Leeds Town Hall in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England was designed by Cuthbert Brodrick and built in 1858. The building is often used as a visual metaphor for local government in the media.
Cuthbert Brodrick was a young architect from Hull, who won the right to have his design immortalised after winning a competition in 1853. The Town Hall was Leeds' response to Bradford's decision to build St George's Hall as its emblem of civic pride. Designed to reflect the dignity of municipal office, the building's colonnaded exterior emphasises its elevated aspirations, while the strong millstone grit and local sandstone firmly root the building in its native Yorkshire.
The Town Hall (Leeds did not become a City until 1896) was opened by Queen Victoria in 1858 after a rush to complete the tower. A smaller tower had been part of the competition winning design, but early financial caution had ruled it out. But a more grandiloquent gesture than the restrained classical colonnading of the building proper could provide was finally felt by the civic dignitaries to be a necessary crowning glory.
The building has managed to accommodate changing uses over time in its ancillary rooms. Courtrooms, Council and Mayoral chambers, and a Bridewell have given way to general office accommodation. But the Victoria Hall continues to be used for concerts and public meetings. Plans are now in hand for alterations internally to improve its use for musical events.
The Town Hall is accustomed to controversy; from the decision about whether to build it originally, through the architectural arguments over the Tower's contrast with the colonnaded base, on to the cleaning in the 1970s when the soot of an industrial century was removed to reveal the original honey coloured millstone grit, to its current role as Leeds' main concert venue.