Row erupts on Mirfield site where Hollywood star Sir Patrick Stewart started his career

A row erupted over the site of a historic former youth club where Hollywood star Sir Patrick Stewart started his acting career.

By Martin Shaw
Wednesday, 23rd December 2020, 12:00 pm

Sir Patrick first appeared on stage at the now-demolished Gilder Hall Youth Club in Mirfield.

Mirfield Community Trust, which owns the Gilder Hall site, went to Mirfield Town Council to ask for £6,300 to cut down a mature tree and rebuild a potentially dangerous stone wall.

Trustees, also responsible for Mirfield Community Centre, warned that without a grant for the works they might be forced to consider selling the land for development.

Large sycamore tree and bulging wall at Mirfield. From the left, Catherine Whittingham, councillor Martyn Bolt and Rosaleen Hird.

At a virtual meeting of Mirfield Town Council fears were expressed that if the land was sold it would unlock the nearby Balderstone fields site which developer Bellway Homes has repeatedly sought to build on.

The Gilder Hall Youth Club dates back to 1898 and the land was gifted to the people of Mirfield by founder Annie Robinson in 1912. The youth club closed in 1996 and was demolished in 2004 after damage through vandalism, theft and fire.

Clr Kath Taylor said the site was loved by Mirfield people and told the trustees: “If you put the land up for sale you will be run out of town.”

Cheryl Tyler, chairman of action group Save Mirfield, said selling the land would “open up a new problem with Bellway.”

She told trustees Catherine and Nick Whittingham: “Hundreds of people would oppose you if you try to sell. You would be surprised how quickly mobilised people would be.”

Mr Whittingham said the trustees had been advised the sycamore tree was causing the 12ft wall to become dangerous and that the tree had to be felled and the wall rebuilt.

However, Clr Martin Ibberson said he had taken another tree surgeon and builder to look at the problem and there may be a cheaper solution.

The town council agreed to pay £1,500 if the trust matched it.

Mr Whittingham insisted the trust did not want to sell the land and agreed to a suggestion from town mayor Martyn Bolt that the trust investigated gifting the land to the town council for it to become protected urban green space.

Councillors unanimously agreed.