The Guildhall you see today is the result of a 1768 Georgian update. The Medieval original was one long room with slit windows. More like a barn than a splendid civic building.
The original owners, The Guild of Merchants, were in a power struggle with the Abbey.
This rivalry is shown in the very fabric of the Guildhall - it is situated on what was then the edge of town and the entrance faces away from the Abbey.
Built to last
We believe the Guildhall dates from before the 12th Century, by its construction from rows of flints - a building method that fell out of use by the 1100s. We think each band took 1 month to build.
Dendrochronology shows that the roof dates from 150 years later.
The beams were constructed elsewhere and then assembled on site.
The imposing front door is made from oak which was cut down
in the Balkans in the 1460s.
This magnificent room has witnessed many events - weddings, dances, dinners, civic meetings, celebrations and the imprisonment of monks.
The painting above the fireplace is of Jankyn Smythe. The money he left to the town kept the inhabitants from starvation after the dissolution of the Abbey until the granting of the 3rd charter by King James I in 1614.
The last borough Council meeting was held here in 1966.
The red-bricked room we now know as the Tudor Kitchen, sits on the site of the original kitchen. Kitchens regularly caught fire and so were never part of the main building. The corridor that links the kitchen with the
Banqueting Hall is a Victorian addition.
After the Abbey was destroyed, the starving people of the town had no-one to turn to for help. The Tudor kitchen was turned into a soup kitchen, paid for by the Guild.
This painting of James 1st of England and 6th of Scotland sits above the bench in our wood panelled Court Room. It includes 3 scrolls to symbolise the 3 charters the King gave to the town.
The Magistrate of the Court was also the Alderman (Mayor). He would have dressed in the adjacent Robing Room and processed with his retinue to the bench.
This room was used as a court until 1967.
The Pear tree at the centre of our garden is a very old variety. The pears would have been pickled and eaten with cheese.
They do not get ripe enough to eat raw.
The beds in our Sensory Garden tell the story of herbal medicine, from the Anglo-Saxon period to WW2.
They also contain plants mentioned in the Bury Herbal. Written in the 1100s for the Abbey hospital, the Herbal is now in the Bodleian Library.
This special room is the last of its kind in the world.
It is the only surviving Royal Observer Corps Operations Room left out of the 40 in use during WW2. The room was staffed 24 hours a day from 3rd Sept 1939 to 12th May 1945.
It was a hive of activity. ROC members gathered intelligence on aircraft movements from observation posts across the region and passed it on to Fighter Command and Air Defence organisations.