1926: Spiralling Costs and a Controversial Reopening
Written by James Westfield, University of Exeter
Work on the remodelling of the Hall commenced in June 1925 after the tender was given to ‘Messrs. Colenso, Ltd., of Cambourne, of £8,737’, considerably above the £5,000 initially estimated in 1922. Subsequent to this, Truro City Council applied for a loan of an additional £4,000, thus allowing £10,000 for the project overall. The City Hall (as it was then renamed to) reopened with a ball in October 1926, although it was widely criticised at the time for ending at midnight, as the council would not permit longer opening hours for the new Hall.
The actual end cost announced to the council meeting on 14th April 1926 was £12,000, which caused an outcry from the public (represented in this poem from the West Briton newspaper in May 1923 just from the initial costing of £5,000 for the hall, let alone the £12,000 final cost!) and there were also complaints that renting costs for the hall were too high at £33 10s per week and also that no arrangements had yet been made for films or performances. Eventually, in June 1926, the council agreed to temporarily let the hall for use as a cinema in order to pay back ‘at least the interest’ on the loan, only to then cancel these plans in August 1926 as the councillors couldn’t come to an agreement over the letting costs!
The first ball, to celebrate the reopening of City Hall was held in October 1926, although not without controversy. The Police Super-Intendent Osbourne called it ‘an absolute disgrace’ that it ended at midnight and that the council would not extend the licence of the Hall until 2 am. There were also complaints in early 1927 that it seemed impossible to book the hall, although the council down-played this by announcing that the Woman’s Institute had successfully booked it and that they did not understand what the public were complaining about.
And so, the City Hall and it’s first theatre were created, and this paved the way for the modern theatre we know today as the Hall for Cornwall. It also helped Truro enter a new, post-industrial era and prepared it for the societal changes that would occur in the latter-half of the twentieth-century. Furthermore, it cemented the Hall’s place as a significant monument for the Truronian population, that would lead to them campaigning to save it from destructions in the 1990s.