National Heritage Open
Days co-ordinated by the Civic Trust.
Conducted tour of Chorley Town Hall.
As part of the
National Heritage Open days co-ordinated by the Civic Trust
Chorley’s Town Hall was opened and two conducted tours were held
at 1pm and 2:30pm. A warm sunny day greeted the first group of
30 visitors. Tim James and Brendan Spier of the Council staff
were our guides and we were first taken on an external tour
round the Town Hall and shown the location of the first Town
Hall which used to be opposite the front doors of the present
Town Hall which was opened on 2nd Aug 1879. The original hall
dated from 1802 and wasn’t demolished until the 1930s so for
over 50 years Chorley had two Town Halls. As with many towns
Chorley grew rapidly with the industrial revolution with a
population growth from 4,500 in 1801 to 17,000 in 1871.
New Town Hall, Chorley, from
The Building News 22 Jan 1875.
New lifts, stairs and glass ceiling
Photographs of the Town Hall refurbishment.
The magnificent Lancastrian room.
Chorley's size and
wealth soon gave it the ability to receive a Royal Charter and
achieve Borough status. A new Town Hall and a Mayor, Augustus
William Smethurst, to represent the Monarch were part of the
process. The Town Hall was extensively re-furbished around
2004-5 and we were shown the new entrance area where the
original staircase used to be. Two lifts and narrower stairs
replaced the original but a more modern look was given including
a view of the clock-tower through a glass ceiling. Tim then
showed us a display of photographs of the refurbishment works in
the magnificent Lancastrian Room.
We then descended
another series of steps down into the basement where the
original butter-market used to be. When the Town Hall was opened
the market was held on the west side of the building near the
existing Police Station. The cool interior of the Town Hall
cellar was ideal for the butter market. Also in the cellars used
to be a ‘Cold War’ monitoring station which was part of the
E.C.N. (Emergency Communication Network). During the 1950s and
60s a frosty relationship with the Soviet Union caused many
monitoring stations and ‘bunkers’ to be constructed all over the
UK. Photographs were shown of a local bunker on Denham Hill,
Brindle. The Town Hall monitoring station was dismantled some
years ago but a replacement co-ordination room still exists.
Access to it is through ‘door 21’ and public entry is not
permitted, not even for the Heritage Open Weekend!
In the cellar where the butter market used to be.
Inside the Council Chamber.
The next part of
the tour was to the Council Chamber. Brendan gave us an
introduction to the Mayor’s insignia which consists mainly of
the mace and chains. Then the Mayor, Councillor Terry Brown and
Mayoress, his wife Julie, joined us in the Council Chamber. The
chain is of particular interest as it has pendants on it for
Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee (50year reign) in 1887 and
diamond jubilee (60years) in 1897. It is thought to be the only
one containing both jubilees. When the Town Hall opened in 1879
6,500 commemorative medals were given to all the children of the
Borough. We were shown what is thought to be the only two left.
In spite of requests in the Chorley Guardian further medals have
not been located. Tea, coffee and biscuits followed in a meeting
room where more interesting documents were on display to keep us
all occupied. The two tours were very well attended, 30 on the
first and 20 on the second. I think if more had turned up it
would have been too crowded. All concerned with the organisation
should be congratulated for a magnificent event.