Echoes of the past: History of Brighouse Civic Hall

The building has been called Brighouse Civic Hall since 1968 after it was changed from the Old Savoy Picture House
The building has been called Brighouse Civic Hall since 1968 after it was changed from the Old Savoy Picture House

The building we now refer to as Brighouse Civic Hall, dates back to 1866, following the formation of the Brighouse Town Hall Company.

Research shows that not only was the company in favour of providing an assembly room suitable and large enough for the district, but a building suitable for educational purposes as well. This created a much needed permanent home for the town’s Mechanic’s Institute which had had a somewhat nomadic existence since it was started in 1846.

The idea of a public hall was taken up by a number of the town’s prosperous businessmen including: Sir George Armytage, Kirklees Hall who gave £300; Thomas Sugden of Well Close, £200; Kaye Aspinall, The Manor House, a stone merchant, £500; T.T.Ormerod, Elm Royd (now the nursing home in Brighouse Wood Lane), mill owner £300; David Goldthorp Sugden, Bonegate House, Brighouse, corn miller, £300; John Carr Bottomley, Stoneleigh House, Halifax Road, a manufacturing chemist, £200; Henry Stott, Ryburn Villa, Brighouse, cotton spinner, £150; J. Barber, Lark Field, Church Lane, Brighouse, gentleman, £100; Henry Sugden, Canal Lodge, Brighouse, cotton spinner, £50; Charles Heward Broughton, Brighouse, iron founder, £50 and John Taylor, Rastrick, farmer, £25 (£2475).

The Brighouse Town Hall Company was formed with a capital of £7000 divided into £1 shares. The proposal was taken up so well by the general public that the new building was officially opened on October 14 1868 by Sir George Armytage, the chairman of the company.

Some readers may recall the days when it was the Savoy picture house, but when that closed in the late 1950s the building was put up for sale and offered to the council. Being such a large property in the town centre the General Purposes Committee established a sub-committee on November 26 1959 to investigate the possibility.

The council’s value of the property was considerably less than that of the owners; consequently the rounds of financial haggling began. The council had to apply for a loan sanction to buy the former cinema and shops at the eventual agreed price of £20,000.

Once the deal was done and the building finally belonged to the council. Richard Pickles and Partners were commissioned to submit plans and sketches of the building for a new use as a Civic Hall, dancing and entertainment purposes.

On October 18 1961 the first set of plans and sketches were complete. These were submitted to the sub-committee and the architects were told after much consideration to submit a revised set. Looking at my copy of this first set of plans the alterations and conversion to a civic hall would have cost the council £115,760.

Further meetings during the early part of 1962 followed, and on the 9th of April the final plans and estimates were sent to the General Purposes Committee. A final decision seemed to be taking forever. In the mean time local Chamber of Trade secretary Fred Lapish wrote to the Town Clerk pointing out that the former cinema’s frontage particularly the veranda was untidy - that complaint seems to have a familiar ring about. Mr Lapish’s letter worked because the veranda was taken down and the Borough Engineer gave instructions that the windows on the frontage should be washed at least one a week. Another letter was received from Waring Green stalwart Jim Mashinter suggesting that the former cinema could be used by the Brighouse ‘Little Theatre’ group.

The big day finally arrived on January 23 1967, when the old Savoy picture house was officially given its new title ‘Brighouse Civic Hall’ by the local authority and its official opening followed in April 1968. Looking at this photograph taken from a brochure produced for this special event, shows just how different the frontage looked then compared to today.