Custodians of Fenton Town Hall, Stoke-on-Trent, decided to leave with dignity, grace and honour this evening. Tears of sadness and pride flowed as residents from across the city, gravely concerned about the future of this much loved building and its splendid Minton tiled memorial to the First World War, sang Jerusalem and God Save the Queen before handing keys back to security guards.
For four weeks the custodians of Fenton Town Hall and its war memorials have carried out repairs, security checks, health and safety checks, general maintenance and kept the property in a general state of good order and cleanliness since seeking fair treatment from the Ministry of Justice and the Depart for Communities and Local Government for its plans to transform the building into a multifunctional inclusive venue the whole city can enjoy.
And for four weeks the custodians have given us a glimpse of how the building could benefit the whole community. The building ceased being a burden on the public purse, there was a community library, cafe, community workshops and events operating which injected value back into the local neighbourhood, improving quality of life for the city’s residents.
The residents have made it clear that a Fenton Town Hall, run via an appropriate Trust, presents a massive opportunity to transform Fenton into an exciting town where vibrant things take place, attracting visitors, investment, growth and jobs for the immediate area and the wider North Staffordshire conurbation, and where the safety of one of Stoke-on-Trent’s most prized architectural jewels can be assured.
Film Director, Ken Loach said of the residents’ occupation this morning:
“Such buildings are greatly valued as places where communities come together. That the war memorial would also be sacrificed shows a disregard of the memory of those who gave their lives. I hope that the people of Fenton and the surrounding area have convinced their politicians to think again”
Justin Meath Baker, great grandson of the philanthropist who gifted Fenton Town Hall to the people of Fenton stated this morning:
“Fenton Town Hall was built in 1888 by my great grandfather, William Meath Baker at his own expense, for a sum of £10,000. It may well be that the freehold of the building is currently registered in the name of the Secretary of State, but from any moral or public interest perspective it is clear that now that the MoJ has no further use for the building it should be returned to its rightful owners, the citizens of Fenton.”