West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Local History




Wednesday afternoon saw the completion of an important step forward in the municipal life of Pontefract, for on that day was the official opening of the new offices for the officials of the Corporation, which have been erected on the site of the old offices, behind the Free Library in Salter Row, and a small part of the Corporation Yard, off the Headlands, adjoining. The following particulars of the building have been kindly supplied to us by Messrs. Tennant and Smith, the architects: -

The main front of the building faces Headlands Road. The elevations are boldly designed, suitable to this type of public building, with imposing main central entrance in polished hard Yorkshire stone, with the Borough coat of arms carved on the stonework over the doorway. The two principal elevations are faced with sand-faced bricks, with stone base sills and cornice, and the roof, which is covered with green Westmorland slates, is of the Mansard type, permitting the utilisation of the roof space for storage accommodation.

  • All rooms and corridors are heated by pipes and radiators on a low pressure hot water system.
  • The lighting is by electricity, and power plugs are placed in suitable positions.
  • The main staircase and side staircase are in polished hard Yorkshire stone, with ornamental wrought iron balustrading.
  • The corridors are laid with marble terrazzo, divided into squares with ebonite strips.
  • The committee room floors are in polished oak blocks, and all the office floors are laid with linoleum and linovent to give a silent tread.
  • All the floors are constructed with reinforced concrete, which makes the whole building practically fireproof.
The accommodation provided is as follows:

  • The Borough Treasurer’s Department is arranged at the front of the building facing Headlands Road, and has a general office with enquiry space, private office and typists office. All these rooms are easily accessible to each other.
  • The rates office is also at the front of the building, and had public space with two access doors from the corridor, and a counter with division screens. Behind this counter and screened off from the public space is accommodation for the posting clerks, and also a private office for the Chief Rates Assistant.
  • The Medical Officer’s and Sanitary Inspector’s departments are grouped together on the right of the corridor, the accommodation being private offices for the Medical Officer and Sanitary Inspector, and general office with enquiry space.
  • To the left of the staircase a room is provided for the telephone exchange.
  • Two fireproof strong rooms are provided on this floor; and also a large committee room with retiring room, cloaks recess, waiting room and caretaker’s store containing sink.
  • The principal staircase occupies a central position and is well lighted by windows glazed with leaded lights, and with a large dome light.
  • Directly at the head of the main staircase, off the corridor, is the Town Clerk’s private office, with the general office, enquiry space, Deputy Town Clerk’s office, and Education Clerk’s office. This department is grouped together facing Headlands Road.
  • On the left of the staircase is an ante-lobby leading into the large principal committee room, with panelled dado, and having exhaust ventilator with electric fan.
  • Adjoining the committee room is a retiring and cloaks room fitted with small lockers.
  • A waiting room adjoins the retiring room.
  • The Borough Engineer’s department is grouped together on the north side of the building and contains private office, typists’ office with enquiry office, clerks’ office, and Deputy Engineer’s office, adjoining a large drawing office with north lights.
  • This floor contains a caretaker’s flat, with modern accommodation; and the remainder of the floor is take up with store rooms for the various departments, and a plan printing room for the Borough Engineer’s department.
  • In the basement is provided the heating chamber, with storage for coke and coal, and containing heating and hot water supply boilers.
Ladies and gent lavatory accommodation is provided for on each floor, and all the lavatory basins are connected with the hot water supply.

All the work has been carried out by local contractors under the Unemployment Grants Scheme, the contracts amounting to £11,636.

The contractors were : -

Brickwork, stonework and reinforced concrete: Messrs. Brown & Lodge.
Joiners work, including special fittings, desks, screens, counters etc: Mr. C.L. Jackson.
Slaters: Messrs. Stewart Bros. & Sons.
Plumbers: Messrs. W. Pearson & Sons.
Plasterers, including tiling: Messrs. T. W. Senior & Sons.
Painter: Mr. S. Harrison.
Electrical Installation: Mr. F.S. Baxter.
The building has been designed and carried out from the plans and details of and under the superintendence of the Architects, Messrs. Tennant & Smith, F.I.A.A., L.R.I.B.A., of Pontefract.
The furniture has been supplied by Messrs. Postlethwaite and Stacey, of Doncaster.


There was a large and interested gathering at the opening ceremony, where the invited guests included a considerable number of members and officials of the Corporation, the contractors, and leaders of public life in Pontefract and neighbouring places, with their ladies. Mr. F.W. Pease, J.P., proved, as was only to be expected, an able and popularly-selected chairman. With him on the steps of the building were the Mayor (Cr. W. Wordsworth), the Mayoress, the Mayor’s Chaplain (the Vicar, Rev. C.C.T. Naters), the Town Clerk (Mr. G. Wilkinson), and the Mace-bearer (Mr. F. Baxter).

Brief prayers of dedication were first read by the Vicar, after which Mr. Pease, having expressed his appreciation of taking that part, said he well remembered in 1878 being first elected member of the Corporation. There had been many changes since then, and that day saw one of the biggest of them. He knew that although there would be a lot of criticism they all had only one intention – to make the town grow, which was what they were expecting. He himself had seen it grow from a population of 9,000 to more than double that number, and no-one could say how much it would grow in the next fifty years – though he would not be there to see it. He concluded by calling upon Mr. S.V. Smith.

Mr Smith said it was a great privilege to him to present to the Mayor a key with which to open the door of that building. It would be a memento of a rare and great occasion, and he trusted that the opening of those offices would coincide with the opening of a new era of prosperity for Pontefract.

A little daughter of the Deputy-Mayor (Cr. P. Bentley) here handed to the Mayoress a pretty bouquet.

The Mayor, accepting the gift of the golden key, duly inscribed, and with the Borough Arms in coloured enamel, complete with case, first outlined the arrangements for the afternoon. He proceeded: -

“Before I declare this building open I wish to very sincerely thank my colleagues for the great honour they have conferred on me. I must next refer to Mr. Smith, our very efficient architect, who has not only supervised this well designed building but also just completed for us the Eastbourne Housing Estate at Baghill, where we have 132 houses with all necessary comfort and convenience so economically built that we have let them at 7/- and 7s/9d per week including rates – the cheapest houses in the district.

“I thank you Mr. Smith, for this choice and beautiful gold key. It will be a greatly prized memento for both the Mayoress and myself, and I feel sure that our two girls will also treasure it in future years.

“What shall I say of our Chairman – Freeman of the Borough; three times Mayor; an active and able Magistrate of both the County and the Borough; and with a records of service to this town extending for more than fifty years? He has always kept young, and not only knows the art of pessimistic optimism, but he is also the jolliest of optimistic pessimists (laughter).

“Since the War, the Council has devoted a great deal of time and thought and spent a lot of money to improve the amenities of the town. Schemes that would have been worthy of a County Borough have been carried through or are just ready for completion.

“we have built the Willow Park Schools; erected the new water tower; laid a 16” water main from Eggborough to the Park Hill reservoir; and completed the schemes of drainage for the Townville and Ackworth Road areas.

“The next twelve months will see our total of municipal houses pass the 1,000 mark; the old King’s School made into an up-to-date building for 500 senior boys under the able supervision of our other firm of local architects, Messrs. Pennington, Hustler and Taylor; and a new water works at Eggborough will enable us to say we are an up-to-date water undertaking with an abundant supply for 80,000 people; and every month shows progress in slum clearance schemes, private street works improvements and the supplying of water to cottage property for sanitary and domestic purposes.

“It is a wonder that our officials have carried out the desires of the Corporation so efficiently in the inadequate old premises which are today replaced by this fine and serviceable building. I am pleased to tell you that it has been built for £3,000 less than the amount applied for and granted after a Government inquiry and we are proud that local contractors have so well and promptly carried out all the work. Your inspection will prove that both the taxpayer and the ratepayer have good value for their money.

“It is just a year since Capt. Bentley laid the foundation stone, and tomorrow – another memorable August 4th – every branch of our municipal staff will commence duty with fresh vigour and enthusiasm in their new and improved surroundings. This will no doubt also infect the Council Committee as they continue to work for our dear and ancient, but up-to-date old Borough.

“I have only great pleasure in opening the door of this building and declare the same to be officially at your service for the Municipality of Pontefract. I feel sure we have done the right thing in creating offices which are worthy of the town and the objects which they are to serve both for the present and possible increasing needs of the future.

His worship then turned the key in the lock, opened the door, and declared the building to be at the service of the municipality of Pontefract (applause).

Leading the ay, the Mayor and Mayoress took up position at the foot of the main staircase, where they shook hands with the visitors as they arrived to make a tour of inspection of the premises. The visitors were warm in their expressions of appreciation of the convenience of the arrangements, the spaciousness of the accommodation, and the good finish and polish so much in evidence in every direction. The generous proportions of the main committee room were a notable point of comment, whilst the size and light of the drawing office proved another feature which attracted much attention, and the whole place was subjected to a thorough and extended inspection, right up to the caretaker’s flat and on the flat roof.


After this the visitors adjourned to the Town Hall whence, in due course, they were summoned to the Assembly Room, where a dainty and ample tea was served by the staff of the Pontefract Industrial Co-operative Society, Ltd., music being furnished meanwhile by Mr. Kenneth Watson, the distinguished young Pontefract pianist.

After the meal, Cr. Bentley proposed a vote of thanks to “our beloved Freeman”, Mr. Pease, for the way in which he had presided that afternoon. His selection was a happy though, for he was a patriotic man (applause). Whatever he thought about the government of Pontefract he would never allow anyone outside the town to criticise it. After having done so much for his town one wondered why he should bother his head any more about it, but it was because of that same spirit of patriotism. He did not know of a man more entitled to that honour that afternoon, and he had a personal reason for his pleasure in the selection of Mr. Pease for the chairmanship – the relationship which existed between his late father and Mr. Pease (applause).

Cr. J. Shaw, vice-chairman of the Markets Committee, seconding, suggested that the pleasure the Mayor derived from that afternoon’s ceremony must have been enhanced by the thought that he had with him the towns oldest living ex-Mayor. Cr. Wordsworth must have had an arduous time that afternoon for he had opened those offices as Mayor of Pontefract, had handed them over as chairman of the Unemployment Grants Schemes Committee, and had accepted them as Chairman of the Markets and General Purpose Committee. It had often struck him that Mr. Pease would make a jolly good Boy Scout, for he was always smiling and whistling (laughter and applause).

Mr. Pease, referring to the kind remarks of Crs Bentley and Shaw, said he could only reply that he had done no more than any man in a position should do and take pleasure in. As far back as 1916 he told the Corporation that their labours then were nothing to what they would be. He had lived to see that come true, and it would grow still more. Whatever time he had given to Corporation work had been done with one object – the town’s good. There were plenty of people who would come and criticise, but they did not come forward and put their hands to the plough to plough a furrow themselves for the town.

The party here honoured Mr. Pease with the hearty singing of “Foe he’s a jolly good fellow”, followed by three brisk cheers led by Cr. Bentley.

A vote of thanks for the Mayor was moved by Cr. Miller, chairman of the Castleford U.D. Council, who remarked that such a pleasant gathering made him feel that they were a nice happy family together.

Cr. E. Taylor, chairman of the Whitwood U.D. Council, said he felt he must be well known in Pontefract, for when Mr. Pease first caught sight of him that afternoon his greeting was “Hello Ezra, how are you?”

The Mayor, replying, said they really were a happy family, and he did not see why all in that room should not remain so. They still had to work for the good of the community, and there was enough good-will in that room to make the area round Pontefract one of the most successful in the north of England. They intended that that gathering should take the place of the Mayoress’s “At Home”, and invitations had been sent to all the local organisations in which the ladies had a part, where they served the community much better than they could ever do by coming on to the Council and the Magisterial Bench. It was exactly 50 years, he mentioned, since that building in which they were was opened by Earl Fitzwilliam – in 1882, and of the 33 whose names have appeared on the commemorative plaque in the vestibule Mr. Pease was the only one alive today. His part that afternoon was a wonderful testimony to his vigour at 78. He mentioned that he had had several apologies for absence, amongst the, one from their M.P., Capt Sotheron-Estcourt.

His worship here called upon his daughter Elnora to convey and present to Mrs Smith a gold and enamel brooch bearing the Borough Arms, in order that she might have a souvenir of her husband’s work in connection with that building (applause).

On behalf of his wife, Mr. Smith thanked the Mayor for such a charming memento, which would be highly treasured, and for all the pleasant things they had said about him and the building. The contractors had worked well, without a single hitch, and it was very gratifying to know that that building had been erected entirely by local contractors.

The above account, reproduced from the Pontefract Advertiser 6th August 1932 was kindly loaned to us by Mr. John O.E. Holmes.

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