In the early 20th century, civic leaders decided to make City Hall’s market hall available for public use. Since then, the Hall has operated as an extremely flexible and versatile arts, performance and events venue and has held many a function during its 100 year history as a public space. This photograph features the bar staff replenishing the till during a musical performance in the former market hall space, c. 1993-94.
In the early 20th century, civic leaders decided to make City Hall’s market hall available for public use. Since then, the Hall has operated as an extremely flexible and versatile arts, performance and events venue and has held many a function during its 100 year history as a public space. This is photograph features the bar in the market hall space during a music event in the period 1993-94.
This photograph features Edwin John Paddy, who formed the Cornwall Motor Transport orchestra. His father was Edwin James Paddy who toured the country playing the string double bass with the famous D’Oyley Carte Opera Orchestra and the tuba for the Royal Italian Band throughout the 1880s. At the turn of the century, James was playing in the Seymour Pile Orchestra and then with his own Riviera Orchestra. The Riviera Orchestra were in great demand and regularly performed at Truro City Hall. Edwin James’ son, Edwin John, joined the Riviera Orchestra as a violinist and both father and son played a huge role in Truro’s local music scene. However, John’s progressive attitude to music caused him to eventually leave and form the Cornwall Motor Transport orchestra.
Before I moved down to Cornwall in 1964, I lived in Honor Oak in London. From the road I lived on, which was on a main bus route, we could see Big Ben – we were right in the heart of things – you could get anything you liked any time you liked. After I left school, I worked at Westminster for a while and then at Worth’s Fashion House. When my husband got a job teaching science at Truro School, we moved to Penelewey, which was – at the time – just a handful of houses, even fewer than there are now. Where we’d have busses running all day in Honor Oak, there was one bus a day now and I thought ‘what one earth have I come to?’ My husband died thirty years ago now and it was after he died that I heard about this place called Hall for Cornwall. It was a new thing for me. It was close and it was affordable. I discovered something there that grabbed me by the heart. One year I went to see something there every week – marine bands, plays, opera, comedy, dancing – anything they had on. The man on the security desk said to me he was thinking about calling Securicor for me, I’d bought that many tickets, and they told me by the end of the year, they thought I’d pretty much bought Row F! I remember seeing one comedy group which was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I laughed so hard it was painful and the man sitting next to me couldn’t stay in his chair he was laughing so much. I remember thinking I need a break from this. It’s strange, I’ve forgotten what they were called now, but I’ll never forget laughing that hard, not ever. It was a change from life, seeing something so different. I was able to feel I was supporting people who were doing creative things while I was doing it. A special place it is, right in the heart of things.
Billy Onions had a horse that he used for one purpose and one purpose only and every market day Billy Onions led his horse down Mitchell Hill and tied him to a lamppost smack in the centre of town, right by City Hall. Why’s Billy Onions bring a horse into town when he in’t got nothing to sell? Well, I’ll tell you. That horse’d wait, patient as Job and sometimes a child from the market would take pity on him, bring him out a carrot or two, something to pass the time, until Billy Onions emerged from out back of the Red Lion at the last light of the day. Now the Red Lion to City Hall was just a stagger and a belch and Billy Onions could manage that right enough. He’d pet the horse on the nose, untie him from the lamppost and the horse’d lead him right home.
When the war ended I was working along River Street. The fire station rang its signal and I threw myself to the ground and I remember thinking how silly I was to have done that. I remember the war well, the incendiary bombs falling all around. My mother rarely let us leave the house, at that time though I remember we went to the Regent Cinema, where they had open grate fires and they ironed the snooker tables before people played on them, and when we were allowed out, we’d head down to find winkles at Newham, boil them and pick them out with a pin.. This one time I remember my mother took us up to the park up at Hendra and we heard a noise and Mum said ‘It’s the Gerries’, so we ran into the public toilets and I remember all the windows smashing, the noise and the chaos of it. Mr Dexter, who was in the AA – you always saluted when you saw him coming – came and collected us and I remember we went up past Fairmantle Street where there was a house of one of my mother’s friends where a bomb had come right down through her sitting room. Sobering it was and I was glad when it was over.
My husband used to click his heels together when he asked you to dance. He wore spare collars and his shoes always shone and he was handsome as the day was long. I first met him at the Red Lion Hotel at the bottom of Lemon Street. If you had money you’d drink out front, and if you were one of the common people you’d drink out the back, sitting on the barrels – that’s where we’d go. A lot of people didn’t have money in those days, but we had comradeship and we enjoyed that. Everybody was in the same boat. He didn’t know anyone at that time, being German, and he went to the Red Lion to meet people, and though I’d seen him there a couple of times I didn’t know him at all. He asked me if I’d like to go to the City Hall for a dance. I was about eighteen or nineteen, but I told him I’d have to ask my mum. Anyway, I went to a dance with him and it went on from there. He’d gone into the German army at eighteen and he was two years interred on Guernsey before they moved him over to Cornwall. He came over on the boat and he lived in these Nissen Huts up by the hospital and from there they were put out to work on farms. They were taken out in lorries to the different farms and he was taken out to a farm at Comprignay Hill. After the war, he stayed on and moved into a tied cottage behind the big house. There were lions on the gateposts and it was a grand place but when I saw his rooms I thought it was terrible, up these rickety steps and he was living above where the stables used to be. All up one end was his bed and there wasn’t much else there aside from that. When we decided to marry, we had to write to Germany just so they could be sure he had never been married before. We had four sons. There’s not a thing I regret about it. We didn’t have much but we enjoyed what we had, and whenever he asked me to dance with him, he’d click his heels together and it took me right back to when I met first him and that first dance.
Roughly in 1948, when I was a little girl, my family went to the circus. 70 years ago. Well, a Lion got out and passed between us – what a memory!
In 2000, all Cornish school children were given a book on the History of Cornwall. I was part of the team and presented it to Prince Charles.