Click to enlarge.
When the Odd Fellows' Hall opened in 1864 there were
organisations called "friendly societies" throughout
the country which had been formed to provide their members with
some financial help during unemployment and sickness and to
assist with funeral expenses, so enabling members to avoid the
disgrace of a paupers grave.
On 23 September 1863 the Good Design Lodge bought a plot of land on the corner of Queen Street and High Street for £190. Within the next six months a large and impressive Odd Fellows' Hall had been erected on the site at a cost of £1000. The two storey building of contrasting red and pale yellow bricks and sandstone dressings, with a Welsh slate roof, is in the Italian Renissance "plazzo" style, with a five-bay front to High Street and a three-bay front to Queen Street. The brickwork on the ground floor is heavily "rusticated" and the upper storey has Doric pilasters supporting an ornate frieze and cornice beneath the hipped roof. The large central windows to the High Street frontage have a cast-iron balcony and the central entrance to Queen street is beneath a round arch. A little over 40 years after its construction the western end of the building was very carefully extended to incorperate a new staircase to the public hall.There can be little doubt that this is one of the best examples of a Friendly Society Lodge in the country.
In about 1911 it became Barton's first cinema, the "Electric Picture Theatre", and showed silent movies. Some years later the hall was used by a repertory theatre company and renamed the "New Theatre". In the 1930s a sprung floor was installed for its use as a roller skating rink. During the second world war it was let every night for dancing. After the war the large hall was subdivided into offices for the Ministry of Labour, Health and National Insurance, and Food, whilst the public library was housed in the ground floor of the north-east wing.
The Odd Fellows' Hall has been converted into luxury apartments.
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