Tuesday 24th May, London
The first day of Restitch will be held in Church House, Westminster, the remarkably little known headquarters of the Church of England. The current building, the second on the site, was designed by the classical architect, Sir Herbert Baker and was opened by King George VI in June 1940 only a few days after the successful completion of the Dunkirk evacuation.
Although bombed in the Blitz, Church House suffered much less damage than the nearby Houses of Parliament. The House of Lords therefore sat in the Assembly Hall, where we will be meeting, for the remainder of the war. On 17 January 1946, a week after the UN General Assembly convened for the first time at nearby Methodist Central Hall, the UN Security Council met for the first time in Church House. They used the Hoare Memorial Hall, one of the rooms we will be using, and established their provisional rules of procedure. They have been amended eleven times since but still influence the UN Security Council’s work to this day.
Church House is an excellent example of the way in which our town centres,
streets and squares used to grow ‘organically’ getting bigger and higher,
intensifying and meeting new needs but somehow feeling as if they have
always been there. It is a trick we’ve largely lost and perhaps need to
rediscover if we are to meet our housing needs and grow our towns and
neighbourhoods sustainably and with popular consent. Herbert Baker like
many twentieth century innovative architects working within the vernacular
tradition has been almost entirely forgotten, although he was one of the best
known designers of his day and was buried in the nave of Westminster Abbey.
The Piece Hall
Friday 27th May, Halifax
The Piece Hall is Yorkshire’s most important secular building and should be one of England’s most famous places. Opening in 1779, it is the only survivor of the great eighteenth century northern cloth halls in which producers, traders and middlemen bartered over the most historically long-lasting of Britain’s exports – woolen cloth. Very nearly demolished in the 1970s, it is hard to overstate the scale of this building or its importance to all our histories.
Nicholas Boys Smith, Founding Director of Create Streets, reflects on the first
time he entered The Piece Hall:
“I will never forget the first time I saw The Piece Hall. I was lucky enough
to be visiting Halifax as an Historic England Commissioner. I knew it was
something special. I’d read about it. I’d seen the pictures. And yet, emerging
through that dark small door into what must be one of the most gloriously
luminous urban enclosures in Europe still took my breath away. That a building,
created purely for commercial purposes 240 years ago should be so beautiful
tells us something about the commercial culture of our past. That a building
that merits national fame is so little-known tells us much about the cultural
geography of our own present. If any one place symbolises our need to
“level-up” it is surely The Piece Hall.”
Our sessions will be held within The Piece Hall itself, and in Square Chapel Arts
Centre, located just next door.