Victoria Hall: A History

A Jubilee Gift for Glossop

A gift of £2000 was given in late October 1886, by the 22-year-old mill owner, Herbert Rhodes, for a public building for the people of Glossop in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. He requested that the gift was to go towards a free library or public baths.[1] Captain Edward Partington announced in the same week that he was going to supplement Herbert Rhodes’ gift with an additional £2000.

The Jubilee Memorial Committee was formed as a sub-committee of Glossop Borough Council on 20th October 1886.[2] On 11th November they held a meeting to decide what type of public building should be built using the generous gift of £4000 from Rhodes and Partington. Daniel and Samuel Wood, mill owners, had also announced the week before the generous gifts of a hospital, public baths and a park. So it was at this meeting it was decided the Rhodes and Partington gift would be used for a free library and public hall.

There were many libraries in Glossop at this time. The calico printer, Edmund Potter, recorded in his 1856 survey of Glossop that there were 27 libraries with 9618 volumes and the number grew later in the 19th Century.[3] There were not as many large public venues in Glossop and before Victoria Hall was built, the Town Hall was practically the only place where balls, bazaars and large public meetings were held.[4]

A Deadlock

After a consultation with Captain Partington about his offer of £2000 in November 1886, Rhodes and Partington, “…went together to a first-class architect at Manchester, and arranged for plans…” [5] The architect was Frederick Bennett Smith from the architect firm, Darbyshire and Smith, who were also responsible for amongst other buildings, the Palace Theatre in Manchester and were famed as theatre architects.

Photograph of the Victoria Hall

On 29th December 1886, a Council meeting was held and Captain Partington made an appeal to the ratepayers of Glossop to start a subscription list “…in order to give the people of Glossop an opportunity of contributing towards the usefulness of these buildings…”[6]. The proposition was not carried and the subject dropped. By this time the donors, Rhodes and Partington, had both added an extra £500 pounds to their gift to bring the total to £5000.

The plans now in hand a site needed to be found, which was to be gifted by Lord Howard. Four sites were considered and either rejected by Lord Howard or the donors. These were a site close to Victoria Bridge, a site that was part of the old Glossop Cricket Ground on Ellison Street, a site on Howard Street and finally Lord Howard’s agent, Mr Hawke, offered the site on Fauvel Road. Herbert Rhodes was not keen on this site as he believed Lord Howard wished them to erect it in a back street or in some other place that was not centrally situated.[7] At a meeting of the Council’s General Purposes Committee on 9th February 1887, Rhodes and Partington declared that being unable to obtain a suitable site from Lord Howard for the free library and public hall “…they felt compelled to revert to their former offer to the council of £4000, and leave the matter in the hands of the council.”[8]

The Council sent a deputation to Lord Howard and after some discussion, the site at the junction of Talbot Street and Fauvel Road was finally agreed upon for the free library and public hall in March 1887.

Alterations to the Plans

The site not being the one the donors had in mind and with their reduced offer of £4000, the original building plans had to be significantly altered to fit both the site and the budget. However, this did not stop the Committee putting out tenders for the construction of the building. On 15th June 1887, the altered plans had been accepted, as had the tender from the builders, Messrs Fairbrothers of Hyde.  Permission was given for building work to be started. There was a rush to get the site ready for the foundation stones to be laid as part of Glossop’s Jubilee Celebrations.

Jubilee Gifts to Glossop

Photograph of the front doors of the Victoria Hall

On 30th July 1887, there was great rejoicing and celebration as Glossop received its four jubilee gifts that totalled £50,000. These were a hospital given by Daniel Wood, public baths and a park given by Mr and Mrs Samuel Wood and a free library and public hall given by Herbert Rhodes and Captain Edward Partington. There was a grand procession that started in Norfolk Square and went firstly for the stone laying at Wood’s Hospital, then to plant a beech tree in the park and then followed the stone laying at the public baths. The final ceremony was the laying of the first stones for the public hall and library by Rhodes and Partington, with full masonic rites. The procession then returned to Norfolk Square and in the evening the Mayor gave a private banquet for 140 guests in the Town Hall.[9]

A White Elephant

With the construction now underway, many of the finer details were considered by the Jubilee Memorial Committee, such as who the conveyance of the land should be made to, who the contract should be signed by and whether the Free Libraries Act should be adopted. Like its beginnings, these did not run smoothly.

The Jubilee Memorial Committee decided the land should be conveyed to the seven members of the Committee, which included Councillors Rhodes and Partington, and that they should have management of the library. It was “explained that this course had become necessary because of the difficulty of having the library and assembly room under one roof. They were desirous if possible of making the building self-supporting…If it would not support itself the Free Libraries Act could be adopted…”[10] and the building given to the Council. The land was conveyed by Lord Howard to the seven members of the Jubilee Memorial Committee on 18th October 1887. The conveyance includes a covenant that the building on the land should be “…partly for the purpose of a public free library museum school of science and school of art…or any two or more of such purposes always including a public free library and partly to the purpose of a public hall…”[11]

Photograph of the Victoria Hall c.1902
The Committee also decided the contract would be best signed by Herbert Rhodes and Captain Partington, as with them donating the entire funds, they may have full power over the management of the work and deviation from the contract.[12] In the end, it was only Partington who signed the contract, therefore the full liability for the building costs would fall on him. Despite all the cost-cutting measures including the use of cheaper materials and the deletion of many decorative features the final bill, excluding furniture, came to £5200; £1200 over the budget of the donors.[13] In May 1888 a meeting of the ratepayers of Glossop was held in the Town Hall. Councillors Rhodes and Partington declared that the building could not be completed unless the 1855 Public Libraries Act was adopted, meaning a penny rate would be collected that would go towards the running of the building. After further explanations a very large majority declared in favour of adopting the Act.[14]

The Victoria Hall

Despite all the issues the building was completed by the end of December 1888. The free library and public hall was formally opened on Saturday, December 20th 1888. The final measurements were “The public hall is 98 ft. long and 36 ft. wide and will accommodate 1,000 persons. The Reading Room and Library is 72 ft. long and 36 ft. wide. The Lecture Hall and Museum is 36 ft. long and 23 ft. 6 in. wide.”[15] There was also a well-attended garden with shrubs and a gravel walk.

It was only the reading room that opened in 1888 for people to consult newspapers and periodicals. The library did not properly open until 1891, as due to all the issues with finances and construction, there were not enough books until a few generous donations had been given and the penny rate had been going for a few years.

The public hall and lecture hall, on the other hand were very well patronised. A theatre license was acquired so touring theatre companies could perform in the hall. In the first year alone there were roughly 14 concerts, 7 balls, 8 lectures, 1 dinner, 5 meetings, 1 bazaar and 10 theatricals.

Photograph of the stage in the Victoria Hall

Over the years, the Victoria Hall has been a hub of the local community being the setting for concerts, bazaars, dramatic performances, hosting dances for the local factories as well as housing the public library.

130 Years and a New Beginning

2016 marks exactly 130 years since Herbert Rhodes first announced his generous gift of a public building for the people of Glossop.

The Victoria Hall is now in the trust of High Peak Borough Council. The first floor has been too unsafe to use for many years and the whole building is in need of restoration to bring it back into full use and its former glory.

On 3rd October 2016, Derbyshire County Council was granted planning permission to proceed with building an extension on to the Adult Education Centre, providing a new state of the art library for Glossop. This means the library will be removed from the Victoria Hall and into the new Library.

This will create the opportunity for the ambitious and exciting Victoria Arts Centre project to “save the Victoria Hall” and keep it available for community use, while providing another great facility for the town. Please click here to read about Our Vision for the Victoria Hall.

Over these 130th anniversary years, I will be expanding in more detail on certain aspects of the history of the Victoria Hall in our news blog and linking them back to this history.

Kate Raine

All photographs © Glossop Heritage Trust

[1] Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 29 October 1886 in British Newspaper Archive on www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 1st Nov 2016.

[2] Derbyshire Record Office, Ref: D3700/13/1, Glossop Borough Council: Jubilee Committee Minutes, 1886-1892

[3] John Smith, The Glossop WEA book.

[4] Robert Hamnett, Historical Notes of Glossop.

[5] Glossopdale Chronicle, 12 February 1887, The Proposed Public Hall and Free Library: A Deadlock on microfilm at Glossop Library.

[6] Derby Daily telegraph, 1 January 1887 in British Newspaper Archive on www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 1stNov 2016.

[7] Glossopdale Chronicle, 12 February 1887, The Proposed Public Hall and Free Library: A Deadlock on microfilm at Glossop Library.

[8] Derbyshire Record Office, Ref: D3700/3/3, Glossop Borough Council: General Purposes Committee, 1881-1892

[9] Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 1 August 1887 in British Newspaper Archive on www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 1st Nov 2016.

[10] Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 2 July 1887 in British Newspaper Archive on www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 1st Nov 2016.

[11] Derbyshire Record Office, Ref: D5162/8/18, Attested copy of a piece of land on Talbot Street and Fauvel Road in Glossop, 27 Feb 1888.

[12] Derbyshire Record Office, Ref: D3700/13/1, Glossop Borough Council: Jubilee Committee Minutes, 1886-1892

[13] Joseph Dempsey Doyle, The Victoria Hall and Free Library, in CWS magazine, 1954

[14] Sheffield Independent, 17 May 1888, in British Newspaper Archive on www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 1stNov 2016.

[15] Robert Hamnett, Historical Notes of Glossop.

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