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The Story of the City Hall

Seventy-five years ago historian Tadhg Kilgannon described Sligo Town Hall as a ‘beautiful building’ regarded by people qualifiedto judge as the most graceful hall devoted to municipal purposes in Ireland. The condition of the building deteriorated over the years to a faded grandeur, and in 1998 the Borough Council decided to carry out a major refurbishment programme to renew its former architectural glory as the administrative and civic centre in Sligo Borough.
Interior of City Hall
- Interior of City Hall

Proposals for a Town Hall building were being aired as far back as 1825, as the Corporation had difficulty in acquiring a proper ‘home’. The first meeting of the Reformed Corporation took place in October 1842 in the ‘Long Room’ of Davis’ Hibernia Hotel, opposite Sligo Courthouse, in what is now Teeling Street.

Subsequent meeting places included the Market House, off High Street, shared accommodation with the Town and Harbour Commissioners in Wine Street, before moving to Hudson’s House in Quay Street, a premises that was described as ‘utterly unfit for the purpose.’

After considering seven possible sites, in April 1861 the Corporation unanimously agreed on the site at Quay Street known as the ‘Old Barrack Fort.’ This was a 17th Century Cromwellian Ordnance which was constructed on the site of a 13th Century Tower house/castle erected by Sligo’s founder Maurice Fitzgerald.

Advertisements were placed in the Builder Magazine for the submission of plans and specifications. Nineteen plans were received, and with the advice of Sir John Benson, Architect and Sligo native, the committee appointed by Sligo Corporation chose the submission of Dublin architect William Hague. A prize of twenty pounds was awarded to the winning entry. The site was cleared of all remains of the Cromwellian Fort by way of public auction in January 1865. The winning tender for the construction of the building was submitted by the Dublin Builders M.F. Crowe and Brothers for five thousand pounds.

In July 1872 the Corporation of Sligo held its first meeting in the still unfinished Town Hall. The Harbour Commissioners erected the clock tower, Council member Charles Anderson provided the bell and clock. The bell, weighing 812 kg is 1050mm in diameter is engraved with the harp, shamrock and crown insignia and bears the inscription ‘Charles Anderson presents this bell to the people of his native town A.D. 1877.’ The clock makers were Gillet and Johnson, and the clock itself was supplied by local ironmongers Nelson Brothers, while the clock tower was built by local builder Patrick Morris.

The Caretaker’s lodge to the south of the Town Hall was completed in 1876. The Town Hall has served continuously as the centre for the administration of Local Government in Sligo until its temporary closure in November 1998 to facilitate the refurbishment of the building.

In 1995 the Corporation of Sligo approved the refurbishment project for the Town Hall, and the contract for the work was signed in November 1998. The new Hall will provide a more accessible, customer-friendly civic centre for the people of Sligo, as well as creating a better working environment to allow improved interaction between public and staff. The carved Mountcharles sandstone provided the Town Hall with an impressive and distinctive façade, but a combination of the passing years and environmental damage had taken an inevitable toll and the external stonework required urgent repair.

The refurbishment programme included the complete restoration of the façade of the building, along with the restoration of external piers, railings and windows.

The internal layout and design of the refurbished City Hall opens up previously unused space and substantially extends the existing office accommodation. A new mezzanine floor level has been installed and there is improved access to civic and office areas.

The newly located and enhanced Council Chamber incorporates an area for public attendance, and the adjacent committee rooms are equipped with state of the art audio visual facilities.