The Piece Hall Halifax – Inspiration Behind the Drawing

“Revisiting my Halifax roots with a doodle of its iconic cloth hall”

From Rochdale to Halifax

I’ve been itching to jump back over the Lancashire-Yorkshire border to take my doodling adventure outside of my usual Rochdale zone. The Coronavirus lockdown rollercoaster, however, has made that journey pretty difficult. However, thanks to the wonders of modern day technology, I was able to digitally navigate the West Yorkshire town of Halifax – my go-to retail hangout growing up, and also the place I was born.

If you’re familiar with Halifax, you will almost certainly be familiar with The Piece Hall. I have to say that it’s only during my adult years that the full scale of its importance, both historically and culturally, has become clear to me.

As a child, I remember that it was a common ask of Mum and Dad to go exploring the hall’s numerous tiers – climbing the stairwells and looking over the balconies. My earliest memory is of the wool museum that I think was situated in a corner of the hall. I must have been around 5 or 6 years old. One of the displays featured a mannequin using a spinning wheel. This at the time was pretty chilling as I’d recently watched Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and spinning wheels = bad news.

As I got older, the hall became a place of retail curiosity. The boutiques that were dotted around its perimeter were always filled with interesting stuff. There was also a market on the square during weekends, and outdoor events were common in the summer months. During my student years, my commute into Leeds saw me walking through the Piece Hall everyday between the bus and train station.

With The Piece Hall being so present in my daily life, it’s easy to see how I  took its very existence for granted. It’s been a long time since I last visited, possible even a decade! I think it’s that absence that’s made me look at it with fresh eyes. Wow… that building really is something. It’s like an Italian piazza in the middle of Yorkshire!

History Inspires Doodles

Despite my personal memories of The Piece Hall, it was me reading of its history that sealed the deal for making it the subject of my next doodle. Outside of drawing, another one of my interests is genealogy. I have deep roots with both Rochdale and Halifax, and often find myself bouncing between the two towns’ parish records as my ancestors themselves moved back and forth in search of work in the wool and cotton industries.

The Piece Hall opened in 1779 as a place for weavers to trade ‘pieces’ of cloth, so it’s no surprise that it popped up on my radar. The hall’s significance in local cloth trade was profound. According to an account I read in the 1795 edition of Aikin’s Manchester, the Piece Hall, at one time, held goods to the value of £50,000. That’s approximately £1.15 million in today’s money.

Visit the official website of The Piece Hall to learn more about its heritage and history.

Drawing The Piece Hall

Drawing The Piece Hall was quite a challenge. I work freehand so my lines are never ruler straight, they squiggle and wiggle and sometimes banana, and that’s all part of the Doodlher style. So drawing a panoramic vista like this one was enough to make my somewhat steady hand feel pretty nervous.

Once I’d finished the pen drawing, I imported my sketch onto my computer at high-resolution to finish the artwork with a digital wash of colour. The sketch sits on a base of either blue or yellow, with the pen outlines also appearing above the sketch in white to exaggerate the depth of the panorama.

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