Current Issues

54 years of celebrating, enhancing and safeguarding Halifax's built and natural environment.

Halifax Civic Trust is deeply concerned about the future of two very significant old houses, Ovenden Hall, and Exley Old Hall.   Both are important examples of 17th Century vernacular architecture, and are apparently at great risk

Ovenden Hall

Exley Old Hall

Exley Old Hall then and now

Calderdale Council have produced their Halifax Town Centre Delivery Plan (pdf file)

Here is a link to The West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund’s plans for the A629 corridor

Empty buildings put our heritage in danger



IN 1979 Sir John Betjeman, Poet Laureate and lover of fine architecture, said this of our town: “Halifax is full of character and hidden beauty. The Piece Hall is symbolic of its hidden and great worth. The skyline of Halifax, its churches, chapels, mills and warehouses, is something never to be forgotten and gives Halifax its identity.” Nearly 40 years on what Betjeman wrote remains true. The town centre largely survived the destruction of many comparable towns in the 1960s and ‘70s and architecturally it remains one of the finest Victorian centres anywhere in Britain.

The jewels include Sir Charles Barry’s Italianate town hall, opened in 1863 by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, and the Borough Market, opened by the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V, in 1896, along with a spectacular townscape of high Victorian streets such as Crossley Street, Princess Street, Crown Street, Commercial Street and Southgate.

And, of course, we cannot forget the diamond in the crown, from an earlier age, the Georgian Piece Hall, soon to reopen after a £19 million makeover.

But for all the fine buildings that the 1960s and ‘70s forgot to demolish, there is an alarming number of fine historically and architecturally important buildings that today lie empty and unused and have been so, in some cases, for years. Many of them are on the fringe of the town centre in streets such as Northgate, Church Street and Harrison Road, but some of them are at the very core of the town centre – buildings such as the former Theatre Royal in Ward’s End and the former crown post office in Commercial Street.

Two events last year drew attention to the increasing number of these empty buildings. They were the closure of both of Halifax’s surviving court buildings, the Calderdale Magistrates’ Court in Harrison Road and the county court at the corner of Prescott Street and Portland Place. They were axed by the Courts and Tribunals Service as a cost-saving measure along with more than 80 other courts throughout the country. Then came the closure of the crown post office in Commercial Street, replaced by new facilities within the W H Smith store in Market Street. It was a move that shocked many local people who felt that the new counter at the rear of the Smith’s store would be no substitute for the crown office which had existed in Commercial Street since 1887.

As the list of unused historic buildings – many of them listed as historically or architecturally important – grows, Halifax Civic Trust has launched a campaign to make local people aware of the threat to their future and to seek ways of bringing them back into use. The long list includes the following:

Calderdale Magistrates’ Courts, Harrison Road: Built 1889, originally including the town’s police station until the police moved to Richmond Close in 1985.  Future uncertain following closure of the courts in 2016.  Grade 2 listed.

Trinity House, Harrison Road: Former Holy Trinity Church, built 1795-‘98 but made redundant in 1980 and converted to offices, while protecting  many interior features, including original monuments, galleries and stained glass. Used as offices by an insurance company but now empty. Grade 2 listed.

Halifax County Court, corner of Prescott Street and Portland Place: Distinguished palazzo of 1870. Future uncertain following closure of the courts in 2016.

Harrison House, Harrison Road: Former HQ of Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society, built in 1834 with extensions in the 1860s. Incorporates former branch library and lecture theatre with noted acoustics. Empty for many years. Grade 2 listed.

Georgian buildings between Hopwood Lane and King Cross Street: Grade 2 listed, partly empty; plans for improvements disappeared after the 2008 financial crash.

Somerset House, Rawson Street: Georgian stately home built in 1766, probably by John Carr, of York, for John Royd, textile merchant and banker. In the 19th century used as a bank and between 1850 and 1857 rooms used as town’s post office. Single-storey shops facing Rawson Street demolished and Somerset House restored in the 2000s and reopened in 2008. Contains first-floor salon with remarkable stucco work but the salon and former ground-floor restaurant are currently unoccupied. Grade 2* listed.

Crown post office, Commercial Street: Built in 1887 by Henry Tanner in an unusual gothic style facing Commercial Street but closed in late 2016 when the post office moved to W H Smith’s store in Market Street. Grade 2 listed. Large extension built to the rear in the 1930s for  the telecommunications section of the Post Office, now mostly unused and not of any great merit.

Halifax County Court, corner of Prescott Street and Portland Place: Distinguished palazzo of 1870. Future uncertain following closure of the courts in 2016.

Theatre Royal, Ward’s End: Built in 1905 to replace an earlier theatre of 1790 which was destroyed by a fire in 1904. Converted into a cinema in in 1933 and then bingo hall in 1966, closing in 1992. Beween 1999 and c2007 the building was used a a night club, successively named La Mania, Club Platinum and the Theatre Club. Various recent plans to convert the building into a hostel or hotel have failed to materialise. Listed grade 2.

Former Simpsons store, Silver Street: Large, ornate 1886s structure. Simpson’s closed in 1957 and the building taken over by Harrison Gibson, to 1968. More recently in multiple occupancy, but for several years unoccupied. Some internal ceilings said to be collapsing.

3-5 Northgate: two shops opposite Calderdale Central Library knocked into one; frontages restored at least eight years ago but the shops remain empty.

Wool Warehouses, Deal Street, off Church Street: Built between 1845 and 1875, stone with red brick rear. Generally in poor condition and No 1, adjacent to Church Street, is under threat due to proposed road widening scheme. Grade 2 listed, mostly empty.

Great Northern Shed, Discovery Road: Disused former railway warehouse, built in 1885, part of the Eureka Children’s Museum site. Listed grade 2 but empty for many years.

This year, 2017, Civic Voice, the umbrella organisation for local civic societies, adopted the theme the Conservation Conversation, marking 50 years of conservation areas throughout England, Scotland and Wales since 1967 and with the aim of increasing public awareness of the importance of conservation areas nationwide. On Civic Day, June 17 2017, as our contribution to this national campaign, the trust's vice-chairman, David Glover, led a walk through the Halifax town-centre conservation area, pointing out the important buildings that are empty and potentially under threat.

Halifax Civic Trust fears that if these historic buildings left empty for too long their condition will deteriorate, putting their future at risk. David Glover said: “We are concerned about the future of these buildings. We wish to conserve them and find new uses, with sympathetic conversion where possible.” And he urged the public: “Will you join Halifax Civic Trust and help give us a more powerful voice in this direction?”

EMPTY: Calderdale Magistrates’ Court.

EMPTY: Deal Street warehouses.

EMPTY: The Great Northern Shed.

EMPTY: Halifax County Court.

EMPTY: Harrison House.

EMPTY: Halifax Post Office.

EMPTY: Trinity House, formerly Holy Trinity Church.

EMPTY: Theatre Royal.

EMPTY: Somerset House.