The Guildhall

The Guildhall Mayors Parlour, added in 1489.

The Guildhall Mayors Parlour, added in 1489.

This impressive fourteenth century timber framed hall is one of the most interesting civic buildings in the country. The building grew and was adapted over several centuries and the changes made throughout its life are keys to the ever changing history of the city of Leicester.

The first part of the Guildhall was built at the end of the 14th century as a meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi, which was the most important and the richest guild in Leicester at this time.  It became the leading property owner of the Borough and properties included various inns including the Angel in Gallowtree Gate, which was a very prestigious establishment in medieval times. The Guild was also closely associated with the governance of the borough, although it had no official status.  In 1489 an extension was added to the Guildhall which became known as the Mayor’s Parlour and among fragments of panels of painted glass from this time can still be seen emblems from the Corpus Christi Guild. 

From 1495 the Town Council used the Guildhall for its meetings and in 1563 it was bought outright by the town. The Great Hall was the site for town feasts during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and also for the entertainment of official visitors and for theatrical entertainment. The mayor’s parlour was panelled in 1637 and the furnishings and elaborate seventeenth century chimney piece can still be viewed today.

The Guildhall Courtyard; this timbered wall is part of the original hall that the Guild of Corpus Christi used for meetings.

The Guildhall Courtyard; this timbered wall is part of the original hall that the Guild of Corpus Christi used for meetings.

In 1632 the newly established town library was housed in the town hall.  The library consisted of nearly a thousand volumes, mostly on divinity but unfortunately it was rarely used and much neglected. To accommodate the number of guests at the Mayor’s Feast in 1793 hundreds of books were removed and for many years they were left lying in disarray

The Guildhall remained the town hall until the present town hall was built in 1876.  The old town hall had become hopelessly inadequate for a nineteenth century town which was growing rapidly and the Guildhall was now left empty and neglected.  Eventually it was completely restored by the City Council and opened its doors in 1926 as a museum.

Ethelfloeda bronze statue by artist Jack Newport. Situated in the main courtyard of The Guildhall Leicester.

Ethelfloeda bronze statue by artist Jack Newport. Situated in the main courtyard of The Guildhall Leicester.

The statue of Ethelfloeda in the image above was commissioned by Leicester City Council in the late 1970s. It was created by Leicester based artist Jack Newport and is on display in the courtyard of The Guildhall Leicester.

Ethelfloeda was the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great to read more about her click here.

Reference

Patterson, A. Temple 1954 Radical Leicester: A History of Leicester 1750-1850, Leicester, University College.

Taylor, M. 1997 The Quality Of Leicester , Leicester: Leicester City Council.

Wilshere, J. 1979 The Religious Gilds of Mediaeval Leicester, Leicester, Leicester Research Section of Chamberlain Music and Books

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