Nottingham is renowned for its rich history, and no building better encapsulates this than its council house. Not only does the structure serve as an important building for the city, but its heritage is something that locals have become proud of.
Before Nottingham Council House was built, the city relied on two locations where important decisions about the city would be made. The Moot Hall on the corner of Wheeler Gate and the Guildhall at Weekday Cross were functional until the 1880s, when it soon became apparent that another site was needed.
Temporary accommodation was arranged at the Old Exchange, which housed the council buildings from 1879 onwards. It wasn’t until the 1920s that Nottingham Council decided it was time for a purpose-built structure to be put in place, and the search began for an architect to undertake the task.
Thomas Cecil Howitt was selected for the job by winning a competition. He came from Nottingham and although relatively unknown at the time, this particular project was the start of quite an illustrious career. He went on to design the Edinburgh Savings Bank, Baskerville House in Birmingham and several Odeon cinemas throughout the country.
Howitt became something of a local hero for his architecture, as the success of Nottingham Council House meant that he was commissioned to design various other buildings in the city. As a result, Nottingham Trent University’s Newton Building and Nottingham University’s Portland Building are both Howitt’s creations.
Before the Nottingham Council House project got underway, it was estimated to cost in the region of £500,000. Many members of the public were unhappy that such a large budget had been dedicated to the scheme, but the council was adamant that the costs would be recovered through business rents.
A further £100,000 was needed for the project to build a council chamber and new civic offices. The original plans only provided a shopping arcade and office accommodation, so the needs of the council would not have been met.
Nottingham Council House provided a bit of a dilemma for Howitt – should he opt for a classical style or something more modern? He decided that a contemporary building might date too quickly, and so the council building was constructed in a more traditional style.
The first foundation stone was laid in 1927, and Nottingham Council House became the biggest stone building commissioned in the UK since the end of the First World War.
One of the most recognisable features of the building is its 200-foot domed roof, which can be seen for miles across the city. Lead panels have been used across the remainder of the roof and they are regularly inspected to ensure the safety of members of the public below.
Nottingham Council House serves many purposes in the present day, including as a hub of local politics. Royalty and statesmen have been entertained at the venue, and 55 councillors attend Full Council there. Tours of the site are also held for anyone who wants a behind the scenes look at this magnificent structure.