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The History Of Ormskirk Civic Hall

The History Of Ormskirk Civic Hall

The Drill Hall (now the Civic Hall) in 1939

The Drill Hall (now the Civic Hall) in 1939

Whilst the future of the Civic Hall is now uncertain, the history of the building is set in stone, quite literally.  The land on which the purpose built drill hall was erected was donated to the Ormskirk companies of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment  at the start of the 20th century by their long serving Colonel, James Eastham Esq.  The stones built into the front of the building testify to that fact.

The stone laid into the front of the hall

The stone laid into the front of the hall

James Eastham was a brewer who lived at Edinfield, Southport Road.  He was also the Colonel of the local Volunteer Yeomanry.  His house is no longer there, although the old gateposts still stand adjacent to Southport Road, with the name Edinfield still clearly carved in the stone.  Eastham had served as a volunteer with D Troop, the Lancashire Hussars when the Sgt Major and drill instructor had been Sgt Major James Ikin Nunnerley, 17th Lancers and survivor of the Charge of The Light Brigade, who became the drill instructor in the town in the 1870s when practise had to be done in the open and very often in difficult conditions.

The hall was used by the Volunteer Battalions and Cadet Battalions for drill practise as the length of the hall, extending to the rear down Church Fields, could accommodate the drilling patterns adequately but allowed the practise to be held indoors.

An advert for a dance at the Drill Hall, 1946

An advert for a dance at the Drill Hall, 1946. Click for a larger view.

When the hall was not being used for military purposes, it was turned into a venue for tea dances, Dance Band concerts and theatrical performances. After the demolition of the Working Men’s Institute in the early 1960s, the council speculated as to whether it would be financially possible to refurbish and refit the Drill Hall to create a civic centre rather than spend £160,000 on a purpose built modern civic building on the derelict Moor Street site of the late Institute.

The opening of Ormskirk Civic Hall in 1970

The opening of Ormskirk Civic Hall in 1970

In the late 1960s the hall was bought by the council for £6000, after spending a further £31.500 on the hall, the newly refurbished Civic Hall opened its doors to the towns’ people on Saturday 12th December 1970, it was formally opened by Council Chairman Andrew Gore, with various social functions planned for the hall.  Interestingly, the success of the new venue was quite possibly due to the initiative of the council members, who, in November 1968 had invited people from local groups and community organisations to meet at the Drill Hall to discuss possible future needs and requirements to which the planned refurbishment could be specifically tailored.  On completion of the work and after the opening ceremony, those same groups and organisations sent their representatives back to see the finished hall, and it was unanimously agreed that the work done had made use of this public consultation to achieve the best result possible.

Wrestling at Ormskirk Civic Hall

Wrestling at Ormskirk Civic Hall. Click for a larger view

During the 1970s and 80s the hall was the centre of the nightlife in the town and was very busy and events were very well attended.

Many people will have memories of the discos, wrestling bouts, operatic shows, amateur dramatic presentations and a multitude of civic functions.

The building has been an asset to the town in so many ways for over 100 years, with some foresight there is potential for this building, given to the town so many years ago, to thrive again.

Ormskirk Bygone Times has researched the Eastham family and other stories from the town relating to this building and many others and you can read lots more about it on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Ormskirkbygonetimes

Ormskirk Gala

Ormskirk Gala

Gala Day in Ormskirk 1904

Gala Day in Ormskirk 1904

Ormskirk Gala Day was held during August each year for many years. The organising committee made advance preparations throughout the summer months with several committees set up to ensure the smooth running of this very popular event.

Mr J.J. Balmforth, the ironmonger of Aughton Street, presided  over the General committee, an Entertainment Committee  made sure that a circus was booked and all necessary plane were put in place to accommodate  the whole Circus in the Gala Parade and provide the venue on the Victoria Pleasure Grounds.

The Procession and Turnouts Committee set  about organising the order of the parade to include Tradesman’s and Farmer’s Turnouts, that is, a wagon or cart pulled by a team of Heavy or Working Horses, with the wagons and carts decorated to various themes.  These were judged in a series of classes and an entry fee of between 1s and £1 with monetary prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places of between £1 and £5 depending on the class.

Sgt Major James Ikin Nunnerley

Sgt Major James Ikin Nunnerley

Entries were limited to Master Tradesmen living within a 1 mile radius of the Market Cross and all other entries could be from within a 6 mile radius of the Market Cross.  This was to allow entries from tenants from surrounding farms to enter their own turnouts or decorate a cart for the Tableau procession.

Apart from the monetary prizes, special prizes were to be awarded by the following committee members and town businesses:  Mr J.J.  Balmforth, a pair of carvers valued at 21s for the winner of the Tradesman’s Master Class  for Heavy Horse Turnouts;  Mr James Arnold Williams, provision dealer of 31 Burscough Street promised a prize valued at 21s for the winner of the Single Heavy Horse Turnout;  William Gilbert, Draper, of 10 Moor Street also promised a 21s prize to the winner of the most humorous float or tableau.

There was also a fancy dress on a quadruped category for both adults and children and a bicycle fancy dress parade with a baby show held in the Corn Exchange.

This would have been an amazing parade with the whole town and all business premises along the main streets being elaborately decorated for the event.

Thomas Hough, winner of the children's fancy dress competition, with Sgt Major Nunnerley's medals

Thomas Hough, winner of the children’s fancy dress competition, with Sgt Major Nunnerley’s medals

The winner of the children’s fancy dress on a quadruped was a young man named Thomas Hough (1895 – 1985) who is shown in the picture dressed as Charge of The Light Brigade survivor Sgt Major James Ikin Nunnerley, who had a Gents outfitters shop at 27 Moor Street. The photo is taken at the rear of the Queens Head Hotel, Moor Street on the day of the Gala. Thomas is wearing a miniature uniform of the 17th Lancers.  Thomas is also wearing Nunnerley’s medals.  The photos belong to Thomas Hough’s son-in-law Bob Hanley.

Ormskirk On Parade

Ormskirk On Parade

Gala Day in Ormskirk

Gala Day in Ormskirk

The people of Ormskirk have always enjoyed a good parade. Traditional events like the Ormskirk Gala, the District Agricultural Show and the Empire Day parades were highlights in the town. Coupled with the various Coronations, Jubilees and various Anniversary parades, the town has some wonderful celebrations to look back on.

The town Gala was a huge event, spread across various venues in the town and over a couple of days, dressing up was popular and dressing up and riding a bike was even more popular with prizes for the most imaginative turnouts.

<img class="size-medium wp-image-477" src="http://ormskirkbygonetimes.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/lancashire-hussars-2-300×210.jpg" alt="The Lancashire Hussars parade down Moor Street" width="300" height="210" srcset="http://ormskirkbygonetimes.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/lancashire-hussars-2-300×210 le viagra avis.jpg 300w, http://ormskirkbygonetimes.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/lancashire-hussars-2.jpg 597w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” />

The Lancashire Hussars parade down Moor Street

The local Agricultural Show attracted exhibitors from all over the United Kingdom and the standard of entry and judges in the livestock, Poultry and Agricultural produce was apparently extremely high with some very generous prizes for best in show in all categories.

The local venues included the Victoria Athletic Grounds off Southport Road, owned by James Eastham and used not only for the various sporting elements of the Gala but also the judging of the various elaborate floats and tableaux.

The parade on Empire Day, 24th May 1902

The parade on Empire Day, 24th May 1902

The first Empire Day held on 24th May 1902 and we have images of the event  in Ormskirk as the parade passes the King’s Arms, Moor Street.

The Parish Church held a Sunday School Anniversary, or Walking Day, in July each year when the children walked from Greetby Fields, along Stanley Street, Moor Street and then up Church Street for a special service in the Church.

Military parades in the town were held on many occasions and Ormskirk Bygone Times holds a number of images from across the years, if anyone would like to share photos and stories of the town’s social events please visit our page at facebook.com/Ormskirkbygonetimes

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