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Work in Progress

The building works were fraught with difficulties from the start. Atack, the builder, did not have enough capital to work continuously, and had trouble finding enough men to work on the site. This was partly because at a time of high employment, reliable and skilled workers were hard to find.

The work progressed only slowly, sometimes held up by bad weather, and sometimes for more unpredictable reasons. In 1855 Britain was at war in the Crimea. On 17th September there was a half-day holiday to celebrate the fall of Sebastopol, and the following day few men turned up for work.

Brodrick was sometimes not satisfied as to the quality of the work, or the building materials.  There were delays in the supply of building stone from Rawdon Hill Quarries, and sometimes poor quality stone was sent. On one occasion Brodrick took a hammer and destroyed a faulty cornice stone to prevent it being used. Stone had to be obtained from other quarries at Sturdy, Pool Bank, Bramley Fall and Calverley Wood, and from Darley Dale in Derbyshire. In all, stone (millstone grit) from 17 different quarries was used. Stone for the carvings came from Rawdon Hill.

In April 1856 matters came to a head. Work was stopped; Atack had run out of money, and Brodrick refused to pay him any more, as the builder had already been overpaid. The committee overseeing the work reached an agreement with Atack, and work was re-started. But by the autumn, Atack and Brodrick were again arguing over payment and in December, Atack had overspent his contract by over 2,000, and the work was still unfinished. In January 1857 work stopped completely, and in March Atack went bankrupt. He claimed  20,000 from the council for arrears and extra work not included in the contract, but was paid only 3,000. Other contractors were brought in to finish the work, and Donaldson, the clerk of works left to work in India.

As the building progressed, expensive alterations and additions were made to the original plans. The idea of a truly grand building to reflect the civic pride of Leeds had taken hold, and no expense was spared. When Brodrick was told to choose locks for the doors, he was told to 'give preference to those with the most brass about them'. An exception was made in the matter of making the building fire-proof; it was considered to be too costly!

By September 1858, when Queen Victoria was due to perform the opening ceremony, the building was still not finished, and there was much work to do. The tower was incomplete. The interior decoration, apart from in the Victoria Hall had still to be carried out and there were carpets and furnishings to fit. On 30th September 1858 the council voted the sum of 20,000 for finishing and furnishing the building. This was in addition to the 800 already spent on furnishing the mayor's rooms.

The Tower.
There was great controversy over whether a tower should be added to the hall. Barry had suggested that a tower should be added, and Brodrick had produced a design which would cost 6,000 to build. This was turned down by the council, but in September 1853 Alderman Hepper tried again to persuade the council to grant 7,000 for a tower. He was outvoted by 27 to 20.

Opponents of the tower, such as Joss Bower from Hunslet, thought that it would cost too much money and be of no practical use. Alderman Hepper and Dr. Heaton and their supporters were in favour of adding the tower to give both dignity and beauty to the Hall. It would be a pity, said Heaton, having spent so much already on the building, not to spend a few extra thousands to complete it.

A compromise was reached in February 1854, when the council granted the money to construct the roof so that it would support a tower if eventually one was built. The matter was finally settled in March 1856 when the construction of the tower was approved by a majority of 19. The contract for building the tower was awarded to Addy and Nicolls of Leeds. The grand staircase, which had been part of the original design, had to be omitted when the plan was changed to include the tower.

The tower was to have a clock and a bell, the cost of these not to exceed 800. A clock was important, as most people did not have a watch, and there was no radio to tell them the time. The clock has 4 faces, and was designed by Edward Beckett Denison, and made by Dent of London. The bell that goes with it weighs 4 tons, and was made by Warner's of Cripplegate, London. Its dimensions are: Diameter 6ft 2ins, height 5ft, thickness of sound bow 6 inches, and weight of the clapper (which is of wrought iron) 1cwt. The cost of the bell was 662.12s

Click images to enlarge
Early design with tower, 1853
Early design with tower, 1853
Brodrick's drawing showing the tower as built
Brodrick's drawing showing the tower as built
Original design for the staircase
Original design for the staircase
Working drawing of the tower
Working drawing of the tower
Winding mechanism for the clock
Winding mechanism for the clock
The Bell
The Bell
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003