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For centuries there were two halls where important decisions for the city were taken, one for the English community and one for the French.

The Norman building, Moot Hall, once stood at the corner of Wheeler Gate. The English Town Hall, better known now as Guildhall, remained at Weekday Cross until the 1880s. The affairs of the town were administered in a chamber known as the Council House.

The last meeting in this building was in 1877 after which there was a move to temporary accommodation until the Old Exchange, which stood on the site of the present Council House. This was adapted for use in 1879.

In the 1920s, Nottingham architect T. Cecil Howitt was commissioned to design Nottingham's prestigious new Council House. Howitt worked in the council's City Engineers Department. He also designed many notable buildings in Nottingham including Nottingham Trent University's Newton Building and Nottingham University's Portland Building.

Initial plans had an estimated cost of £500,000, which in the time of economic recession caused some public outcry. But the Council gave assurances that the sum would be recovered through rent from businesses using the premises.

The first design provided for a shopping arcade and office accommodation only, and it was not until the Council realised it would have to spend a further £100,000 on new civic offices and council chamber elsewhere that the plan was revised to incorporate these.
T Cecil Howitt was said to have had some trouble deciding the style of the building, but settled on a classical design as something more modern was in danger of becoming dated. The contract was let in 1925 and the foundation stone laid in 1927, on what was to be the largest stone building commissioned in the country since the First World War.

The official opening on May 22, 1929, was recorded as a perfect day when thousands of people massed for the arrival of the Prince of Wales. The Prince, later to become King Edward VIII, opened the great doors with a gold key, which is still displayed on a wall plaque, just inside the building to the left of the grand staircase.