First national award for Piece Hall as Andrew Lloyd Webber names Claire Slattery overall ‘Angel’ winner - and says it puts Halifax on par with major European cities

Claire Slattery at The Piece Hall
Claire Slattery at The Piece Hall

Halifax Piece Hall’s Claire Slattery has won a major award for her work on the restoration and reopening of the beautiful Grade I listed building which is a jewel in Calderdale’s crown.

Musical legend Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber - who visited the hall in recent weeks - announced the Historic England Angel Award winners last night with Claire taking the first ever Overall Winner category, which was sponsored by Battersea Power Station.

The awards judges heard that in 1779, the West Riding of Yorkshire ruled the cloth trade and the Grade I listed Piece Hall is a monument to this time.

Claire undertook a complex £19 million project to restore the beauty of the Georgian building and return it as a place of pivotal importance in Halifax.

By 2009, work was urgently required to restore the stonework and remedy earlier repairs.

Claire successfully secured funding to safeguard the future of the Piece Hall and in 2012 restoration work began, they heard.

She also played a key role in developing heritage spaces within the building, where visitors can learn about what has made the hall so special throughout its history and experience its atmosphere as a trading hall.

“Thanks to the dedication of Claire and her team, the Piece Hall reopened to thousands of visitors on August 1, 2017,” the judges learned.

Announcing the award winners, Lord Lloyd Webber described the Piece Hall as “inspirational” and spoke about it in terms of intenational importance.

He said: “Congratulations to all the winners! I’m delighted that these awards shine a spotlight on people who work tirelessly to bring our heritage back to life in such a vibrant way.

“I am especially pleased that we have crowned an overall UK winner for the first time. I am thrilled that it is the Piece Hall in Halifax.

“This stunning example of urban renewal should spur on the councils of every major city and town in Britain to do something similar. It is as if St Mark’s Square in Venice has been deposited in West Yorkshire and puts Halifax on a par with major cities in Europe.

“The only word I can use to describe it is inspirational.”

The Historic England Angel Awards are supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and celebrate the efforts of individuals and local groups across the country that have devoted their time and energy to bringing irreplaceable historic places back to life.

The ceremony was co-hosted by Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose first love has always been our nation’s heritage, and historian Bettany Hughes at the Palace Theatre in London. Nominees came from across the country to celebrate the achievements of all groups, but only seven could be crowned as winners.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England said: “The Historic England Angel Awards show how the historic environment is for everyone.

“From the restoration of The Piece Hall which has become a lively destination in Halifax to the innovative business using craft skills to fix bottle kilns in Northumberland, the winners are breathing new life into our historic places. The variety and calibre of this year’s winners is truly impressive and I urge others to enter next year’s awards.”

The 2017 awards were judged by Andrew Lloyd Webber, TV’s Restoration Man George Clarke, Dean of Westminster the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, historian Bettany Hughes, Baroness Lola Young and Historic England’s Chief Executive Duncan Wilson.

Among those signalling early congratulations were Calderdale Council’s chief executive Robin Tuddenham, who tweeted “Yessssssss! Delighted that Claire shares this award @HistoricEngland @Calderdale @thepiecehall #AngelAwards17”

Euro MP Amjad Bashir MEP, whose constituency office is in Halifax, welcomed the “massive achievement” of the Halifax Piece Hall restoration team and said: “This is a huge honour for the town and our region, and recognition of the brilliant job that has been done on this architectural jewel.”

Mr Bashir, Conservative MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “I visited the Piece Hall shortly after it reopened and I was staggered by the scale of the accomplishment and liveliness of the place as an attraction.

“The restoration has struck the perfect balance between enhancing the building’s intrinsic beauty and turning into a living, working focus for the whole town and district. That was a massive achievement and this honour, welcome as it is, is no more than Halifax deserves.”