Lambeth Town Hall is a Grade II listed building, a fine example of the Edwardian Baroque style of civic architecture. Designed by well-known architects Septimus Warwick (who also designed Canada House in Trafalgar Sqaure) and Austen Hall, it was opened on April 29th 1908 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, who later became King George V and Queen Mary.
The Town Hall occupies a triangular site with the clock tower at the apex and two long wings of offices and committee rooms. The Brixton Hill façade is the grandest. It is composed of a grey granite plinth below a warm red brick elevation embellished with magnificent rusticated Portland stonework, Ionic columns, pilasters and a central balcony.
The Clock tower provides a splendid landmark. 40 metres high it includes an illuminated clock, which strikes the hours and chimes the quarters. Each of the four dials measures nearly 2m in diameter and the hour bell weighs two tons. The four sculptures at the corners of the tower represent Art, Literature, Science and Justice.
Upon entering the building, a vestibule leads past twin staircases faced with white Sicilian marble with green Cippolino marble dadoes. At the foot of the staircases, several memorial plaques commemorate the lives of citizens and employees of Lambeth killed in the two world wars. One memorial commemorates over 1,500 citizens killed by enemy bombs in the Second World War between 1939 and 1945. The most notable memorial is in memory of Violette Szabo GC, a Lambeth heroine of the French Resistance.
The stairs lead up to a rotunda paved with Belgian black, Sicilian white and Siberian green marbles. At the head of the grand staircase is a memorial window to members of the 11th (Lambeth) Battalion who died in the Great War.
The principal interior of the Council Chamber is 22m long and 13m wide, and is surmounted by a dome 9m in diameter. The Chamber seats 70 Council members, with galleries on either side for official visitors, the press and members of the public. The original elegant deep coved ceiling, fixed horseshoe seating and fine panelling all survive. The Civic suite is on the first floor and includes the Mayor’s parlour. Fortunately this survives little-altered with its historic fireplaces, original cornices and panelled interlinking doors to committee rooms.
The Assembly Hall complements the original architectural style of the Town Hall but introduces an elegant streamlined moderne character, which was popular in the 1930’s. It accommodates nearly 500 people. Its marble lined entrance foyer with its original stylish pay-box, glass light fittings and the curving canopy echoes the best of cinema architecture of the inter-war period.
In evidence throughout the Town Hall is the Lambeth Coat of Arms. A lamb, a pun of the name of the Borough, surmounts this. The 15 golden circles round the edge of the shield refer to the Duchy of Cornwall whose London estate lies in Kennington. The large red cross on the upper left corner of the shield is the cross of St George and the blue and gold squares in the lower right corner refer to the County of Surrey in which Lambeth was once located. The mitre and pastoral staff in the centre of the shield refer to the Archbishop of Canterbury whose London residence has been at Lambeth Palace since the 13th century. The remaining two quarters contain two golden stars symbolising the former parishes of Clapham and Streatham, transferred to the borough from Wandsworth in 1965. Finally, the wavy lines under the lamb suggest the borough's long frontage on the River Thames.