Leeds Town Hall

Leeds Town Hall is one of the grandest Victorian town halls, a vast classical building surrounded by Corinthian pillars and pilasters, and with at the centre a great tower. It is to the design of Cuthbert Brodrick, at that time a relatively obscure young architect from Hull, and was put up from 1852-58. Brodrick's design did not initially include the grand central clock tower, this being an afterthought to increase still further the mass and presence of the enormous building. The roof of the tower especially gives the edifice a rather French classical style, which reflects Brodrick's early travelling in France before he commenced his own architectural practice. The building, which stands on Headrow, is tall enough to be seen from some distance even among the tall modern buildings which are scattered across the city. The grand size reflects the civic pride of the city, and that it was designed to include not just a grand hall and civic offices, but also four courtrooms and a Police headquarters. Inside, the grand Victoria Hall is somewhat similar to that of Liverpool's St George's Hall, and is richly decorated with mouldings and painted and gilded panels. Over the vast arches beneath the barrel roof, the spandrels contain pairs of high relief angels, but alas, unlike in Liverpool, there is no grand collection of civic statues. There are, however, statues in the vestibule to the hall, of Victoria and Albert, both by Matthew Noble, and also busts of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Details of balustrade pots, and clock.

Outside, behind the great south-facing portico of ten Corinthian columns, a tympanum above the entrance contains sculpture by John Thomas, apparently depicting Leeds encouraging the Arts and Sciences.

Part of John Thomas's tympanum sculpture.

On the grand steps leading up to the front of the building are four great stone lions, by the sculptor William Day Keyworth, at the time a source of great pride to the townspeople, with the local papers contrasting them favourably in price to the London lions in Trafalgar Square by Landseer. However, they are rather smaller, and today, rather worn. Nevertheless, they remain as impressive additions to the Town Hall, and the major works of this sculptor. Keyworth himself, like the architect Brodrick, was associated with both Leeds and Hull, the latter town being where his grandfather, a monumental mason, had lived.

Two of the four lions by William Day Keyworth.

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Cuthbert Brodrick of Hull and Leeds // Sculpture in English towns // Sculpture pages

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