Letter from Nantwich  

December 2016              

Design of the Civic Hall goes a stage further

FAR from being in danger of disappearing from the Nantwich scene (see item below), the Civic Hall is set to expand.

   In an article on the front page of the Autumn 2016 edition of "Talk of the Town" - the Town Council's newsletter to all residents - the plans for the Civic Hall extension are "revealed".

   The item states: "The Town Council is planning a major investment in the Civic Hall to secure its long term future as a community building for the people of Nantwich and the surrounding area".

   It goes on to say that although the hall is adequate for smaller music events, the stage is restricted and does not have facilities for plays and major musical productions. So a two-storey rear extension is proposed "to add to the community uses and events of the future". 

   The extension includes a larger stage; a "multi-functional space for various purposes including access to the rear of the stage, a green room for the stage, a large meeting room and a dining room"; a large function room and bar on the first floor; and new dressing rooms.

   An interesting part of the extension is a glass-sided bridge from the new upper floor of the Civic Hall to the adjacent Library. This will allow the building to "operate in combination with the library if required".

   This work - if approved by Cheshire East Council - will cost 1.2million. This will be funded by the sale of the nearby Gables, used mainly for the twice-weekly luncheon club for older residents. Some funds will come from borrowing and capital receipts.


The new elevation at the rear of the Civic Hall, showing the new second storey and a rear entrance and, right, the glass-sided bridge link between the Civic Hall extension and the Library (the white area on the right). This is as seen when standing facing away from the M&S Food Hall. The design is by Bower Edleston Architects of Hospital Street and is used with the permission of them and Nantwich Town Council.

    It is planned that income from increased letting of the extension will reduce operating costs.


LOCAL amateur dramatics group, the award-winning Nantwich Players, used to hire the main hall of the Civic Hall for their productions, before they acquired their own theatre at the edge of the car park off The Waterlode and Pillory Street.

   I remember, as a member of the backstage team, that we had to transport scenery from the Friends' Meeting House (or Quaker Chapel), before it became the Players' Theatre, to stage the productions on three nights, two or three times a year.

   The narrow permanent stage was extended into the main hall with boards placed on open cubes of cast


iron. The set was constructed from a number of individual pieces of scenery that had been built and painted in the workshop in The Friends' Meeting House. The Players' own lights were erected over the stage and a proscenium arch with curtains completed the set up.

   A dress rehearsal and three public performances followed before everything was taken back to the workshop until the next production.

   It is so much easier now at the Players' Theatre with the scenery built on the stage where the cast rehearse.  


TO see the plans submitted to the borough council click on the link below and type in the planning application reference number 16/5506N.


Original idea for a space in the hall

ONE thing I remember from the Players' Civic Hall days was being told that a space at the rear of the hall, with small rooms on either side, was intended to be where a full-size stage - complete with "flies" - would one day be constructed. That area (pictured right) is currently where a storage shed stands .

   Flies is the space above the stage where a range of backcloths (scenery on "sheets") are "flown". The scenery hangs from ropes and is lowered into place when needed for a scene. It is then pulled up out of the way of the scenery for the next scene in a production.

   This space will now be used for a green room and other facilities. A green room is an area, painted green - a relaxing colour to create a calm atmosphere - in which the cast of a production or show wait to go on stage.

  The current narrow stage is under the sloping roof (picture).






THE foundation stone for the Civic Hall was laid by the then Chairman of Nantwich Urban District Council, Councillor Albert E. Peake, on January 19, 1951.


    The hall was built to commemorate the soldiers who fought in - or did not return home from - the Second World War after the funds to pay for the building were raised locally.

Council assets | Nantwich Players' website | Cheshire East Council planning | Safety escort on the stage I know so well | Letters index page | Updates index page

 THE ORIGINAL ITEM:  February 2011                                                                                                                                                               

Is this local landmark on the way out?













The Civic Hall - a local venue since the 1950s. Is it about to disappear?

IT was enough to make any Dabber go weak at the knees. "Civic Hall to close?" the headline asked on the front page of the February 2, 2011, edition of the Nantwich Chronicle.

   There was no article on the front page, but a panel stated: "Some of Nantwich's crown jewels, including the Civic Hall, could be shut or sold off next year as Government cutbacks take their toll, town leaders have warned."    

    Well used to buildings disappearing from the local scene with the idea of yet more homes appearing in town, the local people could only wonder what would take the place of this 60-year-old building - assuming it would not be gutted and become the new of home of ... whatever.

    But the article on Page 7 of the local newspaper proved to be a little less of a worry. There was a way out of the situation. It was all connected with the new (2009) Cheshire East Council who - faced with Government-imposed cuts aimed at solving the economic crisis - were looking for buildings they could off load, or hand over control of.

    Since Nantwich Town Council has gone on record as wishing to run Nantwich buildings things could be a lot better than the headline might have suggested. 

  The Market Hall is another building that Cheshire


East Council would like to hand over control of. With this there wouldn't be a big renovation bill as there was a 430,000 refurbishment in 2007, according to another article in the Chronicle.

   Perhaps more worrying is the fact that Cheshire East Council has The Gables "community facility" in Beam Street, public toilets, children's play areas and open spaces in mind as ways of saving money.

   With the best will in the world, the Town Council cannot run the buildings without money. This led Councillor John Lewis (Conservative group leader) to ask "Do the town's residents want to maintain these facilities?" Quoted in the newspaper, he went on to ask: "And if they do want them, and they cost money to run, are people willing to pay for them?"

   Councillor Steve Hope, group leader of the Nantwich First councillors on the Town Council, is quoted as saying: "Unless Cheshire East Council changes its policies, facilities . . . are likely to be sold off or closed in April 2012."

   Of course, if the Town Council takes over the facilities the local rate precept - the part of the rates that goes to meet specifically Nantwich items - will need to be raised. Presumably there will be a matching cut in the part of the rates imposed by Cheshire East Council.


   The facilities will still need paying for and, hopefully, for the same amount on the rates, but it will be the Town Council rather than Cheshire East Council who will be seen as the "villain" of the situation.

  On the other hand, apart from the many events held at the Civic Hall throughout the year, the building is the home of the Nantwich Tourist Information Centre (a Cheshire East Council venture) and it is the council's local office where Nantwich people can pay their rates and deal with council employees face-to-face.


WHEN Nantwich became part of the Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council - predecessor to Cheshire East Council - the Civic Hall was the venue for many events that might be considered to be the Crewe local authority's responsibility.

   But clearly the hall was the biggest venue in the borough and the then new authority might consider itself lucky that Nantwich had had the foresight to build a sizeable venue more than half a century earlier.


UPDATE: The tourist information centre is now run by the Town Council. What's on at the Civic Hall?   


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