Bolton Town Hall takes the form of a classical temple



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Bolton Town Hall
By David Jennings*

10 March 2010: Bolton’s fine neo-classical town hall is the centrepiece of one of Britain’s most impressive compositions of civic architecture. The town hall itself was built 1866-73, to the designs of William Hill of Leeds, assisted by George Woodhouse. It was opened on 5th June 1873 by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VII.

The main building faces the pedestrianised Victoria Square and takes the form of a classical temple, with a projecting portico of composite columns, surmounted by a pediment containing allegorical sculptures by W Calder Marshall. The sculptures depict aspects of the cotton manufacturing industry, on which Bolton’s wealth was built in the 18th and 19th centuries. The portico is flanked by matching ranges either side, each of 5 bays, again with Composite columns. Behind the portico, set back, is a 200ft (61m) tall clock tower in the baroque style, with a stone dome, topped by an elaborate fleche. The building was extended in an identical style in 1938 to designs by the Bolton architectural firm of Bradshaw, Gass and Hope.

The interior houses the formal Council Chamber and Committee Rooms, as well as offices and two public halls, the Albert Hall and Festival Hall. The original Albert Hall was destroyed by fire in 1981, and rebuilt with two smaller and more flexible spaces. Other rooms retain original details, such as heavily ornamental plasterwork to ceilings and cornices, pedimented door cases and panelled doors. The main corridors have decorative floor tiles by the firm of Minton Hollins – supposedly fire resistant.

Behind the town hall is the magnificent sweep of Le Mans crescent, a long curved terrace of 26 bays in a plain classical style, divided by a central, triple-arched triumphal gateway. Built in 1931-39, again by Bradshaw, Gass, and Hope, the crescent contains civic offices, and the town’s museum and art gallery and main library.

* David Jennings is an independent management consultant working on policy and strategy development and stakeholder engagement, including government and business relationship management. He is an Associate of Indepen and Achill Management




The original Albert Hall before it was destroyed by fire in 1981


Also by David Jennings
Southampton
Civic Centre

One of Britain’s oldest cities, Southampton has in its Civic Centre, one of its newest – and largest – civic buildings. The origins of today’s city can be traced back to a 6th century Saxon settlement, which grew throughout the mediaeval period to become one of Britain’s greatest trading ports: famous ships include the Mayflower , which sailed from here (via Plymouth) to America in 1620, and the Titanic began her ill-fated maiden voyage from Southampton in 1912.

However, the then Borough’s government had expanded piecemeal over the period, and was housed in a number of different buildings scattered throughout the city. From the late 19th century onwards there was much debate about bringing the offices together in a single building. This dream was not, however, realised until E Berry Webber won a competition held in 1928, to build a series of interlinked Civic buildings on a former mediaeval common known as the West Marlands. The foundation stone was laid by Prince Albert, Duke of York – later King George VI – who also opened the first block, housing municipal offices, in 1932. The building was not completed until 1939, by which time it included, in addition to the municipal offices, the Guildhall, Art Gallery, Public Library and Law Courts (now occupied by the Police). More