Clarence Hall Gems – No 6

Posted: 27th September 2022

The Clarence Hall is not only a lovely old building, but it is also a classic example of Victorian architecture and decor.  Thanks to Hall Trustee and Director, David Jeremiah, we’re looking at several of the “Clarence Hall Gems”, as we call them.

As the Hall is refurbished over the coming months, every effort will be made to retain its unique character by way of removing, refurbishing and reinstating original fittings.

The Gem to seek out this month is inside!

In the 1820s, a botanist, David Douglas, came across a fir tree in America which produced stiff, easily worked, dense, resinous, timber.  The trees were abundant, grew to over 100 metres tall, and were accessible.  He had struck gold.  The timber was imported into Victorian Britain in huge quantities and was known as Columbian Pine or Douglas Fir. He gained a fortune, the tree gained a name and the Clarence Hall gained a roof.  The timber arrived at the time of the 1859 Welsh Baptist Revival when Chapels, concert halls and other civic buildings were springing up everywhere.  It became the timber of choice for these structures and for our Hall.  It could span large distances without bending, is rot resistant, could be machined carved, and is attractive.

Looking at the ceiling now, you will notice, between the wall and the ceiling, the deeply incised cornice which runs from truss to truss.  Baulks of knot-free timber were required to make these statement items, something which would be near impossible today.  The cornice, purlins, vents, and boarded ceiling are still as good as when they were installed but are now all a dirty brown, testament to the thousands of cigarettes which were smoked there when the Hall was a Cinema.  This nicotine goo will be cleaned off when the interior is refurbished during a later phase of the renovation which should give us back the original honey colour.

So when you’re next in the Hall look up and picture what the ceiling has sheltered over its lifetime and what it will look like once restored.