A newly carved foundation stone was unveiled during a special ceremony at Colchester Town Hall earlier today (29 April 2019).
Councillor David King, Portfolio Holder for Resources, and High Steward Sir Bob Russell revealed the restored inscription, which replaces the original that had become largely unreadable due to severe erosion over recent decades.
Cut from Portland whitbed stone – like that used to construct St. Paul’s Cathedral – the new foundation stone features a hand-carved facsimile of the original inscription marking the start of construction work on the 121-year old Grade 1 listed building. The recut inscription records that the stone was laid on 31 October 1898 by H.R.H. The Duke of Cambridge, K.G. (Prince George), Alderman James Paxman, J.P., Mayor, and Councillor Wilson Marriage, J.P., Chairman of the new Town Hall Committee.
As the original foundation stone is substantial, it was decided to cut back the face and insert a new piece of stone on top containing the restored inscription. This approach also preserves more of the historic fabric.
Speaking shortly after today’s unveiling ceremony, Cllr David King said: “We are fortunate to have at the heart of our civic life one of the best examples of late-Victorian municipal architecture in the country.
“The Town Hall is used widely by the community, is open to the public and visited often. Given the cultural significance of the Town Hall, and in line with the advice of Historic England, it was decided to replace the foundation stone to keep the best of our history in the best possible shape.
“Colchester Town Hall is a landmark Grade 1 listed building of exceptionally rich design, so I am delighted that we have been able to create a perfect copy of the foundation stone and set it in its original position, for posterity. With proper care and maintenance, it ought to remain a prominent feature and help to document the history of the building for at least another hundred years.”
Sir Bob Russell added: “Following last year’s Mayor Making ceremony, I told councillors that the Town Hall foundation stone was crumbling away and that I was anxious it should be attended to, in case some should consider it symbolic.
“Said in the spirit of jest, but more seriously of concern for this important visual part to our famous Town Hall, I am grateful that the council listened and has taken the right action to restore the foundation stone for present and future generations, as well as in acknowledgement to the visionary councillors of 121 years ago who built our wonderful Town Hall – a symbol of civic pride.”
The foundation stone can be seen just above ground level at the southern end of the east elevation of the Town Hall, close to the junction between High Street and West Stockwell Street.