Thursday, 18 November 2010
Slightly at the edge of the historic centre of the City of Hereford stands the New Town Hall, completed in 1906. Civic pride and necessity had led to its design and it was built within a remarkably short 6 years.
I was attracted by the imposing façade. On impulse I went in to ask whether I could come in and photograph the Assembly Room and Council Chamber.
The warm and open yes by Cathy, the receptionist on duty (“It's a public building, though you would have to come when the rooms are not in use”) actually caught me off guard.
The Council Chamber was empty that afternoon, so I came back with camera and tripod. Climbing the curved main stairs, with the warm late Victorian tiling and the semicircular stained glass light above, I found the chamber located right at the top.
I was planning where to set the camera when a surprise visitor came in. The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Hereford, Councillor Anna Toon had dropped by. When asked about the correct form of address, she laughed and said “It's Madam Mayor”. She then took the time to tell me more about the history adorning the Council Chamber.
Whilst the Mayor was not in her ceremonial robes, she was wearing her badge of office on the mayoral chain. The individual links all depict some aspect or connection with the city – have a look at how many you can identify in the photo. Amongst others you can find agricultural and military links.
Back on my own with the room, I spent a couple of hours taking pictures.
Having just accompanied a delegation of Restoration specialists, it was the detail found in different parts of the room that spoke of the pride and attention to quality. From the fine wood carving, via the precisely moulded stucco to the stained glass.
The next day I returned to photograph the Assembly Room. Here the space and the architecture itself were the main features. The Virtues in Stained Glass were obvious subjects but it took my wife to notice the subtler details in the designs below. Look at the three small roses in the different panes.
Three hats and robes discarded on a table added a human touch to the room.
If Stained glass keeps cropping up in this article, it is because there is a resonance with earlier articles about eight of the stained glass windows of Hereford Cathedral. Some of the key ones were installed at the same time as the glass in the Town Hall.
Of course there is more history to the building and the Mayorality of Hereford. You can find it all in the leaflets at the reception in Hereford Town Hall.
Whilst you are there, you might as well have a look around the building for your self.