Taken from Craven Herald 17 Aug 1923 by Keith P

Modern and Spacious Premises

Villager’s splendid efforts

On Thursday next, August 23rd, the inhabitants of Grassington and the surrounding villages will see the realisation of a project for which during the last eighteen months or so they have striven assiduously and with marked enterprise. It is nothing more nor less than the official opening of the new Town Hall. The old Town Hall with its faded front and sad-faced clock, had long been too small for any social function of size and importance, and in February of 1921 the Parish Council re-launched the scheme for extending and partly reconstructing the building. A Town Hall Extension Committee was formed with Mr H Thistlethwaite as Chairman, Mr GJ Harker as secretry and Mr GF Gardner and Mr James Harrison as joint treasurers. The committee was greatly helped in the endeavours by a gift of land from Mrs Sleary of Leeds, and also a further area owned by the Parish Council, while they have also been indebted to the Duke of Devonshire for a supply of stone which has been carted down from the Moor.

2023 note; This stone is likely to have come from some of the mine related buildings on the Moor

A Vast Improvement on the Old

To day the extension scheme has practically been completed. It is yet devoid of any furnishings and the supply of electric current has still to be switched on, but sufficient can be seen to warrant the statement that when actually completed the new Town Hall will be a vast improvement on the old, which, it is interesting to note, was the gift of a former Duke of Devonshire. The chief improvement has been the construction of a large concert room, capable of seating approximately 380 persons. An admirable and spacious stage has been constructed at the northern end of this room which measures roughly 80 feet by 35. The stage itself protrudes into the room for a distance of 21 feet and is 25 feet in width. Movable plush chairs are to be fixed in the concert room, thus making it possible to use the hall for dances and whist drives. Provision is being made also for a cinematograph performances, two machines being in the course of installation, while a transformer set, to be used for reducing the voltage from the mains to the requisite voltage for the instruments has already been fixed in place.

2023 note: The rows of plush seating were still in use in the 1980’s. They were anchored into brass discs which can still be seen in the floor of the main hall.
Whist drives (for adults) and beetle drives (for children) were coming to the end of their popularity by late 1970’s.
The cinematic projector was removed after the 1980’s and is possibly in the Museum at Bradford.

The stage, which will be admirably suited for performances by the Grassington Amateurs or the local Choral Society, will be fitted up with electric footlights and a fire-proof screen. At the rear two commodious room have been provided, with sanitary conveniences and separate entrances and exits. An admirable system of ventilation has been adopted. The foul air will be driven upwards by a motor driven fan, and fresh air will be admitted by means of ventilation fixed in the walls of the main hall. In winter the fresh air will be warmed by means of radiators fixed immediately beneath the ventilators.

The old Concert room it has been decided to convert into two compartments by means of a partition. One will be used as a Billiard room and the other as a reading room, thus liberating the two rooms on each side of the Caretaker’s house, as presently used for these purposes. On special occasions the old hall will be utilised as a supper and tea room, and the ante-room adjoining will be made to serve on these occasions as a sort of kitchen for the preparation of teas. When not required for this purpose, the ante-room will be set aside as a second billiard room.

2023 note: A three-quarter size snooker table was in the kitchen after the 1980’s. Similarly, daily newspapers were available for villagers to read and discuss. The benches outside were the House of Lords and those outside (modern) Rokeby were the house of Commons. The village grandees held court on the appropriate bench when village matters were to be chewed over.

The old reading room will be utilised as a games room, but it has not yet been decided to what use the present billiard room will be put. It will also be possible to use the dressing rooms at the rear of the stage for Committee rooms. On the ground floor a boiler house has been constructed.

A new entrance has been constructed as the junction of Main street with Chapel Street, giving access to a wide staircase of fifteen steps which leads to a “crush” landing on one side are cloak rooms. From the landing access can be obtained to any of the rooms. Five exits have been provided all leading to Moor Lane.

2023 note: Part of the Millennium project to build the Octagon included adding corridors to each side of the main hall and moving the stairs. The stairs originally came up behind where the bar is now. Immediately to the left, where the modern gap is, were the cloak rooms and Ladies toilets. The Gents were down stairs. Some of the original stair rail has been re-used on these modern stairs.

The Financial Position

The financial aspect of the scheme is one that also deserves consideration. The estimated cost of the undertaking was at first put at a little over £3,000, but it is now believed that the total cost will not be less than £4,000. A subscription list aimed at £1,000 and supported chiefly by local residents standing as between £1,100 and £1,200. in order that the scheme might proceed an overdraft was obtained from one of the banks and it is understood that it will be possible to borrow, if necessary, from the bank an equivalent to the difference between the actual cost and the subscription. It is hoped that between £200 and £300 will be received as a result of the opening ceremony but the big effort is to take place in November next and will take the form of a Bazaar. It is confidently hoped that the Bazaar, which in the first instance was to have been held in conjunction with the opening ceremony, will bring in at least another £1,000. The Extension Committee thus has raised by means of subscriptions and the bazaar about half the total cost, so that they will then have only the bank overdraft to repay.

It is not expected that the overtaking will be paid for, for two or three years but the Committee are confident that when they have tapped other sources of revenue, together with the profits from the Town Hall, they will be able to meet their liabilities. When that is done, it is proposed to hand the building over to the Parish Council, who will be responsible for its maintenance and management.

2023 note: £4,000 in 1923 is approx £300,000 in today’s money

Next Thursday’s Ceremony

An extensive programme of events has been arranged in connection with next Thursday’s opening ceremony, which will be performed by the Marquis of Hartington. Commencing at one o’clock there will be a series of sports at the conclusion of which a procession will be formed from the field to the Town Hall for the opening ceremony at four o’clock. Tea and a cinematic performance will follow concluding with a fancy dress ball in the evening.

The London Midland and Scottish company will run a late train from Grassington at 10.25 pm and excursion tickets will be issued from the principal local stations.

2023 Note: The Marquis of Hartington is the heir to the Duke of Devonshire. In the 1980’s there were still 3 football teams in Skipton named after railway companies: “Skipton LMS”, “Skipton BR” and possibly “Skipton MR” (Midland Railway).  “Grassington station” was actually next to Threshfield Court Care Home. There is still a Station House at the end of Piece Fields and the track bed can be seen running away past Linton towards Swinden Quarry. Before the 1990’s, Threshfield Court was originally the Wilson Arms Hotel, built by Matthew Wilson, the first MP in Skipton. His statue is outside Skipton Library.