Purpose-built county council offices in Neo-Georgian style, including forecourt, constructed in 1935 to the designs of E. (Emanuel) Vincent Harris.
Reasons for Designation
A Block, County Hall and its associated forecourt, including pavements and carriageway, are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural: an important work by the most celebrated civic architect of the first half of the C20; it has distinct quality and presence and is carefully detailed in the Neo-Georgian style;
* Intactness: Despite some adaptation to changing functions, the building contains a notable quantity of its original fittings and much of the original plan;
* Setting: the forecourt consisting of cobbled road surface, stone copings and pavements are included as important elements of the original design.
Somerset County Council was established in 1889. County Hall, A Block, was built in 1935, to the designs of E. (Emanuel) Vincent Harris, after the council left the smaller Shire Hall (Grade II) to the south-west. It was intended to form the first phase of a larger scheme although the other buildings were never erected. Pavements, cobbled forecourt and lawns fronting A Block were included in the original design to provide a formal setting for the building.
Vincent Harris (1876-1971) was a well-respected municipal architect who designed many important public buildings including Sheffield's City Hall, County Hall in Nottingham and Bristol's Council House.
MATERIALS: English bond buff-coloured and pink brick with Portland stone dressings. It has a steeply-pitched Cumberland slate hipped roof with moulded stone eaves cornice. There are brick axial stacks with stone cornices.
PLAN: a central section containing the former main entrance, with diagonal wings set at 45º to the central block. To the rear is a late-C20 linked addition. The forecourt in front (north-west) of the former entrance has a U-shaped plan. The path between the two lawned areas in front of the forecourt area is later C20 concrete slab paving and, together with the lawns themselves, is not of special interest. The extension to County Hall (B Block), added in the 1960s, is situated to the south of the original building and is linked via covered walkways to both the ground and first floors. It is not of interest.
EXTERIOR: the building is of three storeys and an attic. It has a symmetrical 1:9:1 bay to the north-west front, with the nine-bay recessed quadrant flanked by slightly advanced wings with tall stone aedicules (framing to a door or window by columns and a pediment) to the second-floor windows. The ground storey is of ashlar with three regularly-spaced round arches towards the centre; the central arch contains the entrance and has an elaborate stone coat of arms in the tympanum. There are sash windows with glazing bars, recessed smaller attic windows, and a continuous stone cill. The returns of both the wings are of eleven bays. The rear (south-west) elevation comprises the convex curved central section and the flanking wings which contain sash windows with glazing bars and smaller recessed attic windows.
INTERIOR: not inspected (2011). It has a stone entrance vestibule with a groin-vaulted ceiling, the clerestory arches lighting a corridor behind. There is a stone internal porch, and segmental pediments over the architraves to flanking staircases which have iron balustrades to the landings. To the first floor is a panelled chairman's office.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the forecourt to the front consists of pavements formed with Pennant stone kerbs, channel blocks and flagstones, backed by a Portland stone coping. These pavements frame a carriageway of pebbles interspersed with a regular arrangement of decorative panels with Pennant stone dividers and circular features. The cobbled carriageway runs from The Crescent frontage, past the principal entrance to the building, and onto Park Street. The pavement and coping detail continues along the street frontage between The Crescent and Park Street access points and also south along The Crescent frontage with a return to the southern end of the south-east wing of A Block, terminating adjacent to the building with a Portland stone post.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 16/08/2012