Links in a Chain - the Mayors of Bolton
Links in a Chain - The Mayors of Bolton
The Mayors of BoltonOnce upon a townA municipal palaceA (very) grand openingElephants and lionsTime for everyoneThe sincerest form of flatteryA place to gather togetherA new beginningAlso starringThe Albert HallsThe Festival HallThe Festival Hall CorridorThe Hall of Remembrance
The Banqueting HallThe Blue RoomThe Reception RoomThe Council ChamberThe Mayor's Parlour

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A new beginning...

Bolton Town hall 1920sMunicipal councils in Britain had become immensely powerful bodies by the first half of the 20th century. With great power came great responsibility - and in Bolton a major accommodation crisis.

Bolton Corporation ran all the services we are familiar with today, but it also managed its own electricity, gas and water utilities, operated trams and buses, had its own Police Force and Fire Brigade, ran colleges and provided many basic health and welfare services.

The increasing administrative burden on the resources of the Town Hall were all too clear. Some Town Hall staff were obliged to work where they could in the Albert Hall or any other free space available. Once again, something had to be done.

In 1923 the Council proposed extending the Town Hall to the rear of the building and constructing a new, crescent-shaped civic centre complex which would frame the design (with the added bonus of flattening most of Spring Gardens and Howell Croft - a selection of crumbling properties that had served as an embarrassingly squalid background to the Town Hall since it was built).

The extra building would provide a new home for the police and courts (thus freeing large amounts of space in the old Town Hall) and also establish a purpose-built Central Library, Art Gallery and Museum. Space was also allocated to the Council's expanding Public Health Department.

The scheme was designed by the Bolton architects, Bradshaw, Gass & Hope.

The next year, Lord Leverhulme revived his own plans for a spectacular alternative scheme. Unfortunately, in spite of offering to finance much of the project himself, the higher costs that would have been involved and Leverhulme's insistence on imposing eccentric and impractical conditions made it impossible for the Council to embrace his vision.

What followed was almost a rerun of the struggle to build the original Town Hall.

Times were hard. Was it really needed? Was it affordable? The months dragged into years while slow, painful progress was made. An amused local press noted the close similarities between the arguments of the 1860s and the 1920s.

The work was eventually put out to tender and the £570,000 contract for the bulk of the actual construction went to Richard Mosley, who, as a young man, had worked as a joiner on the original Town Hall. He died shortly after the work began on the new build.

Building finally got underway in 1931, with the cornerstone marking the start of the project being laid by Alderman Edmund Aspinall on 6 April 1932.

The huge construction project also provided welcome employment to many Bolton families during the economic hardship that the north of England faced throughout the 1930s.

Buildings and offices were occupied as soon as they were usable. The first session of the new courts, for example, was held on 29 October 1934. The Central Library opened its doors on 4 July 1938.

Work on the Town Hall Extension proved much more difficult and expensive than had been anticipated when structural defects in the original construction were discovered and the old floors had to be replaced.

The costs of the project were estimated to have risen to around £1,000,000 by completion. The renovation work on the Grand Organ alone came to £5,000.

The old, soot-stained section of the Town Hall was cleaned in 1937, to match the new section.

The official opening of the completed buildings by The Earl of Derby took place on Tuesday 20 June 1939.

Two months later Britain declared War on Germany.


Click for larger image Rear view of the original Town Hall before extension work.

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Click for larger image Rear view of the original Town Hall during the clearance of Howell Croft and Spring Gardens.

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Click for larger image The area behind the Town Hall during the clearance of Howell Croft and Spring Gardens.

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Click for larger image Two young children pose happily for the camera, high up on the rough scaffolding and formers for one of the elegant curved staircases in the Civic Centre.

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Click for larger image Another view of the construction of the the curved staircase leading to the Museum and Art Gallery in the new Civic Centre.

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Click forPDF Plan view of the Town hall extension and the Civic Centre in 1939. All is not what it appears to be from the street!

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Click for larger image View of Bolton Town Hall shortly after completion of the extension and Civic Centre.

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Click for larger image View of the Civic Centre looking toward the Library and Museum and Art Gallery shortly after completion.

Curiously, the section of road between the Civic Centre and the Town Hall was left nameless until it became Le Mans Crescent in 1974, marking Bolton’s twinning with the French town the previous year.

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Click for larger image An aerial view of Bolton town centre in the 1940s showing the Town Hall extension and Civic Centre.

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Click for larger image View of the central arches of the Civic Centre from Cheadle Square, which was named in 1947 for the late Frank Cheadle, Mayor of Bolton (1928-29).

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Click for larger image The seemingly out of place building behind the Civic Centre was also part of the scheme. It was built as the town’s Juvenile Detention Home. Any children who fell into the hands of the Police or the Council - for whatever reason - were held under lock and key there until they were moved elsewhere.

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A selection of the main public services run by Bolton Corporation




Electricity Works


Street Lighting and Private Fittings

Markets and Fairs

Ice making and Cold Stores


Sewage Works and Farm

Town's Scavenging and Drainage

Mortar Making


Art Gallery


Wash Baths and Lavatories

Turkish Baths

Parks and Playgrounds


Hospitals for Infectious Diseases

Cots for Consumptives


Fire Station

Accident Ambulance Service

Weights and Measures Department

Elementary Schools

Secondary School

Technical School

Teachers' Training College

Municipal Music in Parks and Albert Hall

Municipal Banking

The Police



1932 Foundation Stone

Underneath the arches...

The beginning and end of the project are marked by commemorative stones on either side of the arches in the centre of Le Mans Crescent leading onto Cheadle Square.

The first stone was laid by Edmund Aspinall (Mayor of Bolton 1923-24) who had been a strong supporter of the scheme. He himself had been born in Spring Gardens - which was mostly demolished during the work.


Lord Derby inspects Loyals 1939

20 June 1939

Lord Derby and the Mayor of Bolton, James Entwistle, inspect local soldiers of the Loyal Regiment on the eve of War.


Lord Derby

Lord Derby unveils the stone marking the completion of the works, on the other side of the arches to the first stone laid in 1932.



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