Booklet delves into the town treasures

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Three centuries of history have been brought together in a new booklet to celebrate Morpeth Town Hall And Its Treasures.

The work was commissioned by former Morpeth Mayor Joan Tebbutt to update a previous guide to the town’s civic treasures published in 1987.

Morpeth Town Hall'Mayor Nic Best, former mayor Joan Tebbutt and book editor  Kim Bibby-Wilson at the book launch.

Morpeth Town Hall'Mayor Nic Best, former mayor Joan Tebbutt and book editor Kim Bibby-Wilson at the book launch.

Morpeth Antiquarian Society worked with Morpeth Town Council to research and compile the book, which tells the history of the 300-year-old town hall and some of its unique contents.

The finished work was unveiled at a reception in the Mayor’s Parlour on Tuesday, along with musical compositions about the building’s history commissioned by current civic head Nic Best from Stewart Hardy — the Tricentennial, Mr Vanbrugh’s Maggot, Lookers, Weighers and Tasters, The Tolbooth Rant and Lord Joicey’s Gift.

Coun Best said: “The booklet is an updated version of the 1987 civic regalia booklet, but while that was a catalogue, this is more about the civic history of Morpeth.

“Until we get a social heritage centre for the town, the town hall is the nearest the town has to a museum of local history, but it isn’t a museum, particularly since the Greater Morpeth Development Trust refurbished it.

“For a 300-year-old building it is really well used.

“Although it is a full 27 years since the original, I think this new booklet is worth the wait.”

The booklet, sponsored by Pharma Nord, tells the story of the town hall, from the site’s previous use as a tolbooth to Vanburgh’s design for the Earl of Carlisle, the building’s neglect and subsequent re-building by Robert J. Johnson, and its modernisation in 2009.

It charts its uses as a venue for concerts, balls, exchanges, markets, lectures, civic ceremonies, events and weddings.

And there are room by room accounts, including stories of the treasures within them, such as busts, paintings, civic and military regalia, silverware, documents and furniture, as well as the historic mace, Town Hutch, Turner’s Herball and snuff box, and more recent additions like Emily’s Dish. More unusual items include a German wooden truncheon from the First World War, canon balls and the scold’s bridle.

It also includes photographs of the original building and current version, showing the slight differences.

Editor Kim Bibby-Wilson said: “The idea was to produce something that would tell the story of the building and its contents. It is part of getting the town hall and its history into the public eye.”

The booklet is on sale at Morpeth Chantry and T&G Allan. It is also available from the Town Hall at the Mistletoe Fair on Saturday, the antiquarians’ meeting at St James’s Centre on Friday, November 28, and from society members.