The Grade II listed West Ham Town Hall was built in 1869. It was designed by Lewis Angell and John Giles in round-arched Italian Gothic style with a domed tower. When it opened the Illustrated London News proclaimed it to be the finest building in Essex. It was enlarged in 1881 to incorporate a courthouse and cells, also by Angell. John Giles had previously designed the massively gothic Langham Hotel in Portland Place (1865).
West Ham was – with East Ham – one of the two ancient county boroughs which would in 1965 amalgamate to become the London Borough of Newham. In the 19th century West Ham became a major manufacturing area and its population grew massively: from 6,500 in 1801 to 267,400 in 1901. West Ham became a Borough Council in 1886 and a County Borough Council in 1889. From 1894 it had its own Recorder and Court of Quarter Sessions.
It also played an important part in Labour history: the London Co-operative Society, partly originated from the Stratford Society, was founded in 1862, and the General and Municipal Workers Union in Canning Town in 1889. The borough had the first socialist municipal administration in the country from 1898.
On 26 June 1982, fire almost completely destroyed the main part of the building, leading to a major programme to restore and renovate it as a leisure and conference centre. The original ornate plasterwork ceilings were reconstructed from a few fragments recovered from the debris after the fire.
New features included a kitchen serving a 100-seat dining room as well as the Main Hall. Dressing rooms were added to the backstage area and access was improved with the addition of lifts and ramps for wheelchairs. A fountain by Judith Cowan was commissioned for the new courtyard. The restored building was officially opened by the Queen in July 1986.