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Ex-Mayor John Grantham is publishing another of his superb monographs. Following on from his book about the Regulated Pastures comes a cracking collection of facts, stories and pictures all about our Town Hall. It recounts the history, chronicles the key events, and provides a detailed guide to the prints, paintings and various artefacts that populate the building today. What is so good about the book is that John deliberately doesn't try and impose any  interpretation on to the basic narrative.  Any "message" is left to the reader to construct. And for me there is at least one message that shines through - and that is just what a proud and go-getting sort of place Chippy has always been. The prosperous and growing town decided around 1840 that its cramped quarters in the Guildhall were not worthy of its status anymore and recruited a famous architect (GS Repton) to design a magnificent new building replacing the 200 yr-old Market Hall in the  Square - which you can see in this print of the Market Square c1825  (reproduced from the book). The townspeople  set about raising the money (1816) by selling off the old Market Hall in pieces (one of the old columns is preserved to this day outside the Lower Town Hall) They sold  some bits of wasteland in the town with permission to build (clever!) They cadged 600 from the local Tory MP (Mr Langston of Sarsden House) and they even sold off that elm tree you can see in the print next to the Market Hall! But they also did what Chippy always does (and does so well) they organised a public appeal and raised 600 . They employed a local builder (Meades & Co) to do the work. The auction posters, the accounts for the building work, the banking slips are all here to study. What a project. But no sooner was the building finished than they decided they wanted a weighing station on the ground floor. Then a new clock was added in 1849 (cost 170 with nearly 300 subscribers - all listed in the book. Is your ancestor's name there) Some cells for prisoners were constructed - but they moved out when the new police station was opened. Then in 1867 the whole ground floor was re-constructed to provide a reading room (to be let to the CN Literary Institute - whatever happened to that) a courtroom and a room for a Judge. An upstairs gallery was added to the Main Hall in1889 (at the opposite end to the present one). In 1903 the Main Hall cost you five shillings (25p) to hire during the day  In the evening (when Gas and Fire was included) the price went up to seven shillings and sixpence! During the two world wars the Town Hall became the focal point for the whole war effort in the town. Concerts, march pasts, fund-raising events, Troop Kitchen, Civil Defence lectures, Welfare Clinic, even as a billet for troops. It was at the very heart of things. And all the great Civic ceremonies took place on the steps. On the left is the Thanksgiving ceremony at the end of the First World War. Then after the second world war came the Coronation and the biggest tea party ever and in 1959 the Queen herself came to visit.


At 4.18am on 3rd March 1950 disaster struck when the Town Hall caught fire  and was completely gutted. Fortunately all the valuables like paintings and mayoral regalia were saved but the Town Council found itself camped out at the Co-Op for two years while the repairs costing 18,725 were carried out. The fact that the building shell was saved is credited to the continued existence in the Square five years after the war of one of those huge round "Static Water tanks" which allowed the many fire engines attending to keep their hoses trained on the outer walls.


So this marvellous building has survived through its first 165 years with quite a few adventures along the way. Its up to us all to ensure that it stays proudly at the centre of our civic life for many more years to come. John has performed a big service in helping us all get a better understanding of the place and the history. He has done an enormous amount of painstaking research and the book is crammed with facts and anecdotes so I know I will find myself dipping into it over and over again. The pictures are superb. Its a really good read and great value. The book contains a picture of John's own wedding reception in the Main Hall and it's great to read that his 14-year old granddaughter did the layout which should ensure that at least some of John's passion for the building and its traditions will be carried on into future generations.
The book is published with Poundstone Press (price 9.99)  
Exclusively available at Jaffe & Neale



The great and good were out in force on Thursday evening for the launch of John Grantham's new history of the Town Hall (see a review below). There were more ex-mayors in the room than you could shake a chain at. It was great to see that so many people wanted to show their appreciation of all the work that John has put into the book and to wish him a successful launch. Sales on the night seemed very brisk and John was certainly kept busy inscribing his signature!  Patrick and Polly were gracious hosts - celebrating a year of the new bookshop's existence. Amazing how time flies. The shop has already become such a huge and successful feature of the town scene. It was great to see John's family there and to meet his young granddaughter who had served as Art Director of the book. Marvellous to see John Hannis was in great form. Polly was right to remind us in her speech how lucky the town is to have someone like John - willing to  research  the Town Hall, sort out the history and locate an astonishing range of pictures. There were times we heard when it almost got on top of him. We're lucky he persevered and brought this project safely to fruition. Thanks to him and all his collaborators.