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Bexhill Town Hall

A Grade II Listed Building in Bexhill, East Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8417 / 50°50'30"N

Longitude: 0.4711 / 0°28'15"E

OS Eastings: 574075

OS Northings: 107594

OS Grid: TQ740075

Mapcode National: GBR PXC.5X8

Mapcode Global: FRA C6WW.1CP

Plus Code: 9F22RFRC+MC

Entry Name: Bexhill Town Hall

Listing Date: 18 November 2022

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1483735

ID on this website: 101483735

Location: Bexhill-on-Sea, Rother, East Sussex, TN40

County: East Sussex

Electoral Ward/Division: Central

Built-Up Area: Bexhill

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex


Town hall, 1894-1895, extended 1907, by Henry Ward. Extension to the east, along Amherst Road, 1937.


Town hall, 1894-1895, extended 1907, by Henry Ward. Extension to the east, along Amherst Road, 1937.

MATERIALS: red brick with sandstone dressings; clay tile roof and mainly uPVC windows.

PLAN: the 1894 building has two storeys plus attic, with a pitched H-plan roof behind parapets. The principal elevation is to the south, with a central main entrance. Reception spaces (originally offices), are located to either side of an entrance lobby and to the rear is a large square stair tower. The first floor is primarily given over to a large central board room, flanked by a committee room and what is now the Chair’s office. A back stair in the north-east corner leads up to offices in the attic, originally the caretaker’s flat.

The 1907 extension adjoins to the west and partially to the rear of the 1894 building. It has offices on the ground floor (opened up and reconfigured since 1907) and the council chamber above. A back stair, which has perhaps been rebuilt since 1907, links ground, first and attic floors.

To the rear of the building, extending from the north-east corner, is an extension of 1937, this has subsequently been extended westward across the rear of the stair tower but this post-1937 extension is not part of the listed building.

EXTERIOR: the 1894 building is in a Jacobean Free Style; red brick with sandstone dressings, including banding. The taller first floor has casement windows with mullions and transoms, the central three having round heads with stone voussoirs. Ground floor windows are vertical sliding sashes.

The entrance front is symmetrical and has five bays. The central three bays are flanked by projecting end bays. These end bays have gables topped by scrolled pediments with finials and octagonal corner turrets with domed caps. First floor windows are in shallow curved stone bays with stone balustrade above. Paired attic windows have a carved semi-circular tympanum at their head.

The central entrance is reached via a short flight of steps. The heavy, panelled double door is set within a round-arched opening of dressed stone with carved spandrels, and is flanked by paired engaged columns with a balustrade above. On the first floor a Venetian window is flanked by brick pilasters carrying a curved pediment with carved tympanum. A clock has been added above the pediment. Attic dormer windows have curved pediments.

One of the ground-floor windows has been converted to a door and a ramp has been added.

The 1907 extension is in complementary style. It has a single, wide bay with a first-floor Venetian balcony with balustrade. Beneath is a foundation stone with a carved, swagged surround. At attic level is a curved pediment with an oculus.

Side elevations are plainer. Part of the east elevation, facing onto Amherst Road, belongs to the 1937 extension and this continues the simplified detailing of the east flank of the original 1894 building.

INTERIOR: the interiors of principal interest are the enfilade of rooms on the first floor of the 1894 and 1907 buildings, and the main stair and first-floor circulation spaces that give access to them. These are the areas with the least alteration and generally the grander fittings and finishes.

The committee room has grained dado panelling and enriched Classical door surrounds. At either end of the room is a carved stone chimneypiece, one bearing the arms of the Bishop of Chichester, the other bearing the arms of the Sackville family, both used in the arms of Bexhill District Council before it was granted new arms in 1907. A small lift has been added in the corner of the room. What is now the Chair’s office has a plaster strapwork ceiling. The council chamber is reached via a square antechamber, lit from above by a domed skylight with coloured glass. The chamber has a barrel-vaulted ceiling with plasterwork panels, supported on plaster corbel brackets. The walls have hardwood panelling and at the north end is a gallery with hardwood balustrade. The windows in this room are the original timber casements and these have coloured glass margins. There are two stained glass roundels, one depicting Queen Elizabeth I and the other the arms of Bexhill-on-Sea, newly granted in 1907.

The principal stair is an Imperial staircase with square stone newels and pierced stone balustrade with veined marble handrail. The stairwell is lit by a large mullioned window with coloured glass margins on the half landing.

Elsewhere in the 1894 building and 1907 extension there is some survival of joinery and fittings, more of which may survive behind dropped ceilings or later partitions and coverings. A large brass plaque in an ornate, figurative carved wooden surround, commemorating the building’s opening, is hung in the reception foyer and in the building’s entrance lobby has a mosaic floor bearing the initials BDC. There has been a degree of opening-up on the ground floor, altering the more cellular character of the original floor plan.

Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the interior of the 1937 extension is not of special architectural or historic interest, however any works which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require LBC and this is a matter for the LPA to determine.


Bexhill Town Hall was built in 1894-1895 to designs by architect Henry Ward and later extended by Ward in 1907-8.

The modern town of Bexhill-on-Sea was developed as a seaside resort from the 1880s by the 7th Earl De La Warr, absorbing the small medieval settlement of Bexhill, approximately half a mile inland. In 1881, the population stood at about two-and-a-half thousand; by 1901, it was over twelve thousand. Administrative responsibilities for the growing town passed from the Bexhill Local Board, formed in 1884, to the newly established Bexhill Urban District Council in 1894.

Progress towards a purpose-built home for Bexhill’s local government began in 1891, when a site to the north of the railway line was identified. The land was purchased from the De La Warr estate for £580 in 1893 and following a competition to design the new municipal building, Henry Ward was appointed architect in 1894. Charles Thomas was appointed as builder on a tender sum of £5250. The De La Warr estate gifted the land in front of the town hall, originally conceived as a marketplace, for the construction of the Town Hall Square.

The new town hall had offices for the Board Clerk, Medical Officer and Board Surveyor on the ground floor, with committee rooms and a board room above. The attic was occupied by a caretaker’s flat. To the rear of the site was a fire station and stables, now lost. The building was officially opened by Sir Joseph Renals, Lord Mayor of London, on 27 April 1895. In 1898 a memorial to Henry Lane (now listed Grade II), was unveiled in Town Hall Square. Lane was the first chairman of the Local Board and Urban District Council.

Bexhill continued to grow in the 1890s and into the early 1900s. In Spring 1902 it was granted a Charter of Incorporation, giving it borough status. In 1907 work began on an extension to the town hall, again under Ward. The extension adjoined the existing building to the west, wrapping partially round to the rear; it contained further offices on the ground floor and a council chamber on the first.

By 1925 the building had again been outgrown and the 1907 addition was extended into a neighbouring villa to the west, 36 Station Road, which was converted into office use. In 1937 the original town hall building was extended with the construction of a two-storey wing to the rear, along Amherst Road, itself later extended to the west. An extension was added to the rear of the 1907 building in the mid- to late C20 and in 1962 the villa known as Chignal, next to 36 Station Road, was taken into the site. Rother District Council was formed in 1974, merging the municipal boroughs of Bexhill and Rye and Battle Rural District Council.

Henry Ward (1854-1927) was born in Peckham and trained in London and Paris. He settled in Hastings where he entered the office of W L Vernon (1846-1914), later taking over the practice. Ward established his reputation through winning the competition to design Hastings Town Hall (listed Grade II) in 1881. He worked widely in the south of England, his oeuvre including ecclesiastical, civic, commercial and domestic buildings.

Reasons for Listing

Bexhill Town Hall, 1894-1895, to designs by Henry Ward, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as an accomplished example of a smaller town hall in a Jacobean Free Style by a local architect of note;

* for its extension of 1907, also by Ward, reflecting the town’s transition to borough status;

* for its interior, in which the plan-form, fixtures and fittings of key civic spaces survive well;

* for the range of decorative elements capturing significant dates, figures and civic symbolism.

Historic interest:

* as the key civic building for a newly established urban conurbation of the late C19.

Group value:

* with the 1898 memorial to Henry Lane (listed Grade II) situated in Town Hall Square, opposite the building.

External Links

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