A Bright Future for the Historic Joseph Wright Hall
The bright lights of show business will be bringing a new shine to the pews of the Joseph Wright Hall, as the Victorian Church and Salvation Army Citadel at the end of Queen Street becomes a theatre and community centre. The people of Barton will get the chance to look on as actors and musicians walk the boards that holy ministers and soldiers of salvation have trod before them.
Always sitting at the heart of our local community, the Grade Two listed building has filled a range of roles in its time. Now, almost 150 years after it first opened its doors to the people of Barton, the great hall has undergone another transformation to make it a local hub of arts and culture.
Aptly, an adaption of the classic Victorian parable of salvation, A Christmas Carol, will launch this new chapter in the holy building’s life this December. Where local people were once enlightened by righteous bible readings, they will now be enthralled by the moral messages of Dickens. Paul Tate and his Friends at Barton drama group will bring the classic work to life with colour and vivacity. This will be the first dramatic performance at the new, adapted venue. However, Alan Johnson, Gervase Phinn and Michael Morpungo’s reading of War Horse have blessed the holy building with their presence during recent performances.
It’s been a long journey to get to this point though, beginning when The Salvation Army launched a £60,000 fund for repairs to the building. The fundraisers realised that the price of upkeep was more they alone could afford and looked to move out of the building.
Fortunately, seeing the importance of its contemporary neighbour, the Queen Street School Preservation Trust, owners of the Wilderspin National School Museum, acquired the building. The renovators renamed the building the Joseph Wright Hall after the celebrated architect who designed it and many other Methodist chapels. They let the Salvation Army maintain a citadel there while they turned the building into a centre for arts and culture in the community.
This involved a careful physical transformation, making the venue more accessible and appropriate for performances while staying true to the architectural origins of the Grade Two listed church. The addition of ramps outside the building and a lift to the beautiful old chapel balcony opens the building to disabled people. Meanwhile, new historically appropriate pews will give the downstairs audience a place to sit and enjoy the performances.
All that remains is for the new owners to raise the curtain and, in the words of the Old Testament, “Let there be light”.
A Christmas Carol will be appearing at the Joseph Wright Hall from the December 5th to the 7th. Tickets can be bought from the box office by telephoning 01652 635172, or from The Wilderspin School in Barton, which is open Thursday to Sunday 10am-4pm.