Heritage Town

Hope Hall

By Geoffrey Washington

Hope Hall is a distinguished Eighteenth Century Halifax House which is situated in Clare Road close to the Halifax swimming baths. The Hall was built for David Stansfeld during the year's 1762-1765 and was one of the several imposing mansions erected in or near the town centre around this time. Unlike the Yeoman Clothier's houses of the previous century which were scattered over the surrounding countryside eighteenth century houses built for manufacturers, merchants and bankers were more in the classical style. Frequently they had offices and warehouses attached to the main building.

David Stansfeld then the owner of Hope Hall was a merchant in the clothing trade who moved to Halifax from Leeds and whose father Ely Stansfeld was part of a family who played an important role in the history of Sowerby.

The face of the building which can be seen from Clare Road was originally the rear of the house. It has an attractive stone porch containing four columns, over which is a Venetian window. In front is an extensive forecourt provided with an entrance and exit for carriages. The Front of the building had a magnificent two way winged staircase which led into a large garden containing conservatories and fruit trees which stretched down to the River Hebble. Above the staircase was a large Venetian window, which is still which is still intact, although alas the staircase has gone, and only the outlines of its former presence can be seen on the eastern wall of the house. Attached to the hall on the north and south ends are two projecting wings, which originally would have been used as stables and a warehouse for the merchant's goods. On the south side of the building were cottages provided for the residential staff of gardeners and coachmen, whilst servant's quarters were in the upper rooms of the house.

During its lifetime Hope Hall (at one point known as Hope House) had many distinguished residents but none more so than Christopher Rawson who moved there is 1808 following his marriage to Mary Ann Brooks at St. Margaret's, Westminster. As a Lieutenant in the service of the East India Company he had a distinguished career at sea and was offered a knighthood by George III which he turned down on the grounds that he was not in a position to maintain such a status. He returned to Halifax to join the family banking business in Royds house (now known as Somerset House) and lived in Hope Hall until his death in 1849.

Other well known residents included Sir Henry Edwards, an MP for Halifax for 5 years who subsequently moved to the family seat at Pye Nest. He was followed by Samuel Waterhouse, a former Major of Halifax and a prominent citizen, who along with his brother John gave the land on Harrison Road where the Bluecoats School and Almshouses were built.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century the effect of the Industrial Revolution left its mark on Hope Hall and its estate. Successive owners could not resist the temptation to sell off land t the encroaching industrial developers for factories, housing and the railway. The garden disappeared and the two wings of the house were sold of separately. For a while the house was unoccupied and it seemed likely that the place would be demolished. However in 1906 it was purchased by a gentleman's club named the Albany club, formerly meeting in premises near the Town Hall. This was the saviour of Hope Hall and over the year's the place has been renovated and relatively recently it has been very tastefully re-decorated. It contains many superior facilities and is now much used, not only as a club but also by local organisations for regular meetings and social activities.

The fate of the wings has been rather different. The Northern wing was purchased by the CRS and was allowed to gall into dereliction, despite efforts by the Halifax Civic Trust to acquire and restore it. However recently this has been purchased and converted into accommodation by a member of the Albany Club. The Southern wing is at present used a doctor's surgery whilst the adjacent cottage is preserved and lived in.

Hope Hall is a Grade 2 listed building and along with the outbuildings its future is assured.

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