Mystery surrounds the life of Rochdale ‘s glorious city hall architect but a new book is shedding light on him. The Lutterworth Press will publish the first full-length biography of William Henry Crossland, written by Sheila Binns, on 24 September. This account allows for the first time an appreciation and understanding of Crossland’s life and work, with the book illustrating new photographs and contemporary images.
The story of William Henry Crossland
Born in Huddersfield, William Henry Crossland had a privileged start in life, and was given a certain status by George Gilbert Scott. His busy West Riding practise created a good reputation for designing churches and secular edifices.
Although it was incorporate as a borough in 1856, before a Rochdale town hall got approval in 1863. In 1864 William Henry Crossland won the architectural competition to design it from among 27 hopefuls. £20,000 was allocated, and the site was purchased next to the Roch River.
Existing town halls got visits to learn how they approached building such a building. The size and quality of these civic palaces persuaded officials that Rochdale wanted to make the £20,000 allocated was also insufficient for the civic declaration.
This has become, by a considerable margin, the most important commission for William Henry Crossland to date. A virtually unknown architect from Yorkshire, only 30 years old, his design had stood out from the others.
Elaborate designs sent spiralling costs, reaching an extraordinary £154,755, but the Mayor justified the enormous expense, saying that without paying for it one can not have beauty. On September 27, 1871, the Town Hall was officially on, ablaze with gas light. The local newspaper likened the House of Lords to its spectacular glory and congratulations showered on Crossland.
Described as one of Britain‘s twelve most ambitious High Victorian town halls, Rochdale’s remains one of the country ‘s finest. The decorative scheme for William Henry Crossland was ambitious. Based on mythical and naturalistic motifs as well as local history and industry. He achieved an extraordinary wealth of decoration including a sculpted representation of himself in the reception room of the mayor.
Biography is coming out soon
This chronological biography gives a glimpse of Crossland’s private life and discusses his construction projects. He also won the wealthy patron’s long-term trust, which yielded huge dividends. The superlative building designed by William Henry Crossland for Rochdale. As well as the Holloway Sanatorium and the 1885 and 1886 Royal Holloway College, respectively, all now listed Grade-1. This is what made Crossland famous.