If you didn’t know, Middlesbrough’s Town Hall is currently undergoing a multi-million pound restoration with the hope of opening in spring 2018. When I was offered a sneaky look around I jumped at the chance. Little did I know I’d be on scaffolding some 19 metres up in the air – it certainly wasn’t for the faint hearted!
A little introduction
Middlesbrough Town Hall’s original construction was completed in 1889 taking close to six years to build. The architect was George Gordon Hoskins who was responsible for building a plethora of large and important buildings throughout the north east. The initial cost of building was £130,000 – very expensive in those times. Imagine what you could get for that amount in modern times; substantially less! The building has never had a major restoration since this date and some will argue it has been needed for a long time.
The restoration scheme will enable much wider access to visitors including the once closed off areas of the Victorian courtroom, cells and fire station. The plans also include a new main box office area and walkway, cafe and bar areas and a new community space. It really feels like the plan is for the Town Hall to become a focal point of the town centre again and not just a place to see one of your favourite bands or comedians. It is all very exciting!
On to the tour of the Town Hall
The reason I was invited for a sneak peek was due to the fact that there will soon be ‘Hard Hat Heritage Tours’ running. The first of which are the 7th & 8th September – both of dates are fully subscribed. There is the potential for more tours so keep an eye out on Love Middlesbrough’s Facebook page.
The tour pretty much gives you an all access pass into the main areas under renovation. The first stop was the roof of the Victorian courtroom. I had to climb up some very narrow steps to be told that I was 17 metres about the ground. It was fascinating to see how the stain glass windows had been restored. The attention to detail with them is something you probably wouldn’t notice when looking up from the ground. There is one pane for each of the countries that make up the United Kingdom.
We then went back down to the ground floor where we had a look at what will be the main thoroughfare consisting of the new box office, bars and more. It will also act as one of the entrance points through to the main hall.
We were then greeted by a maze of scaffolding in the main hall. Having actually performed on stage here a couple of times in the past it was really interesting to see such an iconic room look so different. The scaffolding in the main hall took 2 months to erect – a really big task! We also went on the top deck of the scaffolding which is 19 metres above the ground.
Down to the crypt….
It is very interesting down in the crypt because the restoration has opened up the old fire station and police cells. The cells were so creepy with the dust from the near by sand blasting making them seem even more so!
I really enjoyed the sneak peekof the Town Hall and if more tour dates are released I highly recommend ; especially if you are interested in the history of the town you call home. I’d like to thank the guys at Kier Group Construction accommodating a tour on a busy construction site. I feel like the Town Hall’s restoration is just another part of the regeneration of Middlesbrough’s town centre, similar to that of Bedford Street, that will improve the area. I also feel like the potential for the area to encourage outside investment and business will also be on the up because of restoration projects of this calibre and importance.
Hope you enjoyed this post!