Morley may not be the grandest town in the country - but it has got one of the grandest town halls. Take a look! It's glorious - and what a statement of municipal confidence in a town which then had a population of, according to the 1891 census, just 35,000.
Morley got its charter of incorporation as a borough at the end of 1885. The new borough council quickly got on with building a town hall. A competition was held for design - the foundation stone was laid in 1892 - and on 16th October 1895, the Morley-born Home Secretary, H.H. Asquith, came to open the building (the photo below was taken on that day).
It's a Grade 1 listed building and said to bear a resemblance to Bolton Town Hall - though the more obvious comparison is with neighbouring Leeds, where a bigger town hall but in similar style was completed in 1858.
So much for the outside. But inside? Even grander! A revelation. Sixteen exquisite pieces of stained glass, most sponsored by individual members of the council, were unveiled in 1902 - and they are there still along with a white marble bust of Queen Victoria, a black marble bust of Asquith and a wonderful staircase.
The council room was closed, but I was able to take a peep into the Alexandra Hall - still in regular use (I see Wayne Fontana is playing there soon). And on the balcony, there's an extraordinary piece of stained glass - I couldn't get proper access, so I've lifted a couple of photos from the web -
H.H. Asquith returned to Morley Town Hall in 1913 when he was made a freeman of the borough. He left Morley when still very young and moved from Yorkshire when he was about eleven. The family worshipped at the Rehoboth chapel on Dawson's Hill - the chapel is long gone, but the crowded and overgrown graveyard remains. I found the gravestone of Asquith's mother Emily, who died in 1888 aged sixty and was obviously keen to be buried back in Morley - though not alongside her husband.
The memorial - not in the top picture, but centre above right - reads 'Also of / Emily Willans / Asquith / widow of / Joseph Dixon / Asquith / who died in London / December 12th 1888 / aged 60 years'. On the other side is an inscription to 'Joseph Asquith of Morley' who died in 1855 aged 77, and his wife Esther.
And on a personal note - my father, a Liberal (like Asquith) was a member of Morley Council for a few years at the close of the 1950s. My grandfather was chairman of Gildersome Urban District Council for quite a while until its absorption into Morley in 1937. He was a JP and chair of the local magistrates' bench when the Queen came to Morley Town Hall on 28th October 1954.
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