County Hall
County Hall from Westminster Bridge
LocationLambeth
Coordinates51°30′7″N 0°7′8″W / 51.50194°N 0.11889°W / 51.50194; -0.11889
Built1911–1939; 85 years ago (1939)
ArchitectRalph Knott
Architectural style(s)Edwardian Baroque style
Listed Building – Grade II*
Designated19 October 1951
Reference no.1358192
County Hall, London is located in London Borough of Lambeth
County Hall, London
Shown in Lambeth

County Hall (sometimes called London County Hall) is a building in the district of Lambeth, London that was the headquarters of London County Council (LCC) and later the Greater London Council (GLC). The building is on the South Bank of the River Thames, with Westminster Bridge being next to it, to the south. It faces west toward the City of Westminster and is close to the Palace of Westminster. The nearest London Underground stations are Waterloo and Westminster. It is a Grade II* listed building.[1]

History

Council Chamber of the LCC, from the majority benches
County Hall, London, seen from the London Eye
County Hall

The building was commissioned to replace the mid 19th-century Spring Gardens headquarters inherited from the Metropolitan Board of Works.[2] The site selected by civic leaders was previously occupied by four properties: Float Mead (occupied by Simmond's flour mills), Pedlar's Acre (occupied by wharves and houses), Bishop's Acre (occupied by Crosse & Blackwell's factory) and the Four Acres (occupied by workshops and stables).[3]

The main six storey building was designed by Ralph Knott. It is faced in Portland stone in an Edwardian Baroque style. The construction, which was undertaken by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts,[4] started in 1911 and the building was opened by King George V in 1922. The North and South blocks, which were built by Higgs and Hill,[5] were added between 1936 and 1939.[6] The Island block was not completed until 1974.[7]

In 1945, the World Trade Union Conference took place at the hall.[8][9]

The Island Block was built on what was then a roundabout (now a peninsula) between County Hall, St Thomas' Hospital and Waterloo Station. It was notable to the passing public for three main reasons: it was of a completely different architectural character to any of the other nearby buildings, it had no entrances at ground level (though there were emergency exits), being accessible only by a bridge and a tunnel both from the SE County Hall building, and it had orange sunshades, designed to be lowered and raised together automatically when the sun shone, rather than by local control which would look less pleasing on the outside. The controls quickly malfunctioned, leaving the unwanted "random" effect while also causing excess heat and glare inside the building which the occupants could not control. Disliked by many Londoners, it was nonetheless considered "distinguished" by its architect and some other experts, and noted as an early example of open-plan office interior, which should have been listed.[10]

For 64 years County Hall served as the headquarters of local government for London. During the 1980s the then powerful Labour-controlled GLC led by Ken Livingstone was locked in conflict with the Conservative national government of Margaret Thatcher. The façade of County Hall frequently served as a billboard for opposition slogans which could be seen from the Palace of Westminster.[11]

When the government of Margaret Thatcher abolished the GLC in 1986, County Hall lost its role as the seat of London's government. Talk soon became of what was to happen to the building, and there were plans to relocate the London School of Economics to the site which did not proceed.[12] The building remained in use by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) until its abolition in 1990 when the building was transferred to the London Residuary Body and eventually sold to Shirayama Shokusan, a Japanese investor.[12] On 21 October 2005, the High Court of England and Wales upheld a bid by the owners of the building, Shirayama Shokusan, to have the Saatchi Gallery evicted on grounds of violating its contract, particularly using space outside of the rented area for exhibits.[13]

The Island Block was demolished in 2006 to make way for a hotel, the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. The building, also known as No 1 Westminster Bridge Road, had been disused since 1986 and had been described as an eyesore.[10]

A blue plaque commemorates the LCC, GLC and the Inner London Education Authority at County Hall.[14]

Attractions

County Hall is the site of businesses and attractions, including the Sea Life London Aquarium[15] and Shrek's Adventure London.[16]

Hotels

There are two hotels located in County Hall:

References

  1. ^ Historic England. "Main block of County Hall (1358192)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Old County Hall (including site of Berkeley House)". Survey of London: volume 20: St Martin-in-the-Fields, pt III: Trafalgar Square & Neighbourhood. British History Online. 1940. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  3. ^ Roberts, Howard; Godfrey, Walter H (1951). "'The County Hall', in Survey of London: Volume 23, Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall". London: British History Online. pp. 62–65. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  4. ^ Holland & Hannen and Cubitts – The Inception and Development of a Great Building Firm, published 1920, Page 63
  5. ^ "'General introduction', Survey of London: volume 26: Lambeth: Southern area". 1956. pp. 1–17. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
  6. ^ "County Hall Apartments". Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
  7. ^ 1 Westminster Bridge Archived 2 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ University, London Metropolitan. "The Worker's War: Home Front Recalled". www.unionhistory.info. Retrieved 3 June 2023.
  9. ^ "World Trade Union conference at County Hall". Getty Images. Retrieved 3 June 2023.
  10. ^ a b "Demolition work begins on eyesore". BBC News. 25 May 2006. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  11. ^ "Japanese offer County Hall as seat of London government". The Independent. 24 May 1997. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Japanese win fight for County Hall". The Independent. 26 September 1992. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Saatchi Gallery evicted by judge". BBC News. 21 October 2005. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  14. ^ "County Hall A.K.A. The London County Council and the Greater London Council". English Heritage. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  15. ^ Buchanan, Rhoda (8 April 2009). "A fishy day out at the new London Aquarium". The Times. London. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  16. ^ "Take the kids to … Shrek's Adventure, London". The Guardian. London. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  17. ^ "PREMIER INN LONDON COUNTY HALL HOTEL - Updated 2021 Prices, Reviews, and Photos". Tripadvisor. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  18. ^ "London Marriott Hotel County Hall". Marriott International. Retrieved 11 May 2021.