The Town Hall, designed by William Henry Lynn of Belfast, was built from 1865 to 1869. Constructed of buff and pink sandstone, it is a High Victorian reinterpretation of the thirteenth-century Cloth Hall at Ypres in Belgium, the interior enriched with high relief sculptures chronicling Chester’s relationship with the Crown.
The collection at Chester Town Hall is composed principally of portraits of local officials and dignitaries, including mayors, sheriffs and recorders. The earliest paintings in Chester Town Hall depict the seven Norman Earls of Chester, painted in 1578.
The ten full-length portraits of the Grosvenor family of Eaton Hall form the grandest sequence of paintings. Among these are the most art historically significant paintings in the Town Hall: the portraits of Sir Richard Grosvenor, 1st Earl Grosvenor and his brother Thomas Grosvenor by Benjamin West, the American-born second President of the Royal Academy. The series is brought up-to-date with Paul Brason’s 1995 portrait of Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster, who became the first Chancellor of the University of Chester in 2005.
Apart from portraits, the most notable picture depicts the light cruiser HMS ‘Chester’, which took part in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. The painting by Arthur James Wetherall Burgess shows the ship leaving Birkenhead on her maiden voyage.
Chester City Council and Cheshire County Council were succeeded by Cheshire West and Chester Council following local government reorganisation in 2009. The Town Hall, whose paintings span the history of local government in Chester from the Norman Conquest, remains the focus of the city’s civic life.