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Town Hall

Exchange


1869 New Town Hall


It was erected on the site of the old exchange, built in Gothic style, at a cost of aprox £40,000, and was opened for public use in 1869. on October 15th by the Prince of Wales.later King Edward VIII. The Architects were Messers Lanyon , Lynn , and Lanyon of Belfast . The original contractor , Mr. Clark , died the work was for some time suspended , until arrangements were made with Mr. Hughes, builder of Aldford, to carry out the contract .

  The tower which rises in the centre is 160 feet high. The ground floor was mainly occupied by the Police Offices, from which corridors run to a range of prison cells, kitchens, and other offices, Above these are the Public Hall , the Magistrate Court ( the courtroom ceased to be used for Quarter Sessions in 1972 or as a Magistrates Court in 1991 when a new Magistrates Courthouse was opened in Grosvenor Street, Council Chamber, also entrance hall, Waiting room, Muniment - room (which contains the ancient Charters and other Documents, the civic plate, the 15th. century Great Sword.)

The Town Hall is still used by officers, but today. most of the City Council's departments are housed in the adjacent Forum, which was opened in 1973. However. Chester Town Hall is still regarded as the symbolic expression of
civic government, having changed very little in external appearance since 1869.

The principal entrance is at Northgate - Street, with the general entrance for ordinary business in Princess - Street. In the Council Chamber are hung portraits of several worthies, painted by such distinguished artists as Benjamin West, W.W. Ouless, and Daniel Macnee . In the Committee Rooms are panels on which are recorded the names of the Mayors, Sheriffs, and
Earls of Chester .

The first Earl 875 the first Mayor was elected in 1267. A disastrous fire in 1897 distroyed the Council Chamber and some of the Offices . Unfortunately valuable pictures were lost in the flames, with others being painted from copies of photographs.

The entrance is approached by two flights of steps from Northgate Street, the armorial bearings used by Chester until 1974. are carved above the porch. which 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 Earl 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 ; 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.

The Palatine Room.
to the right of the main entrance doors, is used mainly for Council committee meetings.

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 April1993. 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 which decorate the staircase wall have all 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 Polands 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.1077-11O1 ) who was known as Hugh Lupus: Richard (1101-20): Ranulph I (1120-28): Ranulph 11(1128-53): Hugh 11(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, having been painted in 1578 showing 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 11(1685-88) being welcomed on his visit to Chester in 1687.

Council Chamber
The Council Chamber is an especially impressive room, 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 and the Chamber also contains the grant of new armorial bearings received from 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 Chester in 1897- 98.

Lord Mayoral Suite
This consists of the Lord Mayor's Parlour and the Mayoress' 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. H.M.S. 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' Parlour are the nine portraitsof founders of local charities, painted on the wainscotting, rescued from the council room of the Exchange in 1862.

Committee Room
The room adjacent to the Lord Mayor's Parlour is mainly now used for meetings of committees of the City Council. The panels bear the names of the Mayors of Chester from 1238. 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. include the present Prince of Wales.

The Members' Room
Is mainly for the use of members of the City Council. The panelling bears the names of the Chairmen of Chester and Tarvin Rural District Councils and the Clerks of Tarvin Rural District Council.