Time Travel at Bury St Edmunds Guildhall
Bury St Edmunds Guildhall is Britain’s oldest continually used civic building with a history that spans more than 800 years in the heart of the town and is home to the only surviving Royal Observer Corps WWII operations room in the country.
A heritage centre and venue, Bury St Edmunds Guildhall tells the untold story of the town of Bury St Edmunds.
The earliest written reference to the Guildhall dates back to 1279, when the Bury Chronicle records a visit to the building by Lords John of Cobham and Walter de Heliun. In addition, the street upon which it was built appears to have been known as Guildhall Street as far back as the 1290s. However, the evidence of the building itself would suggest that it was already over a century old by the time of John of Cobham and Walter de Heliun’s visit.
Despite probably first being built at the expense of the wealthy Abbey of St Edmund, the Guildhall quickly came to be regarded as the civic centre of Bury St Edmunds. It was here that the town worthies met to discuss business, celebrate their successes and hold their feasts. However, it also soon became the focus for a centuries long dispute between the town and the Abbey. As the town grew richer the townspeople began a long struggle to gain independence for the borough. Inevitably, the Guildhall found itself in the frontline of such disputes.
As early as 1327 it is recorded that the townsfolk went as far as imprisoning the Prior and several of the monks in the Guildhall itself.
Today, you can glimpse historical periods from Bury St Edmunds' past by exploring the rooms of The Guildhall...
WWII Royal Observer Corps Operations Room
Formerly the chamber where the Town Council met, the room was set up in 1938 for use during WW2 and became the Royal Observer Corps Centre, protecting Suffolk and relaying vital messages to RAF crews at local air bases.
It is the only surviving ROC centre in the country and resonates with the buzz and tension of that dramatic era.
The Operations Room is a wholly immersive environment that will take the visitor through a complete cycle of events, from spotting, to tracking, to reporting aircraft movements in our local skies. The project is lucky to have the support of the RAF Air Historical Branch who has provided a comprehensive report on the history, composition and activities of the room.
The Court Room
The setting for trials and courtroom dramas in Bury St Edmunds for nearly 700 years.
This room was panelled and fitted out in the early 19th century, and was in continuous use from 1280 until 1974.
The Banqueting Hall
This stunning room, designed in 1806 as an elegant Assembly Room for the town has been used as a council meeting room, a library, a dance hall, and as its name suggests, for civic banquets.
Its graceful plaster ceiling and elegant chandeliers mask the original medieval beams above.
Part of the refurbishment of the Guildhall during the 16th century.
The two fireplaces and bread-oven are reminders that the Guildhall has been used for community feasting and private events for more than 400 years.
The Sensory Garden
The secluded gardens behind the Guildhall are being landscaped to be enjoyed as a refreshing oasis of calm in the midst of the bustle of Bury St Edmunds.
A Tudor Knot garden, an historic herb garden, walkways, art works and year-round colour - this will be a free resource for picnics, refreshment and restoration during the day, and a fabulous spot for Summer events and performances in the evenings.
For more information and opening times visit https://burystedmundsguildhall.org.uk/
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