During the construction of the Carlile Institute in the early 1890s, Edward Brook (1825-1904) presented a proposal to the Meltham Urban District Council that the spare plot of land between the Institute and the Meltham Co-operative Stores could be used for a new Town Hall and Council Offices. Brook, who owned the land, was prepared to donate it and to pay £1,500 towards the cost of the new building. According to newspaper reports, upon being presented with the proposal, the members of the Council spontaneously broke out into singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow”!
The plans for the neo-Gothic Town Hall were prepared by the council’s clerk, architect William Carter, and most of the contractors who worked on the building were local, with John Moorehouse and Sons of Meltham being the stonemasons. In the end, the total cost of construction was just over £2,880 – despite that being nearly double his initial offer, Edward Brook covered the entire cost.
A slight oversight was that the rear door of the Town Hall opened out onto land belonging to the neighbouring Co-operative Stores but Edward Brook again stepped up and offered the Society a much larger plot of adjoining land if they handed over the strip of land behind the Town Hall. Not surprisingly, the members of the Society agreed to the offer.
The opening ceremony took place on the afternoon of Saturday 5 February 1898. By that time, Edward Brook was in retirement at Hoddom Castle. Perhaps out of humility, he decided not to attend the ceremony and instead his son, Charles Brook (1866-1930) of Durker Roods, represented him.
With all the pomp and circumstance that often occurred at such ceremonies, the Meltham Mill Brass Band and the local Fire Brigade headed a lengthy procession which set forth from the Odd Fellows’ Hall, marched once around the Parish Church and then arrived here at the Town Hall. The route was lined with bunting and banners proclaiming “Long Live Mr. E. Brook” and “God Bless the Giver”.
After some suitably lengthy speeches, Charles Brook was presented with a gold key and, having apologised for his father being too modest to attend in person, unlocked the door and declared the new Town Hall officially open.
According to the Leeds Mercury newspaper, so eager were the local townspeople to see inside the Town Hall, that they surged forward and the councillors and dignitaries beat a hasty retreat inside. In all the excitement, “Mr. Brook, thus quite literally mobbed, discovered that the gold presentation key was not in his possession”! Cries went up “The key! The Key! Thief!” before one of the more cool-headed local councillors suggested that Mr. Brook might have accidentally left the key in the lock of the front door – and indeed that was where it was found!
In the years that followed, it was initially suggested that it would be appropriate to erect a bronze statue of Edward Brook outside the Town Hall. However, following his death in 1904, a decision was made to commission artist Henry Mawdsley to paint a portrait of Edward Brook and this hung proudly at the head of the Council Chambers until very recently.
Did You Know?
- At the time, the Town Hall clock tower was the only one in Meltham that was illuminated at night, and it was installed by Potts of Leeds.