Letter from Nantwich  

Updated January 2020                                                                          See the latest news on an extension at the Civic Hall

Hall design would have gone a stage further

A PREVIOUS idea to expand the hall was first seen 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 item stated: "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 said that although the hall was adequate for smaller music events, the stage wa restricted and did not have facilities for plays and major musical productions. So a two-storey rear extension was proposed. 

   The planned extension included 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 was a glass-sided bridge from the new upper floor of the Civic Hall to the adjacent Library. This would have allowed the building to "operate in combination with the library if required".

   This work would have cost 1.2million which would have been funded by the sale of the nearby Gables, used mainly for the twice-weekly luncheon club for older residents. Some funds would have come from borrowing and capital receipts.

   It was planned that income from increased letting of the extension would reduce operating costs.

 

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.

 

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), in Pillory Street, 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 (scenery) was constructed from a number of individual pieces or "flats" that had been built and painted in the workshop in The Friends' Meeting House.

  The Players' own lights were "hung" over the stage and a proscenium arch, supplied by the then Nantwich Urban District Council, with curtains completed the set up.

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

  The following evening was reserved for a weekly dance.

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

 

Original idea for open space

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 is where buildings in the new extension will be built.

   The current narrow stage is under the sloping roof (pictured). The flies were never constructed but would have been above the stage area, of course. The area would have been two storey.

 

 

 THE ORIGINAL ITEM written in February 2011  (and updated here)                                                                                                                                 

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 (text box) 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 was another building that Cheshire

East Council would have liked 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 had 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 could not run the buildings without money. This led Councillor John Lewis (then 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, at the time was 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 took over the facilities the local rate precept - the part of the rates that goes to meet specifically Nantwich items - would have

 

needed to be raised. Presumably there would be a matching cut in the part of the rates imposed by Cheshire East Council. The facilities would still need paying for and, hopefully, for the same amount on the rates, but it wouldl be the Town Council rather than Cheshire East Council who would 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 (then 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.

 

Acquisition of town's assets goes on

 

 

 

 

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.

 

FOLLOW THESE LINKS TO OTHER PAGES:  HOME | ASK ANDREW | CHANGING SCENES | CONTENTS | AIRMAN'S  GRAVE | CHARITY SHOPS | CHURCHE'S MANSION | DABBER | FAMILY LINES | FUNNY PHOTOS | GREENSPACES SOUTH CHESHIRE  | (The former) LAMB HOTEL | LETTERS | LETTERS UPDATES | LOST HOUSES | NANTWICH CIVIC SOCIETY | NANTWICH IN BLOOM | NANTWICH TOWN FC | NANTWICH VIDEOS | HOUSING IN NANTWICH | NEWS ITEMS | OLD NANTWICH PICTURES PLACES TO SEE | RIVERSIDE | SPOTLIGHT ON . . . (various subjects) | STAPELEY MANOR | STREET NAMES | THE HACIENDA | THINGS YOU SAY | THIS AND THAT WALLED GARDEN  |  WEBSITE LISTINGS | WHAT'S  ON | WHERE I LIVE