|About Hornsey Town Hall
Hornsey Town Hall has had a rich and varied history from its ground-breaking design in 1935 to the concerts held there by Queen and the Kinks in the '70s. Now the town hall needs your help to enable it to flourish again. See how the building was once the heart of the community.
Until 1935 Hornsey lacked that essential focus for civic pride, a worthy town hall. As Hornsey transformed into a populous suburb in the 1880's there was a requirement for a much larger Town Hall and Hornsey Borough were able to purchase a large plot which fronted on Crouch End Broadway.
The site on the East of the broadway originally formed part of the garden of Old Crouch Hall. When the site was selected for the new Town Hall the loss of the public park was deeply regretted by residents.
In 1929 a competition for best design was publicised. The results of the competition were advertiied in 1933 and there had been no less than 218 competitors. The first prize went to Reginald Uren whose design was a noticeable departure from the conservative tradition of English municipal buildings.
Reginald Harold Uren was born in 1906 in Christchurch, New Zealand and came to England in 1930. In 1933 he won the Manchester Building Trades Exhibition Competition and then the Hornsey Town Hall. On its completion the building was awarded a bronze medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Uren joined the firm of Slater and Moberly and was on the RIBA's standing committee on art. His firm designed John Lewis in Oxford Street and showrooms for Sandersons nearby in Berners Street (now the exclusive Sanderson hotel)
The public hall to the north is distinguished by the elongated windows of the foyer, above a generous triple entrance.
The council offices are approached by the smaller more decorative footway at the foot of the staircase tower.
The appearance of the exterior with its plain surfaces of specially chosen small bricks, with its dominating tower and elongated windows with pronounced keystones, pays direct homage to one of the most influential of recent continental buildings, the Town Hall at Hilversum, of 1928-30 by W.M. Dudok.
At Hornsey the austerity of this brick tradition is leavened by the carved stone lintel by the sculptor A.J. Ayers and by ornamental metalwork.
Much attention is also given to the interior finishes: the staircase is of Ashburton marble, the main rooms are panelled in a variety of fine woods.
All survive remarkably complete, even down to the original furniture and cork-tiled floors.
The Gas and Electricity showrooms
A few years later the setting for the town hall was further enhanced by the building of the Gas and Electricity Showrooms (now the bank and electrical shop). The combination appears to be unique: the Town Hall flanked by the headquarters of the utilities bring light, heat and comfort to the modern home. United by the use of brick and Ayers sculptural decoration, the whole group is calm and dignified statement of twentieth-cenury ideals, facing the flurry of a Victorian shopping centre.
The Town Hall ceased to function as such when the Borough of Hornsey was absorbed in 1965 into the new Borough of Haringey and Wood Green's Civic Centre was chosen from the three available town halls for council meetings.
The public halls were closed to the public circa 1987 because the cost of maintaining them in a safe condition were not met by the council. Since then they have since been used as storage space. The roof was not maintained and water leaks caused damaged to some of the interior, particularly the timber panelling to the north wall of the Main Hall.. Part of the interior, such as the council chamber, was sealed off because of the presence of asbestos in the wallcoverings.
In 2000 The Crouch End Festival Chorus made a bid for the re-use of the Town Hall, but were unsuccessful.
On 13th May 2003 Haringey held a consultation meeting over proposals to build 54 luxury flats and 6 houses on the car park to the rear of the Town Hall, The proposals were challenged by local community groups and resident's associations who had been previously active in opposing Haringey's proposed introduction of Controlled Parking Zones into the area, the most active being Crouch End for People (CEfP). Another body - Friends of Hornsey Town Hall, was set up by local Councillors Milner and Winskill.
|The rock band Queen played their first ever live show at the town Hall in 1971.
The Main Hall boasted the largest sprung dance floor in London.
On 19th October 2003 a well attended Public Meeting discussed the future of the building, with a unanimous vote for community proposals to be bought forward for the building, these also receiving the backing of local Labour MP Barbara Roche . In the ensuing period meetings were held between Haringey and CEfP. Meanwhile Haringey commissioned Donaldsons to draw up a feasibility study and development brief for the site. Alan Baxter Associates were also charged with producing a Conservation Plan.
In December 2003 CEfP presented a Community Proposal for the site to Haringey, and the Architectural Heritage Fund wrote to Haringey in support of these proposals, advocating the setting up of an independent Building Preservation Trust. There was concern from most quarters that the Trust should be independent and free from political control (albeit with the Council represented) and that the problems of Alexandra Palace should not be repeated. Successful Trusts – such as The Hoxton Trust, which has regenerated Shoreditch Town Hall, were cited.
On 17th February 2004 Haringey's Executive adopted Donaldson's recommendation of disposing the site to a commercial developer on a 125 year lease. A redevelopment cost in excess of £15M was suggested.
The Community Proposals were ignored and an 'Advisory Panel' was set up comprising 25 council appointees and a single CEfP representative. The Advisory Panel was to assist the Council in drawing up the Planning Brief (Supplementary Planning Guidance) for the site.
On 29th April 2004 CEfP organised a Public Meeting and Open Day -over 700 people took the opportunity of a rare glimpse of the Town Hall's fine interiors. Haringey conducted a consultation in which by far the most popular use for the Halls was a cinema, with parking provision also a strong concern. An event- Party in the Piazza -was held on 8th May with the backing of local shopkeepers in front of the Town Hall and was similarly well attended. A petition with over 3,000 signatures was produced and presented to the Council.
In the summer of 2004 the Hornsey Town Hall Trust HTHT was set up as a Registered Charity to promote the community re-use of the Town Hall, comprising 5 Trustees with complementary professional skills relevant to the community proposals.
HTHT raised some £8,000 through public meetings and events and obtained considerable publicity for the building. It was featured on the BBC's Restoration Nation and Valerie Grove wrote a piece in The Times. The Trust commissioned a Business Plan which was put together by Civic Regeneration (responsible for the successful Borough Market restoration) and involving leading design and cost consultants. The plan, which was put to a well attended public meeting in November 2004 envisaged the re-use of the building for a wide variety of community uses, including a multiplex cinema in the gallery of the Main Hall. Residential development (up to 55 flats) was planned mainly to the rear of the site, including accommodation for the elderly, with 100 parking spaces provided in both basements and in landscaped courtyards connected to the main square and for the use of the public halls and the shops. Three cinema operators expressed strong interest in the proposals - available on the HTHT web site
The Business Plan was presented to the Council Executive on 15th December 2004 by Barbara Roche MP. Haringey again ignored the HTHT proposals, instead re-badging the Advisory Panel as the Community Partnership Board (CPB) to promote schemes for the redevelopment of the site. Several places on the board were advertised and interviews held. However HTHT were denied access to its proceedings despite a request under the Freedom of Information Act, on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.
Haringey conducted a Planning Consultation on the future of the site spring 2005, the results being published in May. Over 700 people responded, with over 70% in favour of both retaining the car parks for public use, and putting the building into the custodianship of HTHT.
7 Hatherley Gardens, part of the Town Hall site and occupied by the Citizen's Advice Bureau, was sold by Haringey in 2005. The funds for the sale were pledged for urgent repairs - particularly the leaking roof. This work was not put in hand until August 2009.
The initial intention of the CPB was to arrange for the involvement of a developer. This then changed to the preparation of a scheme by Deborah Saunt Architects (now DSDHA) and the scheme was eventually put on exhibition in the summer of 2007. Also Haringey / the CPB in 2008 /9 set up The Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust (HTHCT) as a Registered Charity. The members of the Trust can be found here. It describes itself as independent but comprises mainly political appointees / activists from both Labour and Liberal/Democratic parties. There is no indication it has yet engaged in any fund raising for the building.
In September 2008 DSDHA were replaced by John McAslan and Partners. They submitted proposals which were put on exhibition in June 2009. These proposals were eventually submitted as part of a Planning Application (inc Listed Building Consent) on 23rd March 2010. The proposals include 123 units in 5 to 6 storey blocks to the rear of the site with 56 basement parking spaces, described as ‘enabling development’ to fund the restoration of the front of the Town Hall. 5% of the units are to be affordable housing. The link and east block of the Town Hall are to be converted into flats (in spite of the presence of fine panelled interiors). No parking is being provided for the main halls (other than 5 disabled bays). A dedicated cinema is not envisaged, although films may be shown.