Thursday, 7 June 2018

Celebrating our Municipal Town Halls part 2 .......... Ashton Town Hall

Another in the short series celebrating our Municipal Town Halls which focus not only on the grand buildings but also the achievements of local government.

The Town Hall in happier days, 2015
I have always been fond of Ashton Town Hall.  The earliest bits date back to 1840 with an extension added in 1878.

Back in the 19th century when the “Northern Powerhouse” was getting its first airing, and cities like Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle on Tyne were making the country’s wealth, local government was at the centre of improving the lives of local people.

As Sidney Webb said the “municipalities have done most to socialize our industrial life.”  And so a resident of Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow could benefit from municipal supplies of water, gas and electricity, travel on municipally owned trams and buses walk through a municipally maintained park while knowing his children were being educated in municipally run schools.

“Glasgow builds and maintains seven public ‘common lodging houses’; Liverpool provides science lectures; Manchester builds and stocks an art gallery; Birmingham runs schools of design; Leeds creates extensive cattle markets; and Bradford supplies water below cost price. 
Ron's update, 2018

There are nearly one hundred free libraries and reading rooms. The minor services now performed by public bodies are innumerable.”*

And all of that was evidenced not only in the Corporation parks and schools and baths but in the town halls which were solid examples of both civic pride and local democracy.

Which brings me to Peter’s painting of Ashton  Town Hall which of course now has that excellent museum to the Manchester Regiment and offers three function rooms for hire.

My memories of the place stretch back to watching council meetings and election counts back in the 1970s.

The steps were also where we would arrange to meet in those pre mobile days and I seem to remember many sunny days sitting on those steps waiting with a sneaky sandwich from the Market Hall.

Alas, my friend Ron has burst my bubble, by telling me that, that the building has "been closed to public access for well over a year now and the Museum of the Manchesters is now but a memory".
Ah well I should get back to Ashton more frequently

Painting; Ashton Town Hall, © 2015 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Picture; the Town Hall, 2018 from Ron Stubley

* Webb, Sidney, from Historic, Fabian Essays in Socialism 1889

1 comment:

  1. I must admit to enjoying going into town halls (when you're allowed to). Not only are they often very interesting buildings in themselves but, like old churches, they are often a repository for plaques, pictures and artefacts relating to the history of the local people and events. Even better, if you are allowed to use your camera once you're inside.