From the Burnley Express Archive: The Old Municipal Offices

I had intended to include this image in the Peek into the Past column which appears in this weeks Burnley Express.

Monday, 8th June 2020, 3:45 pm
The Old Municipal Offices, also known as the Public Hall, of Burnley Council, on Elizabeth Street, off Manchester Road
The Old Municipal Offices, also known as the Public Hall, of Burnley Council, on Elizabeth Street, off Manchester Road

The building is the Old Municipal Offices, also known as the Public Hall, of Burnley Council, which later became the Technical School, on Elizabeth Street, off Manchester Road. It was in this building that Burnley’s first Council Chamber was located and it was there that the meeting which determined that the town would work towards the building of Burnley’s Victoria Hospital, was held.

The process, to build the hospital, had started when the Rev. Giles, the Vicar of St Matthew’s, held a public meeting in Carlton Road School, after which another meeting was held, in the Council Chamber, during the mayoralty of Mr Henry Deighton Fielding, mayor of Burnley from 1881 to 1883, who presided at the meeting.

The Municipal Offices dates from 1861 when Messrs Holdsworth and Ashworth erected what was intended to become a lecture hall and theatre. Baths were added, and opened, by July, 1863. The words “Public Hall” appear on the Elizabeth Street elevation, and “Technical School” on Elizabeth Street, by the main entrance. The first, of course, refers to the original use for which the building had been intended, and the latter refers to the Technical School, part of the Mechanics Institute, which occupied the building when the Council moved into the newly built Town Hall, in 1888.

When Burnley became a Borough, the town had almost none of the facilities that might be expected of a Borough. The first meetings of the Council, for instance, were held in the Old Fire Station on Manchester Road and this situation continued until 1867.

By this time, it had become obvious that a building, which could provide facilities for a range of developing services, was necessary. The Council had shown interest in building a Town Hall at a site on Parker Lane, and there had been a plan to acquire the site of the Old Red Lion, at the bottom of Manchester Road, and build there, but nothing had come of these plans.

Then, the Public Hall was put up for sale, in 1867, and the Council bought it for £2,200, converting the building into the town’s Municipal Offices. The interior of the building was quite impressive, with its four floors and its central staircase. There existed space that could easily be converted into a Council Chamber and there was room enough for a number of the Council’s departments.

The Baths were also taken over by the Council and carried on as a municipal undertaking replacing other facilities in the town.

From 1868 to 1888 Council activities were run from this building. It was in the latter year that Burnley’s impressive Town Hall was completed, almost 30 years after the town had become a Borough. The Elizabeth Street buildings were converted into premises for Burnley Mechanics which organised training for those who worked in local industries, cotton spinning and weaving and coal mining, for example.