THE site where Colchester’s Town Hall currently stands has been the focus of civic duties for more than 800 years.

And there are few living in the town now who would not have at least passed by the door if not gone inside for either official business or for a celebration of some kind.

The moot hall at the top is used for public and private events on a regular basis and it is the name the first Town Hall, built in 1160 went by.

These images show the history the building’s current incarnation, work on which began in 1898, alone has notched up as it marks its 120th anniversary this year.

It replaced the second Town Hall, built in 1844, and was designed by John Belcher who was chosen following a competition in 1897.

The building was opened by the Earl of Rosebury in May 1902 and, as seen in one of the vintage photographs here, a number of the town’s dignitaries were on hand when the statue of St Helena was put in place.

Businessmen Gurney Benham, James Paxman and Wilson Marriage, who were all themselves Mayor of Colchester at one time, posed alongside Claude Egerton Green, who was Mayor at the time.

There is still some debate over whether the bronze statue, which along with the 162ft Victorian tower was presented by industrialist Paxman, is of St Helena or the Virgin Mary.