Town Hall history

Victorian postcard of the town square

Great Torrington Town Hall dominates the centre of the town and was for several centuries the hub of the civic, social and judicial life of this ancient borough.  In 1724 fire destroyed many documents and papers relating to the history of the town so information about the building before that period is very sparse. It is Grade 2 listed.

By the mid 18C the buildings associated with what was then called The Guildhall had all fallen into considerable dilapidation.  As it was also the trading centre of the town and associated with a Leather Hall, Cordwainers’ Chamber, Yarn Hall and the Shambles Meat Market it was urgent to make some repairs.

Today's building

In 1761 rebuilding started on the first phase of what we see today.  The estimated cost of this part was a little under £400 shared equally by The Town Council and The Almshouse, Town Lands and Poors Charity (The Town Trust).  On completion there was then a gap of almost 100 years before work re-commenced and it was not until 1861 that our present Town Hall was completed. The cost of about £600 was paid wholly by the Town Trust.

Since then there has been little change save for the provision of a small toilet suite adjacent to the Council Chamber and the construction of ground floor offices for the Trustees, in what was, for many years, a public convenience.

The Town Hall todayThe building is an imposing one in the classical style with a rusticated limestone lower storey and red brick with stone dressings above.  The pedimented centre reaches out into The Square and has arched openings leading on to a cobbled and paved area beneath the large assembly room.  This open space has provided a meeting area for young and old alike for many decades but has long been the subject of much abuse.  From this area two doors lead to imposing staircases.  One goes directly into the assembly hall and the other leading to an impressive landing outside the Council Chamber.

 The Council Chamber itself is at the rear of the building which is the oldest part dating from the 17C.  Its walls are completely covered in fine oak panelling rescued at the turn of 20C from The Plough Inn. 

The Assembly Room is a large imposing galleried room as befits its previous purpose.  It has an ornate, semi-vaulted beamed ceiling with a central rose. Decorative bosses mark the end of each beam.  The ceiling plaster, which dates from the reconstruction 140 years ago, is nearing the end of its natural life. The walls are hung with a number of large oil paintings, mainly of the Rolle family, formerly in the ownership of the Lords Clinton. There are a number of smaller rooms associated with the main chamber. There are no modern facilities and access for the disabled is not possible at present.