On 1st August (Yorkshire Day) the iconic Piece Hall in Halifax reopened to the public after an extensive, £19m renovation.
THE PIECE HALL – THE BEST DRESSED MARKET IN THE LAND
In 1633, when Holdsworth House was built, Halifax was already the biggest producer of cloth in West Yorkshire. It produced 4 times the amount of Leeds and 8 times that of Bradford. Cloth and textiles were traded in Halifax and sent all over the world to be made in to fine clothing and furnishings.
In 1774 the existing cloth market was deemed too small, so The Piece Hall was built. “Piece” referred to a 30 yard length of woven woollen fabric produced on a handloom.
315 ROOMS FOR MERCHANT TRADING
The Piece Hall was paid for by the local merchants themselves. There were 315 small rooms for each to trade their wares.
It is impossible to overstate the importance the Halifax cloth industry had in recent British history. The Roman style architecture of The Piece Hall was a deliberate statement to show off great wealth, pride and status.
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION & A LOAD OF HOT AIR!
By the mid 1800s the Industrial Revolution had gained pace. Traditional handloom cloth was now being done by ‘modern’ machinery. As the ability to make cloth spread from the cottages to bigger mills, trading in The Piece Hall began to die. So the Victorians began to use it for other ideas…
Hot air ballooning was a novelty at the time and the sight of aeronaut Charles Green being the ‘first man in space’ was a spectacle for the packed crowd.
In 1861, in a bid to entertain crowds, a tightrope cable was stretched from a corner to the one diagonally opposite. The world famous ‘Great Blondin,’ who had recently crossed Niagara Falls on a cable, carried out his daring act to the excitement of the crowd below (they knew how to live didn’t they?!)
But alas the running costs could not be sustained and The Piece Hall was handed to the local ‘council’ to operate. From 1871 it was used to trade fish, game, fruit and vegetables; trade continued for over 100 years. Take a look at the black and white photos in the Holdsworth House bar!
In the 1970s some restoration work was completed. But by the new Millennium it was clear that extensive work was going to be needed to keep The Piece Hall structurally safe.
A £7m donation from Heritage Lottery Fund and funding from various foundations and Calderdale Council, totalling £19m, has resulted in the newest restoration project. The whole place is now operated by an independent charity – The Piece Hall Trust.
MORE THAN JUST THE PIECE HALL
Halifax Piece Hall is now Grade I Listed i.e. it is deemed a structure ‘of exceptional interest’.
Restoration work has involved replacing some of the stone pillars, replacement of many stone sections and the laying of a 66,000 square foot granite open-air piazza and steps.
The restoration is more than just the saving of Yorkshire’s most important secular building. In fact an extensive cultural quarter is being created.
Independent shops – clothes, jewellery, homeware, arts, crafts, gifts, old fashioned sweet shops, chocolates, music and vinyl records etc.
Eat and drink – ice cream parlour, gin bar, restaurant, deli cafe
See and do – art gallery, heritage museum, water features within the piazza, nightime lighting. Plus there’s a list of events – with hopefully bigger plans in the future. There has been talk of Christmas fairs, ice skating rinks and concerts
Parking – nearest is The Woolshop Car Park next door (free on Sundays). Or use the car park at Broad Street Plaza. Piece Hall customers receive a special price of just £3 for up to 24 hours if they pre-book using the code PLAZA10. Or take a taxi from Holdsworth House for about £5.
Book a room online at our best available rate and look forward to your Piece Hall Short Break!