New Town Hall





Today is a red-letter day for Todmorden, and should the weather prove favourable there is little doubt that the town will witness such a demonstration as never took place in it before. The occasion is the opening of the New Town Hall, just completed by Messrs. Fielden, and the unveiling of a statue to the late Mr. John Fielden, which has been erected by public subscription, close to the new hall. The programme includes a procession of the gentry of the district, the various clubs, Sunday school children, and other public bodies, a demonstration in front of the new building, a banquet in the large hall, and tea meetings in nearly all the schools.


Originally commenced by a limited company, which had to give up the work for want of funds, the Todmorden Town Hall, when partially erected, was purchased by the Messrs. Fielden, who demolished much of the work that had been done. They then engaged Mr. John Gibson, architect of Westminster, London, who designed the present building, which will be an ornament to the town, and is certainly one of the most beautiful and complete public buildings in the North of England. It has been designed to provide accommodation for all the public offices of the town, and at the same time to furnish a large and handsome hall for public meetings, concerts, entertainments etc.


Erected over the stream that divides the counties of York and Lancaster, it is in the very centre of the town, and in the midst of the best buildings and shops. In form it is a parallelogram, on a plan terminated towards Odd Fellows' Bridge by a bold and circular end. The front is to County Bridge, with a width of 53 feet, and the building has also frontages to Bridge Street and North Street of 130 feet; and to Odd Fellows of 53 feet.


It is in the Italian style of architecture, and the walls are faced externally with Illingby stone. The upper story is divided into bays by three-quarter columns of a composite order on three sides, and at the circular end are detached cabled columns, with carved capitals.


The architraves and the windows and niches are also richly carved, and a bold cornice with interlacing frieze runs round the building, the Tudor rose being introduced as emblematic of the two counties in which the building stands. The pediment, which stops the roof at the County Bridge front, contains a fine group of statuary. On a pedestal in the centre are female figures, hand in hand, representing the sister counties of York and Lancaster, and on each hand of these are groups emblematic of the industries of the two counties- that for Yorkshire including Vulcan at the forge, a shepherd and sheep, and reapers; that for Lancashire representing stages in the cotton manufacture. The whole has been carried out in bold and yet artistic style, being worked out of Portland stone by Messrs. Mabey of London. The height of the building to the top of the cornice is 54 feet, and to the top of the pediment 67 feet. The roof is entirely covered with lead, and the building contract, which was entrusted to Messrs E. Neill and Sons of Manchester, has been admirably carried out by their sub-contractors.


The interior arrangements include spacious cellars, store rooms etc., in the basement.

On the first floor are offices for the Local Board, a reading room or library, a solicitor's room, a spacious petty sessions court, with magistrates room, police and waiting rooms etc. Over these is the large hall, capable of seating 1,000 people, being 96ft 9ins long by 44ft 6ins wide, and 31ft 9ins in height. The whole of the internal decorations have been entrusted to Messrs Geo. Trollope and Son of London, and well they have carried out their work. The whole of the walls and ceiling have been painted, the latter in pure white, and the walls in diaper pattern of various shades of green and grey. In all cases the dado is of darker shade than the rest of the walls, whilst the skirting is of two colours of marble, the plinth being in rouge royal, and the upper portion in dove. This treatment has also been carried out in the petty sessions court and adjacent rooms.


The large hall has two main entrances, that for the gallery and back seats being from County Bridge, whilst the grand entrance, to the platform and front seats, is at the junction of North and Bridge Streets, at the circular end of the building. The grand staircase is semi-circular in form, and consists of a vestibule, a main staircase of 18 steps, and two branch ones from the landing of 8 steps each. At the foot of the staircase the vestibule is embellished with Hopton Wood polished stone columns, and pilasters with moulded capitals. The staircase rails are of copper, bronze and gilt, whilst the ceiling, from which depends a magnificent gasolier, is elaborately decorated in gold and colours, the patterns being radiating star and shell. At the top of the stairs are retiring and cloak rooms, and the entrance to the great hall. In the decoration of this hall the artists seem to have lavished all their skill. The ceiling, which is a cove one, is elaborately decorated in colours and gold, divided into three large panels, the centre of each being occupied by a sun-burner of elegant design, and containing 42 lights. The cove is in fretwork, picked in two colours and gold, and is decorated with eight medallions in plaster, on a blue ground, representing various arts, industries, and sciences. The cornice is richly brought out in various colours and gold, and below this is a bold scroll frieze, brought out by a rich red background. The panels on the walls are diapered in colours and gold, with handsome leaf borders, the corners being gilt patres with red backgrounds. The windows are richly treated in gold and colours and the dado is of tile work, in buff, with blue spot, and has an ornamental border top. The rails in front of the gallery are gilt solid, and the front of the gallery itself is diapered to match the walls. At the back of the platform there are three medallions, representing art, music, and literature, with a background of mosaic, done in gold.


The general appearance of the hall is grand, and almost beyond conception, and neither time nor money has been spared in the treatment. There are cloak and crush rooms under the gallery, and the grand hall is seated throughout with chairs, so that they can be easily moved when necessary.


The gas fittings are by Messrs. Strode of London; the plasterwork has been done by Mr. J.J. Harwood of Manchester, Mr. J. J. Horsfall of Todmorden being clerk of the works.


Throughout the building is complete in all its details, and if, as is supposed, it should this day become the property of the people of Todmorden, it will be a gift equally worthy of the munificence of the donors, and of the reception of a grateful people.