A week or two ago (March 8) I said I'd visit the Piece Hall in Halifax, when I had chance. Well... mission accomplished. Here it is. You may remember I said that the Yorkshire Pennine area was the centre of the worsted handloom weaving trade in the late 18th century. Several towns built Cloth or Piece Halls: markets where the cottage weavers could sell their 'pieces' of cloth. But only the one in Halifax remains.
The weavers in Calderdale specialised in a type of hard-wearing cloth called 'kersey', and the medieval kersey market was held near the parish church in Halifax. The first cloth hall was built in 1555 by the Lord of the Manor of Halifax, who took a tax of one penny for each piece of cloth sold. The magnificent Georgian Piece Hall was opened on New Year's Day 1779. Its size and splendour demonstrated the importance of the woollen kersey trade to the area. It was designed by Thomas Bradley, a local man (he was only 22) who became chief engineer of the Calder & Hebble Navigation (canal). Built around a quadrangle, it has 315 small rooms which were owned either by individual clothiers or shared by several traders. Those who could not afford the £28 4s subscription could sell their cloth in the central courtyard. The site slopes, so one of the sides has two levels and the opposite side has three; each level differs in the style of its columns and archways.
The 19th century industrialisation of the wool worsted trade rendered redundant the original purpose of the Piece Hall, and it became a general market instead. The building still survives as small rooms - shops, cafés and galleries - with a central market area, but is a bit run-down these days. There are plans to restore and improve it, and an application for Heritage Lottery funding is being prepared. If that is successful, the Piece Hall will be closed from 2012 to 2014 for extensive renovations.
The church spire behind is all that remains of the Square Congregational Church, destroyed by fire in 1971. It is now home to a breeding pair of peregrine falcons, which can be sometimes be seen flying over the area.