Building of the Month June 2022 - Old Town Hall, Market Place, St Hilda's, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire TS2 1RB
Built in 1846 by architect William Lambie Moffatt of Doncaster and later Edinburgh in an Italianate style, the Town Hall was later used as a library and community centre. The building is grade II listed (LEN: 1139853) and is reminiscent of a chapel and relatively modest in both scale and design. Standing separately is a campanile style clock tower which is not mentioned in the listing entry. It pokes out of a later structure but older photos show an earlier precursor of this building around the campanile’s base.
The small scale of this building itself tells a powerful story of the development of Middlesbrough's fortunes at this time. The gigantically palatial new town hall built in the 1880s (listed grade II*) was the Old Town Hall's replacement and reflects the growth in Middlesbrough’s fortunes over that period. The Old Town Hall has a very special place in the history of the town, it features in a painting by Lowry and was reputedly the venue where Gladstone declared that Middlesbrough was “an infant Hercules”.
The Old Town Hall lies in an area which was Middlesbrough’s first town centre. However, the centre gradually moved south and now stands in an area where many buildings have simply disappeared. There has been one attempt to give it a new life as it was refurbished and reopened as a performance space in 2009. It is now sadly shut up and without a use, standing isolated in an urban wasteland. It has been on the SAVE at risk register since 2018.
The Old Town Hall is now owned by Middlesbrough Council who have spent time analysing its potential and how it could be used as a focal part of the regeneration of St Hilda’s and Middlehaven. During our update of entries on our register in Yorkshire during May 2022, we have learnt that the council will be spending £1m of its £22m Towns Fund allocation from the government to renovate the Old Town Hall and the nearby Captain Cook Pub (also grade II listed). This is extremely positive news and it will be interesting to follow the story as this project takes shape.