Commissioned by Newport Corporation in 1936, following an open competition for its design, which was won by T. Cecil Howitt of Nottingham, with F. E. Woolley as job architect. Howitt built several notable buildings in Nottingham, including the Council House (1927-29), and several pubs and houses, many in a modernist Classical style. First sod cut 4 July 1937 by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Shell of building largely complete and partly in use by 1939. Main centre range of steel-framed construction. With the advent of war, uncompleted parts were roofed over and used by the Admiralty. After the war, a start was made on fitting out the interior, but it was not until 1964 that the design was fully executed, with the completion of the central entrance hall, stair and tower. Of this date, the murals in the entrance hall, depicting historic events in the county, painted by the German artist Hans Feibusch, assisted by Phylis Bray: the hall was designed for murals from the outset (perhaps influenced by Frank Brangwyn’s series of war memorial paintings intended for the House of Lords). The post-war work was overseen by Howitt and Woolley. The intended large concert hall to the N side of the civic centre was not executed, and the building’s main entrance was created on the N side, rather than the S. In 1989-91, the S courtyard was closed by the addition of the Crown Court.
Newport completes the trio of civic centres in South Wales, the first being Cardiff (1901-05) by Lanchester, Stewart & Rickards, the second, Swansea (1932-36), by Percy Thomas. The former established the Baroque style as appropriate for public buildings, whereas Swansea is essentially Classical. Newport clearly departs from both by being designed in a striking quasi-Italianate style.
The Crown Court building is not included in the listing.