A historic painting by the famous Alfred Walter Bayes has been conserved and is one of many fascinating things to see on the new taster tours of Todmorden Town Hall.
The painting of a cricket match at Centre Vale has been on display in the Grade I listed building since 1977. The picture was suffering from a heavy layer of surface dirt, cracks in the paint and rust damage, so Calderdale Council funded specialist cleaning and repair to bring it back to its former glory.
The ‘Cricket at Centre Vale’ painting is full of historical significance. Not only does it feature a local scene, Alfred Walter Bayes was born in Todmorden in 1831 and married Emily Anne Fielden, of the Platts House branch of the locally renowned Fielden family. Todmorden Town Hall was funded by the Fielden family and officially opened on 3 April 1875.
The newly restored masterpiece now hangs proudly in the well-used Committee Room A where key meetings take place. The timing is fitting, as 6 August 2016 marks 125 years since the Fielden Family gifted the Town Hall to the people of Todmorden. Back then, Todmorden Local Board thanked the Fielden family for a “noble and generous gift”.
People can see the picture and hear about its story by taking a free organised taster tour of the Town Hall.
Taster tours are being held on the first Sunday of each month, led by experienced volunteers and lasting about an hour. The next one runs on Sunday 6 March. All tours start at County Bridge on Halifax Road at 2pm and there is no need to book.
Visitors will see the ornate ballroom which once featured an indoor water fountain, the elegant staircase and the Council Chamber which once doubled up as a Magistrates and Civil Court. The volunteer tour guides bring the building’s stories to life by sharing their own personal insights into its history.
The tours are part of the Todmorden Development Board’s aim to increase the use of the building and celebrate its heritage. The ‘Telling the Story’ project has been made possible by a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £45,700 and a Council contribution of £3000.
Hundreds of people have been on the tours so far, giving wonderful feedback. The Town Hall’s new heritage centre is also proving popular, giving visitors access to historic objects and digital archive material. It will soon feature specially created costumes relevant to the building for visitors to try on.
Cllr Steve Sweeney, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said:
“The Bayes’ painting has an important link between the past, present and future of Todmorden Town Hall. That’s what the ‘Telling the Story’ project is all about – recognising the important building’s heritage, and also injecting new life and opening it up for many more generations to come.”
Special bookings are being taken for groups who would like a tea and tour around the Town Hall. There are also opportunities to become a Todmorden Town Hall volunteer to lead guided tours or research the stories of the iconic building. Contact Daniel Jessop at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01706 548105 / 07912 891370.