6. Town Hall

A photo of the Wetherby Town Hall plaque

This Town Hall was built in 1845 on the site of the old Chapel of Ease. The ground floor was the Church School until 1895. Upstairs was the Magistrates Court until 1962.

The Hall is now vested in the Town Council and managed as a Charitable Trust for the local community

Engraving of the town hall in olden times

Wetherby’s first town hall occupied the same site on the Market Place. It was a small plain building with little decoration, a clock on the front and bell tower. Its northern side had an external staircase to the first floor where civic and county court functions were carried out. The ground floor contained the town gaol and outside were the town stocks. It was demolished in 1845. Adjacent to the old town hall was the Market Place Chapel, a chapel of ease to the parish church in Spofforth, built in 1763. It was damaged in a fire in 1823 and became increasingly dilapidated.

Photo of the town hall from Westgate

In 1845 it was decided that the town hall containing the old Court House could be demolished and William Raby, curate at Spofforth proposed that its site, together with that of the chapel could provide the site for the new town hall and a national schoolroom. The schoolroom replaced the Sunday school held in the chapel. His proposal was supported by the Bishop of Ripon but was beset by problems. The church was assured the schoolroom would be used as a Sunday school in perpetuity but that use ended with the opening of a hall adjacent to St James’ Church.

The town hall’s foundation stone was laid in 1845 and the building was completed at a cost of £1300 which was raised by public subscription. The new building was used for the county court, assembly rooms, a reading room, a small gaol, and had a ground-floor schoolroom. In 1846 the schoolroom was fitted out with a grant from the National Society.

The town hall was used as a court house until Wetherby Magistrates Court was built in the 1960s. The town hall’s south side had a door to enable prisoners to be taken to the upper room but by 1962 it had gone. The main front chimney’s originally had bells to summon the fire brigade.

During the First World War the town hall was requisitioned by the military for billets as were the racecourse and masonic hall.

Photo of the entrance to the town hall

By the 1930s the seat of Wetherby Rural District Council had moved to new offices on Westgate. As a result of the Local Government Act 1972, the town hall and council offices passed to Leeds City Council in 1974 and the town hall was used for civic functions and the offices for administration. The town hall was at that time in a poor state of repair and was modernised soon after.

Click on any of the plaques below to see more detail.

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