Council House - architectural detail of pediment sculptures - depicting 'Justice' and 'Agriculture'
About this image
The idea of a new complex to replace The Exchange which stood on the eastern side of the Market Square was approved by the Council on 1st. December 1924 and the contract was let in May 1925. The initial estimate, for the cost of the new building work, was £429.295 plus furniture at a cost of £35,000, but the actual cost was £600,293 and thirty three pence including a processional way, a statue of Queen Victoria (now on the River Trent Embankment) and two fountains. To ensure complete safety for the new structure, some 170 large blocks of re-enforced concrete were set over 45 feet into the ground and, on these , was set a girder frame; the large blocks of concrete varied in size bearing in mind the need to have some which, ultimately, would carry 1,000 tons of weight. The stone, for the Council House, Exchange Building and the 'Market Square' (except for the paving stones which are silex stone) is Portland stone. The method adopted for dealing with the delivery of the stone was to have sufficient for two stories molded and carved and then brought to Nottingham where it was stored and, to offset difficulties, each block was numbered and later assembled like a Jigsaw puzzle; if a block was broken it was easy to replace. A steel casket, containing details of the scheme approved by the Council, a copy of the report of the Estates Committee, a copy of the minutes of the Nottingham City Council dealing with the scheme, the 'Nottingham Journal' and the 'Nottingham Guardian', along with coins of legal tender ranging from one farthing to one pound, was placed beneath the new foundation stone laid by Alderman Herbert Bowles, J.P., on 17th. May 1927 . The Council House, itself, was the largest stone building which had been built in Britain since the first world war; on its completion, it was opened by the Prince of Wales, later Duke of Windsor, on 22nd. May 1929. A Souvenir gold key, used for the opening ceremony, can be seen on a plaque which is affixed to the wall in the foyer of the Council House. The Lord Mayor was Alderman Albert R. Atkey, the Architect was T.Cecil Howitt, OBE., DSO., FRIBA., and the General Contractors were F.G.Minter, of London. As you walk along the Processional Way you can readily see the figures on the freeze, behind the portico, which were modeled by Joseph Else, A.R.B.S., Principal of the Nottingham School of Art, and represent Agriculture, Bellfounding, Cloth weaving and Mining; the terrace, overlooking the Market Square, has eight massive columns above which are twenty one figures, depicting aspects of the arts, municipal and public endeavour; Else was also responsible for the ever talked about 'lions' at the front of the building (which, according to local folklore, will roar if a virgin walks past them!). The great central dome, rising some 200 feet above ground level, is a landmark which can be seen for miles, and, around the base, you can see more of the work of Joseph Else but, this time, with three of his former pupils, we begin with Charles L.J.Doman, who modeled the group 'Civic Law', Ernest Webb who was responsible for the modeling of the group 'Knowledge', The group which James Woodford modeled was 'Prosperity'. In 1951, Woodford was commissioned to create the statue of Robin Hood, which stands under the Castle Wall. Finally, the group modeled by Joseph Else, was 'Commerce'. Whilst it is true that the four Nottingham artists played a great part in the production of the statuary the actual carving was done by Alfred W. Pond, Chiswick, London, who carved 'Commerce' and, for the others, masons employed by John Daymond & Son Ltd; London were involved. The dome of the Council House contains 'Little John', the striking bell which is reputed to be the deepest toned bell in the country; it weighs two and a half tons.