For many centuries, Bristol’s main administration was carried out in Corn Street, where altogether three Council Houses were built over the years. As Local Government expanded in the twentieth century it was decided to build a new and larger Council House on College Green. The new Council House was designed by architect Vincent Harris, and the foundation stone was laid in 1938. Work on the new Council House was delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War and it was not until several years after the war, when the economic climate improved, that the building work continued. The Council House was finally finished in 1953 and was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956. The ceiling of the Conference Hall, the work of Tom Monnington, is one of the largest painted ceilings in the country and the geometrical design was inspired by the symbol of atomic physics. The adjoining Council Chamber also has a very fine ceiling, by John Armstrong and Mary Collet, on the theme of Bristol throughout its history. Both ceilings were gifts from the Edwin Austin Memorial Fund. Set apart from these two large halls is the Civic Suite which comprises Committee Rooms, the Lord Mayors Parlour and Reception Room, a sitting room for women councillors and a retiring room. The Council House is the home of the city’s municipal treasurers. The Lord Mayor's Parlour houses the civic insignia, chief among which are four ceremonial swords: the Mourning Sword, dating from about 1373; the Pearl Sword from the late fourteenth century; the Lent Sword from the fifteenth century and the eighteenth-century State Sword. The eight silver maces are now carried in procession by police officers and the city treasurer has a seventeenth-century copper gift mace. There are also four Tudor silver chains, two silver trumpets and a silver oar once carried by the water bailiff.
Not all locations are open to the public. Please contact the gallery or collection for more information.