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The Town Hall, now Catholic Church

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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Town Hall

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By the middle of the 19th century various aspects of local government -the Town Commission that was set up by Act of Parliament in 1839, The Bradford Poor Law Union, Bradford magistrates and others- were meeting in rooms in the Swan and the New Bear Hotels. The old Town Hall at the Silver Street end of the Shambles had become derelict in the the early 19th century and was demolished in the 1820s. There was a need for a building that would hold these and a company was set up to build a Town Hall, court and police station and lease it to the town authorities.

The architect of the building that went up in 1854-5 on the corner of Pippet and Church Streets was Thomas Fuller (1823-1898) of Bath, who went on to design the Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa in 1859. The builders were Long and Spender, local men who did the job for £3,000 (less £300 for on-site recycled materials) and used stone from Monkton Farleigh.

It was really four buildings in one, with separate entrances. On Pippet (Market) Street was the County Police Station with housing for a superintendant and two policemen and their families; carved stone signs are still there. Stairs from the main entrance on the corner led up to the large council chamber, committee room and three rooms for the literary and mechanics’ institute- library and reading room. In Church Street was a shop and house and offices of a solicitor and officers; both of these together became the Midland Bank. At the back was meant to be the market, partly-covered by lean-to sheds and a cheese room with corn-loft above. The market was entered by the main gates on Pippet Street and by a smaller gothic pedestrian gateway on Church Street. This yard came to house the town Fire Brigade and its equipment.

The Town Commission was dissolved and replaced by Bradford on Avon Urban District Council, who declined to buy the building in 1911, instead moving to Westbury House in St Margaret’s Street. After several years of being for sale, hosting an early cinema and the magistrates court and legal offices, it was bought by the Midland Bank whose branch was installed in the ground floor in Church Street. The Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas More took over the former council chamber-courtroom. The Catholic Clifton Diocese bought the whole building from the bank, which remained as a tenant of the church until it, by now HSBC, closed in 2013. The building was restored and altered (for example, changing the old police station on Market Street to shops) in 1993-4, architects Esmond Murray of Bath.

The building was described, with an engraved picture and plans, in The Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal of 1854.