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Mail :
Lord Mayor's Parlour
The Council House
Chief Executive's Dept.
Plymouth City Council
Plymouth PL1 2AA
Phone :
01752 304858
Email :
Fax :
01752 662059


Civic Centre

Council building

Civic Centre Precinct

The proposals for the Civic Centre Precinct, prepared by the City Architect in 1954, broke away from the formalism of the Beaux Arts concepts embodied in the Abercrombie Plan of 1943, and gave the city a focal point where it should be - in the centre. The fourteen-storey office block, over 200 feet high, proclaims the location of the Civic Centre, arrests the uninterrupted vista along Armada Way, provides a visual link with the towers of St Andrew's and The Guildhall, and gives its occupants and its visitors to the top unrivalled views out to sea, across Dartmoor, and into Cornwall.

The Great Square

At ground level the Square, linking The Guildhall and the Council offices, is primarily a pedestrian precinct which penetrates below the entrance of the high office block into an inner square beyond.

The layout is informal, allowing the existing trees to occur in both the areas of grass and paving. The trees in the limestone and slate platform are ringed with concrete seats, providing shade and a welcome resting place for pedestrians on their way to the Hoe. Two rectangular pools, with fountain jets, link the square with the inner court of the Chief Executive and Town Clerk's offices.

Various patterns of paving, in exposed limestone aggregates, add to the interest and are most effective when viewed from the roof deck of the office tower.

The Council House interior

The ground floor

Above the main entrance doors, facing the Square, is a Sicilian marble tablet commemorating the official opening of the building by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 26 July 1962.

The main entrance hall is separated physically but not visually from the members' lobby by a glazed aluminium screen. The horizontal treatment of the ash panelling, the chequered pattern of the marble mosaic floor, the embossed form of the ceiling tiles, and the rhythm of the green Orrefors glass pendant lights, give a sense of unity and spaciousness to the two areas. The internal columns are clad in local Ashburton marble on one face and in white Sicilian marble on the other.

The member's rooms and the five committee rooms are entered from the lobby. The committee rooms are all named after warships built in Devonport Dockyard, namely: Frobisher, Marlborough, Royal Oak, Temeraire, Warspite and Ark Royal.

The Warspite Room has a specially designed mahogany table, with hide front panels, which seats thirty-six committee members. The ceiling is of waxed Columbian pine slats fixed to plywood panels. The south wall is treated and lit for the display of maps and plans. The four other committee rooms are identical to each other and have specially designed tables in rosewood, which can be arranged to seat ten, fourteen or eighteen; here again a wall is treated and lit for the display of maps and plans. On the west wall of the lobby is an engraved tablet commemorating the history of the Reconstruction of the city. It reads as follows:

The first act in the rebuilding of Plymouth was the decision of the City Council made on 1 September 1941to within six months of the destruction of the centre of the city - that a Redevelopment Plan should be prepared. The Plan - A Plan for Plymouth - by James Paton Watson, CBE, the City Engineer, and Sir Patrick Abercrombie, the Town Planning Consultant, was completed by September 1943, and the basic principles of the Plan were approved by the Council in August 1944.

William Waldorf, 2nd Viscount Astor, was Lord Mayor of Plymouth throughout this period and with foresight and vision guided the Council and the city.

The work of reconstruction commenced in March 1947, and was officially inaugurated by HM King George VI on 29 October 1947. HM Queen Elizabeth II visited the city on 26 July 1962, when she viewed the rebuilt city and officially opened this building.

The reconstruction has been the work of many. This tablet bears the names of a few in the civic life of Plymouth who have played a part.

Alderman Sir James Clifford Tozer and Alderman Henry George Mason, CBE, was each in turn Chairman of the Reconstruction Committee between 1944 to 1960. Alderman Hubert Moses Medland, sometime Member of Parliament for the Drake Division of the city, was Vice-Chairman of the committee for two periods. Sir Colin Campbell as Town Clerk until 1953 and thereafter Stuart Lloyd Jones led the team of officers.

The original members' entrance hall, approached from the courtyard below the Chief Executive and Town Clerk's office, leads to the central lobby. The polished white marble pebbles on the floor provide a motif of the mural paining by Mary Adshead on the east wall depicting incidents in Plymouth's history. The lighting pendants are of Chelsea glassware. The eight passenger lift gives access to the car park below and also to the first floor. The lift interior and the wall adjacent to the lift doors are panelled in courbaril, a South American wood, which is used again in the doors of the principal rooms on the first floor. The woods used in panelling and doors are a feature throughout the building.

The first floor

The landing on the first floor is the hub of the building. A visitor standing with his back to the case of civic plate will have behind him the Council Chamber, in front the reception room, on the right the Lord Mayor's suite and on the left the doors leading to the offices in the tall building.

Overhead is the geometrical ceiling of fibrous plaster, a modern interpretation of the tradition of early Elizabethan stately houses. The tulip-shaped vinyl panels between the plaster ribs diffuse the natural daylight from above and at night are illuminated by fluorescent tubes concealed between the ceiling and the diagrid structural roof above it.

The walls are covered in a yellow wallpaper of mosaic pattern above panels of daniellia, another West African wood. The lighting is designed to accentuate the shimmering quality of the figuring of this veneer. The doors, with raised pyramids in courbaril veneer, are edged with silver bronze.

On the wall facing the head of the stair is a plaster version of the city arms, by David Weeks. Below it is a velvet-lined showcase containing the civic plate and the city's four maces. The collection of civic plate stretches over a period of more than 400 years - from the loving cup given by John Whit in the year 1585 to the gifts of contemporary plate. On either side of this display the doors lead to the council chamber.

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The Council Chamber

The chamber was designed to seat ninety council members arranged on five sides of an octagon so that the whole of the Council are seated within thirty-five feet of the Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor's dais also accommodates the Deputy Lord Mayor, the Chief Executive and Town Clerk, the Head of Legal Practice and the Lord Mayor's Chaplain.

Their chairs were specially designed for the chamber, and were presented to the city as a memorial to the late Alderman Lovell R Dunstan. The engraved metal coat of arms on the front of the Lord Mayor's table was designed by Alan Collins.

The officers of the council are seated in recesses below the public gallery. The tables and fixed seating in the chamber are made of Burma teak with green hide upholstery and lacquered brass metal-work and were designed by the architects.

A debating chamber has particular acoustic problems, in that all members must hear each other speak; and they should also be audible in the public gallery. To achieve this result, wall surfaces which reflect sound and cause reverberations have been kept to a minimum. Reflectors are provided by the canopy above the Lord Mayor, the fibrous plaster ceiling with its stepped shape above the gallery, and the flush-panelled side walls of the gallery. Absorbent surfaces are provided by fabric-covered frames at high level, with an air space behind them, and by further frames at low level in the chamber and at the rear of the gallery, which are masked by slender vertical ribs of afrormosia which also act to diffuse sound. In addition the carpeted floor of the chamber and the cork floor in the gallery absorb unwanted sound. The fabric frames and the inset oil paintings are by Hans Tisdall and form the major decorative element of the chamber. The paintings, which are abstract in feeling, have as their general theme heraldic forms significant to Plymouth. The sides of the paintings are:

From the left

  • Watchstaff, Mace, Baton
  • Arms of Plymouth Paraphrase
  • Laurels (lower)
  • Armada before Plymouth (upper)
  • Drake Standard
  • Heraldic Forms
  • Phoenix (lower)
  • Flag of Drake (upper)
  • Plymouth Common Seal

and from the right of the Lord Mayor's dais

  • Arms of Devonport (lower)
  • Banner of Drake (upper)
  • Sails of Armada
  • Heraldic Evocation (lower)
  • Lighthouse (upper)
  • Cannon-balls
  • Martial Display
  • Drake's Arms

The Public and the Press enter the gallery from an entrance in Princess Street and mount a staircase which leads them direct to the upper level. A Press room is provided behind their part of the gallery.

The reception room

In the reception room, facing east, with a full length external balcony, is a glazed wall seventy-two feet long by twenty-one feet high. Inside it are curtains of the "Pheasant Moon" design by Hans Tisdall, the colours of which echo the panelling of quartered African elm, and the strip floor of muhuhu, a wood from East Africa. Above the doors is a stepped gallery for musicians.

Tours of the building

Local organisations may request a tour of the building by contacting the Lord Mayor's secretary at the Lord Mayors Parlour.

Location map

View The Council House in a larger map