Dudley Town Hall
The new town hall, museum and coroner’s court, were built in memory of Brooke Robinson and his wife, Eugenia. Robinson was a prominent local solicitor, who had served as the borough coroner and also as the town’s MP for four parliaments.
The town hall is part of a group of civic buildings, which also includes the coroner’s court, museum room and
the former magistrates’ court and memorial tower. They were designed by Harvey and Wicks, following an open competition for the new public buildings which attracted 55 entrants.
Alexander Harvey came to prominence as the architect involved in the design of the Bournville village for George Cadbury. In 1903, he left the company and set up in practice on his own and later took on his nephew, H Graham Wicks as a partner. The work on the town hall led to the award of an RIBA medal and diploma in 1934 and to a further commission to build a new council house on the other side of the police buildings, started in 1935.
The central window has a projecting stone balcony incorporating a memorial tablet which records the gift of the hall and museum to the town by Brooke and Eugenia Robinson.
The hall itself has a stage with a proscenium arch at its north-east end and a balcony to the south-west with its original tiered seating. There are six bays of windows with spiral twist columns to each side, supporting an overthrow. Set between them are large brackets supporting ribs which stretch across the segmental barrel vault. Large brackets set between the window bays support deep ribs which have lattice decoration.
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Each window has barley-twist columns to either side supporting an overthrow and to the bottom are miniature balconies which house up-lighters. The balcony front has similar twisted columns set in pairs and is approached by a pair of stone staircases with bronze handrails. The lower walls of the hall are panelled.
On the back wall of the stage is a mural by Hans Feibusch, dated 1948, showing a medieval scene of Roger de Somery stag hunting in Kinver Forest. The mural is regarded as one of his best works and is referred to in his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography as a ‘notable work'.
The group of buildings were listed in 2010 at Grade II*, being considered particularly important buildings of more than special interest. Only 5.8% of listed buildings are of Grade II* status. The vast majority (almost 92%) are of Grade II status.
English Heritage concluded that: “In summary, the town hall building, incorporating the former sessions court, coroner’s court and Brooke Robinson museum is a well-designed building which has distinct architectural presence at the heart of Dudley. It was carefully designed to co-exist with neighbouring buildings of sharply different styles and also to have a distinct character of its own and this care is carried through to a series of impressive interiors and to the treatment of structural detailing such as sculpture. The degree of intact survival is remarkable and although there has been some adaptation to changing functions, the retention of so much of the original fabric of the building is a testament to its fitness for purpose and the regard in which the buildings are held. The architectural and artistic quality of the group, combined with its high level of intact survival, mean that it has clear claims to more than special interest and should be designated at Grade II*”