An exciting project to bring the town’s Guildhall back to life was launched on Thursday and will see the forgotten building become a focal point for visitors and education.
The Guildhall Project needs to raised £370,000 and has submitted a planning application to transform the Bury St Edmunds building.
It wants to hear from people who may have information or stories to tell about the Grade 1 listed building in Guildhall Street which dates back to the 13th century.
On Thursday 150 guests including the Marquess of Bristol attended the launch.
Once the centre of civic administration in the town it is thought to be one of the oldest and best preserved medeival guildhalls in the country. The Banqueting Hall and Court Room, are Georgian and there is a Royal Observor Corps control room from World War Two in an annex.
The transformation will create an ‘immersive’ concept bringing the history of the town to life through live enactors as well as highlighting its historic fabric. There will be an outdoor seating area and sensory garden and displays of clocks from the Gershom Parkington Clock collection which have been in storage since the Manor House Museum closed in 2006.
The building will also be upgraded to accommodate the latest in health and safety and disability access and will provide learning opportunities through its displays.
A Heritage Lottery bid for £1.5m will be submitted in September and Historic England is currently putting urgent roof repair work out to tender.
Project manager James Mellish said: “It is really exciting that 800 years of history is opening back up to the public. It has been a lost building for half a century.”
Sarah Grieveson, project fund-raiser, said: “When we’ve held our open days previously people have come into the Guildhall and didn’t even realise it existed or hadn’t been in there for many years. People see it as a real asset to the town - it’s the oldest complete civic building in the country. It’s built for the town so it would be nice to be able to return it back to the town for the community to use and we feel this is the best and most sustainable way to do it.”
As well as appealing for donations and financial support the project also wants to hear from people who have stories about the Guildhall which would be documented in a video presentation.
Ms Grieveson said they also want to collate stories about the WW2 operations room.
People are also invited to become a friend of the Guildhall.
To become a Friend of the Guildhall and find out more you can contact Sarah on firstname.lastname@example.org