Thursday, 15 August 2013

The £300,000 refurbishment of Silsden Town Hall has uncovered a possibly original handsome wooden roof structure that has been hidden for decades by a suspended ceiling. The feature, above what used to be the ballroom on the top floor, will be renovated to enhance the main hall. Bradford council is funding and carrying out the top-to-bottom upgrade, which is due to be completed by October. Silsden Library will be moved to the Town Hall, which will also have improved and new facilities for community groups. A lift to the first floor and a street entrance ramp will make the building more accessible to elderly and disabled people.   
The olive-coloured line of plasterwork indicates where the suspended ceiling had been installed, completely hiding the wooden roof structure.
Removal of the suspended ceiling also means the upper section of the arched window, mirroring the three arches of the exposed roof feature, can be seen from within.  
A wide-angle view of the main hall on the top floor. 
The Town Hall has been a landmark in Kirkgate since 1884.  The foundation stone was laid 130 years ago, in December 1883, and the building opened as the Mechanics Institute the following  October. Its aim was to encourage villagers "to meet and employ their thoughts on high and noble subjects". In 1909 the trustees handed management of the institute to Silsden council, which renamed it as the Town Hall.
Kirkgate and Road End about 1800. The thatch-roof cottage on the left was on the site of the Town Hall until 1883 and was the home of the village pinder, who rounded up stray animals and put them in the pinfold (near what are now the Methodist Church grounds opposite) until they were collected or slaughtered. This delightful depiction was drawn by local historian William Cowling in 1951 as a result of his researches.

Silsden Local History Group is suggesting that the town's Coat of Arms (pictured right) should be incorporated into signage for the upgraded Town Hall. The arms, portraying the town's history, were presented to the Urban Council in 1955. The council had applied for Armorial Bearings to commemorate the Queen's coronation in 1953. The chevron on the shield of the Coat of Arms is taken from the Jennings family, who held the Manor of Silsden as early as 1487. The double cross is of the Knights Templars, who held land in Silsden from 1122 to 1312, when the Order was disbanded and the land transferred to the Order of St John of Jerusalem, from which St John Street derives its name. Either side of the cross is an arrangement of three "Sparrow Bills", relating to the nail-making industry, which specialised in small nails, or "sparrow bills", for shoes. The earliest reference to nail-making was in 1761. The last forge closed in the 1930s. The ram's head at the base of the shield typifies the woollen industry and local farming. The rose is the Yorkshire emblem and the rays of the demi-suns represent rayon manufacture in the town's textile heyday. The early experimental work on the production of rayon material was carried out in Silsden. The wyvern, or two-legged dragon, on the crest is holding a flax flower. Records show that in 1732 flax was being grown extensively on Silsden Moor to meet the expanding Royal Navy's demand for cordage and sail. The wyvern is adapted from the arms of the Clifford family, of Skipton Castle, who were the ancient lords of the manor, Silsden being one of the most important manors in the Honour of Skipton.