s easy to walk straight past this unassuming 20th century building, its being sandwiched between Trafalgar Quarters and The Trafalgar Tavern and not being as ‘pretty’ as either of them. It’s a secretive sort of place – not something that is talked about much, and as far as I’m aware not much at all goes on there now, but in its early days it was a veritable hive of activity.

It was built as a lecture theatre for the Naval College – and used heavily for that purpose, especially during the heady days after the introduction of the Department of Nuclear Science and Technology (ohhh, yes. I’ll get onto that another day…) and all that Cold War stuff.

On a jollier note, yes, Ben – it was used as a theatre for entertainment purposes, so it’s not beyond imagination that off-duty sailors donned the tights and wigs, slapping their thighs in the name of panto.

Malcolm Godfrey, who has written several books about Greenwich Ghosts, tells a creepy story about the place, when it was hired out to a local am-dram group in the late 80s. Eltham Opera were busy rehearsing for Oliver! when a couple of cast members were puzzled to see a gentleman in full costume, who was most definitely a bit old to be in Fagin’s gang. He wandered through the auditorium and out through the back – except there is no rear exit…

When they mentioned the fellow’s ‘costume’ – complete with tunic, breeches and a tricorn hat, it was noted that they had just described the old 18th Century uniform worn by the pensioners. Malcolm Godfrey points out that the hall is built on the site of the old maintenance yard and hospital workshops. Shiver.

And the owner? I can’t be completely certain, but I have heard rumour of the worst. That it has been bought by Greenwich Inc for a hotel. In its current form it would be difficult to do much with it for that purpose, so I have a horrid suspicion that it will go the usual route of being razed…

2 Comments to “Trident Hall”

  1. Stuart Pinel says:

    Nice page to find – I'm a (strictly amateur) actor and the Trident Hall is where I started. Most of my shows there were with the Royal Naval College Dramatic and Operatic Society – My father was involved first and although large numbers of the cast were sailors, there were quite a few of the cast were locals from the vicinity. Mostly the shows we did were Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera (Dazza – that was indeed a pit – I remember falling in it when I was 12…). Oh yes, I did also do one panto there – I suspect there were tights, there were very likely wigs but my word, was there alcohol!

    Why Trident Hall – it was set up as a lecture theatre for NATO officers when we were getting the nuclear missiles called Trident. Yep, those discussions took place on your doorstep!

    I can't speak for the ghost – never encountered it – but it was designed as a lecture theatre which meant not the best stage to work on (not that I knew it at the time as I hadn't worked anywhere else). The roof was very low above the stage severely restricting what sets could be used. The main front of house lighting bar was also a horror – to adjust the lights, you (NOT me!) had to climb a straight ladder from inside the orchestra pit as there was no other way to get to the lights. So although the ceiling was low on the stage, this was a long climb when all you could rest the ladder on was a ricketty wooden 'shield board' which was there to prevent the lights being seen by the audience.

    Backstage were the dressing rooms and an exit to the building yard next door. I don't recall any storage space for props in the theatre – there must have been something I suppose.

    My main memory of the place was due to some renovation at the front where the main toilets were. Some space needed to be taken up for something else (I can't remember what) so they switched the sides of the Ladies and Gents loos. Chaos. All the regulars going to the wrong loos. Two years later, they switched them back and guess what? Chaos again.

    I think I was all of 16 when I acted in my last show there – but about 7 years later, just before it closed, I went back to do sound on a production of the Importance of being Ernest. At that time, the place was being used less and the equipment was getting less reliable. But it was the only time I saw the old place with a slightly experienced eye so I could see the weaknesses. It was not properly set up as a theatre for acting in but… I started there and it will always be a special place for me. I haven't gone past it for a couple of years and to be honest, will delay further if it is truly converted. Great shame and a lovely place.

    BTW, the sailors all frequented the Yacht pub (down the alley at the side) not the Trafalgar Tavern. Make of that what you will.

  2. TASHA says: