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The Guildhall in Victoria Park

A grand new building for an expanding town

The Guildhall in Victoria Park

Swansea's became a county borough in 1889, and its boundaries were massively extended in 1918. The guildhall by the docks, elegant though it was, was once again insufficient for its purpose. It was first suggested that a new building was needed in 1907, but discussions continued over the ensuing decades. It was decided to build on the eastern part of Victoria Park. The position was near enough to the centre of town, and the building could act as a visual focal point for the town.

The scheme was put out to competition and attracted seventy-seven entries. The design chosen was the one put forward by Percy Thomas, a Cardiff-based architect. The stone-laying ceremony took place on 4 May 1932, and work progressed over the next two years. The council had been able to apply for funds under the Unemployment Relief Works Act, and was in the fortunate position of acquiring a grand new building whilst giving much-needed work to its citizens at a time of economic depression.

Percy Thomas designed a building to reflect the different functions it was intended to fulfil. The northern side is occupied by the Brangwyn Hall, a space for public assembly and entertainment. The south consists of municipal offices for the daily business of local government. The east side is designed for civic ceremony: there is the ornate entrance, with a great flight of steps leading up to the council chamber and the civic suite. The law courts occupy the western side.

The result was a building that combines the classical and modern styles. There are classical references in every frieze and moulding, in the windows, doors and vaulted ceilings. The exterior is characterised by clean lines and uncluttered ornamentation. The finished building well deserves the Bronze Medal for Architecture awarded to its architect by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1935.

Read about the opening of the Guildhall in 1934

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