The first recorded town hall in Liverpool was in 1515 and it was probably a thatched building. It was replaced in 1673 by a building slightly to the south of the present town hall. This town hall stood on "pillars and arches of hewen stone" and under it was the exchange for merchants and traders to carry out their business.
Building of the present town hall began in 1749 on a site slightly to the north of its predecessor; its foundation stone was laid on 14 September. The architect was John Wood the Elder, who has been described as "one of the outstanding architects of the day". It was completed and opened in 1754. The ground floor acted as the exchange, and a council room and other offices were on the upper floor. The ground floor had a central courtyard surrounded by Doric colonnades but it was "dark and confined, and the merchants preferred to transact business in the street outside". Above the building was a large square dome with a cupola.
Liverpool Town Hall in the 1820s
Improvements began in 1785 with an extension to the north designed by James Wyatt. Buildings close to the west and north sides were demolished, and John Foster prepared plans for the west façade. In 1786 Wood's square dome was demolished and plans were made by Wyatt for a new dome over the central courtyard. In 1795, before the new dome was built, the hall was seriously damaged by a fire.
Wyatt's north extension was not significantly damaged, but Wood's original building was gutted. The building was reconstructed and Wyatt's new dome was added. The work was supervised by Foster and completed in 1802. Under the dome the central courtyard was replaced with a hall containing a staircase. In 1811 a portico was added to the south side. The construction and decoration of the interior was completed by about 1820.