The Public Office: extension and refurbishments

Following on from yesterday’s post on the development of plans to improve the town’s Public Office, after a complaint from the county magistrates, an outline of the extensions and refurbishments is given below. These are taken from the original minutes of the Commissioners of the Birmingham Street Act, reference MS 2818/1/5  Library of Birmingham, Archives, Heritage and Photography.



At a meeting of the Street Commissioners held on October 30th, 1830, almost three years after the original complaint of the magistrates, the Public Office committee reported the following refurbishments underway:

On the ground floor – two committee rooms; an office for Mr. Dester (Dester was responsible for the local scavengers), which will occasionally be available for other purposes and furnished with writing desk, chairs and table from the Commissioners present room; a closet for hats and umbrellas; one committee room which may occasionally serve as a waiting room for persons attending meetings instead of, as at present, waiting in the gateway of the Public Office at the risk of their health and sufficient to furnish with table and part of the seats in the Commissioners current room; a further committee room furnished with table and ten chairs to match the furniture in the Commissioners room that may supply an additional and appropriate supply of seats upon any extraordinary attendance of the Commissioners.

On the upper floor – The room for the Commissioners general meetings. To furnish this room appropriately and worthy of the architecture the Committee has sought a person who combines good taste with the best workmanship and reasonable charges – the committee announced that ‘such a person has been found’ and the minutes report that they presented detailed drawings and specifications to the assembly before continuing with their ‘mature deliberations’

Any other mode of fitting other than that of placing the seats on the floor around the room would be utterly destructive of its beauty…your committee finds itself confirmed in this opinion by the judgement of men of acknowledged taste and experience in matters of this kind and therefore recommend this room be furnished settees and chairs placed alternately around the room, the settees to correspond in length with the recesses between the pilasters, that is to say eight settees, each about 7 feet 6 inches long, two settees about 4 feet 8 inches each. There was also to be a chair and a plinth for the president, a table and fourteen chairs all made agreeably to the drawings. The seating would, it was projected, accommodate 60 persons, a number much greater than generally attends at one time

The great flourish with which the refurbished meeting room was presented was followed with the undergoing work to the ground floor:

Ground floor – A front room for the use of the adjoining parishes on Mondays and Thursdays and for the use of Commissioners at all other times. The parishes would be charged for use of the rooms and it was recommended that they be furnished with a table and ten chairs for their use; a public staircase adjoining a room for parish business connected to the Overseers and a private staircase for the magistrates.

Upper floor – A room at the front of the building for magistrates to hear complaints, grant warrants and summonses &c. …adjoining to which is a reception room and passage leading to the Commissioners room; two other rooms, one for witnesses waiting to give evidence, the other for persons wanting summons, so that no one will be permitted to wait on the stairs and landing to obstruct the free ingress and egress of the inhabitants and to prevent the inconvenient crowding of these offices as heretofore, to the annoyance of all concerned. 

Basement storey – this included eight ‘vaults’ one to be a prisoners day room, one for a stable for the magistrates’ horses, one for a kitchen for Mrs. Redfern’s house, one for Mrs. Dester, two to be occupied by warm air apparatus and two of the largest as yet unappropriated. 

The whole of the building was to be finished by the end of December. The Commissioners demanded only one alteration to the plans presented, that was that the settees and chairs in their meeting room should be covered with roan leather, in preference to the proposed mohair. There was also some uncertainty as to the furnishing of the magistrates rooms and it was decided to hold another meeting with them before confirming their agreement.  By February 7th, 1831, the Commissioners were finally settling in to their new and grand meeting room. Though at that meeting, they requested the Public Office committee have drapery put up at the windows of the meeting room.


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