£750,000 campaign launched for a Guildhall reborn

The Guildhall team, trustees Henry Saltmarsh, Sarah Grieveson, and Mike Jackson, patron Lord Tollemache, trustees Robert Lamb and Martin Lightfoot as King James II looks on

The Guildhall team, trustees Henry Saltmarsh, Sarah Grieveson, and Mike Jackson, patron Lord Tollemache, trustees Robert Lamb and Martin Lightfoot as King James II looks on

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A campaign was officially launched last night to get funding to make the most of one of the most historic buildings in Bury St Edmunds.

The aim is to raise the £750,000 needed to turn Bury’s Guildhall, the oldest functioning civic building in Britain, into what the Bury St Edmunds Heritage Trust calls a ’flexible space’ of public venue cum museum.

Trust business manager Mike Jackson told supporters at the Guildhall last night: “The history it has with it is both our local history and our national history, from the townspeople pushing for their early civic rights to the Battle of Britain.”

There is documentary evidence that it was in use in the 13th century and fabric evidence that it may be older.

It was where the townsfolk once imprisoned the abbot but has also been a court, library, banqueting hall and council meeting place and is still used by the Scouts, Guides and as a rehearsal room for the Theatre Royal.

What is now a Scouts’ and Guides’ shop was a Royal Observer Corps control room through World War II and will be restored to its Battle of Britain glory.

The project’s patron, Suffolk’s Lord Lieutenant Lord Tollemache, said: “It’s obviously such a worthwhile thing and Bury St Edmunds has so much to offer on the heritage side.”

See the full story in the Bury Free Press on December 21.