Wakefield’s Tammy Hall was a piece or cloth hall, a specialist market for selling worsted cloth. Paid for by subscription, the hall opened in 1778, providing about 200 stalls for manufacturers of worsted “pieces” to sell their cloth to merchants from England and abroad. By the 1790s the hall was in decline; it was sold and converted into a factory in the 1820s. Part of the Wakefied Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition was held in it in 1865, and after another spell as a factory was bought by Wakefield Corporation in 1876. Part was demolished to make way for the town hall and the rest converted into the fire station and police offices; it later became the magistrates court.
Coventry originally monopolised the trade in worsted, but Wakefield became the principal market for tammies[a] and calimancoes[b] which were sold into the home market and abroad via Liverpool in the 1700s.
Clothiers[c] sold their pieces to dyers and finishers. In Wakefield clothiers produced broadcloth and thin worsted cloth known as “tammies”, in which the warp and weft were both made from combed wool. Some pieces were glazed, adding to their value. Clothiers and traders petitioned Queen Anne asking her to prevent the “decay” of the woollen trade that was being caused by the export of English wool. Similar petitions were signed by 88 men in Halifax and 117 in Leeds. Tammies were traded from a room in the Fox Inn, and subsequently in the Rodney Inn, moving to the yard of the Fox Inn beside the White Hart Inn. Wakefield had a cloth hall in 1710.
As trade increased the manufacturers decided to erect a Piece or Tammy Hall, which attracted 140 subscribers. In June 1777 a group of “stuffmakers” bought a plot of land from Richard Towne on which “to erect a Hall for the accommodation of the manufacturers of tammies, shalloons,[d] worsted and other goods, to expose the same for sale.” The land, and two buildings on it, cost £367 which was raised by subscriptions of 5 guineas (£5.25) from persons who wanted a stall.
Originally named the Piece Hall, it was a large brick two-storey building, 230 feet (70 m) long and 33 feet (10 m) wide, with cellars on the south side. Both storeys had 30 windows on either side and the cellar had 16. The two trading rooms, one above the other, ran the length of the building. A row of stalls ran down the centre of each room, each labelled with the manufacturer’s name. The rooms were accessed by flights of stone steps with iron railings at the south end where an enclosed yard housed two cottages, one for the hall keeper. On the roof was a bell turret.
The market bell was rung at 10 o’clock on Fridays. No cloth could be sold before the hall keeper rang the bell. Business was done in whispers and ended when the bell rang at 12 o’clock. Manufacturers came to trade from villlages all around, and merchants from England and abroad bought large quantities of tammies for sale on the continent.
Decline and conversion
The Tammy Hall never achieved the expectations of its founders, who had hoped it would become the centre not only for the town but the wider surrounding area. Its owners restricted its use to clothiers who had served a seven-year apprenticeship, driving trade away to Bradford, and the hall became largely untenanted. In 1820 it was sold to Messrs Marriott of Westgate, worsted spinners, who converted into a factory. In 1865 the premises were rented for the Wakefied Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition and after that it was again leased as a factory. In 1876 Wakefield Corporation bought the building for £3,300 and converted it into the fire station and police offices. Part of the building was demolished to make way for the town hall. After use by the fire and police services, the remaining part became the magistrates court. Its east front was rendered and refaced in the Italianate style when it was converted in 1878.
- Tammy is fine worsted cloth of good quality, often with a glazed finish. Much mentioned in 17th and 18th centuries, but apparently obsolete before 1858.
- Calimanco is woollen stuff of Flanders, glossy on the surface, and woven with a satin twill and chequered in the warp, so that the checks are seen on one side only; much used in the 18th century.
- Clothiers, from the Middle English clother, are people who make or sell cloth.
- Shalloon is closely woven woollen material chiefly used for linings.