Work to transform Halifax's iconic Piece Hall moves an important step closer

PUBLISHED: 18:23 12 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:06 05 April 2013

Work to transform Halifax's iconic Piece Hall moves an important step closer

Work to transform Halifax's iconic Piece Hall moves an important step closer

Work to transform Halifax's iconic Piece Hall moves an important step closer

An 18.9 million facelift might seem a bit extreme, but when youre 230 years old, you deserve a bit of pampering and the odd nip and tuck.
The Grade I listed Piece Hall has ruled supreme at the heart of Halifax for more than two centuries, and will continue to do so for generations to come, thanks to an ambitious but achievable plan to reinvigorate and reinvent this much-loved West Yorkshire icon.

A vital grant was secured last summer from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and now a further leap forward has been made with Calderdale Councils decision to grant the scheme planning permission.

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 five new lifts.

Major changes will also be made to the courtyard, including two new water features, and to the current tricky-to-negotiate slope with the aim of improving access and comfort for visitors and event-goers.

Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift has warmly welcomed the planning committees decision to green-light the landmark project: The Piece Hall is at the heart of the regeneration of central Halifax. The conservation work, the changes to the courtyard and the new build work can now proceed as planned.

This gives the building a viable future and will allow the Piece Hall to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Work is due to start later this year and will be completed in early 2015, at which point it will be transferred to a The Piece Hall Trust, a newly created historic buildings trust, headed up by Wayne Bowser, a former director of HSBC.

Its a privilege to be involved in this prestigious project, he said. Im looking forward to working with partners to make this stunning heritage attraction a must-see destination for the region.

In the meantime, experienced project manager Barry Reynolds is in charge of the Piece Hall scheme. He has previously overseen the transformation of Dewsbury town centre and has worked with the Princes Regeneration Trust and extensively in the private sector.

Hes also a Halifax resident, which means this project is very close to his heart: Ive lived here for ten years, so I want it to be a place where my family and friends want to spend time. Its safe to say Im excited about the challenges ahead.

What do you think about the Piece Hall plan? Let us know your views by emailing, tweeting @Yorkshire_Life or writing to Yorkshire Life, PO Box 163 Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 9AG.

A history lesson

Halifax Piece Hall is a rare architectural gem. This unique cultural phenomenon is the sole survivor of the great 18th century northern cloth halls, which embodied the importance of hand-woven textiles to the pre-industrial economy of the old West Riding.

It was built in 1779 as a hall for trading pieces of cloth (a piece was a 30-yard length of woven woollen fabric produced on a handloom). It was the most ambitious and prestigious building of its kind and remains one of the UKs most outstanding Georgian sites.

In its original heyday, the Piece Hall was a highly visible statement of the great wealth, pride and ambition of Yorkshires cloth manufacturers. But from its inception, it offered a pleasing combination of both commerce and culture, with business, the arts and people at its heart.
It says something about Halifax and its population that they chose to create such an affecting building, instead of opting for something more industrial.

Above all, this history celebrates a central, illuminating phenomenon, said architectural historian Gavin Stamp. The extraordinary fact that the wool merchants in a town in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the reign of King George III wished to conduct their business in an expensive structure which consciously emulated the grandeur of Imperial Rome.

Piece Hall transformation project

The objectives of the 18.9 million makeover project are:

To create state-of-the-art heritage interpretation and learning centre

To give people various different ways to learn about the building, to enjoy it and to play a part in its story

To conserve and restore the Piece Hall while providing a modern infrastructure that meets the needs of visitors and businesses

To make the courtyard an attractive town square where people can enjoy an interesting and varied events programme

To make the Piece Hall an exciting place for business, pleasure, entertainment, learning, participation and relaxation

To create a sustainable business environment to ensure the buildings future

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