Council House, Birmingham


Council Chambers, Birmingham
Postmarked 1908

Birmingham City Council House in Birmingham, England, is the home of Birmingham City Council, and thus the seat of local government for the city. It provides office accommodation for both employed council officers, including the Chief Executive, and elected council members, plus the council chamber, Lord Mayor’s Suite, committee rooms and a large and ornate banqueting suite, complete with minstrel’s gallery. . . . In 1852, Birmingham Town Council had inherited the old Public Office on Moor Street, from their predecessors the Street Commissioners, which the council used as their meeting place. It soon became apparent that this building dating from 1807 was not adequate for the needs of the growing town (which became a city in 1889) and that larger premises would be needed. . . . A design competition was established and the council received 29 entries, which was disappointing in comparison to the 179 entries Sheffield and Birmingham received. However a decision was delayed by further financial difficulties. The council was then split over the Gothic entry by Martin & Chamberlain and the classical entry by Yeoville Thomason.

Thomason’s design was chosen; his design featured a central section with a huge hexastyle Corinthian order porte-cochere carrying a balcony with an arch and tympanum high above, flanked by piers and columns which in turn carried a large carved pediment. However, amendments to the art gallery entrance and clock tower were made. The clock and tower are known locally as “Big Brum”. Construction commenced on the building in 1874 when the first stone was laid by the then mayor Joseph Chamberlain. The building was completed in 1879 and cost £163,000 (equivalent to £16,940,000 in 2020). A debate was held to decide the name of the building: the options were The Municipal Hall, Council House and Guildhall. The Council House was extended almost immediately, in 1881–85. The architect was again Yeoville Thomason. This was a combined art gallery, museum, and the home of the corporation’s Gas Department, whose budget subsidised the building, as legislation limited the expenditure of ratepayers’ taxes on the arts.
Wikipedia

Within the projecting corner are the Council Chamber and Lord Mayor’s Parlour; within the main entrance is the impressive main staircase. Everything in this central bay is sumptuous, from the six regal lions surmounting the balustrade over the portico, to the panels of rich carving between the upper storey windows, to the lush foliage on the cornice above. The dome is larger than it seems from below; the pediment, designed by Thomason himself and executed by R. L. Boulton & Sons, shows Britannia with her arms outstretched to reward the Manufacturers of Birmingham with laurel wreaths. N.B., Richard Lockwood Boulton (c.1832-1905), an admirer of Ruskin, also worked on the carvings on Northampton Town Hall . . . The main staircase rises from the entrance past an elegant lift on the right, installed to take Edward VII up on his visit of 1909. It divides into two at the half-landing. Here, Thomas Woolner’s touching statue of a young Queen Victoria stands opposite John Henry Foley’s more formal statue of Prince Albert. Above rises the inner part of the dome, nicely described as rising “on eight ribs with rosettes decorating the intervening panels, and spectacular squinches with three setbacks” — “squinches” being the supports, here recessed with intricate carving on each of the arches, for the heavy dome. The banqueting rooms at the front are especially grand.
Victorian Web (with photos)

Guildhall, London


Guildhall, London
c.1910
Publisher: Philco Publishing Co.

Google Street View

Guildhall is a municipal building in the Moorgate area of the City of London, England. It is off Gresham and Basinghall streets, in the wards of Bassishaw and Cheap. The building has been used as a town hall for several hundred years, and is still the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City of London and its Corporation. It should not be confused with London’s City Hall, the administrative centre for Greater London. The term “Guildhall” refers both to the whole building and to its main room, which is a medieval great hall.
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The current building began construction in 1411 and completed in 1440. The Great Hall did not completely escape damage in the Great Fire of London in 1666; it was partially restored (with a flat roof) in 1670. The present grand entrance (the east wing of the south front), in “Hindoostani Gothic”, was added in 1788 by George Dance. A more extensive restoration than that in 1670 was completed in 1866 by the City of London architect Sir Horace Jones, who added a new timber roof in close keeping with the original hammerbeam ceiling. This replacement was destroyed during the Second Great Fire of London on the night of 29/30 December 1940, the result of a Luftwaffe fire-raid. It was replaced in 1954 during works designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, though the original hammerbeam design was not retained.
Wikipedia.

Located in the north-central area of the old medieval city next to the parishes of St. Michael Bassishaw and St. Lawrence Jewry, Guildhall was mainly used as London’s city hall. There are references to the pre-1411 Guildhall that mention the meetings of the city’s officials that occurred in its chambers, as well as sessions of the Mayor’s and Sheriff’s Courts that took place there. The Common Council routinely gathered in the upper chamber while the Aldermen met in its inner chamber so that they could privately conduct their business. . . . Changes naturally came with the fifteenth century rebuilding of Guildhall. In the Great Hall, the Hustings Court took place on the eastern dais and the Sheriff’s court on the western dais, both under a large stained-glass window. The Mayor’s Court was held in its own building that was attached to the great hall. In this same building, the Court of Aldermen also met to deliberate on cases pertaining to the Law Merchant. The Guildhall Library was built between 1423 and 1425 and, though it was considered to be a public library, the priests of the Guildhall College and Chapel mainly used it. The College and Chapel were rebuilt in 1427 and 1440, respectively, and became part of the medieval Guildhall complex. . . . As the city hall of medieval London, Guildhall not only served as an administrative and civic center for the city, but also as a stage for political, religious, and social drama. Guildhall was where the English kings conferred with the Mayor and where extravagant banquets were held for the nobility. . . .Today, the modern Guildhall complex is still used as the center of government for the City of London, and remains one of the oldest surviving structures from the medieval era.
Medieval London

Though the Guildhall was heavily damaged in the Great Fire of 1666, the walls survived, and the interior was rebuilt. How did the Guildhall survive, when so much of London was destroyed in the blaze? One theory is that the hall was framed in solid oak, which was able to resist the worst effects of the fire. An eyewitness to the Great Fire described the Guildhall as standing amid the flames ‘like a bright shining coal, as if it had been a palace of gold, or a great building of burnished brass’. The medieval ceiling had been lost to the fire, and in its place was a flat panelled ceiling thought to have been the work of Sir Christopher Wren.
Britain Express


The Royal Banquet in Guildhall, 1761, from “Old and New London”, George Walter Thornbury, 1879-85, p. 325

After half an hour’s stay in the council chamber, the royal party returned into the hall, and were conducted to the upper end of it, called the hustings, where a table was provided for them, at which they sat by themselves. There had been, it seems, a knotty little question of etiquette. The ladies. in-waiting on the Queen had claimed the right of custom to dine at the same table with her Majesty, but this was disallowed ; so they dined at the table of the Lady Mayoress in the Court of King’s Bench. The royal table “was set off with a variety of emblematic ornaments, beyond description elegant,” and a superb canopy was placed over their Majesties’ heads at the upper end. For the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and their ladies, there was a table on the lower hustings. The privy councillors, ministers of state, and great nobles dined at a table on the right of this ; the foreign ministers at one on the left. For the mazarines and the general company there were eight tables laid out in the body of the hall, while the judges, serjeants, and other legal celebrities, dined in the old council chamber, and the attendants of the distinguished visitors were regaled in the Court of Common Pleas.
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FIRST SERVICE. Venison, turtle soups, fish of every sort, viz dorys, mullets, turbots, tench, soles, &c., nine dishes.
SECOND SERVICE. A fine roast, ortolans, teals, quails, ruffs, knotts, pea-chicks, snipes, partridges, pheasants, &c., nine dishes.
THIRD SERVICE. Vegetables and made dishes, green peas, green morelles, green truffles, cardoons, artichokes, ducks’ tongues, fat &c., eleven dishes.
FOURTH SERVICE. Curious ornaments in pastry and makes, jellies, blomonges, in variety of shapes, figures, and colours, nine dishes.

In all, not including the dessert, there were placed on the tables four hundred and fourteen dishes, hot and cold. Wine was varied and copious. In the language of the chronicler, ” champagne, burgundy, and other valuable wines were to be had everywhere, and nothing was so scarce as water.” When the second course was being laid on, the toasts began. The common crier, standing before the royal table, demanded silence, then proclaimed aloud that their Majesties drank to the health and prosperity of the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and common council of the City of London. Then the common crier, in the name of the civic dignitaries, gave the toast of health, long life, and prosperity to their most gracious Majesties. . After dinner there was no tarrying over the wine-cup. The royal party retired at once to the council chamber, ” where they had their tea.” What became of the rest of the company is not men-tioned, but clearly the Guildhall could have been no place for them. That was summarily occupied by an army of carpenters. The tables were struck and carried out. The hustings, where the great folks had dined, and the floor of which had been covered with rich carpeting, was covered afresh, and the whole hall rapidly got ready for the ball, with which the festivities were to conclude.
“Old and New London”, George Walter Thornbury, 1879-85, pp. 326-7


The Court of Aldermen, Guildhall, from “Old and New London”, George Walter Thornbury, 1879-85, p. 390

The Court of Aldermen is a richly-gilded room with a stucco ceiling, painted with allegorical figures of the hereditary virtues of the City of London—Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude—by that over-rated painter, Hogarth’s father-in-law, Sir James Thornhill, who was presented by the Corporation with a gold cup, value £225 7s. In the cornices are emblazoned the arms of all the mayors since 1780 (the year of the Gordon riots). Each alderman’s chair bears his name and arms. The apartment, says a writer in Knight’s “London,” as its name tells us, is used for the sittings of the Court of Aldermen, who, in judicial matters, form the bench of magistrates for the City, and in their more directly corporate capacity try the validity of ward elections, and claims to freedom who admit and swear brokers, superintend prisons, order prosecutions, and perform a variety of other analogous duties ; a descent, certainly, from the high position of the ancient “ealdormen,” or superior Saxon nobility, from whom they derive their name and partly their functions.
“Old and New London”, George Walter Thornbury, 1879-85, p. 388

Moot Hall, Adeburgh, Suffolk


Moot Hall, Aldeburgh
c.1910
Publisher: Shurey’s Publications (1903-1927)
On back: This beautiful Series of Fine Art Post Cards is supplied free exclusively by Shurey’s Publications, comprising “Smart Novels,” “Yes or No.” and “Dainty Novels.” The finest 1d. Magazine is “Weekly Tale-Teller.”

Google Street View.

The Aldeburgh Moot Hall is a Grade I listed timber-framed building, used for council meetings for over 400 years. The Town Clerk’s office remains there and it houses the local museum. It was built in about 1520 and altered in 1654. The brick and stone infilling of the ground floor is later. The hall was restored and the external staircase and gable ends were rebuilt in 1854–1855 under the direction of R. M. Phipson, chief architect of the Diocese of Norwich, in which Aldeburgh then stood.
Wikipedia.

The Moot Hall in Aldeburgh is believed to be one of the best preserved Tudor public buildings in Britain. . . . There is no exact date for the construction of this building, but best-guess estimates put it at 1550. Moot Hall sits on the seafront in Aldeburgh, with a huge pebble beach behind it stretching out to a cold, grey sea. It is quite remarkable to look at, with its timber frame, red bricks and tiled roof looking somewhat incongruous next to the colourful seaside villas and wooden shacks, lobster pots and fish stalls that fill the area. Now famous as a music and arts holiday destination, Moot Hall harks back to a time when Aldeburgh was a prosperous Tudor town of traders and ship builders.
Archaeology Travel

The term ‘Moot Hall’ was used only from the nineteenth century as part of the Victorian mock-Tudor restoration. The building was always referred to in earlier documents as the ‘Town Hall’. The word ‘Moot’ derives from the Saxon word for ‘a meeting’. . . .In the 16th century an open-sided polygonal market cross stood across to the North of the Moot Hall, and there was also a large market hall nearby. Fresh food and other everyday commodities would have been sold from these stalls by peripatetic traders: vegetables and fruit, bread, meat and fish. Although no one knows exactly what was sold from the Town Hall shops, records number several shoemakers and tailors working in the town, together with barbers, coopers, grocers, beer-brewers a shipwright and a ‘hockemaker’ (the maker of those all-important hooks for suspending vessels over the fire). The original layout of the ground floor included dividing walls between six shops – each shop would have been self-contained and entered by its own door. Large arched windows which contained no glass but were closed by inside shutters at night provided necessary light.
Suffolk Secrets

Town Hall, Fordwich, England


Town Hall, Fordwich

Google Street View.

Fordwich Town Hall was built in 1544 as a meeting place for the council of England’s smallest town. It has served continuously in this role for nearly 500 years. Fordwich – population less than 400 – is legally a town because in 1184 King Henry II granted it a “Merchant Gild Charter”. This reflected its importance as the nearest port to Canterbury.
Wheels of Time