The imposing exterior of The Council House is complemented by a sumptuous, sometimes opulent interior. The first impression, as you enter the foyer through bronze doors, sets the tone with the staircase, columns and floors crafted from the finest Italian marble. Inlaid in the floor is a mosaic of the city's coat of arms.
The picture above the grand staircase is a reminder of the commercial history of the Old Exchange and shows local trade being conducted on The Council House steps in medieval times. It was painted by Denholm Davies, who also painted the four pictures that decorate the under side of the dome visible from inside the Exchange Arcade.
A bronze statue stands in an arched alcove at the top of the fi rst flight of stairs. The figure, called Spirit of Welcome, was modelled by Sir William Reid Dick, sculptor of the Roosevelt Memorial in London, and was a gift from benefactor Sir Julian Cahn.
In the right hand corner stands the 200-year-old Town Bell from Weekday Cross which was rung to announce executions.
The first floor houses the largest and most impressive room in the building, the Ballroom, which was allegedly inspired by the ballroom at the Palace of Versailles. This is used as a reception hall for large civic occasions and as a banqueting hall and is the piece de resistance of the whole building.
Seven floor to ceiling windows open onto a balcony overlooking the Old Market Square. Many a VIP has stood on this balcony and waved to an appreciative crowd below. There are columns embellished with gilt and a highly decorated ceiling hung with beautiful suspended light fittings in the Art Deco style.
Two minstrels' galleries and a fully sprung walnut dance floor complete this beautiful room.
Next to the Ballroom is the Dining Room which is used for smaller receptions. The walls are panelled in walnut; there is an Italian marble fireplace and an oil painting of the Queen decorating one wall.
Also on this floor is the Lord Mayor's Parlour and waiting room. The Lord Mayor's Parlour is panelled in carved walnut, while his sitting room makes use of antique oak panelling recovered from Aston Hall in Derbyshire.
Throughout the Council House the original furniture and fittings by Waring and Gillow continue to enhance the building's grandeur, together with the many gifts which have been presented to the city through the years.
The room also contains photographs of the Queen and Prince Philip given to the city by the royal couple in 1955. A visitors' book dating back to the 1960s is kept here and contains the signatures of dozens of celebrated guests including Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Along the corridor is what is arguably the most important room in The Council House, the Committee Room. This is where most of the important decisions are made by the Executive Board and various committees. The main feature of this room is the horseshoe shaped walnut veneer table and a number of paintings of Nottingham by local artist Thomas Hammond.
The second floor houses the Sheriff's Room. The feminine feel to this room is down to the fact that it was formerly the Lady Mayoress's Room. Unlike the dark wood panelling, heavy furniture and marble fireplaces that feature in most other rooms, this room is decorated in the Adam style, with soft green and gilt. The centre piece of this room is a magnificent crystal chandelier and its two matching wall lights.
There are two main rooms on the third floor. There is the Members'Room, so called because it is an area where councillors can prepare for meetings, do their Council work in quiet or just relax with a cup of tea.
As with the Lord Mayor's Parlour, the oak panelling around this room was acquired from Aston Hall, and stained glass panels celebrating the arts hang in the windows.
The large walnut table was originally in the Board Room at the Raleigh Industries head office and was donated to the city when the bicycle factory closed.
The third floor is dominated by the Council Chamber, where councillors meet for full Council meetings. The seating here is arranged in a semi-circle, so that no-one is more than 26 feet from the Lord Mayor, who chairs the meetings. High above his dais is an eye-catching panel bearing two Latin inscriptions. They proclaim:
"Law are made for the welfare of the citizens and the city" and "it is the highest justice to give each man his due".
The acoustics in the Chamber are aided by fabric covered seaweed panels on the walls which date back to the 1930s. The original 1930s light switches, which twist rather than flick on, are also still in use.
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