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A Piece about Halifax....

Stunning restoration brings Halifax's past back to life....

The Piece Hall is an amazing Grade 1-listed building in the middle of Halifax which over the years has lived a somewhat chequered life.

It dates from 1779 when it was built as a market hall where 'pieces' of hand-woven woollen cloth were traded by the local weavers. Halifax was the dominant town in the North for wool in those days and the local merchants wanted a building that reflected their pre-eminence. They wanted the best, nothing less would do, and so the local wool barons paid the princely sum of £12,000 for the construction of an Italian-inspired colonnaded hall around an open square. Because it was built on a slope there were two levels on the upper side and three on the lower, with small rooms behind each walkway and balcony. It was a spectacular place at the heart of the woollen trade, and now remains as the only building of its kind in the country.

Gradually, though, over the years, the focus of the woollen trade moved away from Halifax, and the Piece Hall ended up being used for all sorts of different activities. It held markets, concerts, and other events, you name it. It drifted on for decades with a diminishing number of little shops and units and was a pleasant walk-through, but clearly was not being used to its full potential.

Then, in 2014, the building was shut and Calderdale Council embarked upon an ambitious restoration costing the princely sum of  £19m. It finally opened last Tuesday, August 1st, which, fittingly, was Yorkshire Day. I went for a look around the day after, and it looks fantastic. The stonework has been cleaned up, the uneven square has been turned in a spectacular tiled piazza with integral water and lighting features, which help re-emphasise the Italian style in which it was built. There is seating dotted around and from an access point of view there are ramps and lifts to the upper levels. There is a museum, heritage tours, a few units have already opened up, and a number of events are planned for the coming weeks and months. The Piece Hall is a couple of minutes from the town's station, is next door to the Square Chapel Arts Centre, and with other attractions like the Eureka! Children's Museum, the Industrial Museum - although it is currently closed, the Minster, and The Shay Stadium close by, it provides a compelling reason to give Halifax a visit.

So, by now you may be thinking, thanks for the history lesson, and update, but... is there any real ale available? Well, no. There is a Gin Bar, and another bar called Elder which has some craft beers on. Vocation Heart and Soul was one. I bought a half, but it was too pale, there were too many bubbles, it didn't taste remotely like Heart and Soul. 90% of me says it was the was the wrong beer. OK, 2nd day open but for £2.20 for a half it was disappointing to say the least. The Piece Hall would though suit a micro pub or two. The units are small, the setting is wonderful, and I am convinced it could work. Is there anybody out there...?
Meanwhile a few other bits. The football season kicks off this weekend and after a month or two where I haven't been in Halifax too often, I will be no doubt spending more time in the town as we see Town take on the might of the National League once again after last season's promotion. I have checked out the Grayston Unity, the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, and the Alexandra recently, and all were in fine form. Elsewhere in the town, the Pump Room is heading towards its first anniversary. In a few weeks time, all 4 venues will be coming together for the Indyfax Festival, which was previously held just at the Victorian. The festival runs over the August Bank holiday weekend from Thursday 24th until Tuesday 29th. And since last season ended, the bar at the newly-extended Square Chapel has opened, just around the corner from the Piece Hall.

Last week's blog was called 'A Trip to The Pub'. It turned out to be a prophetic title as I had a fall as I was walking to the Alexandra last Saturday! Life imitating art.... It was one of those daft things, I just stumbled and fell, can't explain why, ended up chipping a tooth, cutting my lip, and denting my pride. I still went to the Alexandra where Sophie provided beer, tissues, and sympathy before some lovely ladies persuaded me to go to A and E to get myself checked out.

After an almost 3 hour wait there it transpired there was nothing they could do, so I organised a taxi to get me to Brighouse where I hoped to catch the last few songs from Blood, Sweat, and Beers who were playing at Millers Bar. Unfortunately, as they were playing outside they had had to finish at 10, but to get over the disappointment I had an excellent pint of Drygate Seven Peaks, a  5% IPA featuring Mosaic hops. What a wonderful beer. Interesting thing about Drygate is that it is a tie up between the local Williams Brewery and Tennants, and is based in the bar of the same name in Glasgow, and is the only microbrewery in the city.

And here's another reminder that just outside Halifax, in Siddal, the Cross Keys holds its annual beer festival next weekend beginning Friday 11th August. This is always a great event and over 24 beers will be on over the weekend split between the main bar and an outside one. Music will feature some of the time, with Paddy Maguire appearing on the Sunday. So if you get a chance to visit, Hugh and Ruth, plus Poppy the dog, will be delighted to see you....

The Piece Hall, Halifax


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