The History Of Ormskirk Civic Hall
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.
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.
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.
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.
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