Monument record BSE 039 - The Guildhall, Bury St Edmunds

Please read our .


The Guildhall. Listed Building.


Grid reference Centred TL 852 640 (27m by 40m)
Map sheet TL86SE


Type and Period (4)

Full Description

The Guildhall is a Grade I listed building and was the seat of the town's medieval civil authorities. The office of Alderman, elected by the townsmed, was first authorised by the Abbey at the start of the 13th centurey. The earliest documentary evidence of the Guildhall is dated 1279, the street was referred to as Guildhall Street in medieval rental documents from 1295. Inside the porch, the main door is Early English in style and this together with the course flint work facing the east (rear) wall support the dating of the building to the first half of the 13the century. The building was altered in the 15th century and the king-post roof, which is now concealed within the later ceiling void, and the central porch were added at this time. The present white brick fa├žade and large sash windows probably date to the mid-late 18th century and an engraving dated 1786 shows the windows and parapet as it is today. Thomas Warren's 1742 plan shows the original form with narrow single light windows with wide internal splays. It also shows a cross-passage at the north end with opposed secondary entrances (S5)

Consists of two large rooms on either side of a C15 porch. Inside the porch is a C13 doorway. The side wings were refronted in 1807. There is an upper chamber at the back (S1). Said to have been given by Jankyn Smith, died 1481. For history and details see (S4).

1991: Whole building is being treated for dry rot by St Edmundsbury Council (S2).

December 1996: Descheduled.

`Curious tracery in wood from the lately demolished kitchen' was presented to the Suffolk Institute (now in Moyses Hall Museum) in July 1857 (S3)(formerly listed as Misc CRN 01277).

2014: A Heritage Asset Assessment was carried out primarily on the additional structures located to the rear of The Guildhall property. The oldest part of the building consists of a central passage with an adjoin court and banqueting hall. Documentary evidence points to a 15th century timber framed detached kitchen existing to the south east of the site. This kitchen was completely rebuilt in the 19th century and is linked to the banqueting hall by a 19th century passage that has also been reconstructed. The chamber rooms abutting the back wall of the Guildhall are shown on a plan of 1742 but this area was also entirely rebuilt in 1806. The new chamber block also contained storerooms on the lower floors and were constructed from material re-used from the collapsed eastern wall of Moyses Hall. An early well is understood to lie beneath the floor of the modern kitchen. The Council Chamber has been unused since 1877 and it retains Georgian features. The room now contains the viewing gallery of a WWII Observer Corps Operations Room said to be the best of its kind in the country (S1).

See also BSE 206 and BSE 326.

2019: A seventeen-timber chronology was formed from samples from roof timbers covering the period AD 1263-1376, with a further sample from a roof timber being dated individually. Two of these 18 samples retained complete sapwood and were found to have been from trees felled in winter AD 1376/77, with the other samples having likely felling date ranges incorporating this date. Construction seems likely to have occurred in AD 1377 or shortly afterwards. The door boards were found to be of oak imported from the Baltic region, three samples forming a site chronology covering the period AD 1253-1439 and a further sample being dated individually. In the absence of sapwood a terminus post quem date for felling of AD 1461 is obtained for the boards. (S10)

Sources/Archives (14)

  • <R1> (No record type): Suffolk Little Guide, 109.
  • <M1> Unpublished document: Suffolk Archaeological Service. Parish file. (S1).
  • <S1> (No record type): DOE scheduling information, 1986.
  • <S1> Unpublished document: Alston, L.. 2014. Heritage Asset Assessment: The Guildhall, Guildhall Street, Bury St Edmunds.
  • <R2> Bibliographic reference: Pevsner N & Radcliffe E. 1974. The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Pevsner, The buildings of England, Suffolk, 1974, 157.
  • <S2> (No record type): Edwards Paul, Suff Pres Soc Survey, Table of Results, 1991.
  • <S3> Bibliographic reference: Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. PSIA, 3, 1863, (3), 395.
  • <S4> Bibliographic reference: Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. PSIA, 31 (2), 1968, 117-157.
  • <S5> Unpublished document: Gill, D.. 2008. Archaeological Monitoring Report, Guildhall, Bury St Edmunds, Storm Drain Improvements & Excavations and survey at the rear of the building..
  • <S6> Digital archive: Historic England. National Record Of the Historic Environment.
  • <S7> Bibliographic reference: District of St Edmundsbury. 1974. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.
  • <S8> Source Unchecked: RCHME?. Various. Field Investigators Comments. F1 PAS 06-NOV-79.
  • <S9> Digital archive: Historic England. National Record Of the Historic Environment.
  • <S10> Unpublished document: Bridge, M and Tyers, C.. 2019. Dendrochronological Report:The guildhall, Guildhall Street, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, Tree-Ring datingi of the roof and entrance door.

Finds (3)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Record last edited

Sep 15 2022 9:36AM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.