Old Council House, Bristol
|Old Council House|
The Old Council House in 2007
|Town or city||Bristol|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Sir Robert Smirke|
Archaeological evaluation in the courtyard suggested the area on and around the Council House had been in regular use since the Middle Ages. The original building on Corn Street was adjacent to the church of St Ewen, which had been founded in the late 12th century. In 1699, the Council House was expanded over the guild chapel of the Fraternity of St John the Baptist, which was demolished. St Ewen's stopped being regularly used as a church towards the late 18th century and was demolished in 1791.
The present building was constructed for the City Council and Treasury between 1824 and 1827 on the site St Ewen's. It was designed by Sir Robert Smirke in a neoclassical design including a sweeping staircase. The statue of Justice over the entrance is by Edward Hodges Baily.
The Council House was extended to hold a magistrates court on the south-west side of the building in 1828-9 by Richard Shackleton Pope and George Dymond, demolishing two further properties on Corn Street, whose basements were reused as holding cells for prisoners. The Grand Council Chamber was added in 1899. It was opened by Queen Victoria and can accommodate up to 150 people.
By the 1930s, the Council House was too small for regular use, and a new site on College Green was proposed. Construction was delayed until after World War II, and the new premises did not open until 1956.
The Old Council House is used as a register office (registry office) for Bristol City Council for registering births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships and citizenship. Every year over 1000 marriages and civil partnerships take place in the building which is often used as a wedding venue. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building.
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