First opening in 1889, this local Middlesbrough landmark has been witness to over 125 years of crime, drama and various sources of entertainment, stories that I am sure even the biggest film directors would envy.
Closing it’s doors in April 2015, the hall has undergone a huge £7.8 million refurbishment funded by Middlesbrough Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. This week, we were lucky enough to be invited to take a sneak peek around the newly refurbished Middlesbrough Town Hall.
Originally built to house local public services such as the police and fire brigade, the building still boasts many original features of that time. Thanks to the hard work of the team behind the refurbishment they have been beautifully restored to preserve and more importantly showcase the vast amount of history the town hall holds.
Walking around the hall, you really feel the vast amount of history this building holds and how it has played even such a small role in peoples lives right here in the local town. Holding a little bit of history in our own heart having walked across the main hall stage in 2010, graduating from BA (Hons) Interior Design.
On entry, you are greeted by the brand new glazed entranceway and immediately met with the huge transformation that has occurred and the meticulous attention to detail that has clearly been such an important part of the brief set for this project.
Walking into the hall you are now met with a ground level and suspended level which was formally known as the carriageway, you can really picture how this area worked in the 1900’s but more importantly how the new area will become the heart of the building as it once was. Home to the new ticket office, cafe/bar, and seating areas, the street like feel is flooded with gorgeous natural light from the stunning roof light running the full depth of the building.
One of the main focuses for the refurbishment has been to bring more flexibility to the hall, this has been achieved by opening out a number of smaller rooms to create spaces that will now allow for smaller events, seminars, acoustic sets, yoga sessions and dance classes but certainly has no limits.
The Main Hall and Crypt that locals have more recently acquainted with Middlesbrough Town Hall have been brought right up to date with the most hi-tech sound and lighting equipment installed throughout, the same that is in fact installed in the Royal Albert Hall. Gigs and shows will never have sounded or looked as good with the hope that it will now attract even more local, national and international talent to the area.
Other areas that were not made available to the public but have enjoyed the benefits of the refurbishment are the Court Room and Cells, which admittedly on entry blew us away. Easily our favourite part of Middlesbrough Town Hall, the Court room and cells are not only steeped in raw history which is evident by etchings on press benches and jail cell doors but is home to the most spectacular ceiling and lighting detail. Boarded up in the 1970’s the refurbishment revealed a plethera of stained glass and statement lighting, now exposed and given some TLC to showcase its true beauty. The events staff look forward to utilising this stunning space with small events and acoustic gigs and being the only real-life courtroom set up of its kind in the UK, hope to attract tv/movie filming which would be fantastic for the hall and area.
When we thought the town hall couldn’t offer anymore, we were guided to the police cells which sit at street level. The history of this area is so interesting and with all original features intact it transports you straight back to the time when they were working cells for court trials, drunken pub goers and kennels for police dogs alike. With such character and stories, it was fantastic to be told that this area will be lovingly kept as is and offer visitors a look back at the local history with all 4 cells set up as varying cell scenes and police mug shots.
I have to admit, upon receiving an invitation to view the newly refurbished Town Hall, my first thought was ‘Great, here’s a topic for a blog post’ but taking the time to learn about the history and importance Middlesbrough Town Hall has played on this once hamlet of 100 people, I have pure admiration that these stone walls have stood the test of time and been central to the growth and transformation to this shipyard town, one that I moved to for University and am now proud to call home.
Re-opening at the end of June with a host of spectacular planned events, Middlesbrough Town Hall will be open to the public day and night for coffee pit stops, a bite to eat and an endless array of events, gigs, classes, and shows.
Take a look at their website for more information or to hire one of the fantastic new spaces and see for yourself what an amazing building it has always been but more importantly, will now be, for Middlesbrough’s growing future.