Congleton Town Hall celebrates 150th anniversary
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 February 2016
A vibrant community is gearing up for a lively year in Congleton. Rebekka O'Grady visits to find out more
2016 is a year of celebration for Congleton and there’s much to shout about, with many events and festivals taking place all year round. But a building at the heart of the community will be taking centre stage.
‘Congleton Town Hall was first opened to the public on July 11, 1866,’ said the town mayor and councillor, Elizabeth Wardlaw. ‘Since 2008, the building has been in the ownership and management of Congleton Town Council, so we want to make sure the 150th anniversary of this building doesn’t slip by unnoticed.’
Activities in July will educate, celebrate and hopefully create a legacy of the anniversary celebrations. Civic leaders are keen to involve local schools, from the possibility of a huge scale human town hall picture – where children would hold cards above their heads to create a giant 2D image on the ground – to a town parade, grand tea party and exhibition.
‘There’s a lot going on in Congleton, much of which is driven by volunteers,’ said Elizabeth, who is also a practice nurse. ‘That kind of commitment cannot be replicated by anyone else, especially as these amazing events occur year on year. I am in a privileged position to be included in all of these and get a window into what is going on. To get a snapshot of it all is amazing. It inspires me to think of what projects and events I would like to be a part of after my mayoral duties end.’
Congleton will also be among the North West towns in the Britain in Bloom competition. After receiving an abundance of accolades in the 2015 North West Bloom awards, including best large town, Congleton was chosen to represent the region in 2016.
‘This is a fantastic result for the town,’ added Elizabeth. ‘To be judged good enough to go into the national competition is a massive honour.’
Friends of Congleton Park is a team of volunteers who work hard to keep some of the town’s green spaces looking tip-top. The group, who formed in 2005 and works in partnership with Cheshire East Council and under the guidance of park manager Julie Byrne, aim to promote the use of the park as well as organise and fund events and activities.
John Lilley is a volunteer who started campaigning for the restoration of the park in 1997, along with late volunteer, Margaret Williams. £1.8 million was eventually spent to repair the park’s derelict buildings and restore the area. ‘We hoped that after all that effort it would never deteriorate, so after a patchy start FOCP was formed and we now have an active group,’ said John.
Friends of Congleton Park; Pete Clowes (Vice chair), Glen Williams (Chair), John Lilley, Alison Williams, Alan Walker, Amanda Martin, Chris Booth, Ken Williams (Treasurer) and Julie Byrne (Park manager)
Cllr Liz Wardlaw, Mayor of Congleton
Jo Money, manager of Congleton Community Projects
A volunteer day for Friends of Congleton Park
From washing, painting and simply keeping the park benches and seats clean, the group work co-operatively with the council’s park maintenance team to sustain and enhance. Any issues recognised within the green space the Friends can also improve or rectify with Julie and Cheshire East’s permission.
‘It’s great to get youngsters and the public involved when they want to be a part of any charity or fundraising events we hold,’ said Ken Williams, treasurer of FOCP. ‘From helping the rugby club with the logistics to host a huge fundraiser (which until last year held a Guinness World Record for the longest rugby match) to brass band events paid for and organised by us, there’s plenty going on. We also often work with other community organisations such as the Rotary Club for their bonfire and sponsor the Jubilee Gardens floral display.’