The Exchange 1698 ( forerunner of The Town Hall )
|It was situated in the Market - place , on the west side of Northgate Street . It
was commenced in 1695 and took three years to build , at an expense of £1000 , towards which Roger Whitley
, then Mayor , contributed largely It is a noble brick building , ornamented with stone work , supported by stone
pillars on the ground floor , through which is a spacious thoroughfare from south to north .
The ground floor of the Exchange originally consisted of four rows of pillars , having the intervals entirely open . But in 1756 concern due to the safety of these pillars and their strength to sustain the floor above . A range of shops on the west side and a shop at the south east side were erected
The Exchange was distroyed by fire on the night of December 30th 1863
'DREADFUL FIRE IN CHESTER. TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF THE TOWN HALL.
Tuesday evening will long be remembered by the citizens of Chester as the date of a most fearful conflagration. About twenty minutes past six o'clock that evening, suspicion was excited that the roof of the Exchange was on fire, in consequence of some persons observing a bright light immediately above the sessions chamber. They informed the police of the fact and the hose-reel was brought out. The fire bell was tolled and officers immediately dispatched for the city engines. The news spread through the town with the speed of electricity, causing everywhere the greatest excitement. A large concourse of people speedily assembled; unfortunately a strong breeze was blowing from the North west (and) fanned by this wind, the flames gained strength in a most alarming manner . . . (The) engines had not sufficient power to project the water, (at which) the populace showed the most unmistakable signs of disapprobation and indignation. They laughed, jeered and taunted the members of the fire brigade . . . A large proportion of the furniture, paintings, etc., were saved. About eight o'clock the top of the flagpole fell onto the head of Mr. J. Price of Watergate Street, inflicting a rather serious scalp wound. This was the most serious accident that occurred. By ten o'clock, the whole place was gutted.
The paper went on to say: 'The Exchange was begun in the year 1695 and finished
in 1698 in which year the election of the Mayor and city officers and the courts, formerly held in the old Common
Hail, were removed to this building. It has a commodious thoroughfare for foot passengers from north and south.'
The building was so damaged that it was demolished and the present Town Hall, designed by a Belfast architect and apparently based on a French chateau, was built (1864-69).