History of the Town Hall
We are often asked about the history of the Town Hall building, which has formed part of Newland Street for several hundred years.
The timber framed building dates back to the 15th century and was originally a coaching Inn called The George. It was given a Georgian frontage in the early 19th century when it was converted to Barclays Bank. The frontage includes a false second storey, complete with windows, to mask the medieval roof behind.
In 1939, Barclays Bank moved into the new building next door at 51 Newland Street, and the building was subsequently used as a tobacconist, a showroom for Magnet & Southern and finally Town & Country Building Society before it was bought by Witham Town Council in the early 90's.
The building underwent extensive refurbishment before opening as the new home for Witham Town Council and the Heritage Centre. Further recent refurbishments have seen the final transition of the Heritage Centre into an Information Centre fit for the 2020's. We still have a Heritage Room, where we display items from our vault of historic artefacts. In this room you can also see our Tudor style fireplace, which is believed to be Georgian in actual age, which was rescued during the refurbishment of the 1990's from elsewhere within the building.
The clock on the outside of the building, which is familiar to so many local residents, didn't actually begin it's life here.
Originally, the clock was on the building at 88 Newland Street which was the Constitutional Club. The Constitutional Club ran along Newland Street in front of the Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church), hiding the church behind it until a fire burnt it down in 1910. The Constitutional Club was demolished, and the clock was moved to the front of 61 Newland Street, where it has stayed. Photos show that the clock dates back to at least 1900 in its original position.
The movement inside the clock was renewed in 1932, and then again in the 90's when the clock was electrified. After it was electrified, the movement was removed and preserved in the Information Centre, where you can pop in and see it. It is still in working order and is wound daily.
Our Information Centre also boasts a water pump found in the grounds during the renovation, likely to have originated from the George Inn, and a credenza sideboard rescued from the now demolished Gimson's house.
If you have anything relating to the history of Witham that you would like to donate under our Public Artefact Donation Scheme, just pop in and see us at the Information Centre.
When repair works began on Chipping Hill Bridge in September 22, Councillors were concerned for the integrity of the carved coping stoned on the bridge.
The carvings were made during World War I by two soldiers billeted to Witham for training before going into war.
The coping stones have been left in place, and Witham Town Council employed the services of professional photographer, David Islip, to take a record of the carvings while the bridge was closed to traffic.
More information about the bridge and the carvings can be found on the website of local historian, Janet Gyford, at https://www.janetgyford.com/articles/01-chippinghillbridge/