The Piece Hall, Halifax

This Foldout looks at some aspects of Halifax Piece Hall

A brief history of the Piece Hall

An earlier cloth hall was built by Viscount Irwin, lord of one of the manors in the district around 1708. This became inadequate.

The Halifax Piece Hall – or Manufacturers' Hall – is Halifax's cloth hall.

It was conceived in 1774, and Cross Field was considered as a possible site before its final position was chosen. It stands on a piece of land known as Talbot Close [or Price's Square] and given by Mr and Mrs John Caygill.

It was designed by Thomas Bradley and John & Samuel Hope. It is possible that Bradley conceived the design, and the Hope brothers worked on the detail and the construction.

Proposals for a circular building were rejected because it would have lost 20% of the available land.

It was built between 1774 and 1779 and cost around £12,000 to build. It covers an area of 10,000 square yards – the building measures approximately 110 yards by 91 yards.

The foundations are said to be only 2 ft in depth.

There are 3 entrances:

There are 5 internal staircases giving access to the galleries: one at each corner, and another adjacent to the Westgate entrance.

It opened on 1st January 1779 as a market for the domestic system of handloom weavers and small merchants to sell their pieces of cloth. At the opening ceremony, a choir sang a verse by John Hope.

The records show that most of those selling were local, but some came from other parts of Yorkshire, and from Lancashire. Those buying came from a wider area, with some agents acting for foreign buyers.

There were great festivities with bands, fireworks and parades to celebrate the opening.

Packhorses, or a cart and one horse, were allowed into the central area on Saturdays for loading and unloading between 8:00 and 9:45 and between 12:30 and 16:00 with a fine of 5/- for anyone working outside those hours. Trading was strictly regulated between 10:00 and 12:00 noon on Saturdays, with a fine of 5/- for anyone selling beyond noon. A bell rang from 11:55 until noon to signal the end of trading. Small weavers were allowed to sell their cloth on the grass in the courtyard.

315 small merchants' lockup rooms – each 12 ft long and 8½ ft wide – are arranged on 2 galleries (3 at the lower eastern end) overlooking the central quadrangle, with smaller traders being allowed to sell their cloth in the central grass-covered area. Each room has a window and a door. Some of the rooms have the original glass in the windows. The original subscribers paid £28 for a room.

In February 1805, William Currer chaired a meeting of Halifax manufacturers which decided to allow cotton goods to be sold in the Piece Hall.

By the 1830s, fewer than 200 rooms were used.

The three galleries are known as:

Those who had subscribed to the building had the opportunity to rent a room at an annual fee of £28 4s.

As cloth production became mechanised and large mills and factories sprang up throughout the district, cloth was sold directly to customers. The need for the Piece Hall declined. The owners dabbled with diversification. In 1815, cotton was traded here. From 1832, it was used for meetings and entertainment.

In 1838, there were celebrations here for Queen Victoria's Coronation. In 1856, there were festivities in which 2 oxen were roasted whole to celebrate the end of the Crimean War. In 1863, around 16,000 people welcomed the Prince of Wales during his visit to Halifax.

Despite the committee's relaxing the rules on trading, the building fell into disuse. One of the conditions made at the time the Hall was erected, was that, when it ceased to be used for the purposes of the worsted trade, it should revert to Mrs Caygill's Selwin family. In accordance with Mrs Caygill's will, the hall passed into the hands of Sir J. T. Selwin, Bart, and his son, H. J. Selwin-Ibbetson MP, who generously presented it to the town on 6th October 1868.

The 2 upper floors were not used and shed and outbuildings were erected in the courtyard.

On 17th June 1871, the building was formally opened by the Mayor as a general market, The Market Hall. It was subsequently used as a wholesale fish, fruit and vegetable market until the early 1970s.

In 1928, it became a scheduled ancient monument.

In 1972, it was designated a Grade I listed building.

In 1973, the vegetable market left and the lean-to sheds were demolished.

In 1976, a major redevelopment programme, costing £350,000, converted many of the rooms into a museum, a contemporary art gallery, and 60 small retail outlets for arts, crafts, antiques, books and specialist shops.

It was opened by the Mayor Mrs M. R. Mitchell on 3rd July 1976. The central area is used for a weekly market with an area set aside for concerts.

Sunday trading began in December 1977.

It is the only surviving cloth hall in Yorkshire

Development plans for the Piece Hall

Calderdale Council and its predecessors seem to consider themselves martyrs to the Piece Hall, and are always looking for new ideas to make it pay ... ideas like closing the open-air market.

There have been several proposals for redeveloping the Piece Hall.

None of these seems to understand the meaning of the phrase in keeping and most bring to mind words and phrases such as hair-brained, ill-considered politically-correct, pretentious, and/or ridiculous.

How much do all these studies, investigations and reports cost the rate-payers?

The Piece Hall closed on 16th January 2014 for refurbishment, repairs and conservation work.

An extension is being built at the south-east corner – adjoining Square Chapel.

The refurbished building is to open in Spring 2016.

Ghosts in the Piece Hall

A shop in south-west corner of the Colonnade is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl, Amy. Amy is reported to moved objects around the shop at night. There are also tales of a double murder there.

In a TV programme in March 2006, a medium claimed to have made contact with 2 spirits in the Piece Hall cellars: a girl called Mary, who allegedly died there, and a man called Joseph

See Balloon / Charles Blondin / Bradford Piece Hall / Charles Dibdin / Halifax Markets / Halifax Visitor Centre & Art Gallery / Halifax Woollen Market / Lawrenson Sculpture / Linen Hall / Piece Hall: Hand prints / Piece Hall Sings / Serge Room / South Low Room / Ullnage / Volunteer /

This & associated entries use material contributed by F. & S. Marriott & Stephanie Marriott

© Malcolm Bull 2024
Revised 13:37 / 5th June 2024 / 15700

Page Ref: MMP59

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