Finsbury Town Hall

From Historic England entry:

“Town Hall. 1895 with later alterations. By C. Evans-Vaughan FRIBA (d.1900).

HISTORY: this town hall was unveiled by the then-Prime Minister Lord Rosebery in June 1895. It is an exceptionally good example of a town hall of this date and size, possessing an interior with rooms of unusual elaborateness. Evans-Vaughan showed drawings for the building at the 1898 Royal Academy; he died in 1900, while still in his 40s: this is his most important work. Finsbury acquired borough status in 1900 and was subsumed within the London Borough of Islington in 1965.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: modern plaque on main front records the election of Dadabhai Naoroji as Member of Parliament for Finsbury in 1892: the first Asian to be returned to Parliament as Liberal Member for Finsbury, he would have been returned from the forerunner of this building. Double-depth basement was remodelled in c.1939 by the architectural practice of Tecton to serve as the control centre for Finsbury: it has lost its fittings but remains an installation of interest.

INTERIOR: entrance corridor with arched ceiling, walls lined with veneer panelling, with bronze panles listing mayors of Finsbury 1895-1965. Spine corridor runs north-south: rooms include the panelled registry office, or ‘marriage room’, and the part-panelled Mayor’s Parlour, with bolection-moulded chimneypiece. Circular staircase at north end with wrought iron scrolled balustrade, tiled to dado level. Main staircase in part boxed in at time of inspection. Brass dedication plaque on landing records unveiling by the Prime Minister Lord Rosebery in 1895. North end of first floor contains former council chamber with broad vaulted plaster ceiling carried on Ionic columns; decorative glazing; triple arched gallery at south end with balustrade; half-height panelling. Public hall to south of main range: exuberant space in Belle Epoque manner with apsidal stage at south end. Barrel-vaulted compartmented ceiling hung from hidden iron roof structure. Four bays each side, divided with pilasters: large plaster angels at upper level support four-headed lily candelabra. Windows on north west side, glazed doors on south-east side, mirrors on north end wall flanking framed double doors. Allegorical figures of Music and Poetry in plaster over proscenium arch, flanking cartouche with emblems of the visual arts. Cartouche at north end with arms of the Borough of Finsbury.

STYLE: eclectic ‘Free Renaissance’ composition in a Flemish-inspired manner.

EXTERIOR: main entrance elevation faced north-west. Central entrance bay of three storeys with stone frontispiece, projecting cast iron porch with decorative leadwork inscribed FINSBURY TOWN HALL, and triple lanterns…Southern angle of three bays, with heavy voussoirs to ground floor arched windows, stone frontispiece to upper section with carved band at first floor level supporting four Ionic columns, between arched windows in stone surrounds, with balustrades below; putti flank portrait profile of Queen Victoria over central opening; scrolled gable above with broken pediment flanking central urn. Relief carving depicts female allegorical figures of Commerce and Navigation (above), Peace and Plenty (below)…”

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