County Hall, Lambeth
County Hall from the north bank of the River Thames
County Hall (sometimes called London County Hall) is a multi-use building standing on the south bank of the River Thames in Lambeth, Surrey, looking across the river towards the grand buildings of Westminster. It was built to serve as the home of the London County Council and later served its successor council until abolition in 1986, whereupon it was ultimately sold for commercial use.
Today, County Hall houses two hotels – the 5-star London Marriott Hotel County Hall, and a budget hotel - and several restaurants. Other parts of the building house other businesses and attractions, including the London Sea Life Aquarium, London Dungeon and a Namco Station amusement arcade, and the visitors’ centre for the adjacent London Eye. There are some flats in County Hall also. Various spaces are available for hire for functions, including the council chamber at the heart of the building.
The building is a Grade II&* listed building.
The first home of the new ‘London County Council’ was the Sessions House of the Middlesex justices on Clerkenwell Green. However this grand building soon proved too small for the growing responsibilities of the new council and so a palatial building was planned to house it and its departments, and the site chosen beside the Thames, almost opposite the Palace of Westminster.
The main six storey building was designed by Ralph Knott. It is faced in Portland stone in an Edwardian Baroque style. The construction, which was undertaken by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts, started in 1911 and the building was opened in 1922 by King George V. The North and South blocks, which were built by Higgs and Hill, were added between 1936 and 1939. The Island block was not completed until 1974.
For 64 years County Hall served as the headquarters of local government for the metropolis. During the 1980s however the Greater London Council then Labour-controlled and led by Ken Livingstone was locked in conflict with the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. Since the Parliament buildings were just across the river from County Hall, the façade of County Hall frequently in more than one year of her tenure served as a billboard for opposition slogans. Parliament abolished the council in 1986, and County Hall lost its role as the seat of local government. The Inner London Education Authority remained in occupation until its own abolition in 1990.
Talk soon became of what was to happen to the building, and plans to relocate the London School of Economics to the site from its Westminster campus were overruled by Mrs Thatcher, seemingly disapproving of further slogans from students. The building was eventually sold to private investors.
The Saatchi Gallery rented a part of the building until 2005, when the High Court upheld an action by the owners of the building, Shirayama Shokusan, to have the Gallery evicted on grounds of violating its contract, particularly using space outside of the rented area for exhibits. Currently the majority of the building, including the entire fourth and fifth floors, remains empty.
The County Hall Island Block, an annex of the main building, was demolished in 2006 to make way for a hotel, the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. The building, also known as No 1 Westminster Bridge Road, had been disused since 1986 and had become a derelict eyesore.
The nearest London Underground stations are:
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about County Hall, Lambeth)
- London Marriott Hotel County Hall
- National Heritage List England no. 203997: County Hall (Historic England)
- Holland & Hannen and Cubitts – The Inception and Development of a Great Building Firm, published 1920, Page 63
- 'General introduction', Survey of London: volume 26: Lambeth: Southern area (1956), pp. 1–17.
- Hall Apartments
- "Saatchi Gallery evicted by judge". BBC News. 21 October 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/4363968.stm. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
- "Demolition work begins on eyesore". BBC News. 25 May 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/5015114.stm. Retrieved 8 December 2008.