Leicester's Ancient Guildhall
This evening, I am posting information on the historic Guildhall at Leicester in England. Location is about 100 miles NW of London. This is one of the best preserved wooden halls in England and has been assigned a Grade 1 listing (highest for a heritage building). A chronological summary is provided below:
- Constructed about 1390 as a meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christie (the Body of Christ). This was a powerful institution in medieval times ranking senior to the Mayor and council. At this time Leicester’s population was about 3,000.
- Around 1450, a combination of rising membership and prosperity (of the Guild) prompted an enlargement of the Hall, by two bays.
- The Corpus Christie Guild was dissolved in 1548 under Henry VIII’s dissolution programme.
- The Guildhall was purchased by the Corporation of Leicester in 1563 and used as a town hall up until 1876.
- The town library was moved to the east wing of the Guildhall in 1632. This is the third oldest public library in England and includes old and rare volumes including a 15th c New Testament in Greek and a New Testament translated into native American for missionary purposes in New England.
- Also around the 1630s the ground floor of the west wing was refurbished to a high standard and became known as the Mayor’s Parlour. The Great Hall was used a courtroom with a jury room above the Mayor’s Parlour.
- In 1836 the Guildhall became a police station on formation of Leicester’s police force. Cells were installed on the ground floor.
- The building was extensively restored in in 1926 and again in the 1990s. It is now a museum open to the public.