Burton on Trent Landmarks #6 – Town Hall and St Paul’s Church

Like many towns in England, Burton on Trent has its very own Town Hall, where the council have their meetings, and events are staged.

Burton upon Trent Town Hall

Burton’s first town hall was built in 1493 in what is now the town’s Market Place. It survived until 1770, when a new, larger and more substantial town hall was built in its place. The new town hall was paid for by local dignitary Lord Paget, and bore his family’s coat of arms. That very coat of arms is now located at Andressey Bridge in the town, although it is obscured by weeds and is currently falling into disrepair.

That town hall was deemed unsuitable for a growing town by 1831, and meetings subsequently took place at a local pub, the Angel Inn, until at least 1853. The town hall was taken over by the municipal borough in 1878, but was in a poor state, and it was demolished five years later. Evidence of the old town hall’s location can still be seen today, with four brass plates marking the four corners of the old hall set into the ground.

St Paul’s Church, near to the present Town Hall, was built in 1874. The £50,000 cost (over £4.6 million in 2019 money) was borne entirely by local brewing magnate and Liberal MP Michael Thomas Bass II. He was the father of Michael Arthur Bass, who paid for the town’s Ferry Bridge to be made free of toll in the late 19th Century. It was said that as Burton on Trent grew in size, if city status was to be granted, then St Paul’s would have served as the city’s cathedral.

The church is still in use today as a Church of England place of worship, with Father Stanley Monkhouse serving as the vicar. The bells still chime hourly and can be heard for miles around.

Michael Thomas Bass also donated St Paul’s Institute to be built just a stone’s throw away from St Paul’s church on the corner of Rangemore Street and St Paul’s Street West. While the institute was under development, the rise of Bass’s brewing empire meant that adjacent land could be purchased and the Liberal Club was built at the same time as the institute. The intention of Bass was to “Better provide for the scholastic, recreative, and intellectual requirements of the town.” The institute officially opened in 1882.

The back room of the Angel Inn wasn’t ideal for use as a meeting place for the council, so in 1891, Lord Burton (Michael Arthur Bass) kindly donated the Liberal Club and St. Paul’s Institute to be used as Burton’s Town Hall. In 1894, the council’s civic offices (again paid for by Lord Burton) were built adjacent to the clock tower as the first of a few extensions to the building. Following this, a large square (King Edward’s Square) was opened up in front of the Town Hall and St Paul’s Church, where Lord Burton’s statue now stands, although it is largely obscured by trees nowadays. The square is also now used as a bus route and car park. This video shows the square in 1946 as troops paraded in front of the Mayor.

Bronze statue of Lord Burton, Michael Arthur Bass

After the original building was gifted to the town, a replacement St Paul’s Institute was built in almost the same style as the original close to St Paul’s Church. Sadly, it fell into disrepair in the mid 20th century, and was sold and demolished in the 1970s. A replacement Liberal Club was built on the corner of George Street and Guild Street, and this still stands today. It is currently in use as a tea room.

As Burton on Trent grew in the 20th century, another extension to the town hall was built. In 1939, the Municipal Buildings were constructed adjacent to the civic offices in an Art Deco style. The town’s coat of arms was installed, as it is on all important buildings in the town, above the doorway.

In 2015, the Department for Education spent £8 million building a University Technical College on the former car park, adjacent to the Municipal Buildings. However, due to projected low student numbers, it was never opened and was mothballed for two years. In 2018, local school de Ferrers Academy took over the site and opened a Sixth Form Centre.

The building has also hosted royalty on a few occasions. In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II arrived at the town hall as part of a royal visit, and waved to the crowds in King Edward Place from a balcony above the town hall entrance, which was installed for that occasion and is still there today. King Edward VII also visited the town hall, and remarked to a local dignitary that some of the houses near the town hall weren’t of very good quality. Some months later, those very houses were demolished.

The town hall, looking up towards the railway station. Queen Elizabeth II’s balcony can be seen above the main entrance canopy.

The town hall is still a popular location for events, such as wedding fayres, model railway exhibitions and weddings.

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