On 2nd April 2011 it was 150 years since the foundation-stone of Halifax Town Hall was laid. The event had been delayed for many months because of a six-month stonemasons’ strike.
The stone can be clearly seen facing along Princess Street today, its date clearly inscribed, underneath a bare niche, which was originally intended to contain a statue of Queen Victoria.
The architect, Sir Charles Barry, had originally submitted plans for the new Halifax Town Hall in June 1859. These had been approved by the Council at the old Town Hall, Union Street (now Bottomleys’ Opticians), and after being put out to tender, the contract was awarded to Whiteley Brothers of Leeds.
The site was purchased from John Crossley, junior, of Dean Clough, who had recently promoted the laying out of the new Princess and Crossley Streets, and had already had certain structures erected, such as the White Swan Hotel, and the Mechanics’ Institute.
Alderman Daniel Ramsden, mayor in 1860/61, was the man who officiated at the stone laying.
Before it was lowered into position, into a cavity underneath it was placed a large bottle containing “A lithograph perspective of the new Town Hall; a Corporation Year Book;” and various current newspapers. Also were included “Eleven current coins of the realm.” Presumably these are all still there today.
Alderman Ramsden was a widower aged 73 when elected mayor of Halifax in 1860. Born at Horton, Bradford in 1788, his family moved to Halifax in the early 1790s, and settled at Boothtown. Daniel was self-taught, but a hard worker, being determined to “improve himself.” He began work in a Halifax cotton mill, but at the age of 21 he became book-keeper at a Luddendenfoot corn mill, of which establishment he soon became Manager. Later, he established his own business as a corn merchant near the top of Woolshops. In 1848 on the incorporation of the borough, he was elected an Alderman; being appointed the first Chairman of the new Council.
Daniel Ramsden lived at Kingston House, Westholme Road and Hopwood Lane, which still stands today, much altered.
He died there in 1865, and was buried in Salem Chapel-yard, North Parade.
Daniel left his house to his nephew Alfred, then a promising journalist working for the Halifax Courier. Alfred, who settled there, became editor of the newspaper in 1882.
From 2nd April 1861, it took more than two years before the Town Hall was ready for its official opening by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), in August 1863.
David C Glover