[Extracts from the Coleraine and Portstewart list published by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society in 1972.]
The original Town Hall was built in 1743 by George Dance, the Elder, of London. Towards its erection 35 tons of timber and £900 were contributed by the Irish Society. It was two storeys high with a court room in the upper storey and open arcades in the lower, which were later filled in. It was enlarged and a tower with cupola was erected at the western end, in which a clock was inserted in 1830 at the expense of the Marquis of Waterford. A print, published by N. Ward of Coleraine and reproduced on the walls of the Lombard Cafe, Queen's Street shows it as it was prior to its demolition. The new Town Hall was completed in 1859, architect Thomas Turner, builders MacLaughlin and Harvey, cost £4,146.19s.10 1/2d.(over £1000 beyond the estimate). The building is one of Turner's major works and bears strong similarities to the Northern Bank, Shipquay Place, Londonderry. Built of warm golden sandstone, it is in a restrained Italianate style.
Originally seven bays long and three wide, its entrance door
and tower faced Bridge Street, the reverse of the earlier hall.
The lower storey is banded with segmental windows rising from
a continuous string course. A double string course separates the
lower from the upper storey, which has round-headed windows, decorated
with blocks of stone punctuating the surrounds. Above is a modillion
cornice and blocking course, surmounted on the long sides by paired
chimneys connected by a large oculus, a treatment in a Baroque
manner reminiscent of Hawksmoor. The tower at the west end breaks
forward but is clasped to the main structure on the ground floor
by curving walls incised with small windows. The blind walls of
the first storey have roundels, containing shields and mottoes.
The tower extends a further three storeys: the first a four-sided
Tuscan pavilion with segmental pediments, which has very fine
cast-iron grilles, probably from the foundry of Richard Turner
of Dublin; above, the clock stage, and finally a lantern with
cupola, baroque in feeling, with concave chamfered corners. Unfortunately
the corner urns have been removed from the tower. The east end
was altered in 1902 by W J.Given, as interior accommodation was
inadequate. This was done most sensitively by adding an extra
bay to the length and creating a new pedimented entrance. It also
entailed blocking up the old entrance on the west side - perhaps
less successful. The hipped roof was formerly adorned with decorative
ventilation lanterns. In 1914 a fine window, by Campbell Brothers
of Belfast, illustrating the Irish Society Schools in 1869, the
Salmon Leap in 1836, the Diamond in 1815, and the Parish Church
as restored in 1775, was inserted to commemorate the tercentenary
of the Irish Society. In all it is a building of considerable
distinction, outstandingly sited, and, since it was cleaned and
partly refaced in 1961, the major architectural focal point of
Refs: Builder 28th Feb 1857 p. 123, 8th Aug. 1857 p. 449; Coleraine Chronicle 1857-9 passim; C C 12th Aug. 1902; C.C 26th Sep. 1914; Lewis; R.Smith: The Irish Society, (1613-1963), 1966; Dorothy Stroud: George Dance Architect, 1741-1825.
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The old Linen Hall. A small courtyard of almost Dickensian quaintness and dilapidation. The porchway on two rudimentary Tuscan columns has an intriguingly lopsided room above. The side wings date from 1817, the rest later. If properly cared for and less full of vehicles, its former charm could be restored.
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