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The Municipal Buildings - a history tour

The Reading Room in the Tiled Hall

The Yorkshireman in 1884 described the Municipal Buildings as being in two sections – the ‘popular’ side towards Centenary Street and the ‘business’ side fronting on to Calverley Street. The popular side was occupied by the Free Public Library but took up less than a third of the whole building.. This consisted of a reading room, lending library and reference library.

The Reading room was located in the Tiled Hall at the front of the building and was used for the opening ceremony. A report of the opening noted that ‘inside the edifice a select company assembled to participate in the opening ceremony. On a slightly raised dias were seated the Mayoress and other ladies of note. Behind… stood a mixed group of politicians, barristers, clergymen, magistrates, merchants and manufacturers. Here and there in various parts of the handsome reading room were well known local dignitaries and would-be dignitaries.’

The room is 80 ft x 40ft. It is divided into a nave and aisles by arches supported by granite pillars. The tiled walls have medallion portraits in relief of Homer, Dante, Goethe, Burns, Scott, Horace and Macaulay. The vaulted ceiling is covered in mosaic with hexagonal bricks of various colours with golden bosses. These ceiling bosses were part of the Victorian ventilation system. 'The Yorkshireman' described the room on opening as ‘a magnificent place. The floor is the finest parquetry in oak, walnut and ebony..’ The roof was so magnificent it was feared that ‘people will be continually gazing up at it, instead of quietly reading the magazines and newspapers’.

The Reading Room in the Tiled Hall
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