The building was commissioned to replace Sheffield's first town hall, which had opened in 1700 to a design by William Renny.
The Old Town Hall was built in 1807–8 by Charles Watson, and was designed to house not only the Town Trustees but also the Petty and Quarter Sessions. The initial building was a five-bay structure fronting Castle Street, but it was extended in 1833 and again in 1866 by William Flockton (1804–1864) of Sheffield and his partner for the project, Abbott; the most prominent feature was the new central clock tower over a new main entrance that reoriented the building to Waingate. At the same time, the building's courtrooms were linked by underground passages to the neighbouring Sheffield Police Offices.
The first Town Council was elected in 1843 and took over the lease of the Town Trustees' hall in 1866. The following year, the building was extensively renovated, with a clock tower designed by Flockton & Abbott being added.
By the 1890s, the building had again become too small, and the current Sheffield Town Hall was built further south. The Old Town Hall was again extended in 1896–97, by the renamed Flockton, Gibbs & Flockton, and became Sheffield Crown Court and Sheffield High Court.
During this time it played host to a number of notable cases - including the murder trial of Ian Wood, who shot dead his pregnant mistress in 1986 before fleeing to France and trying to throw himself off a cathedral.
In the 1990s, these courts moved to new premises, and since at least 1997 to present, the building remains disused.
In 2007, it was named by the Victorian Society as one of their top ten buildings most at-risk.
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