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Bolton began as a small village becoming more important in the middle ages and allowed to have a fair. By the mid 17th century it had a population of approx 2,000 growing to almost 20,000 by the early 1800s, and large enough to have its own Town Hall by 1873. Below we cover the momentus Royal visit and opening of the Town Hall.
The Opening of Bolton Town Hall – 1873
Bolton Town Hall Opened, Thursday, June 5, by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, accompanied by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales and a number of distinguished guests from Haigh Hall, the residence of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, where the Royal party had been staying on their visit to open the new Infirmary in Wigan.
The Royal visit to Bolton was made the occasion of an enthusiastically loyal and magnificent demonstration. The streets were profusely decorated with hundreds of Venetian masts and trophies of flags; triumphal arches and street balconies were erected; there was a grand procession of the Mayor and Corporation and leading gentry, with trade and friendly societies, escorted by detachments of Dragoons, Yeomanry Cavalry, and the local Rifle Volunteers, the Prince and Princess being met at the Chorley New Road boundary of the borough and thence escorted through the principal thoroughfares of the town for a distance of about three miles in the presence of immense crowds of spectators.
An address was presented to the Prince by the Corporation and His Royal Highness was presented with a magnificent silver key with which he formally opened the new civic edifice. A grand banquet was given in the afternoon in the Albert Hall at which the Prince and Princess were present, and the Prince on terminating his brief visit expressed his great gratification with the whole of the inaugural proceedings.
In the evening the town was brilliantly illuminated, while there was also a display of fireworks from the Public Park; medals were struck to commemorate the occasion; and Mr. Coxwells balloon “The Alexandra” made an ascent from the Park Recreation Ground, Mr. Coxwells assistant and Mr. Joseph Holliday, a local innkeeper, alone going up in the car, this being the third time Mr. Holliday had ascended in Mr. Coxwells balloons in Bolton.
Towards the decoration and illumination of the town the Corporation voted £1500, but only £1130 of this was spent. On the following evening (Friday) there was a brilliant ball in the Albert Hall; and on Saturday evening the festivities terminated with the performance of “The Creation” in the same Hall.
The Town Hall which was thus opened amid so much rejoicing cost altogether, including the site, about £170,000. The architects were Messrs. William Hill, of Leeds, and George Woodhouse, of Bolton, and, the structure has been pronounced by competent critics as one of the handsomest in design and best arranged internally of any civic edifice in the country. It stands on the site of the Old Pot Market on the west side of the then Market Square, since formally designated the Town Hall Square. The style of architecture is Classic, of the Corinthian order, based on Grecian models, the Town Council having resolutely set its face against Gothic. The building, which is of stone, is parallelogram in form, and covers an area of 3863 square yards, including the space occupied by the steps of the portico. The total length of the front is 204 feet, of the side 177 feet; the height to the top of the parapet is 63 feet, and the height of the tower is 200 feet. The portico is approached by a bold flight of 29 steps, having at each side near the top a pedestal on which reposes a sculptured lion, 12 feet in length by 6 feet in height. The portico, with its fine cluster of gracefully carved columns, is surmounted by a pediment filled with sculpture executed by Mr. Calder Marshall, R.A. These figures are full relief statues, 8 feet high, the central one representing “Bolton,” with a mural crown holding a shield that bears the borough arms; on her right is “Manufacture,” with a distaff, and leaning on a bale of goods; near her is a cylinder and wheel, and in the angle is the “Earth” pouring out her gifts from a cornucopia, and a negro boy bearing a basket of cotton; while on the left hand of the central figure is “Commerce” with the caduceus and a helm, and in the angle is the “Ocean” and a boy holding a boat by the bows. The fine domed tower which is placed over the principal entrance vestibule, and which contains one of the largest clocks in the country, having four dials each 12 feet in diameter, gives the building an additionally stately appearance. The clock has five large bells. The principal entrance to the Hall is by the portico in the east front, and this gives access to a vestibule 21 feet square, communicating directly with corridors 10 feet wide on each side and end of the Albert Hall, giving continuous communication round the latter and ready access to the Town Clerk‘ s apartments, the Council Chamber, Borough Court, Mayor’s Reception and Banqueting Room, and other offices.
In the Albert Hall is a magnificent organ by Messrs. Gray and Davison, of London. The decorations throughout the Hall are of the most rich and elaborate character, and were executed by Messrs. Simpson and Son, of London. In the Council Chamber are tablets bearing the names of the Mayors of the borough, with the year of their mayoralty, from the Charter of Incorporation. The Albert Hall is 112 feet in length, 56 feet wide and 56 feet in height, and has a handsome gallery running round three sides. This room will seat on the ground floor 1466 persons, and in the gallery 334, making a total of 1800; whilst if standing instead of sitting there is room for 3000.
Seventy-seven years had elapsed from the first recorded project for the erection of a Town Hall for Bolton; and it is not unworthy of remark that the site selected originally by the old Trustees was the one on which the Town Hall of to-day at length stands.
Excerpt from Annals of Bolton by James Clegg published in 1888 at the Chronicle Office, Knowsley Street, Bolton.