CITIES / NOTTINGHAM: THE OLD WOODEN TELEPHONE BOOTH AMONG THE TREASURES OF THE COUNCIL HOUSE

Photos by Roberto Alborghetti

Last week I wrote about the fact that, in the UK, the distinctive and traditional red telephone booths will not be done away with, but will continue to serve their purpose. And, speaking of telephone boxes, I remembered a large and special wooden telephone booth located in the interior spaces of the Council House in Nottingham, the city of Robin Hood.

Visiting the various floors of the great Palace it was truly a surprise to admire the monumental and elegant telephone booth, certainly dating back to the early days in which the telephone set was used as a public service. I could not help but photograph it, considering it a singular and unique element within the Council House, where there is no shortage of elements of artistic and architectural interest.

The Nottingham’s Council House is first and foremost characterized by the 200 feet (61 m) high dome that rises above the city: it is the centrepiece of the skyline and presides over the Old Market Square ( the “City Centre”). It is an iconic symbol of the City; an ornate cupol stands on the apex.The Council House was designed by Thomas Cecil Howitt in the neo-baroque style and built between 1927 and 1929.

Housed within the belfry, is the affectionately-named ‘Little John’ hour bell – the deepest toned clock bell in the United Kingdom, weighing over 10 tonnes (10 t) – whose strike can be heard for a distance of seven miles. The foundation stone (behind the left-hand lion as you approach the building) was laid by Alderman Herbert Bowles (Chairman of the Estates Committee), on 17 March 1927. The ground floor is predominantly an upmarket fashion-dominated shopping mall – now called ‘The Exchange’ in honour of the Nottingham Exchange – having had an image makeover in 2005. 

The terrace overlooking the Old Market Square has eight massive columns, above which, are 21 figures representing the activities of the Council. The frieze behind depicts traditional local crafts such as bell founding, mining and alabaster carving. The Entrance Hall has columns, walls, floor and made from Italian marble. The City Arms are inlaid as a mosaic in the centre of the floor. Bronze plaques on the left (northern) wall list the Honorary Freemen of the City of Nottingham; whilst those on the right (southern) wall list the City’s Honorary Aldermen. A grand sweeping marble staircase leads up to the reception rooms on the first floor. At the top of the stairs is a bronze cast figure entitled ‘Welcome’ by Sir William Reid Dick.

The Ballroom is similar in style to one at the Palace of Versailles (France), with gilt embellished columns and a highly decorated ceiling. The fine parquet sprung floor is made from oak, walnut and ebonised pearwood. French windows lead out onto the famous balcony overlooking the Old Market Square. The Dining Room has Ancona walnut panelling and an Italian marble fireplace, and is generally for smaller events. The room is dominated by a beautiful portrait of Queen Elizabeth II painted by John Townsend and presented to the City by Mr Lewis Colton in 1970.

The Council Chamber takes up the remainder of the third floor. The fixed seating is arranged in a semicircle so no one is more than 26 feet (7.9 m) from the Lord Mayor above whose dais can be found two Latin inscriptions whose translations read “Laws are made for the welfare of the citizens and the city” and “It is the highest justice to give each man his due”. Important thoughts and testimonials for the city which, in its history, has given a lot in terms of research into the values ​​of freedom, justice and progress.

In these photos: pictures of a great visit to Nottingham’s Council House for the Presentation of the short films of “The Ghost Bus”. Former Lord Mayor Councillor Mohammed Saghir gave a warm welcome to the group involved in the project: Tom Barton Family, Jeanie Barton, Marysia Zipser (ACT founder) and Roberto Alborghetti.

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