Stretford Public Hall was built by John Rylands, a local philanthropist, aka “The Cotton King” and Manchester’s first multi-millionaire. It was designed by N. Lofthousein in a mixed gothic revival style and built in 1878 at a cost of £30,000. The building was, and still is often referred to as the ‘Town Hall’ although it was not used for any administrative purpose. Originally it housed the Overseers Offices, Lecture rooms and free lending library with 3,ooo volumes, the first in the town.
In 1885/6 first public baths were built situated on Dorset Street behind the hall. In 1888 John Rylands died. The hall was then bought from the Estate by the Local Board, the forerunner of the Urban District Council and Borough. 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 (Trafford Public Hall. Talbot Road) were built in 1889 on a site favouring the north end!
Upon his death his widow 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 building was bought by Stretford Council for a nominal fee of £5000.
Stretford Public Hall was one of many liberal ‘gifts’ to the people of Stretford from Mr Rylands who resided in Longford Hall, Longford park. He also responsible for the Longford Coffee House, Longford Institute, Market Street and a bowling green. Mr Rylands interests were diverse and not merely money-orientated. He accomplished much during his life in Stretford. This gentleman seemed to have been a colourful character who was keen on reform and not afraid to stand up for his principles. The Rylands were dedicated non-conformists and used a good portion of their wealth for good causes. As individuals they never sought fame and John, himself, refused an offer to become Lord Mayor of London.
In 1940 the new Stretford Library was opened on King Street, and the 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. After the Stretford Leisure Centre opened in 1977 now Stretford Sports Village, the Cyprus Street Baths wing fell into disuse, and was demolished. The remainder of the building began to fall 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- 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
1970’s Stretford Civic Theatre
1977 – Xmas Party – Rock Against Racism featuring: The Fall, The Worst and John Cooper Clarke
1977, The Cyprus Street Baths wing fell into disuse, and was demolished
1987 designated a Grade II listed structure
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 and begin renovation works
2017 Full renovation of the building is complete and the building becomes open to the public full time