The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall paid a joint visit to Halifax today, before Prince Charles went solo for engagements in Rotherham, and Camilla to Haworth.
Charles and Camilla began the day at The Piece Hall in Blackledge, Halifax, which has recently undergone a multi-million pound project to transform the former cloth hall into a world class cultural and heritage site.
The Grade I listed building opened in 1779 as a location for weavers to sell their woollen cloth – also known as ‘pieces’ – from some 215 rooms around a courtyard spanning 60,000 square feet; it is Britain’s last cloth hall.
Today – after work finished in August – it still functions as a trading space, but for local businesses, selling everything from food to furniture, and jewellery to fashion.
The royal couple spent time chatting to traders who are based in the Piece Hall, with Camilla being invited to try some tempting cakes. The future Queen Consort also posed for a photo with schoolchildren who were browsing in a bookshop.
Camilla promised to send her food-critic son, Tom, to the site after sampling a dish of mackerel in restaurant Elder. “You can really taste the freshness,” the Duchess told the owner. “I’ll have to send my son up to review it.”
Part of the royal visit also included viewing a few exhibits telling the site’s history, such as a loom. Halifax was once one of the
Prince Charles and Camilla marked the occasion of the reopening by ringing the original trading bell from the hall, and, of course, unveiling a commemorative plaque.
Chairman of the Piece Hall Trust Roger Marsh presented them with membership cards for the trust and said he hoped they had “felt the warmth of the people of Halifax” despite the cold weather.
A walkabout followed in the neighbouring Square Chapel Arts Centre, where they received a warm welcome from the locals. The Duchess was handed numerous bouquets of flowers, and Prince Charles happily petted some dogs who had been brought along for the royal visit.
Prince Charles then separated from his wife for a few hours, and travelled to Dean Clough Mills. The former carpet shop has been restored and now many businesses operate from the base.
The location also boasts contemporary art galleries, a theatre, hotels, restaurants and shops, attracting people from across the area.
“It is a privilege to welcome His Royal Highness to Dean Clough once again and have the opportunity to highlight the substantial changes and developments since his last visit,” saidJeremy Hall, Chairman and Managing Director of Dean Clough Ltd. “The number of people working here has more than doubled to some 4,000, while the restoration of the magnificent millstone grit buildings has all but been completed.”
There’s a lovely atmosphere in our #Halifax office today as Prince Charles visits Dean Clough Mills. He met our Chief Executive and Customer Services Manager to chat about the work we do. #RoyalVisit#Calderdale@ClarenceHousepic.twitter.com/PsQxm46Kys
— StepChange (@StepChange) February 16, 2018
The Prince’s Trust, Charles’ own charity of which he is president, was next on his agenda, to see how the northern division is partnering with the fire service. The heir-to-the-throne went to Rotherham at Dearne Community Fire Station for his penultimate engagement, where he met students following a fire and public order demonstration, ‘putting out’ a car.
The aim of the trip was to see the Trust’s ‘Team Programme’ and how it is helping young people develop skills by working with the fire service.
Lastly, the Royal visited Liberty Speciality Steels Visitor Centre in Rotherham, where it was his responsibility to formally re-start the large furnace on the site.
Before his did this, Prince Charles spoke to graduates and trainees, as well Industrial Cadets, from local schools and colleges, who have learnt skills with the organisation. They in fact worked as part of a programme inspired by The Prince of Wales, and is designed to develop students’ knowledge, awareness and experience of engineering.
During the steel crisis of 2015, the furnace at Liberty House was decommissioned. But now back up and running, the plant will create 300 jobs at Rotherham and its sister plant in Stocksbridge, Sheffield, as well as hundreds more across the country.
“I’m fully aware of how so many are dependent on steel here in the local area. Mr Gupta is revitalising the skills and providing a great service, demonstrating how a circular economy can work.” The Prince of Wales meets members of the recommissioning team at Liberty Steel pic.twitter.com/RbXiZDzr1N
— Liberty House Group (@LibertyHouseGrp) February 16, 2018
A reception followed the furnace-lighting, where the Prince said: “It’s been a wonderful moment as far as I’m concerned to fire up the furnace this afternoon – even though it has probably deafened me for life,” he joked.
“I know just how many people depended on it, do depend on it and also how many skills there are potentially that do exist in this area. Bringing it back to life is providing a great service.”