The Colston Hall Company had a vision of building a concert hall in the city so they bought the land from Colston Boy’s School. It opened in 1867. In 1889 a fire broke out and Colston Hall was closed then reopened in 1901. The second Hall was bought from the Colston Hall Company by Bristol Corporation for £65,000 and was managed by the City Council until 2011. The site has been occupied by four buildings named Colston Hall since the 1860s. The location also once held a Tudor era mansion known as the Great House, which was use by Queen Elizabeth I in 1574 on a visit to the city.
Due to significant fires details of early performances at the Colston Hall are limited. The Royal College of Music holds an archive from 1896 onwards which references a triennial musical festival founded in 1873 as well as performances from the Bristol Symphony Orchestra. In the 1920s composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff performed. Today the venue has played host to a variety of acts from musicians to comedians as well as theatrical productions.
There has been controversy over the hall’s name because of Edward Colston’s link to the slave trade, with much of his wealth coming from the slave trade. Artists such as Massive Attack have vowed to never play at the venue until its name has changed. And there have been campaigners who have called for its name to be changed.