Towards the end of the 19th Century, the movement for a substantial and prestigious concert hall in the centre of Halifax gained momentum, led by a group of local businessmen.
In March 1897, the “Halifax Concert Hall and Public Rooms Company Limited” was formed, having Alderman George H Smith (later Sir George Fisher-Smith JP) as its first chairman. The site at the junction of Commercial Street and Fountain Street was purchased for £8,169. Work began and Alderman Smith laid the foundation stone on 06 May 1899.
(A fine oil painting of Alderman Smith’s portrait, from the 1920s, was discovered in the Theatre’s basement in June 2005 and is now hanging in the entrance hall.)
The share capital of the Company was £30,000 and the total cost of the building came within that figure.
The local architect, W Clement Williams, faced the challenge of a site which is a parallelogram on only three sides; the fourth side being the shape of a wedge. His innovative solution to this conundrum is still a fascinating aspect of the building to this day.
The foyer retains the original features: an extremely artistic structure with a broad staircase, surmounted by a stained glass dome of ornate design. Standing on a pedestal in prominent position under this dome is a bust of the late Queen Victoria – described in the local press of the day as “a very beautiful specimen of the sculptor’s art and a striking portrait of our lamented Queen”.
Original artists impression of the Victoria Theatre.
Victoria Theatre in the early 20th century.