Stretford Public Hall was built by the philanthropist John Rylands in 1878.
John Rylands was Manchester’s first multi-millionaire and known as the 'Cotton King', because he made his money from textile mills. The Hall was designed by architect N. Lofthouse in a mixed gothic revival style and built at a cost of £30,000.
The building was often (and still sometimes is) referred to as the ‘Town Hall’ although it was not used for any administrative purpose. It originally housed Lecture rooms and a free lending library with 3,ooo volumes, the first in Stretford.
Following John Ryland's death in 1888, the Hall was bought by the Local Board, the forerunner of the Urban District Council. Old Trafford residents, feeling that their end of town was more populous and thriving, objected to the sitting of public office at the ‘village’ end. The ensuing dispute was settled when the public offices (now Trafford Public Hall, on Talbot Road) were built in 1889, favouring the north end of Trafford!
Upon John Rylands' death, his widow Mrs Enriqueta Rylands placed the building at the disposal of the local authority for nominal rent. It was Enriqueta who built the John Rylands Library in his honour and who was the first woman to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Manchester in 1899. Upon her own death in 1910, the Hall was bought by Stretford Council for a nominal fee of £5,000. Stretford Public Hall was one of many liberal ‘gifts’ to the people of Stretford from the Rylands, who resided in Longford Hall, Longford park.
In 1940, the new Stretford Library was opened on King Street, and Stretford Public Hall was rendered surplus. The building re-opened in March 1949 as the Stretford Civic Theatre, with a well-equipped stage for the use of local groups. Many Mancunians have fond memories of the Civic Theatre, which served as a community centre and a popular live music venue. In December 1977, the Theatre secured its place in local music history, when it hosted the Rock against Racism Christmas Party, featuring John Cooper Clarke, the Worst and The Fall.
The Hall slowly fell into disrepair, despite being designated a Grade II listed structure in 1987, until Trafford Council refurbished and converted the hall to serve as council offices in the mid-1990s. It was re-opened in 1997, once again named Stretford Public Hall.
1855 John Rylands bought Longford Hall.
1857 Built a new Hall building
1865 Leading role in the erection of Union Church
1878 Built Stretford Public Hall
1885/6 First public baths were built
1888 John Rylands died
1909 The local authority purchased the baths
1912 Extensive alterations made to the baths adding another swimming bath
1919 Stretford Trades and Labour Club opened
1938 Building extension opened by the Mayor of Stretford
1940 The new Stretford library was opened on King Street, and the public hall was rendered surplus
1949 The building re-opened in March as the Stretford Civic Theatre
1958 Further extension opened by the Mayor of Stretford
1970s Stretford Civic Theatre
1977 Rock Against Racism Christmas Party, featuring The Fall, The Worst and John Cooper Clarke
1977 The Cyprus Street Baths wing fell into disuse, and was demolished
1987 Hall designated a Grade II listed structure by English Heritage
1995 Trafford Council refurbished and converted the hall to serve as council offices
1997 It was re-opened in and once again named Stretford Public Hall
2014 The council vacate the building as it is surplus to their requirements
2015 Friends of Stretford Public Hall secure the freehold of the Hall, and begin renovation works
2017 Successful community share offer raises money to fund the renovation of the Hall
2018 First stage of renovations complete, creating a new community space and reinforcing the Ballroom floor