1924: Grand designs
Written by James Westfield, University of Exeter
As part of the rebuild and repurposing of the Hall in the 1920s, an architectural competition was held, with all designs in by 12th January 1924. By 13th March 1924, it had been announced by the Western Morning News that Messrs. Thornely and Rooke of Plymouth had been chosen by the Royal Institute of British Architects’ assessor in London.
Although they were a relatively local firm, there is evidence that submissions were made from as far afield as Manchester. The fact that it was a national competition potentially shows the importance of the Hall for Truro to continue to have national significance and voice. This is reflected in the designs that were submitted. Looking at Goodall’s (of Manchester) designs, they are incredibly intricate, certainly not done cheaply, so they evidently felt entering was worth the financial cost of these designs.
Furthermore, looking at the designs themselves, they certainly have grandeur. Goodall’s designs feature Greek-style detailing whilst both have intricate cornices and doorframes. There is also a large amount of colour involved – bright, rich, decadent tones, which give us an insight into the target market of the new hall being for Truro’s new, theatre-going middle-classes. This was a world away from the old markets. Some evidence of Thornely and Rooke’s designs can still be seen on the Boscawen Street side today with the purple ceiling and 1920s flooring.
By the council meeting of 13th August 1924, Truro City Council had been given a loan of £6,000 by the Ministry of Health and so the Public Works Committee commenced the tender stage of the project: the new Public Hall was becoming a reality.