In 1865 the Town Hall site carried an ambitious (but temporary and wooden) Crystal Palace style building which housed the Wakefield Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition.
The profits of the Exhibition led to the establishment of the present Wakefield Technical College.
Along the King Street end of the Town Hall site stood the Wakefield Tammy Hall, a large building erected for the sale of a special locally produced worsted cloth in the 1770s.
After various other users in the mid nineteenth century, the building was purchased by the Corporation in 1876 and some half of it was demolished and the site added to that available, for the building of the new Town Hall which was then again in prospect; the remainder was altered and refaced to provide a Borough Police Station and Fire Station and there still remain fine carvings of a policeman’s helmeted head at one (the County Hall) end and of firemen at work at the other.
A new movement for building a Town Hall began in 1874 and in 1876/77 the Corporation promoted a Bill for purchasing the waterworks, for building a Town Hall and for other purposes, which became an Act in August 1877.
Before the Act was passed, work had begun. Advertisements for competitive design, based on space requirements fixed by the Town Clerk, the Borough Engineer and the Town Hall Committee, were issued through the technical press and the first prize was won by T.W. Collcutt, architect of Bloomsbury Square, London, who received a prize of £150.
The final choice among the various and supposedly anonymous designs was made by G.E. Street of London the famous Victorian architect, who visited Wakefield for the purpose, and in whose office Collcutt had once worked.
Collcutt’s designs were followed almost entirely. William Holdsworth of Bradford, builder, was the successful tenderer for the erection of the building, the tender price for a building of Spinkwell stone being £43,700, while the architect’s fees amounted to £3,450.18s. 8d.
The foundation stone was laid by the Mayor Alderman W.H. Gill, solicitor in October 1877, with considerable (if not well organised) ceremony, the building was opened in October 1880 by the then Mayor W.H. Lee, worsted spinner.
The streets on each side of the new building were named after the two Mayors who respectively laid the foundation stone and opened the building.
In 1877 it had been suggested that the new Town Hall would enable Wakefield to ‘vie’ with the Town Halls of Leeds and Bradford. However, the building was initially rather too large. For example part of the cellaring was let to a Wakefield innkeeper from 1882.
It was also possible to provide accommodation for the meetings of the new County Council which was first elected in 1889 and which had no proper home of its own until the County Hall was opened in 1898.