Classical design distinguishes Nottingham’s landmark Council House

Some visitors to my website have expressed curiosity about my choice of page header. The image I have used is, of course, a section of the façade of Nottingham’s most elegant and iconic building, the Council House.

Nottingham's Council House

Inspired by Palladio - Nottingham's Council House

This Palladian-inspired building was designed and built in the 1920s at a cost of more than £600,000, which in a time of economic recession caused a public outcry.
But I believe the building has stood the test of time and is a fitting symbol of a city with the history and traditions of Nottingham.
For centuries there had been two halls where the important decisions for the city were taken, going back to the days after the Norman invasion of 1066 when there was a French community as well as an English one.  The Norman building, the Moot Hall, once stood at the corner of Wheeler Gate, and the English Town Hall, or Guildhall, was at Weekday Cross.
But in 1877 the Council moved to temporary accommodation until the Old Exchange, which stood on the site of the present Council House, could be adapted for use.
Nottingham architect T. Cecil Howitt was commissioned to design the new building and his initial scheme in 1923 was based on rebuilding the Old Exchange as a grand shopping arcade modelled on Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
However the councillors required a council chamber and mayoral suite and so Howitt modified his design to include this accommodation behind a classical façade, with a shopping arcade at the back.
The foundation stone was laid in 1927 on what was to be the largest stone building commissioned in the country since the First World War.
The Portland stone used for the building came from the same quarry as the stone used by Christopher Wren for St Paul’s Cathedral.
The terrace overlooking the Old Market Square has eight columns, with 21 figures, representing the activities of the council,  in the pediment above. The frieze behind them depicts traditional local crafts, such as bell founding, mining and alabaster carving.
The official opening of the Council House on 22 May, 1929 was a wonderful day for Nottingham. Thousands of people came to watch the arrival of the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VIII, who opened the doors officially with a golden key. This is still displayed inside the building to the left of the grand staircase.
As I was born and brought up in Nottingham , the Council House is at the centre of some of my earliest memories of being taken into the city.
After I became a junior reporter on the Post in 1973, I attended events in some of the magnificently decorated rooms inside the Council House.
I was a frequent visitor while working as a freelance journalist for Nottingham City Council and, more recently, while attending meetings on behalf of Nottinghamshire Police.
My love of Italy has inspired me to visit some of the magnificent buildings created by architect Andrea Palladio in Vicenza, whose designs in the 16th century rediscovered classic Roman principles.
Many beautiful buildings have since been built throughout the world in Palladian style, of which Nottingham’s Council House is a fine example. As a freelance journalist based in Nottingham, I feel that an image of the classical pediment on its façade makes an ideal header for my website.

One response to “Classical design distinguishes Nottingham’s landmark Council House

  1. valerie bullin

    A very informative piece, this would be a good start for a project for schools in Nottingham to look at the historic buildings of the City.

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