The Piece Hall, Blackledge,
t: 01422 525200
Halifax is home to the oldest remaining cloth hall in Britain - the Grade I listed Piece Hall. Built in 1779 for the trading of ‘pieces' of woollen cloth, the Piece Hall has had many roles throughout its long history. The building is currently undergoing an amazing £19m transformation with funding from Calderdale Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
It will reopen in 2017 as a high quality visitor destination filled with shops and restaurants, events and a Heritage Interpretation Centre. Relax with friends in one of the cafes or sit in the beautiful courtyard and soak up the atmosphere, enjoying events and outdoor entertainment.
The Piece Hall opened on New Year’s Day in 1779 as a public market for the sale of “pieces” (a 30 yard length of fabric produced on a handloom) of woven woollen kersey cloth and cost over £9,000 to build, equivalent to over half a million pounds in today’s money.
The money was raised by subscriptions of £28 4s, paid for access to each of the 315 12 foot by 7 foot rooms by clothiers, to store their cloth between the weekly market days and to offer shelter to buyers and sellers in poor weather. Those manufacturers who could not afford a room held shares with others or conducted their business from stalls in the central open court.
The sloping ground on which the Piece Hall was built influenced the design of its grand quadrangle. To maintain an even roofline there are two storeys at the West side and three at the East. Each of these three levels has a distinctive style. The lower level, with its large arched entrances, is known as “The Arcade”. The next level, “The Rustic”, runs from ground floor on the West side to first floor on the East and is characterised by solid square columns with chamfered joints. The upper level is called “The Colonnade” and is distinguished by its cylindrical Tuscan columns.
Trade took place each Saturday. The bell would be rung to signal the start of the day’s trading at 10am and again to announce the close of the market at 12 Noon. Anyone caught buying or selling cloth after the bell had stopped ringing was fined 5 shillings. Cloth that had been sold could be removed up to 4pm, after which the building was closed until the following Saturday.
The Industrial Revolution, with the introduction of powered machinery and the evolution of the factory system, brought about the decline and eventual extinction of the small scale, self-employed clothier that used the Piece Hall for trade. By the early 1830s, less than 200 rooms were occupied. As the weekly textile market declined, the building was used for a variety of social gatherings, eventually becoming a wholesale fish, fruit and vegetable market in 1871.The Piece Hall was to remain a wholesale market for almost a century.
The Piece Hall was not the earliest, nor the largest, of Yorkshire’s cloth halls, but it is the only one to survive in substantial form and so today; is truly unique. From its inception, the Piece Hall was a stunning combination of commerce and culture, an icon of hard business but also a broader statement about the history, the lives and the values of the surrounding community. This fascinating mix of purpose and idealism – business, arts and people, continues to influence and drive the Piece Hall’s role today.