The Piece Hall, which is a rare Grade I listed building dating back to 1779, is currently closed to undergo major remedial and restoration work costing about £20 million, which has been obtained from a variety of sources including Calderdale Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.  We were therefore grateful for the opportunity to see the progress being made with the work, which is radical, as there will not be a second bite at the funding cherry.  Seven committee members, duly kitted out in heavy boots, helmets and hi-viz jackets, were shown round by David Garner, the civil engineer in charge of coordinating work on the site.

Due to instability, caused in some instances by the removal of partition walls in years past, in some places steel reinforced concrete has to be installed to safeguard the structure. However the stone stairs and iron railings in the corners and at the entrances are stable and fit to remain. Weathering and inappropriate cleaning of the old stone has necessitated much more replacement than we previously thought. Experienced master masons who have worked on York Minster are busy carving exact replicas of sections of columns and other features, which then have to be inserted after the originals have been removed, without the slightest disturbance to the building. Consequently they are making templates like the ones used by the original masons but in two halves, each of which will be slid in round the core of the old feature that remains in situ; a clever solution.  It has emerged that the original masons had individual templates and, as in cathedrals, they are not identical. All have to be reproduced precisely, including any anomalies, to maintain stability.   

The council required matching local stone to be used. Unfortunately the local quarry could not supply large enough blocks of stone without coal seams, but appropriate blocks have been obtained from a neighbouring quarry. It was disappointing to learn that the stonework in the levelled out courtyard with steps will be granite from abroad, but it will be sourced from Portugal rather than the Far East. The existing cobbles and slabs, which do not date from the initial structure, cannot be kept due to continual thefts from the streets and the council stone store, so they have been sold to help defray a substantial portion of the costs. The modern lift had to be removed because it had been incorrectly installed and caused damage to the structure, which now has to be restored before it can be replaced by a newer type.

We were taken underground where there are cellars on one side that have been used, blocked and altered over the centuries.  Much of the building is set on solid rock which has proved too hard to drill through. Several very costly bits were broken in the attempt. But it will be possible to install a management suite in the basement.  A complication under the courtyard was an ancient sewer with rope joints that predated the Piece Hall. It will now be by-passed by a link to a more modern sewer higher up.  A surprise piece of news was that the Piece Hall is to be "future-proofed" with ground source heat pumps and an installation in the cellar that can be linked to a district heating system which may materialise in future.  Another surprise was that a drone was being used to give airborne views of the work in progress.  These can be accessed from a Piece Hall website.

We had the impression that David Garner knew his stuff and was determined to hold down costs without compromising quality. We therefore have every reason to hope that the project will be completed within budget and to time and that the building will be fit to stand for at least another 250 years. It merely remains for the new Piece Hall Trust to find uses for it that will be profitable enough to cover future maintenance. To hear more about this please come to the Halifax Civic Trust AGM at 7-30 pm at the Town Hall on 9th May 2016, where the speakers will be Barry Reynolds, the CMBC project manager and Sam Mason the new CEO of the Piece Hall Trust.



Halifax Civic Trust receives “Highly Commended” Award for Orangebox, Halifax

Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic movement in England. Having heard about the new community-led Civic Voice Awards, and fully recognising the contribution of Orangebox to improving quality of Halifax’s built environment, June Paxton-White, Secretary of Halifax Civic Trust, decided to nominate the scheme in the “Restoration” category.  There were about thirty submissions in this sector, of which just four won an Award; amongst these was a “Highly Commended” blue plaque for Halifax Civic Trust.   On 17th July, David Glover vice-chairman of Halifax Civic Trust accompanied by Emily Pearson, Director of Myplace Young People’s Centre at Orangebox, to receive this significant award from Griff Rhys Jones, President of Civic Voice, at Central Hall Westminster.  Mr Glover said “This is a prestigious moment for Halifax on a national scale.  Having an eye for the exciting new expressions in the built environment, and in this case the reuse of run-down structures revitalised, the Trust nominated this outstanding building, fully recognising the remarkable work which has gone into its design and construction, in particular the input of young people.  This has resulted in the creation of a sensational new location for teenagers to thrive and enjoy themselves in a safe environment. We hope that this award will raise the profile of both Halifax Civic Trust and Orangebox further.”

Dr John Hargreaves, Chairman of Halifax Civic Trust, commented:  "Halifax Civic Trust is delighted to receive this award and congratulates CMBC and the designers for providing such an exciting design concept for a building for the youth of Halifax, which enhances its high profile location alongside the Grade 1 listed Halifax Piece Hall."

Quotes from Emily Pearson -

“I am so please Halifax Civic Trust nominated Orangebox for the Civic Voice award”

“Halifax Civic Trust recognised not only the amazing building and design but also the massive involvement of the young people, partner organisations, Calderdale community and designers in ensuring it could meet the needs of young people and inspire them in this creative space”

The awards ceremony in London showcased some amazing community led projects that changed lives, as well as restoring historically important sites for the future. The competition was fierce and receiving a highly commended award for the building was a real recognition of the hard work everyone put in, young people were involved in all aspects of its creation and design and continue to lead the way forward not only in ensuring the building is maintained and used but influencing its programme and development.

Kind Regards,

Emily Pearson
Myplace Young Peoples Centre



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