The Borough of Eccles was established in 1892 but the building the Council was to occupy for the next 82 years had already been built, 11 years earlier, for the Local Board of Health.
To mark its opening, on 3rd November 1881, a banquet was held in what we now call the Ballroom; said to be able to hold 1000 people. In 1889 the building was extended at the back to provide police courts, a new council chamber and committee rooms.
The large hall on the first floor had many uses. Votes were counted after elections, the Mayor was sworn in, the Mayoress had afternoon “At Homes” and Charity Balls. This was the venue for the first moving pictures to be shown in Eccles in 1898, for the inauguration of Eccles Scouts in 1912 and the Saturday night one shilling dances of the Thirties. The annual Parish Church bazaar was held in the ballroom; in1964 the church held a highly successful “Display of Voluntary Activities” in the Ballroom.
The Years of Change
In 1974 Eccles Borough was incorporated into Salford and the council officers moved to Swinton. Subsequently, the magistrate’s courts expanded, first into the vacant council offices, then into the ballroom. A cheap false ceiling was installed to make offices in the hall, vandalising this once beautiful space.
Further changes in the organisation of the local courts made these conversions unnecessary and the space was abandoned. No longer fit for any community use and without a champion to safeguard its future, the space began to decay.
…a sad loss, Eccles citizens now have nowhere to meet in large numbers
Church Street Eccles, Helen Wickham (1992)
A resurgence of community interest
Salford City Council is currently focusing on the regeneration of Eccles town centre and, concerned about the existence of this abandoned hall in the heart of town, decided to facilitate the revitalisation of the space by installing ramped access to the ground floor and a lift to the ballroom. The ballroom is now “DDA compliant”. A structural survey was carried out and the Council repaired the roof. The building is now sound.
These developments have occurred at a time when the demand for venues for community activities in Eccles has increased, perhaps due to the withdrawal of some local facilities because of concerns about Health and Safety, accessibility and funding problems.
When the Council called a public meeting in 2010 to debate the future use of the ballroom, a wide spectrum of local residents came forward and enthusiastically supported the proposal to establish an independent group to lease the space from the Council and develop it once again as a facility which would become the hub of the local community. Independent community groups have access to funds, such as The Lottery, denied to the Council.
The creation of ECHO
Eccles Community Hall Organisation (ECHO) was established in July 2010 and quickly established itself as a multi-talented group of local individuals determined to refurbish the ballroom and associated facilities to provide a much needed community space for local people. ECHO is formally constituted, has a management committee and a bank account. ECHO was registered with the Charity Commission on 27/6/13 as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, number 1152625.
ECHO is completely independent of Salford City Council from which it has negotiated a 25 year lease of the ballroom, stage, balcony and adjacent rooms. Urban Vision have been appointed as Project Managers for the refurbishment.
The immediate objective of the organisation is to refurbish the ballroom and other areas so that they can provide high quality facilities for local community groups. Once this has been accomplished, ECHO will then manage the space through the employment of staff and with the help of local community volunteers.
Over £300,000 has recently been spent on the building but ECHO must raise an even larger sum to fully refurbish the hall.