“New lease of life” for Bishop’s Castle as town hall reopens

The keys to Bishop’s Castle town hall have been handed over to the town council after the £750,000 renovation.

Over the next week, the town clerk and town hall project manager Sam Hines will be ordering furniture and equipment before they and the new Town Hall Trust staff move into the building from their current offices in Enterprise House.

The official ribbon cutting ceremony will take place on June 5, followed by an invitation-only reception for representatives of funding bodies and town councillors. The handover is taking place in advance of repointing work which is the subject of confidential negotiations between the town council and contractors.

The first market in the new town hall will be a flea market, to be held on June 7 and then monthly on the first Saturday of each month. The monthly farmers’ market will move back into the town hall on June 21, continuing on the third Saturday of each month.

The Town Hall Trust is aiming to hold a twice weekly market on Mondays and Thursdays in the town hall, starting from 16 June. The trustees hope the markets will sell basic foodstuff such as bread and vegetables, perhaps with opportunities for local people to sell surplus produce from allotments, and will be inviting the stallholders at Lydham market to trade in Bishop’s Castle too.

Town hall trustee Evelyn Bowles said, “The town hall has to be busy, to support itself and to support the town. Quite a lot of shops are closed on Mondays, and a market would give the town a lift. And at the other end of the week we chose Thursday instead of Friday because Lydham has made a big success of their market and we don’t want to make people chose between them – either customers or traders.  The stalls will also offer start up businesses a toe hold in retail.”

The Trust is looking at the possibility of having volunteers to oversee some market stalls if their owners can’t be there all day.

Ms Bowles, who recently resigned as a town councillor to concentrate on the town hall, said there was a big job to be done in promoting the markets to attract customers and traders, and she strongly denied the town hall would be competing with the town’s current traders.

“There isn’t a fixed market. You can create a market. This is not about fighting each other over the odd person, it’s about raising the profile of the town so more people come and visit and shop. It’s a new lease of life for the town.”

“There are campers and walkers and cyclists, a new bed and breakfast  about to open, and all these people need food. In the off season people will have to box clever.”

The Town Hall Trust is a charity managing the town hall on behalf of the town council on a not-for-profit basis. The money raised from the Heritage Lottery Fund and several other sources include funding for a programme of activities between now and September 2015. As well as the town hall manager, Thomasina Carlyle, it has now appointed two assistants, Bernard Edwards and Sue Salisbury.

A weekend of activities celebrating the reopening of the town hall will take place on June 21 and 22, with tea and cake on Sunday afternoon and a concert by the Men from Off in the evening.

More information at the town hall’s new website bishopscastletownhall.co.uk

© Castle News 2014

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