Just over one year ago, scaffolding went up around Market Hall Clock Tower – and then was promptly taken down to allow filming of a Christmas market scene for the BBC Three Comedy “Cuckoo”. (More filming is due to take place in June 2015 but how the year has flown!)
The scaffolding allowed our surveyor, Stephen Crawley, and various building contractors to get a close look at the condition and extent of the rot to the clock tower. Just over one year on, we have three quotes for carrying out a complete refurbishment to the outside of Market Hall.
The Clock Tower
The bell frame support has rotted at the base under the lead and now retains some movement. The eight original oak legs of the cupola are spindly and in need of strengthening. The legs are weathered down into the lower part of the turret and Stephen Crawley has proposed fitting a new stainless steel T section frame fixed inside the legs so that the stainless steel will not be visible from the street. We hope that following the works we can get the bell ringing once again.
The Outside Refurbishment
The quotes also cover a general refurbishment of the outside of Market Hall. It makes practical sense to complete this work whilst the scaffolding is in place. The roof tiles will be checked and replaced as necessary. The broken external bricks will be replaced by similar bricks and the lime mortar re-pointed.
The windows will be checked for gaps and general wear and tear.
Feasibility Study for a Lift
The Amersham Society has long been requesting that ATC installs a lift into Market Hall. The steps are steep and not user-friendly for those with mobility problems. Furthermore, the addition of a lift (If it is possible) would not only allow easy access for the elderly, mums with buggies and disabled – it would make it possible for the Town Council to consider applying for a wedding licence.
We do know from discussions that the stairs at the east end of the building, nearest the kitchen, must be retained for their historic importance. So the lift would have to be installed at the west end of the building.
The Town Council is continuing to talk to other Councils who have similar buildings to our Market Hall.
It is surprising just how many “Market Halls” there are around the UK. They are all very similar to ours – but with unique features. Some have successfully installed a lift – others have filled in the arches.
The Latest Situation
We must submit a planning application before any work commences – this is currently in progress.
The Town Clerk is looking at grants to fund the works. The quotes range from £88,000 to £170,000. Councillors are currently considering the detail of these quotes.
Market Hall – Some History
Built in 1682 by Sir William Drake, Knight, MP for Amersham – the glorious new “Market Howse” was the handsomest in the County, being of brick. Over 300 years any meeting of importance was held here – Trade Guilds, School Classes, Law Courts, Penny Readings, political meetings, exhibitions, concerts, magic lantern shows, and an Army Sergeant’s recruiting base for the young men of Amersham joining Kitchener’s Army in 1914. On 4th January 1895, Amersham Parish Council’s first meeting was held with Capt TH Tyrwhitt Drake of Little Shardeloes elected Chairman. The Hall was restored in 1911 and in 1961 – the Drake family handed this much loved public building to the Amersham Rural District Council – transferred by deed to ATC. The hall was completely refurbished in 1993 and particular attention was paid to preserve the character of this historic building.