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Town Hall

A Grade II* Listed Building in Halifax, Calderdale

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Latitude: 53.7243 / 53°43'27"N

Longitude: -1.8607 / 1°51'38"W

OS Eastings: 409289

OS Northings: 425335

OS Grid: SE092253

Mapcode National: GBR HTFC.YN

Mapcode Global: WHC9M.DN66

Entry Name: Town Hall

Listing Date: 31 July 1963

Last Amended: 22 November 2011

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1314024

English Heritage Legacy ID: 338680

Location: Calderdale, HX1

County: Calderdale

Electoral Ward/Division: Town

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Halifax

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Halifax The Minster Church of St John the Baptist

Church of England Diocese: Leeds

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Halifax Town Hall, designed by Sir Charles Barry and E.M. Barry, and opened in 1863, is in a free Italianate, high Victorian style.


The building is in ashlar, using stone from the Ringby quarries, Swalesmoor, with lead roofs.

PLAN: the building is a rectangle aligned approximately north-south, with the north side angled inwards. There is a tower and spire at the south-west corner. The interior is modelled round a double height square central hall with the Council Chamber (former court) alongside and offices on all sides over two floors.

EXTERIOR: there are two main storeys and a part basement with rusticated stonework. The main storeys have arcading, orders of engaged columns and round-arched windows while the basement has rectangular windows. The roof is a steep mansard with cresting and corner turrets.

The tower at the south-west corner is lavishly decorated. A balustrade with domed belvederes at the corners separates the tower from the square plan spire above. This has four clock faces flanked by engaged columns with statuary above and at the corners representing the four continents and angels. There are three stages above with cresting and round-arched windows, an upper modillion balcony with ironwork balustrade and a weather vane.

The south elevation has four bays to the right of the tower. Three to the left are deeply recessed and arcaded while the right hand (east) bay forms a corner pavilion that extends three bays on the east elevation. A further single bay pavilion is at the northeast corner with nine bays between, one containing a plain entrance at basement level.

The west elevation has an arched and balustraded portico entrance at the southern end, extending from the base of the tower. It carries the old coat of arms of Halifax on three sides, and carved heads representing Wisdom, Justice and Mercy. There is a raised entrance with decorative iron lamp standards half way along this elevation and a further entrance towards the north end.

The north elevation onto Broad Street is less ornate than the rest.

INTERIOR: the main entrance at the south-west leads directly to a staircase rising from the main floor and forming an imperial staircase. A lift in the entrance hall gives access to the basement and upper levels. The staircase is lit from a large dome of coloured glass above and there are two wall paintings by J C Horsley and one by Daniel Maclise. To the left is a double height central space, the Victoria Hall, with a gallery and a glazed roof. Features include a mosaic floor in marble, stone and encaustic tile incorporating the Halifax coat of arms, statuary and decorative plasterwork. The gallery is supported on ribbed and groined arches and has a wrought iron balustrade. The upper level has round arched bays leading into the surrounding rooms, flanked by Corinthian pilasters. The ground floor contains committee rooms and offices, some with decorative plasterwork, and a storeroom that was formerly the ground floor of the Borough Court. The first floor contains the former Mayor's Parlour (now Chief Executive's office), former Council Chamber (now Councillors' Tea Room), former Reception Room (now Mayor's Parlour), and further offices. The former upper part of the Court Room, horizontally divided in 1901, has become the Council Chamber, and retains an original stained glass ceiling. The former Reception Room, now Mayor's Parlour, has an ornate fireplace and built in oak furniture, and this and the former Council Chamber have fine plaster ceilings designed by Barry. In the basement are surviving prison cells, some with original doors and fittings.

The Town Hall forms part of an important group of Listed buildings on Crossley Street, Princess Street, Wesley Court and Town Hall Street East.


Halifax received its charter of incorporation in 1848, and initially the Corporation met in the Old Assembly Rooms in Union Street while plans were made for a new Town Hall. Several sites were considered, culminating in an offer in 1856 from John Crossley, an Alderman and influential local mill owner, of land at the present site. This was part of his development of this area of Halifax, north of the old centre, where new streets were being laid out. Crossley offered to sell or rent the land, and to pay for part of the building himself, and proposed a design by the well-regarded Leeds architects Lockwood and Mawson. Rival designs by the Borough Engineer, G. W. Stevenson and by George Gilbert Scott, promoted by the other great local mill-owner, Edward Akroyd, were also put forward, and arguments over the competing designs led in the end to the withdrawal of both Akroyd/Scott's and Crossley's designs.

In 1859 the committee decided to consult Sir Charles Barry for advice on how to proceed, and ultimately to propose a design of his own. Barry very quickly submitted preliminary sketches which were approved, and although his design was more expensive than the amounts originally allocated to the project, tenders were invited. The work was awarded to Whiteley Brothers of Leeds for the sum of £23,320. Barry brought his son, Edward Middleton Barry into the project, and Edward was able to take over when Sir Charles died in 1860, soon after work had begun.

Sculpture and stone carving was begun by John Thomas, who had done similar work on the Houses of Parliament (also by Barry), the façade of Manchester Free Trade Hall and Buckingham Palace gateway. Thomas also died before the work was finished and it was completed under the supervision of Daniel Maclise. E.M. Barry also produced designs for plaster ceilings and some furniture.

The building was opened in 1863, and the Prince of Wales was invited to open it. The Prince's two-day visit was the first by a member of the Royal Family to Halifax and included tours of several local factories. The first Council meeting was held on 18th September 1863. The final cost was £50,126, more than double the original estimate.

The building was designed to house the court, police station, prison cells and all the council offices. The police moved to Harrison Road in 1900 and their accommodation and the cells were converted to storage and strong rooms. In 1901 the Borough Court was altered with a new floor inserted, to form the Council Chamber. Other departments also gradually moved out of the building, and by 1962 only the Town Clerk and his staff along with the Mayor remained, with other space functioning as committee rooms and other official uses.

Reasons for Listing

Halifax Town Hall, opened in 1863 and designed by Sir Charles Barry, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural Interest: the Town Hall's external exuberance, enlivened by John Thomas's sculpture, reflects the confidence of Halifax in the middle of the C19, flourishing on the proceeds of the wool industry
* Interior survival: the internal spaces of the Town Hall retain their overall configuration and some remarkable spaces and ornamental features
* Combined function: built as a combined council building, courthouse and police station, Halifax Town Hall reflects the emergence of well-organised local government in the middle of the C19
* Architect: Halifax Town Hall was designed by Sir Charles Barry and completed by his son Edward. Sir Charles was one of the leading architects of his day and Halifax Town Hall is good example of his civic work
* Group Value: Halifax Town Hall is a prominent building in the middle of Halifax which has strong group value with other listed buildings

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