In 1882 there was not much for the people of Haverhill to do, apart from go to work and drink in pubs so Daniel Gurteen, the owner of the biggest business in town, Gurteen, a weaving manufacturer, decided to do a good and philanthropic thing. He built a Town Hall as a place for the people of Haverhill to go so that they could appreciate music performances, hear lectures, play chess and avail themselves of the books and newspapers in the reading room.
Newspapers of the time report that the site was cleared of some tumbledown cottages known as the Diggings Cottages and the foundation stones were laid by the redoubtable Mrs Gurteen on Easter Tuesday. The weather was glorious, the east wind ‘not as biting as usual’, the sun shone brightly and the bunting fluttered prettily in the wind. A very auspicious start for the building that was to become a central part of Haverhill life.
Maybe due to the rise of home entertainment such as radio and TV, by the 1950s and 60s the town hall had left behind some of its earlier intellectual aspirations and had largely become a dance hall – but no less important for that. Who knows how many might owe their very existence to a romance kindled by a Town Hall hop, jive or disco?
In the early 1990s St Edmundsbury Borough Council, with support from the Arts Council of England and the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, decided to convert the building into an arts centre.
In 2004 Haverhill Town Council took over the Arts Centre and we are busier than ever! Almost every day of the year there is something going on. It could be theatre, cinema, live and recorded broadcasts, comedy, children’s shows, rock, jazz, classical, folk performances, pantomimes, dance, workshops, meetings, local history research, tea dancing, and much more.
For more information on what’s going on at the Arts Centre please use the social links below: