Built by the Independent Labour Party and named as a memorial to Doctor Richard Pankhurst. Memorial stone laid Saturday 26 November 1898. Opened November 1900. Later converted to cinema.
The re-emergence of the socialist movement in Britain and the establishment of the Independent Labour Party in 1893 gave rise to the construction of several socialist halls and institutes. Most were built in northern towns and although these buildings had no distinctive architectural style, the internal decoration often had a Socialist flavour, usually influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. As the early “evangelical” phase of the socialist movement passed, these buildings changed their function or ownership and few survive. Considered the first assembly room built by the Independent Labour Party, the laying of the memorial stone rated only a small paragraph in the Manchester City News.
NEW SOCIALIST HALL, HIGHTOWN - A hall which is to bear the name of Dr Pankhurst is being built in St James's Road, Hightown by the members of the Independent Labour Party in North Salford. The estimated cost of the building is ,1300 which is being raised by the Hightown Socialist Land and Building Society Limited. The scheme comprises three lock-up shops, club room and assembly room which will accommodate between 450 and 500 persons. This is the first public meeting hall built by the ILP and the experiment is being watched with great interest by members of the party in all parts of the country. The architect is Mr Tom Cook and Mr W Holt the contractor. Councillor Fred Brocklehurst laid the memorial stone of the new building on Saturday last. Mr Joseph Nuttall, secretary of the Manchester and Salford ILP addressing the assembled company said that instead of presenting the usual silver trowel it had been decided to had an illuminated address to Mr Brocklehurst as a memento of the occasion. The address expressed appreciation of the splendid work which Mr Brocklehurst is doing for the cause of socialism. Mr Brocklehurst, in accepting the address, said it was the first that had been presented to him and he should on that account treasure it all the more warmly. He went on to say that it was in 1893 that the Socialists began their work in this district and the Independent Labour Movement had now taken firm hold of the public mind and sympathy. Referring to the late Dr Pankhurst, he remarked that, as time went on, his work would be increasingly recognised in the city and he hoped that this, the Pankhurst Hall, would not be the only memorial to one of Manchester's most brilliant sons. If the city gave to him but a tithe of the honour that was due to him, it would erect some great and lasting memorial to his name. [Manchester City News 3 December 1898 Page 6 Column 7]
OPENING OF THE PANKHURST HALL. - THE ceremony of opening the large Hall belonging to the premises built by the Hightown members of the Manchester and Salford I.L.P., and dedicated to the memory of the late Dr Pankhurst, took place on Saturday, the 9th inst. The hall, which is a fine, airy building, seated for about 400, with excellent retiring rooms attached, has been built from the designs of Mr Tom Cook, architect, the vice-president of the Manchester and Salford I.L.P. Connected with the new hall is a lesser hall already in use as a recreation room, and a suite of shops which form the facade of the block of buildings. The building, as we have stated, has been erected by members of Hightown I.L.P. who have formed themselves into a company for that purpose. Excellent enterprise has been shown by the members in raising the necessary funds to enable the work to be completed. A considerable portion of the total cost (about £1,350) has, however, been raised on loan, and additional share capital is, therefore, invited. The hall was gaily decorated for the inauguration ceremony, and tables laid for an abundant tea. Joseph Nuttall occupied the chair and was supported on the platform by Mrs. Pankhurst, the Misses Pankhurst, and Harry Pankhurst, Mrs. Bruce Glasier, Tom Cook, and Councillor Jas. Johnson, J.P. In declaring the Hall open, Bruce Glasier, on behalf ot the National I.L.P., congratulated the Hightown members on their enterprise in adding such a fine building to the resources of the movement. Speaking of Dr. Pankhurst, to whom the Hall was a memorial, he said the Socialist movement and the people of Lancashire generally had lost in him one of the finest public spirits of the age. He possessed enthusiasm, public-mindedness and chivalry to the degree of genius. He was a man who regarded neither kings nor lords—a republican of inborn conviction. He was a student—a rare lever of philosophy and literature—a thinker and investigator, and his career formed one of the finest traditions of the Reform and Socialist movements in England. Concluding, Bruce Glasier spoke of re-awakened vigour of the I.L.P. The large assembly then sat down to tea, and an excellent social followed. [ILP News No 44 Vol IV November 1900 page 2]
The interior was decorated by E Pankhurst’s daughter, Sylvia and R C Wallhead ILP MP for Merthyr Tydfil in 1903. Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) had aspirations to be an artist and won a scholarship to the Manchester School of Art where she was strongly influenced by Walter Crane. She travelled to Venice in 1902 to study Art and in 1904 moved to London where she attended the Royal School of Art in Kensington. A folder of sketches and drawings for the Pankhurst Hall is held by the Institute of Social History, Amsterdam. It was while working on the hall Sylvia “learnt with astonishment that women were not permitted to join that branch of the Independent Labour Party.”