Truro’s first market hall stood on the corner of St Nicholas Street and King Street. Late medieval in structure, it was on two storeys – the upper area used for the council, the bottom, for markets.
A new hall was built on the site in 1809; but this area became too small and the building we see today was built in 1846 from Carn Brea granite. It housed the Town Hall, magistrates and stannary courts, police offices and cells and the fire brigade.
In 1909 plans were drawn up to change the building into a public hall. This culminated in it being leased for a skating rink and occasional picture house.
In 1914 disaster struck when a fire gutted most of the building and in 1925 remodelling took place to accommodate a stage “suitable for the presentation of plays”.
Through the 60s and 70s, the hall deteriorated and by the mid 80s, Carrick District Council broached the idea of selling City Hall for development. Immediately a bitter battle began between council and community.
Passions were running high when the developers appeared in town to show their audio-visual presentation. Six to eight hundred people flocked into the Hall, but when the developers rose to move into their rehearsed routine, the lights went out. The audio-visual feast was a disaster and the developers left.
But the question of what to do with City Hall still remained.
A performance by Duchy Opera in Carn Brea Leisure Centre starring Benjamin Luxon brought home the need for a middle scale venue in Cornwall. A core group, including Ben Luxon, Chris Warner and some Carrick councillors met to discuss the future.
Carrick offered them a 125 year lease on the Hall at £1 a year and £500,000. They accepted and the campaign for a new City Hall began.
Chris Warner said: “The Hall we took over in April 1991 was in an advanced state of decay. The roofs leaked so badly that on one occasion towels had to be placed on the stage to deaden the downpour, some floors were rotten, much of the paintwork dating from 1947 was peeling badly, carpets were stained, the dressing rooms were disgraceful and there was an indefinable smell.
There wasn’t even a post box, let alone a box office.”
Five years after taking over the hall, the contractors moved in.
Work on the high tech venue took just over 18 months and the inaugural performance took place on November 15th 1997.
Now Hall for Cornwall attracts just close to 180,000 theatre-goers each year. The theatre has hosted companies such as Rambert Dance Company and The Royal Shakespeare Company as well as a wide range of entertainers from Bill Wyman and Mike Reid to Coldplay and Wheatus.