Town Hall. Built 1938-9 by the Metropolitan Borough of Hammersmith. Architect E. Berry Webber. The extension to the north of 1974-5 is not included.
Reasons for Designation
Hammersmith Town Hall is listed for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a fine example of an inter-war town hall combining modern and classical elements, designed by a specialist in municipal design, it is a building of bold presence; the quality of materials, craftsmanship and detailing are of a high standard throughout;
* Interiors: a fine sequence of virtually unaltered public and civic spaces, and good survival of joinery, fittings and finishes; the set of murals in the public entrance hall are splendid examples of the genre by notable C20 artists
The present town hall replaced a vestry hall in Hammersmith Broadway, built 1896-97 to the design of JH Richardson, which survived until the 1960s. By 1915 the Metropolitan Borough of Hammersmith, the successor to Hammersmith Vestry, had outgrown these premises and, after two decades of renting temporary offices, opted to build a new town hall on a different site. Ernest Berry Webber (1896-1963), a specialist in municipal buildings best known for his work at Southampton and Dagenham, was invited to design the new town hall in 1936. He adopted a fashionable but distinctive style, showing a fusion of modern Scandinavian and Dutch motifs combined with English Regency ones - described as ‘Swedish Georgian' by a contemporary critic. Webber's original designs proposed a more elaborate sculptural treatment (such as a pair of free-standing columns flanking the southern entrance) than was realised. The foundation stone is dated 2nd July 1938. Completion was interrupted by war, although the building was substantially finished by 1939. Webber showed drawings for the building at the 1949 Royal Academy. A six-storey extension was built in 1971-75 on the site of the landscaped forecourt to the north. In 1965, when the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham were merged, Hammersmith Town Hall became the principal headquarters of the new local authority.
MATERIALS: Red-purple brick laid in monk bond with raked joints; Portland stone dressings; steel Crittall windows. Inner courtyard elevations in yellow stock brick.
PLAN: Rectangular site aligned north-south. The town hall comprises two parts: that to the south, facing the River Thames across the Great West Road, contains the civic rooms and municipal offices; and that to the north, facing King Street, contains the public spaces. The principal rooms to both parts are located at first and second-floor levels. The larger southern section is arranged around four sides of a courtyard. The south frontage block has a stair to either side and comprises the former treasurer’s office at ground floor, originally double height, now with an inserted mezzanine; a foyer at first floor, now subdivided; at second floor is the civic suite: mayor and mayoress’s parlours to the front and the semi-octagonal council chamber to the rear, with a long, double-height ante-chamber between. Offices and committee rooms are located along the courtyard ranges at each level. The northern section, which contained mainly cloakrooms and storage, has been adapted at ground-floor level to form an entrance foyer; to the west is the small hall. Above is a double-height entrance hall and assembly hall with adjacent former refreshment rooms at both levels. Staircases are located at each corner.
EXTERIOR: three storeys and attic; the brick-faced upper floors slightly set back. The ground floor is faced in Portland stone with a moulded plinth, channelled rustication and a roll-moulded, banded brick parapet.
The south range, originally the main entrance to the ceremonial rooms, has a symmetrical nine-bay elevation with a taller projecting centrepiece; set back behind this is the upper part of the council chamber. The centrepiece has a deep recessed arched opening and perforated decoration to the parapet. The first-floor entrance (now blocked) is reached via a stone perron stair faced with a rusticated wall, which has a small entrance to the ground floor. The wall is carved at either end with colossal carved heads depicting Father Thames, sculpted by George Alexander. Stone dedication plaques flank the entrance. Above the entrance is a balcony to the mayor's parlour, with a decorative iron balustrade featuring addorsed seahorses. The rusticated ground floor continues to form a projecting wall to either side, terminating in piers with baluster-shaped finials. First-floor windows in moulded brick surrounds; those to the second floor have stone surrounds. Low attached wall of moulded stone in front of the ground-floor windows.
The side (east and west) elevations comprise two distinct ranges, corresponding with the town hall’s ‘civic’ and ‘public’ components. The southern ranges are each of 15 bays with a central arched opening at ground and first-floor level, plus a tall window at the south end lighting the staircases, with continuous stone mullions running up to a shallow projecting canopy. The arches have entrances with double gates of decorative iron (that on the east side infilled), with radial-pattern windows above. Above the western entrance is a sculpted frieze with five metope reliefs. These depict (from right to left) the Performing Arts, with the masks of Comedy and Tragedy; a central relief of the civic arms, showing crossed hammers over a crown, flanked by two reliefs inscribed SPECTEMUR (with the beacon of learning and books, bearing the date 1939) and AGENDO (with emblems of the building trades); and a relief of the Graphic Arts, embodied by a portrait of the artist Walter Greaves set against a depiction of one of his Hammersmith scenes, with palette and brushes. The first-floor windows are set within moulded brick surrounds; the taller ones at the second floor have stone surrounds repeating the motif of the stair windows. The attic windows have stone lintels above and are set between decorative brick piers. The taller northern ranges are symmetrical with projecting sections flanked by a tall staircase window, matching those to the south; the west side has a five-bay ground floor and panelled doors to either side (the entrances to the ‘small hall’), enclosed by a low area wall with metal gates to each end. Above are three double-height arched windows with shallow balconies and spandrel panels, lighting the first and second-floor refreshment rooms, and tiny attic windows. The east side (the rear of the stage) is plainer, with small windows and a loading bay in a stone frame. The internal courtyard elevations are in yellow brick with rusticated ground floors, in a style consistent with the exterior. The south elevation to the former Borough Treasurer’s office has a screen of six double-height half-columns of brick; above is the canted end of the council chamber.
The north elevation, which was treated with similar grandeur to the south, is partly obscured by the 1970s extension. The ground floor has small windows with decorative iron grilles. A monumental flight of stone stairs (removed in the 1970s) led up to the main public entrance at first-floor level. The elevation comprises a broad projecting centrepiece with shallow towers to either side with banded rustication, and plain brick flanks. The centrepiece has three low entrances in stone surrounds with reeded pilasters, with panelled doors. Above are three giant arched openings with coffered decoration to the soffits. Decorative brick banding to parapet.
INTERIOR: The six staircases have solid balustrades with brass handrails, terrazzo floors and skirtings; the more prominent circulation areas have polished limestone cladding. The former south entrance foyer, now an office, has reeded columns of polished limestone. The top-lit ante-chamber, one of the building's most impressive spaces, is lined in polished limestone, and has a gallery on all sides canted forward on corbels with decorative grilles set between moulded mullions. The upper walls and ceiling retain their distinctive painted decoration. The Council Chamber has semi-circular fixed seating and a recessed mayoral dais. The room is panelled with exotic veneers, and has press and public galleries on either side. Plaster ceiling with coffered decoration and lantern. Lobbies to either side also with plasterwork and original glass light fittings. The Mayor's Parlour, another stone-lined chamber, has arched mirrors at either end in recesses with a Soanian vaulted ceiling between; the lower parts of the walls are veneer lined, beneath a decorative plaster frieze; beneath the mirrors are electric heaters, with decorative grilles in front. Committee Room One, on the second floor on the north side of the courtyard, has a heavily beamed roof. The building is much altered at third-floor level, and of lesser interest.
The entrance hall to the public assembly hall has a tripartite barrel-vaulted ceiling with coffered arches, windows on the north side, and murals on the other main bays. These were executed in 1956 by Alfred Daniels and John Titchell and conserved in 1983. They depict Thames-side scenes: old Hammersmith Bridge to the east, the boat race along the three southern bays, and Chelsea Creek on the west wall. The lower sections of the walls are faced in banded polished stone. The top-lit assembly room is decorated in a moderne style. The sprung dance floor was one of the largest in London. The beamed ceiling has ridge-and-furrow glazing. The lower walls are lined with walnut panelling, with fluted plasterwork above and a stylised modillion cornice. The stage on the east side is flanked by tall decorative grilles. The room to the east of the hall (originally refreshment room 1), also in the moderne style, has a beamed ceiling with plaster decoration. Above this the second refreshment room, now subdivided, has a key-pattern cornice. The Small Hall on the ground floor has timber dado panelling and a stage with fluted columns to the proscenium arch; also original light fittings.