Piece Hall, Westgate, Halifax
List Entry Summary
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
Name: Piece Hall, Westgate, Halifax
List entry Number: 1273056
PIECE HALL, WESTGATE, HALIFAX, HX1 1RE
The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District Type: Metropolitan Authority
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.
Date first listed: 03-Nov-1954
Date of most recent amendment: 05-Apr-2012
Legacy System Information
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System: LBS
This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.
List entry Description
Summary of Building
Cloth market. 1775-1779, attributed to Thomas Bradley. Built of local, finely grained sandstone with stone slate roofs.
Reasons for Designation
The Piece Hall, Halifax, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons: * Rarity: built in 1775-9, this building is a rare surviving example of a large-scale, purpose-built cloth hall. * Architectural Interest: the building, attributed to Thomas Bradley, has considerable architectural interest due to its dramatic design with tiers of classically detailed gallery arcades overlooking a large courtyard, whilst also demonstrating a high degree of craftsmanship and use of the highest-quality materials in its construction. * Architectural layout: the Piece Hall combined the security of a courtyard plan with the provision of individual rooms for traders to enable confidentiality of transactions, a layout, which despite later internal alterations to combine some rooms, externally remains visually readable and overall the building is largely intact as built.. * Historic Interest: the scale and architectural grandeur of this monumental cloth hall serve to illustrate the significant wealth of Halifax at this time, a prosperity generated by the local woollen and worsted industries which the Piece Hall was built to serve.
The earliest documented reference to a new Piece Hall in Halifax was a hand bill dated 19 March 1774, which, although it appears not to have survived was quoted in a Town Clerk's speech of 1867, when the Piece Hall was transferred to the Halifax Corporation. The hall was intended for 'the purpose of depositing and exposing to sale the WORSTED and WOOLLEN GOODS manufactured in this town and neighbourhood', and the word 'piece' referred to the pieces of cloth which were sold. The advantages were seen as the bringing together of buyers and sellers at a fixed time and place, saving time and money, and discouraging fraudsters. Subsequently two possible sites were proposed. One was Talbot Croft owned by John Caygill, a wealthy merchant, and in close proximity to the Talbot Inn, near Woolshops, and adjacent to the new Caygill Square, both of which he owned. The other was Cross Field, a part of which was used much later as the site of the 1948 bus station. After a degree of dissent as to which site to favour, Talbot Croft was chosen and purchased in September 1774.
A lack of documentary evidence means that the architect of the Piece Hall has not been conclusively identified, though the most likely contender is Thomas Bradley. This attribution was made by F A Leyland in 1887, and may have originated from White's 1837 'History, Gazeteer and directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire'. Other contenders are Samuel and John Hope and John Carr. There is little more than circumstantial evidence for either; it is known that Carr was associated with the leading figures in the Piece Hall campaign, including the Ibbotsons, Caygill's wife's family, and Caygill's Square was attributed to him, while Leyland describes the Hopes as the main contractors and builders. Work began on the Piece Hall in 1775, and the Hall was officially opened on 1 January 1779, business commencing the following day.
The Piece Hall was designed as a quadrangle with a series of individual rooms along each side and a principal entrance through the North Gate, leading from Caygill Square. Opposite was the South Gate, then a pedestrian entrance, which Leyland says 'was seldom used, as no traffic of moment came that way, or was permitted to enter there'. There is some evidence to suggest that the west side of the quadrangle had not been completed at the time of opening; minutes of a general meeting of the proprietors held on 6 March 1779 raised a motion that 'the west side of the Hall be now built', and when this was not passed, a second motion was passed 'That the wall at the west of the Hall be built in such a manner as to a better security to the Hall'. In 1781an Act of Parliament had been obtained to construct the street now known as Westgate, which was to lead between Southgate and a new entrance on the west side of the Hall. Through piecing together the fragmentary documentation, the likely sequence appears to be that the west side was built by 1783 without its entrance and that this was inserted at some time between 1785 and 1787, when an engraving of that date shows the view of the Hall through the west entrance.
In 1868 Halifax Corporation acquired the Piece Hall from the trustees after many years of gradual decline in use. The town council decided to convert it into a new wholesale Market Hall. This resulted in the combining of some rooms to make larger shop units, insertion of areas to light cellars, and the enlarging of the south pedestrian gate to form a vehicular entrance. Huge ornamental iron gates were installed, supplied by George Smith of the Sun Foundry, Glasgow, at a cost of £120. Three large sheds, latrines and urinals were built in the courtyard. The north, east, and south walls in the Arcade level were altered at this time to form wider archways.
In 1971 the Piece Hall had become unsuitable as a wholesale market and this business was dispersed elsewhere. After some discussion about possible demolition, Halifax Corporation took advantage of Government grants to restore the building to make it a tourist attraction. The stonework was cleaned and restored, the wholesale market buildings in the courtyard were demolished and the courtyard landscaped. Many of the original rooms were enlarged by the removal of party walls to form shops, and part of the east side was converted into a museum of local industry and an art gallery. The restored Piece Hall opened to the public on 3 July 1976. The museum closed in 1998.
In 2010 Calderdale Council was awarded First Round funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to take forward a scheme of restoration and redevelopment of the Piece Hall as a cultural and historic venue.
Cloth market. 1775-1779, attributed to Thomas Bradley. Built of local, finely grained sandstone with stone slate roofs.
PLAN: a large quadrangular structure built on a site which slopes markedly from west to east and to a lesser degree from north to south. This topography has resulted in three-storeys and a cellar on the east side and two-storeys with no cellar on the west side. The north and south sides have two-storeys to the west and three-storeys to the east with part cellars, those on the north side assumed as now hidden. The central courtyard is entered by gateways in the centre of the north, south, and west sides. Each storey has an aisle or gallery behind a screen or arcade facing into the courtyard, with a series of small rooms to the rear. Many of the rooms are now combined but originally each was independent, with a window and door opening onto the aisle or gallery and a blind rear wall. There is a staircase in each corner of the building giving access to the upper galleries and rooms, with a fifth staircase adjacent to the west gate.
EXTERIOR: the main exterior elevations of the building are those facing into the courtyard. Here the elevations are built of sandstone ashlar. At ground-floor level on the east side, and part of the north and south sides of the quadrangle, there is an arcade of round-headed arches with square piers with bases and square impost blocks. The middle Rustic level extends continuously around the entire building. It has prostyle square section pillars, formed from squared blocks with incised V joints with square bases and square Tuscan capitals. These support an entablature and the stone flagged deck of the gallery above. The upper Colonnade level has circular section Tuscan columns. At each of the four corners are close groupings of three columns. The Colonnade supports a stone eaves entablature. There is cast iron balustrading between the columns and pillars at the upper gallery levels, with some replacement of vertical balustrades with steel. Behind the screens the interior perimeter walls are also of ashlar blocks. The room frontages are original to the Rustic and Colonnade levels, with an alternating door and window arrangement. However, the six-panelled doors are believed to be replacements dating from 1970s refurbishment. The original window openings survive. These either contain fixed, twelve-pane lights, or twelve-pane lights which are hinged at the bottom to allow the top to be opened for ventilation. The latter are understood to have been put in when the rooms were converted into craft shops in the early 1970s. The north, east, and south walls in the Arcade have been altered in C19 to form arches, now with modern timber framed glazing, with the exception of the area around the windows in the corner rooms adjacent to the stairwells. The north entrance in the courtyard elevation is not differentiated other than an increase in span of the inner screen of pillars and columns. Five steps to each side of the gateway give access up to the Rustic gallery. The south entrance in the courtyard elevation has flanking granite plaques commemorating the building's history and its conversion to a market hall in 1871. Above are two roundels. The opening now incorporates an electrically powered lift bridge, fitted in 1970s, which replaced a cantilever bridge installed to permit both the ingress of large vehicles and continued access along the length of the south gallery of the Rustic level. The west entrance in the courtyard elevation has a slight widening of the inter column spacing. The four ranges have double-pitched stone slate roofs.
The outer perimeter walls in effect form the rear elevations. They are built of coursed rubble-stone walling, that to the north-facing exterior wall with eighteen blind arches, nine on each side of the central gateway. The north entrance has a high, round-ached opening with giant keystone flanked by raised engaged columns and pilasters set on pedestals and high bases, supporting an entablature and triangular pediment surmounted by a decorative urn. The west entrance has a high, round-arched opening with a wide ashlar surround with two pilasters to each side surmounted by an archivolt, raised fascia with rectangular panels, cornice and triangular pediment with blind circular window. A bell cupola is located on the pediment, which is reputed to be recent, although apparently a close copy of the original. It is octagonal in shape with a cupola and weather vane. The south entrance in its present form relates to 1871. The stone used to form the high, round-arched opening is a type of grit stone rather than the original sandstone. It has ornate ornamental cast-iron gates dating from 1871.
INTERIOR: the original rooms are mostly 2.44 m (8 ft) wide by 3.81 m (12 ft 6 in) with the exception of the rooms at the end of each range, which are smaller, having an angled corner to create a diagonal passageway onto the staircase landing. Subsequently almost all rooms have been knocked though internally to create larger units, the majority occupying three former rooms, though this is not apparent externally.
The corner staircases are open well, with stone treads, chamfered underneath to reduce weight, and half landings. The iron balustrades have had some components replaced in steel. The staircase adjacent to the west entrance is a dog-leg stair with half landings.
The existing cellars have stone flagged floors with small round, irregularly spaced drainage holes. Brick fireplaces are thought to date from 1870s.
Books and journals
Smithies, P, The Architecture of the Halifax Piece Hall 1775-1779, (1988)
Structural Perspectives, Historic Building Survey & Recording of the Piece Hall, Halifax. Volume 1 of 2: Report, Drawings and Appendices, (17th January 2005)
National Grid Reference: SE0955925077
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