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Bury St Edmunds Newest Attraction Opens This Weekend

A free open weekend will give visitors a chance to see inside Bury St Edmunds Guildhall, the town's newest newest attraction.

In a town famed for its historic buildings, the Guildhall rightly takes its place among the most fascinating.

Dating back to 1279, it is the oldest continuously-used building in Britain and proudly boasts a World War Two Royal Observer Corps Control Centre – the only surviving room of its kind in the world. 

A new-look and vibrant Bury St Edmunds Guildhall heritage centre prepares to bring 900 years of history to life when it unveils its stunning restoration project this weekend (Saturday 14th July and Sunday 15th July).

A free to the public open weekend will give visitors and the community a taste of what’s to come in Bury St Edmunds' newest visitor attraction. It will also act as a celebration of what has been achieved and a thank you to everyone who has supported the project.

The weekend will have something for all the family. Travel through time and interact with costumed interpreters. Meet Regency gentry, benefactor Jankyn Smyth, World War II Royal Observer Corps, hear music from baroque to swing, taste and prepare Tudor foods and relax with tea and cake in our pop-up cafe or a cool Pimms and strawberries and cream in our beautiful enclosed gardens.

World War Two Royal Observer Corps Control Centre – the only surviving room of its kind in the world


The £2 million restoration was driven by the Bury St Edmunds Heritage Trust with generous grants coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, anonymous private donors and local organisations such as the Bury Society.

The first phase of the restoration work concentrated on the roof and one of the many great discoveries was that the roof timbers on the existing building dated back to the late 14th century – some 100 years earlier than previously thought. 

Intriguing finds, as well as obstacles attached with restoring such a historic building, appeared around every corner. Sometimes it was both – including the uncovering of a 20ft well in the Tudor kitchen courtyard in exactly the same position that had been identified for a proposed disabled lift.

The Court Room at Bury St Edmunds Guildhall


Amongst the finds was an early example of recycling in the form of a 14th century oak lintel with finely carved mouldings, assumed to be from another building and now supporting part of the old floor, and a 16th century chimney breast.

Back to the present day, the Guildhall tentatively began opening its doors with a successful drama evening held in April before interactive displays arrived inside and a sensory garden developed outside. 

At the same time, groups of dedicated and committed volunteers were taking shape to get ready to ‘meet and greet’ visitors, make costumes and form a crucial part of the learning team ahead of the opening weekend. Their commitment to the project saw them receive special recognition from the High Sheriff of Suffolk. 

A new-look and vibrant Guildhall heritage centre prepares to bring 900 years of history to life when it unveils its stunning restoration project this weekend


They hosted their biggest pre-opening event last week when the traditional cake and ale ceremony was held to commemorate the death of Jankyn Smyth, benefactor of the town, who made a bequest to support poor in the community and assist with payment of taxes to the Abbey. His example led to others bequeathing money to the Candlemas Guild which later became the Guildhall Feoffment Trust. 

Following next weekend’s open days, a programme of events around the summer holidays has been planned.