Restoration work at an historic town hall has stepped up a gear – as the first phase of a £4 million investment into a major city heritage asset edges nearer to completion.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is bringing the Grade-II listed Tunstall Town Hall back to life, with a sympathetic transformation that will see the building given a modern day purpose by hosting the town’s library, a children’s centre, Local Centre and office space. In recent times, only the town hall’s ground floor and bits of the upper floor have been in use, but the restoration work will open up the whole building, which was completed in 1885.
‘Enabling’ works to make the Town Hall building safe and watertight have been able to take place throughout the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the project has continued to move forward. The work carried out so far has included replacing roof joists and windows and repairing any plaster damaged by damp. Work to stabilise the front face of the building has also taken place, and repairs to the wall between the Town hall and market have now started with the removal of the old, cement rendering which was in poor condition. During the work, original window openings have been uncovered which will now be retained as part of the building’s refurbishment. In the next few weeks, some modern additions on the ground floor of the building will be removed to make space for the new layout. The modern, front extension to the old Local Centre will also be removed so the front of the Town Hall can return to its original appearance.
The enabling works are expected to finish in October when the second phase of the project, the fit out of the building, will get under way. This will see rooms decorated, furniture added, and new floors installed ahead of services moving in scheduled for next year.
The work to Tunstall Town Hall follows on from the successful £1.8 million restoration of Longton Town Hall, which was completed last year and saw the building become the new home to the town’s Local Centre where residents can use the customer service base to pay bills, raise issues and meet staff face-to-face. The restoration also included a new entrance to Longton Market to boost footfall and trade.
Cllr Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for heritage, infrastructure and regeneration, said: “It’s great to see the work at Longton completed and the project at Tunstall now coming along. These are two really good examples of the council investing in our city’s proud heritage to drive regeneration and growth in our town centres. Tunstall Town Hall is a large and complex building and it has taken a lot of work behind the scenes to get to this point, but things are really starting to progress now.
“We understand how important our historic buildings are. This work is all about making these town halls modern, fit-for-purpose buildings which the community can use. The refurbishment work is being carried out in a manner sympathetic to the historic nature of the building which will safeguard and preserve it for years to come.
“By having permanent council staff based in the Town Hall it is also increasing footfall in the town centre and supporting other businesses. Tunstall Town Hall is an anchor asset in the middle of the town’s High Street with has enormous potential. The world is in an unprecedented position at the moment but we remain committed to investing in all of our towns, growing the city and protecting our heritage. The redevelopment of the Town Hall will give the area a shot in the arm as we power up the city.”
Dave Proudlove, SoT Culture’s Cultural Champion for Tunstall, has welcomed the work. He said: “I’m delighted to see the restoration of this A.R. Wood masterpiece progress and am very much looking forward to seeing the building open to the public once more. The Town Hall is the focal point of the High Street and Tower Square, and a key part of the town and city’s heritage, and it’s great to see it receive the attention that it has needed for such a long time.”
Ellis Scott, head of Midlands region at Historic England, said: “We are very supportive of the much needed repairs to the Grade-II listed Tunstall Town Hall and giving the building a new purpose right in the heart of the town. This is another great example of heritage-led regeneration within Stoke-on-Trent, to help deliver the economic and social activities we know people want to see, enjoy and invest in.”