History of Brackley Town Hall

BTH-history

 

Brackley Town Hall was commissioned by Scroop Egerton, who was the 4th Earl of Bridgewater, he later went on to become the Marquess of Brackley. It was built with an open ground floor to be used as a market for the local wool and lace trades, with a stairway up to an enclosed first floor used for civic events.

The Town Hall was placed in the middle of the two fairly separate areas of town, Lower and Upper Brackley. It was hoped that the Town Hall would link the two ‘halves’ of Brackley. One of the themes of the restoration is to echo this original aim of the building in linking communities by involving new residents to Brackley in all the activities surrounding the regeneration so everyone who lives in Brackley feels linked to the building when it reopens in 2018.

1704

The Beginning

Brackley Town Hall was built by Scroop Egerton, 4th Earl of Bridgewater, for Brackley Corporation. The original building contract of 19th September 1704, survives and names John Wootton, a local Brackley mason, as the builder, working to a draft or drawing. He was to build a new town hall or Market House for the town which would be 4 bays long, 2 storeys high with an additional attic with an impressive clock tower.

1706

Brackley Town Hall Opened

Brackley Town Hall Opened. Features of the 1706 building:
Ground Floor

  • Stone flagged floor
  • Exposed stone ashlar walls and piers, with an open arcade for markets. Brackley has historic links to the wool, lace and corn market
  • Stone or timber stairs rising to the First Floor, leading from the centre of what is now the Lower Hall

First Floor

  • Timber boarded floor, possibly wide oak planks – Walls plastered throughout or with dado panelling
  • Some access to the attic storey would have been available as the presence of dormer windows in early prints implies that the attic had a use
  • A separate Jury Room with a fireplace

1707

Manorial Court

Manorial Court held in the upper hall of the Town Hall. It was used as a Court of Law and Council chamber during this time.

1784

Rev J Wesley

The Rev J Wesley the founder of the Methodist movement, records in his journal “Returning through Brackley (from Banbury) I was informed that notice had been given of my preaching there at nine in the Town Hall: So I began without delay. The congregation was large and attentive but seemed to understand me no more that if I had been talking Greek”

1837

Ground floor still flagged flooring

Ground floor still flagged flooring except perhaps the Constables Room might have been paved differently. External walls mostly as 1704 except for the infilling in the North West corner for prisoner cells and Constables Room which is likely to have been in brick but possibly stone.

1876

Railings and windows infilling the arcade.

Ground floor still flagged flooring. Railings and windows infilling the arcade, creating the enclosed lower hall we know today.

First Floor – “Church Pew” panelling was introduced as a new element to replace damaged or “old-fashioned” existing panelling. The new panels were made from the old church pews from the parish church.

1881

Nobility Hall

Nobility Ball in the Upper Hall. These are a regular occurrence and show the type of event held in the Hall.

1883

Original building extended by Francis Egerton

Original building extended by Francis Egerton (Great-Great Nephew of Scroop Egerton, who built the original building).
Features of the Victorian Extension:

  • Building extended by one bay making it a 5 bay building. The Original frontage stone was distributed on the new sides of the extension. The new frontage with grand front door is all ‘new’ stone.
  • The staircase in the lower hall demolished and 6 new pillars introduced. These are the ‘E’ columns that still stand. The ‘E’ stands for Ellesmere, referring to the Earl of Ellesmere, who commissioned the extension.
  • Spiral Staircase to the attic introduced
  • Roofline extended and so the clock tower was moved to the ‘new’ centre of the building. Dendrochronology results show that the timbers in the attic were felled in the 1880s and so all date from the Victorian extension of the building. This suggests a complete renovation of the roof in 1883 to accommodate moving the clock tower.

1913

New Fire Escape

New Fire Escape introduced on the outside of the building as the County Council had ‘refused to give Licence for theatricals set to a place that did not have two staircases’ (letter from Brackley Council, 1898). This also meant turning one of the windows in the Upper Hall into a door.

1950

Original Fire Escape Replaced

Original fire escape staircase replaced with current one.

1960

Bar and Kitchen Introduced

Bar and kitchen introduced into lower hall. This work engulfs two of the ‘E’ pillars. The toilets were refurbished at this time too.

2012

Feasibility Study

Feasibility study undertaken to determine what the different options for the Town Hall’s Future were.

2015

Lottery Funding Secured

£2.2m Heritage Lottery Funding secured! A further £1m from Brackley and South Northants Councils.

2016

Brackley Town Hall Closed

Brackley Town Hall closed to prepare for restoration project to begin in late 2016.