I called it the Colosseum when I first saw it on Waterloo Road. Tall pillars of washed, yellowed stone standing as Stalybridge’s own St.Louis Arch. Several layers of plateaued stone form its seats watching a courtyard of rock which has sprouted life in between the cracks. This little plaza used to be about 3 stories higher and had about 15 more rooms when it used to be Stalybridge’s Old Town Hall.
Erected in 1831 and opened on the 30th December (or 31st December dependent on which historical record you follow) it was created to be a Town Halland Market for local people to sell their wares. It was celebrated upon it’s opening with the streets laden with music as 9 whole bands played with full fervour to draw people to it. (Clearly too much time on their hands.)
The New Town Hall was a place of business, of commerce and of history. Its first caretaker or ‘Market Keeper’ as they were originally known was John Oldham whose duties included being a Watchman over the daytime activities and keeping order among the more uproarious bargainers and traders. His duty was also to clean up the Market area after the days trade came to an end.
It was used to trade not only raw cotton and manufactured cotton goods but also had heavy emphasis on being a Fishmongers too as in 1843 a contractor named Briscoe was employed to erect a Fish Market within its walls, because of its location near the River Tame, the Fishmongers was a wonderful place for people to buy fish caught on the day. Briscoe was also commissioned by the Town Hall to include holding cells for the town drunkards and criminals to stew in before their trials.
Stalybridge Town Hall stood as a managerial building for the town’s deeds, decrees and decisions for over a century after that with its own in-house council voted in democratically to decide what was best for the town. The council wasn’t moved until late in the 20th Century in 1974 where the councillors joined with other neighbouring areas to become the Metropolitan Council.
The Marketplace had been moved by this time, to the Victoria Civic Hall located closer to the Canal in 1868 after its public opening. This wasn’t the first time the Market was proposed to move though as entire streets were discussed as reasonable land to erect another Market. There was even a proposition to put metal grids over the river and set up the stalls over the streaming water.
Being as it had been standing for over 140 years at this point its wooden beams and rafters were, unfortunately, not what they had used to be. A fire, on the night of June 18th 1989, which started in one of the upstairs rooms, regrettably caused too much damage which meant the local authority deemed the building as unrepairable. This noble building was, sadly, demolished in 1990 leaving only the door arches behind.
An old ballad was wrote about Stalybridge Market called ‘Stalybridge Market on Saturday Night.’ It can be found on the Internet via the 70’s band ‘Fivepenny Piece’. It can be found here:
You can view our Facebook Album in memory of our Town Hall here