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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Leeds (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SE 29752 33866



SE2933NE VICTORIA SQUARE 714-1/75/415 (North side) 19/10/51 Town Hall (Formerly Listed as: VICTORIA SQUARE Town Hall including forecourt retaining wall to south and south-west)


Town hall. 1853-58, altered 1877. By Cuthbert Brodrick, sculptures by John Thomas. Alterations 1877 by AW Morant, the Borough Surveyor. Millstone grit from approx 17 different quarries including Rawdon Hill (for carvings), Sturdy and Pool; Darley Dale stone from Derbyshire used in many of the columns; slate and lead roof. Portland stone lions by William Day Keyworth of London, 1867. STYLE: Classical/Baroque EXTERIOR: 2 storeys over basement which is terraced into the sloping ground to rear (Great George Street). Rectangular plan with slightly projecting wings on S, W, and E sides and centre on N side; a central public hall with court rooms and former council chamber at the corners, linked by corridors and offices. Round-arched windows throughout. On each facade the heavily rusticated base supports a giant Corinthian order of columns and fluted pilasters; an entablature surmounted by balustrade with urns runs all round the building. South front: the principal entrance is reached by a wide flight of stone steps flanked by 2 plinths with stone lions; basement entrances to left and right have giant pedimented lintels and screen wall with paired globe-shaped lamp standards. 10 giant Corinthian columns form a colonnade across the recessed entrance which is composed of 3 paired doors with ornate grilles below a round-arch tympanum with large sculptured group representing Progress, Art and Commerce. Set back above the south entrance the clock tower, approx 68.6m high, is composed of a deep plinth with rusticated panels, scrolled corner brackets, paterae and coat of arms; a square colonnade of 21 Corinthian columns supports a pulvinated frieze, dentilled cornice, balustrade and urns; openwork scrolled corner finials flank clock dials topped by elongated lead-clad dome with concave sides surmounted by cupola. 4 ornate ventilation shafts rise above the eaves line: square in section, moulded panels with corner paterae, frieze with flowers and swags, segmental pediment and corner urn

finials. Rear (Great George Street): a cast-iron glazed canopy overlies the central 3-arch entrance (originally to Civil and Criminal Courts); 9 bays, the outer bays recessed, large keystones carved with Mythical heads. Left return (Oxford Place): the central 11-window range has a round-arched basement entrance bay 2 with 8-panel studded 2-leaf doors and giant masks carved on the keystones; the 5-window flanking bays break forward, with giant fluted pilasters; area railings with double gates are massive, with close-set rails and spearhead finials. Right return (Calverley Street): similar to Oxford Place front with central entrance, divided steps and a screen wall with rusticated plinth, cast-iron openwork panel and paired globe lamp standards. INTERIOR: ground floor: important surviving features include: wall lamps with glass orbs flank 3 pairs of bronze glazed doors to south vestibule, Minton floor tiles, fluted giant pilasters, marble statue of Queen Victoria by Noble, statue of Prince Albert. The Victoria Hall has paired columns in antis, rams' heads and owls in the capitals, barrel vault with painted and moulded panels and mottos, ('Industry Overcomes All Things', 'God in the Highest', etc); organ designed by Smart and William Spark (organist to St George's church) and built by Messrs Grey and Davisson, the ornament by Matthews and Crace; orchestra remodelled 1904 by James Barlow Fraser; the gallery at the S end originally very small, (a royal box?) and carried on large console brackets, extended 1877, first as a bowed gallery filling the rear bay, later a concave gallery front to fill 2 bays. The N vestibule has 3 sets of paired glazed doors with openwork gilded panels, inner row of round arches to corridor with moulded vaulted ceiling, cornice, panelled doors and reveals; statues of Robert Hall MP, 1857 by Dennis Lee, and Edward Baines MP. The Calverley Street entrance has double panelled doors with brass handles, 2 brass wall plaques commemorate the opening of the building by Queen Victoria on 7 September 1858 and the status of 'City' conferred 1893. The Albert Room, former Council Room (SE corner) is richly detailed, with dado moulding, paired fluted pilasters with Ionic capitals and owls, frieze of scrolls, rams' head masks, coved ceiling with glazed top-light in the form of a low dome, painted glass in blue and yellow; gallery at W end, fittings removed. The Borough Court, now Court No.3 (SW corner) has pedimented door cases, Corinthian pilasters, dentilled cornice, coved

ceiling, top light with central glazed panel and ventilator pendant; the canopy over the judge's bench has egg-and-dart moulding, the dock and wooden fittings appear original; gallery with cast-iron balustrade (flower motifs, wooden handrail) and moulded tiles on rear wall. The former Civil Court, now No.2 Court (NE corner), fitted up 1863, has an inserted ceiling but paired pilasters and roll mouldings visible in office above; panelled partitions in well of court appear original, the bowed gallery front has moulded balusters, flower and leaf motifs, moulded wooden handrail, stepped bench seating. The former Criminal Court, (?Crown Court) now Court No.1 (NW corner): damaged by fire 1991, it has a fine carving of the royal arms over the E entrance; interior not inspected. Corridors lined with decorative tiles added 1877; cantilevered stone staircases at the N and S ends of the W corridor and the N end of the E corridor have cast-iron balustrade with moulded wood handrails and elaborate cast-iron paired security gates mid-way up. A staircase down to the basement on the E side of the Hall is of 2 flights, with cast-iron openwork scrolled panels and wooden handrail. The remaining ground-floor rooms retain original features including marble fireplaces, panelled window reveals, plasterwork. A concealed spiral stair E of the S vestibule rises through the full height of the building and has plain square-section balusters; it is oval in plan. Basement: the large room beneath the Victoria Hall has cast-iron columns supporting the floor above, inserted ceiling; the W side of the plan occupied by bridewell, original cell partition walls at N end removed, steps up to court room intact; centre: corridor original, rooms partitioned; S end: some small cells remain under the entrance colonnade area; they have substantial board doors and probably date from the 1867 alterations to the front after the decision was made to move the West Riding Court of Assize to Leeds. The E side of the building is occupied by kitchens. Main roof: innovative use of laminated wood beams, 12 each of 9" x 1 1/2" held by wrought-iron bolts, spanning the approx 22m width; thought to be the first example in wood, taken from the designs of the Crystal Palace (Paxton 1850-51) and Kings Cross station (Cubitt 1851-54). HISTORICAL NOTE: a competition judged by Sir Charles Barry gave the 1st prize to Brodrick, to design a Town Hall with public hall, corporate offices and courts of justice; the cost to be »35,000. Foundations laid 17 August 1855, the exact use for all parts of the building still not clear; the contractor was Samuel Atack. Problems arose from the architect's determination to see the scheme through 'whatever the cost'

while Atack was unable to find an adequate margin of resources and went bankrupt in March 1857. Contractors for the tower and interior work were Addy and Nicholls. The Council made alterations to the layout of rooms throughout the work. The tower was added in 1856 after a suggestion by Barry, and in 1858 the clock was installed. The ventilator towers followed extensive discussion and study and were copied elsewhere; Barry, Hardwick and Paxton all visited the site while work was in progress. The organ was installed in 1858 and was regarded as the 'crowning glory'; town halls elsewhere followed suit. The coal cellars were made in 1863 and painting and cleaning throughout, including the Hall, took place in 1864. In 1867 Brodrick suggested that a larger skylight be put in each of the courts. The final cost of the building was »125,000. The arrangement of rooms reflects the 4 main uses to which the Town Hall was put: i) police cells and offices in basement area, S and W sides; ii) ground-floor court rooms for the borough, criminal and civil courts in the SW, NW, and NE corners with court rooms, jury rooms and other offices on ground and 1st-floor corridors between; iii) the ground-floor council room in the SE corner, with town clerk's offices, mayoral and committee rooms on the east side ground and 1st floors; iv) the central public hall, approx 49m x 22m and 23m high with S gallery and N stage with apsidal recess housing the organ. The basement also housed the kitchens, (E side) and a public meeting/refreshment room beneath the central hall, together with boiler rooms and organ blowers. The south entrance with elaborate vestibule was ceremonial while the north entrance was for more official use. (Cunningham, CJK (Leeds University): A study of Town Halls of the C18 and C19 (PhD thesis): Leeds Univ PhD: 1974-; Linstrum, D: West Yorkshire Architects and Architecture: London: 1978-: 376-77, 382).

Listing NGR: SE2975233866


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Linstrum, D, West Yorkshire Architects and Architecture, (1978), 376-77,382


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 08 Apr 2007
Reference: IOE01/16226/05
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Dennis Carr. Source Historic England Archive
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