History of the Town Hall

The Town Hall  is regarded as the symbolic expression of civic government, having changed very little in external appearance since its completion in 1869.

The entrance is approached by two flights of steps from Northgate Street. The year of completion, 1869, and the armorial bearings used by Chester until 1974 are carved above the porch which also contains four sculptures in Bath stone. These depict Roman soldiers building the walls of Chester; Egbert (802-39), King of the West Saxons and conqueror of Mercia; the entry of Charles I into Chester in 1642; and Hugh I receiving the earldom of Chester from William the Conqueror, c.1077.

The Waiting Hall

The Waiting Hall contains a number of interesting features. Flanking the entrance doors are busts of George V (1910-36), who visited Chester in 1914 and Sir Horatio Lloyd, Recorder of Chester from 1866 until 1921. Above the central doors of the Assembly Room, a sculpture shows a group of minstrels marching to the aid of Sir Ranulph III (1181-1232), who was besieged by the Welsh in Rhuddlan Castle; and above the entrance to the Court Room, Sir William Brereton is shown before the Mayor's court, following his arrest in 1642 for attempting to raise recruits for the Parliamentary army.

Sculptures at the end of the Waiting Hall depict Edward the Black Prince (1330-76) granting a charter in 1354; and Henry VII (1485-1509) granting Chester county status in 1506.

The war memorial outside the Assembly Room bears the names of 768 Chester citizens who died during the First World War. A small plaque commemorates all those people from Chester who died during the Second World War.

The tapestry, at the far end of the Waiting Hall was inspired by European Architectural Heritage Year 1975. The theme is 'Chester Today'.

The circular stained glass window at the end of the hall shows the common seal of the City.

Assembly Room

This is the largest room in the Town Hall. Above the stage is painted the former armorial bearings of Chester, with the city motto, 'Antiqui Colant Antiquum Dierum', which may be translated as 'Let the ancients worship the ancient of days'. The armorial bearings are also depicted in the circular stained glass window.

Court Room

Until the abolition of Quarter Sessions by the Courts Act 1971, Quarter Sessions for the City of Chester were held in the court. After that time until April 1993, it was used as a Magistrates Court, with the adjoining room used as a retiring room for the Magistrates.

Staircase, Balcony and Landing

The shields and plaques that decorate the staircase wall have been presented by distinguished visitors to the Town Hall.

On the half landing is a memorial presented to the City of Chester by the Polish Air Force Unit at Sealand, Chester on Poland's National Day, 3 August 1944.

The Victorian stained glass windows above the staircase depict Gherbod the Fleming, who was given the Earldom of Chester by William the Conqueror, and the seven Norman Earls of Chester; Hugh I (c.1077-1101) who was known as Hugh Lupus; Richard (1101-20); Ranulph I (1120-28); Ranulph II (1128-53); Hugh II (1153-81); Ranulph III (1181-1232); and John the Scot (1232-37).

The portraits on the upper staircase wall also depict the Norman Earls, but are entirely imaginary. They were painted in 1578 and show the Earls in Tudor armour.

The three sculptures on the landing are Earl Ranulph III granting a charter to the citizens; Prince Edward, later Edward I (1272-1307) receiving homage; and James II (1685-88) being welcomed on his visit to Chester in 1687.

Council Chamber

The Council Chamber is a particularly impressive room, which is oak panelled and adorned with splendid carvings in wood and stone.

Chester's former armorial bearings and the arms of the Prince of Wales as Earl of Chester are carved in wood above the fireplace. The Chamber also contains the grant of new armorial bearings received from the college of Arms in 1977.

On 27 March 1897, the Council Chamber was completely gutted by fire, but was restored the following year. The gallery clock was presented by John Goodie Holmes, Mayor of Chester in 1897-98.

Lord Mayoral Suite

This consists of the Lord Mayor's Parlour and the Lady Mayoress's Parlour, used for the reception of civic visitors.

On display in the Mayor's Parlour are two eighteenth century sword and mace stands. The clock, carved to resemble the west front of Chester Cathedral, is one of six similar clocks presented to the light cruiser, HMS Chester by the Citizens in May 1916. The ship took part in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 and is remembered especially for the heroism of John Travers Cornwell, V.C.

The most interesting features of the Mayoress's Parlour are the nine portraits of founders of local charities, painted on the wainscotting, rescued from the council room of the Exchange Building in 1862.

Committee Room

The room adjacent to the Lord Mayor's Parlour contains panels bearing the names of the Mayors of Chester from 1238, Lord Mayors from 1991, the Sheriffs from 1836, the Norman and Royal Earls from c.1070, the Clerks and Town Clerks from 1291 and Recorders from 1506. There is also a roll of Honorary Freemen of Chester from 1897, including the present Prince of Wales.

Take a virtual tour of the Town Hall by visiting the Virtual Town Hall page.

 

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