The Armstrong Hall complex

September 29 2017

WITH the future of Thornbury’s Armstrong Hall complex being debated, we look at the history of the premises in Chapel Street.

WITH the future of Thornbury’s Armstrong Hall complex being debated, we look at the history of the premises in Chapel Street.

The hall was opened officially on September 8, 1972, by Frank Armstrong, who had been a magistrate in Thornbury for 27 years and also served as chairman of the bench.

The hall was named in his honour as he had made a large donation from a family trust to the project.

However, it was believed to be some 12 years earlier that the then Thornbury Parish Council started thinking about the possibility of making additions to the Cossham Hall - the former Wesleyan chapel that had been gifted to the town by Handel Cossham in 1888.

Cossham said the hall was to be used for “philanthropic, religious, moral, political, educational, musical and general purposes” but that “liquors and tobacco shall not be sold or supplied”.

It wasn’t until 1965 that a public meeting authorised the council to raise a loan to buy the house at 2 Chapel Street, which adjoined the Cossham Hall and had a large garden - the open space eventually becoming part of the site for the Armstrong Hall.

A later public meeting then supported a loan application for £45,000 for the new hall, which was to be connected to the Cossham Hall with the addition of an entrance foyer.

Much of the work on the interior of the building was done by volunteers in a community effort, with members of local amateur dramatic and operatic societies led by Keith Sullivan and George Excell designing and installing the stage lighting.

Mr Armstrong - a local businessman as well as a JP - donated £13,000 to the project and when the scheme was completed, a plaque was unveiled in the foyer, with a “grand dinner buffet” held to celebrate the event. 

Both the Armstrong Hall and the Cossham Hall play a big part in many events and activities in Thornbury, from concerts and the annual Thornbury Arts Festival to flower shows, club meetings and blood donor sessions.

The Cossham Hall provides a smaller venue and from its start had a major role in town life.

It was a venue for dances, theatrical productions, concerts, public meetings and private parties and during the Second World War was leased to the War Office for £50 a year.

The last performance in the old Cossham Hall was aptly called Final Curtain and took place in September 1971, a year before the Armstrong Hall was opened. 

Information and opening ceremony photograph supplied by Thornbury and District Museum.