THE former Leyton Town Hall has undergone a multi-million development, restoring the Grade II listed building to its former glory.

Lee Valley Estates are continuing with a £10 million project to develop the former town hall, latterly known as Leyton Municipal Offices (LMO), as a business centre and already have a variety of tenants including a language school, church and estate agent.

The magnificent spacious rooms, some of them wood-panelled, have been restored and great care has been taken in re-painting the halls in the original burgundy and cream colours and restoring the plaques with the names of former councillors that honour the building's history.

Until the mid 19th Century, Leyton was a rural parish in south-west Essex, but the expansion of London and industrial revolution transformed it into a London suburb.

The system of managing local affairs through the vestry became increasingly inadequate and in 1873, a local board was established. In 1882, the first purpose-built public offices, designed by John Knight, were erected on the corner of High Road and Ruckholt Road.

But with the population growing, a larger town hall was needed and the imposing red-brick and Portland stone Victorian building was built - the result of a design competition which attracted more than 30 entries from architects.

The brief finally went to John Johnson whose design was put into bricks and mortar from 1894, at a cost of £17,286.

It was opened with great fanfare two years later on March 18, 1896, by the Duke and Duchess of York. The event was immortalised in an illustration in Punch magazine.

A Technical Institute was added in Adelaide Road to provide Secondary School education and classes in applied science and the arts for commercial industry workers.

Between 1891 and 1901, the population of Leyton grew by 56 per cent to 100,000 people and in 1910 the building was extended into Ruckholt Road to accommodate offices for the surveyor, medical officer, sanitary inspector, road surveyor and rate collector.

A smaller council chamber was built and the wood panelling, semi-circular Mayoral dais and inkwells are still intact. Today it is used by the Redeemed Christian Church of God for worship.

Another reminder of the building's history are the letters embedded in the marble tiled floors, some of which have the initials “LDC” for Leyton Urban District Council or “LBC” for when it became Leyton Borough Council.

Undoubtedly the most important room in the building is the Great Hall, a vast 76ft by 46ft hall occupying much of the first floor.

An indication of its size is that before the First World War, it was used for showings of the early silent moving pictures and reputedly seated an audience of 700.

The hall was originally used as a council chamber and later hosted banquets, balls, public meetings and became a popular venue for wedding receptions.

The hall, complete with restored tiled ceiling and original 1930s Tanoy speakers, is still used as a wedding venue today after local business Entourage won a competition through the Guardian Series in 2007 to become the tenants of the Great Hall, on condition it would be used to benefit the community.

Leyton Town Hall remained the centre of local government for Leyton until 1965 when, along with Walthamstow and Chingford, the three Essex boroughs were combined to form the new London Borough of Waltham Forest, now based at Walthamsow Town Hall.

The Great Hall fell into disuse in the 1980s and was used as a storeroom for unwanted equipment.

Other offices in the building were used as Leyton Municipal Offices until the building was sold by the council to Lee Valley Estates in 2006.

The developers have been sensitive to the building's history in restoring it to its former glory.

A recent addition made by businessmen Michael Polledri, chairman of Lee Valley Estates, is a gallery of framed photographs and programmes in the entrance charting the building's history, so tenants and visitors can be reminded of its significant place in local government history.

Thanks to: Guy Osborne of Waltham Forest Council, David Boote of the Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society, Vestry House Museum and the Victoria County History.