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Piece Hall in 2017 following its renovation with the Square Chapel seen behind
|Town or city||Halifax|
The Piece Hall is a Grade I listed building in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. It was built as a cloth hall for handloom weavers to sell the woollen cloth "pieces" they had produced. It opened on 1 January 1779, with 315 separate rooms arranged around a central open courtyard.
History and construction
The earliest known reference to the new Piece Hall was a handbill dated 19 March 1774, although this no longer survives. The hall was built for 'the purpose of depositing and exposing to sale the WORSTED and WOOLLEN GOODS manufactured in this town and neighbourhood'. It was seen that bringing merchants and buyers together in one place would create a more competitive and efficient market and discourage fraudsters. Initially, two sites were proposed, one at Talbot Croft and the other at Cross Field (which was used in 1948 for the construction of the new bus station). After consideration, Talbot Croft was chosen and was purchased in September 1774.
The architect of Piece Hall has never been identified, and there is a lack of documentary evidence surrounding its design and construction; F A Leyland cited Thomas Bradley as the most likely architect in 1887, although others have suggested Samuel and John Hope and John Carr.
An 1831 description of Piece Hall says:
The Piece Hall was erected by the manufacturers and is a large quadrangular building of freestone occupying an area of ten thousand square yards with a rustic basement storey and two upper storeys fronted with two interior colonnades which are spacious walks leading to arched rooms where goods in an unfinished state were deposited and exhibited for sale to the merchants every Saturday from ten to twelve o clock. This structure which was completed at an expense of £12,000 and opened on 1 January 1779 unites elegance convenience and security. It contains three hundred and fifteen separate rooms and is proof against fire.— Samuel Lewis, A topographical dictionary of England
The industrial revolution saw a shift away from small producers and traders, with new larger mills in the Halifax area trading directly with merchants and exporters. After years of decline, The Piece Hall was acquired from the trustees in 1868 by Halifax Corporation. They converted it into a wholesale market hall and some of the small rooms were combined to make larger shop units; cellars were created and the south pedestrian gate was enlarged to allow vehicles to enter the courtyard with Iron Gates installed over the entrance (supplied by George Smith of the Sun Foundry, Glasgow for £120). Sheds and latrines were constructed in the courtyard.
In 1971, after The Piece Hall had become seen as unsuitable for a wholesale market, the businesses were dispersed elsewhere throughout the town and demolition of the then two-century-old building was considered. Government grants were made available and the Halifax Corporation received funding to make the building a tourist attraction. The sheds that had been built in the 19th century were demolished and the courtyard landscaped; further, walls were removed from the original rooms to create shops, and a new museum – art gallery was opened on the east side. The new Piece Hall opened on 3 July 1976. The museum – art gallery closed in 1998.
The Piece Hall was listed on 3 November 1954 and has Grade I listed protection. Reasons for the listing were given as:
- Historic interest: citing the scale and architectural grandeur and its illustration of the wealth of Halifax at the time of its construction.
- Rarity: citing the rarity of surviving purpose built cloth halls.
- Architectural interest: citing its dramatic design, its detailed galleries and courtyard as well as a high degree of craftsmanship and the high quality of materials used
- Architectural layout: citing the courtyard plan but the provision of individual rooms to enable confidentiality in transactions. Despite the combination of some rooms internally the building remains externally unchanged and 'visually readable'.
The Piece Hall closed for redevelopment on 16 January 2014. A three-storey extension was added to the south-east corner close to the Square Chapel.
The Piece Hall reopened on 1 August 2017. The 66,000-square-foot (6,100 m2) open-air piazza is planned to combine bars, restaurants, cafés and shops. The Piece Hall also has a heritage centre featuring stories of Georgian Halifax. The Courtyard is intended to host a programme of events including concerts, theatre, markets, sporting events and an ice rink.
Piece Hall Trust has been set up as a charity responsible for managing The Piece Hall.
In the community
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The Piece Hall is in a central part of Halifax. It is located at the heart of a new Cultural Quarter for the town which takes in the neighbouring sites of Halifax Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Orangebox Young People's Centre and the Central Library and Archive (which opened in September 2017). Through the Piece Hall's North Gate is the Woolshops Shopping Centre, whilst from the West Gate can be found the historic Borough Market. The Piece Hall is close to both Halifax bus station and Halifax railway station.
On the exterior of the Piece Hall close to the West Gate are a pair of handprints. A number of folklore tales surround these prints; one states the handprints are cursed, as attempts to eradicate them over the years have failed.
The 1996 film Brassed Off featured a scene set and filmed on location at the Piece Hall. In the film it is the location of the National Brass Band Championships – Yorkshire Area Qualifying Contest.
- Historic England. "Piece Hall, Westgate, Halifax (1273056)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
- Sutcliffe, Robert (28 April 2017). "Watch: Take a tour of new-look Halifax Piece Hall following £19m revamp". Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
- "Halifax Piece Hall: First look at £19m refurbishment work". BBC News. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
- "Delay to historic West Yorkshire hall's reopening". BBC. 1 June 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- Lewis, Samuel. A topographical dictionary of England. Retrieved 24 August 2016. Appears to be a close parphrase of Baines, Edward (1822). History, Directory & Gazetteer, of the County of York. E. Baines. p. 186. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
- "Piece Hall, Westgate, Halifax". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- Charity Commission. The Piece Hall Trust, registered charity no. 1156948.
- "Father John Misty and Friends". The Piece Hall. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
- "Halifax's Piece Hall restoration plan approved". BBC. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Halifax Piece Hall.|
- Piece Hall web site
- Great Public Squares: An Architect’s Selection, Robert F. Gatje, (Norton), 2010. ISBN 978-0-393-73173-6 
- Historic England. "Piece Hall, Westgate, Halifax (1273056)". National Heritage List for England. Includes substantial accounts of the history and architecture of the Piece Hall
- British Listed Buildings Piece Hall, Westgate, Halifax