Leeds Town Hall: 160 years of history

At the end of next month we take our Big Mini Big Band to play at the beautiful town hall in Leeds, it’ll be our first visit since the brilliant culmination concert of the BBC Radio Leeds community Big Band Project back in October 2012 featuring special guests Gregory Porter and Olly Murs.

The plan to construct a large public hall in Leeds was first agreed in July 1850, the council proposed it should be financed by selling shares in the building to the tune of £10, around £1300 in today’s money, but times were tough and little interest was shown.  The decision to fund the build by other means was passed a year later and in 1852 Leeds corporation held an open competition for architects to put forward their designs.

The contract was won by 29 year old Cuthbert Broderick a young chap from Hull who had travelled all over Europe in his early 20’s admiring the architecture whislt enjoying a gap year or two.  Understandably the committee had initial reservations about the capabilities of such a young unknown, so added a clause to his contract stating he wouldn’t receive a penny over the accepted building estimate of £39,000 approx. £5.25 million today.

During it’s troubled construction the design was modified and or altered many times, most controversially by the suggested inclusion of a tower originally costed at an additional £6k.  Those in favour dreamed of the Continental associations of an impressive and grand town hall.  Those against argued that “A tower would cost money and would only be good to look at, not to use.” Maybe the inclusion of the clock and bell helped remedy that argument as few had watches at that time.

As you’d expect plans for the town hall’s opening had to be made well in advance so much so, the clock tower had yet to be completed by the time Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived at Leeds station on the 6th September 1858, met by an estimated crowd of half a million plus. They stayed overnight at the mayor’s gaff, he must have put on a nice spread as she knighted him next day on her way to open the Town Hall.

I shall think of this and all the historic events that have taken place within her walls over the last 160 years as we set up for our concert on 30th June.