Carrots not Sticks for Drinkers

Victorian towns and cities often had odd combinations of buildings in close proximity in city centres, with a gin palace, or pub facing and competing with a music hall and a church. They were openly in combination for the hearts and minds of working class people. The temperance movement was not just about opposing people having a bit of fun in their time off, living and working conditions were often so miserable that the only escape was in alcohol, but often at the expense of feeding the men’s families, so it was a big issue.

Bradford became famous for its cultural institutions, in part due to the large numbers of German merchants who settled there in the mid 19th century, who helped found the local chamber of commerce but also the Liedertafel of 1856 and the Schiller Verein in 1859, as well as the local grammar school. They were active in promoting music, and welcomed visits from the great Charles Halle who had settled in Manchester and was immensely important to their culture. Bradford was keen to promote a public building to ‘elevate’ taste and meet the cultural needs of a business metropolis’.

This is again from Asa briggs’ Victorian Cities:

“The foundation stone was laid with masonic honours by the Earl of Zetland in 1851…the building had a restaurant ‘for the accommodation of mercantile men’, a large hall and gallery to accommodate over 3,100 people, and an organ ‘a magnificent instrument possessing a firm tone, and a great power.’ The gas lighting was a special feature: a continuous line of 1,750 gas jets was served by pipes carried round the upper surface of the cornice.  …”

The mayor Samuel Smith, boasted ‘it would be the best known specimen’ of concert hall building in England.’….He claimed that the hall would meet the needs not only of he ‘mercantile men’ of Bradford but of the operatives, who after attending concerts would go back to their homes ‘elevated and refreshed, rising in the morning to their daily toil, without headache and without regret.’ There were loud ‘Hear, hears’ at this point. Smith did not ned to remind his audience that Bradford, a stronghold of Puritan Nonconformity, had been the first tow in England to erect a Temperance Hall in 1837. ”

So it seems part of the reason for building such an ornate, expensive music venue was to discourage the lower sorts from going on benders after work.

 

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