Piece Hall - the Halifax icon gets a game-changing makeover
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 March 2014 | UPDATED: 21:35 18 April 2016
Work has begun on an ambitious £19 million project to create a vibrant world class heritage attraction at the heart of West Yorkshire.
The grade one listed Piece Hall in Halifax has survived against the odds for more than 230 years and looks set to rule supreme for centuries to come, thanks to an inspiring plan to reinvigorate and reinvent the much-loved icon for the 21st century and beyond.
This landmark project will see extensive conservation work carried out on the building alongside a new-build element comprising a visitor and heritage interpretation centre, an extension on the east elevation to accommodate full-scale restaurants, improvements to existing shop units and new lifts.
Major changes will also be made to the courtyard, including new water features, and to the current tricky-to-negotiate slope with the aim of improving access and comfort for visitors and event-goers.
Following a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £7 million, Calderdale council is investing £10 million in the transformation project. Fundraising is also in full swing to raise the final £2 million needed to complete the programme of work by spring of 2016.
When the historic gates reopen again in two years, the Piece Hall – known as ‘one of the 40 greatest public squares in the world’ – will have metamorphosed into a heritage destination offering an extensive programme of events and outdoor entertainment throughout the year to appeal to all tastes and ages.
Visitors will also be able to enjoy the thriving cultural quarter that’s gradually developing around the Piece Hall, including Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, the Orange Box Young People’s Centre and the new central library and archive.
‘This is a real milestone in the history of Halifax,’ said Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift. ‘The transformed Piece Hall will be an iconic attraction and a world class heritage destination.
‘We’re heading into an exciting new chapter for the Piece Hall, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it reopen in spring 2016, with its state-of-the-art interpretation and learning centre, shops and businesses and beautiful courtyard.’
In the meantime, more information about the relocation of tenants, the history of the hall and the transformation project can be found at thepiecehall.co.uk.
A short history lesson
The Piece Hall is a grade one listed building of extraordinary significance. It is one of only two fully intact cloth halls in Europe, and the only one in Britain. Built in 1779, it is a supreme example of pre-industrial Georgian architecture.
Built for the trading of locally made, hand-woven ‘pieces’ of woollen cloth, its original purpose disappeared with the coming of industrialisation.
By 1815, the building was being used as venue for political meetings and public spectacles (balloon rides, tightrope-walking).
The Victorian era saw it become home to a thriving fruit and vegetable market, a horse fair and community ‘sings’ with over 30,000 participants.
Scheduled as an Ancient Monument in 1927, it was nevertheless targeted for demolition in the early 1970s, escaping by a single vote in 1972. It then became home to a range of independent shops and has since made a name for itself as a popular venue for all manner of events.
A new chapter
Halifax’s new central library and archive will be ready to open its doors to the community at the same time as the revamped Piece Hall.
‘The designs are an inspiring blend of old and new,’ said Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift. ‘The building will incorporate the remains of the Square Church, including the grade two listed spire and rose window, whilst at the same time offering the latest innovations for library users.
‘It will be a place to inspire learning, where young and old will come together and celebrate our remarkable heritage.’
There will be a clear view of the new library on the approach to the Piece Hall as railings that currently face Square Road are being removed. The building is also being given a more prominent position, closer to the main thoroughfare, to attract visitors heading towards Halifax’s Cultural Quarter.
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