• James McGee

Definitive proof that it's not just whippets and flat caps....

A report I caught on the news this morning - no, not Trump's sacking of the Mooch but something far more noteworthy: it's the opening day of the Piece Hall in Halifax.

The what, where? I hear you say.

Okay, I'll own up. I had no idea the place existed either - and I come from proud Yorkshire stock!

But maybe I should have known because the Hall has occupied the site since 1779. It was originally built to support the trading of ‘pieces’ of woollen cloth and has been a meeting point for Halifax’s commercial, civic and cultural life for almost 250 years.

The four sides were occupied by over 300 small rooms, set on three levels on the eastern side tapering away to two levels towards the west. The bottom gallery is known as the 'Arcade,' the one above is the 'Rustic' and the top one is the 'Colonnade.'

So now you know.

Over the years its fortunes fluctuated as the changes of the Industrial Revolution took effect. The development of the railways meant the centre of the wool trade moved from Halifax to Bradford. The premises were then put to use as a wholesale fruit and veg market, while various public events also took place there.

In 1861 there was some excitement - presumably as there was nowt on TV - when a tightrope was strung from a corner to the one diagonally opposite and the world famous 'Blondin,' who'd recently crossed Niagara Falls on a cable, carried out his act to the excitement of the crowd below.

A restoration did take place during the 1970s after the Hall took on a new lease of life with market stalls in the courtyard and shops using the rooms on the galleries. Special events such as vintage car exhibitions were arranged in the open air and a stage was made available in the centre of the square for musical and dramatic performances.

The fear was that the site was going to be turned into a car park - yes really - but, thank goodness common sense prevailed and now, after undergoing a £19 million conservation and transformation programme, it's beginning a brand new lease on life as a cultural and commercial centre.

And it looks fantastic. I mean, if you take a gander at the photos you'd be forgiven for thinking you were looking at an Italian piazza.

The plan is for the Hall to host all sorts of events from fairs and art exhibition to theatre and musical recitals.

Anyway, just thought it was worth mentioning.

You never know, maybe The Boss could be persuaded to make a detour during his next UK tour. I'll bet the acoustics are awesome...