Are you looking for a great family day out near Manchester? Look no further than the Piece Hall in Halifax, West Yorkshire. This grand Georgian building recently underwent a £19 million renovation and reopened in 2017 as a vibrant hub with shops, eateries, heritage exhibits and more.
During our recent August bank holiday weekend, where we also visited the nearby Eureka! National Children’s Museum, ate in the fabulous country Long Can Hall Pub and stayed at the nearby Travelodge, we took a day trip here from Manchester with our two kids (aged 4 and 6).
We had an amazing time exploring this landmark building, and learning about the history of cloth trading in Halifax and Piece Hall’s integral role in the north west cotton industry during the 18th Century. Read on for our experience and why The Piece Hall is the perfect place for a family day out near Manchester!
The Building and Architecture
The Piece Hall is an incredible Grade I listed building that was originally completed in 1779 as a cloth hall for handloom weavers to sell their textiles. The magnificent structure has a striking design with tall colonnades enclosing a large central courtyard. There is also an iconic clock tower and domed cupola roof.
When it first opened, The Piece Hall had 315 trading rooms where independent cloth merchants would sell their wares. Amazingly, the full construction used over 7 million locally quarried stones! It cost £12,000 to build, which is over £1.5 million today.
Walking into the courtyard, the sheer size and splendour of the Georgian architecture is jaw-dropping. As one of Britain’s last remaining cloth halls, visiting The Piece Hall provides a glimpse into the rich textile heritage of Yorkshire. From the outside however, you could almost miss it. Nestled in between more modern buildings such as the local library, but also designed like a fortress with no windows – to provide every defence to protect the valuable cloth. In fact, if you weren’t looking for it, or knew it was there, you could quite easily pass it by.
Things to See and Do
Aside from admiring the grand colonial-style architecture, there is so much for families to see and do:
Today the former trading rooms house over 40 unique independent shops selling everything from crafts, gifts and jewellery to stylish boutique fashion, accessories and homeware.
We had fun browsing the stores, which are predominantly independent businesses or small local chains such as the Yorkshire Soap Company.
The items for sale are far more interesting than what you find on the high street. Mila particularly enjoyed ogling the colourful gems in Creative Crystals, Noemi’s favourite was the handmade soaps, for Sam it was “Blast from the Past” a retro gaming shop, whilst I embraced my inner geek in Pages n Pixels.
Food and Drink
We had already had lunch at Eureka! and were going to have dinner at Long Can Hall Pub. However, for those looking to eat, there were several family-friendly eateries at The Piece Hall ranging from artisan coffee shops to ice cream parlours and restaurants. There were also a few street vendors, I’m not sure if this is because the Piece Hall had just played host to Johnny Marr and The Charlatans the night before or this is pretty standard.
Beyond retail therapy and dining, some of the key highlights at The Piece Hall are the attractions that showcase the location’s rich textile history and heritage.
There are interactive exhibits inside the Piece Hall that bring the cloth trading history alive through artefacts, displays and audio-visual presentations. Sam in particular loved the interactive exhibits in the Map Room that laid out The Piece Hall’s vital role both across the North West but as part of the global jigsaw that was the cotton and cloth trade. It was there that we also discovered that you could see a handprint in the stone outside, and that there are a lot of rumours associated with this. However, we didn’t have time to find it or guess whose hand it was!
Outside, we took a pleasant stroll through Halifax to see old warehouses and other landmarks of the town’s textile past. My favourite was the memorial to the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. As a keen rugby player, I loved the added detail of the rugby player running, ‘ball in hand’, given the close association between rugby and the army. See if you can spot him in the image below
Events and Entertainment
Part of what makes The Piece Hall so lively and family-friendly is the exciting line-up of events and entertainment.
The Piece Hall has now become a regular host of internationally famous touring artists. Check The Piece Hall website for the latest calendar of events before visiting. Some of the performers in 2023 include The Charlatans, Groove Armada and Limp Bizkit.
Our Family Visit
On our late August bank holiday visit, we traveled to Halifax from Manchester which took just under an hour by car. Arriving late after, we had already parked up in the nearby Eureka! National Children’s Museum Carpark. This is convenient if visiting Eureka already and just a short walk from the Piece Hall, but is a long stay car park and would prove an expensive option to use if visiting just for the Piece Hall.
Inside, we spent the morning leisurely browsing the shops and picked up some locally made soap and some Yorkshire language mugs.
Here’s what Mila had to say when asked what she enjoyed most:
“I loved seeing the huge old building and the views of the hills around us”
Meanwhile, Sam added:
“My favourite was playing with the computer games.” – this is in relation to the retro gaming store ‘Blast from the Past‘
With something to appeal to all ages, The Piece Hall is a remarkable place to visit as a family. The blend of independent shops, heritage exhibits, architecture, and street entertainment made for an engaging and educational day out.
Why Visit The Piece Hall?
To summarise, here are the main reasons The Piece Hall in Halifax makes for a fantastic family day out near Manchester:
- Striking Georgian architecture with colonnades and courtyard
- Over 40 independent and specialty shops
- Variety of eateries from cafes to restaurants
- Interactive exhibits bringing the history to life
- Themed events, music and street performers
- Fun family activities like crafts and storytelling
- Lovely heritage trail linking textile history sites
It’s the perfect mix of culture, retail therapy, dining, heritage and entertainment. We were able to learn about the textiles legacy in Halifax through hands-on exhibits. At the same time, the bustling atmosphere and variety of shops, food stalls and street performers brought so much energy and fun.
No matter the weather or season, The Piece Hall offers an abundance of activities for families. We can’t wait to return and experience more of the special events and entertainment on offer throughout the year!
If you’re looking for a great day out near Manchester. We wouldn’t recommend making a day of a visit to the Piece Hall. There’s not enough there for a full day with young kids. But we would highly recommend visiting The Piece Hall in Halifax as an add on to a family excursion.
With so much to see, do, eat and learn, it’s an amazing day out that kids and parents alike will enjoy.