Sneak preview of what to expect when Guildhall in Bury St Edmunds opens to the public
It’s set to rival some of the major tourist attractions in Suffolk ... let alone Bury St Edmunds.
But the completion of the £2 million transformation of the 800-year-old Guildhall has elevated it to becoming a must visit location for people in the town and further afield.
It’s set to open to the public in July but yesterday a special thank you event was held to recognise the invaluable help given to the project by the 125 volunteers, from those involved in marketing, PR, costume making for the tour guides and other work to ensure the building is operational and which was attended by the High Sheriff of Suffolk Geoffrey Probert.
It features a large banqueting hall, the old court room, a robing room, a teleprinter room, large gardens and a unique and historic Second World War operation’s room which is the only one of its kind in the country. During the conflict it was taken over by the Royal Observer Corps and manned by 30 people covering three eight hours shifts plotting aircraft movements over East Anglia and it’s set to be turned back to its former glory with workshops planned to take place.
A wedding has already been booked at the building, in Guildhall Street, in the summer along with parties and other private functions and Suzanne Stevenson, the manager, said: “The operation’s room is totally unique and it’s going to be re-interpreted as it was during the war with all sorts of interactive material and slide shows.
“We are also planning musical events out on the lawn at the rear of the building and it’s going to be a really busy building with people coming in and out.”
James Mellish, the project director, added that there is a display of the original 13th century wall on show and said: “The operation’s room is the only one in existence and it will become fully interpreted for visitors.”
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It is grade 1 listed and is England’s oldest complete Civic Building first constructed to act as a civic focus for the town. It has acted as courtroom, library, meeting place and assembly house during its long and varied history. However, in recent decades the building has largely fallen into disuse.
The Guildhall Project aimed to develop the site as a multi-galleried heritage and exhibition centre to serve the community. The project’s long-term objective is to allow this important building to once again become a focus for the borough’s heritage and community.
This nationally important building was built to act as a focus for the medieval town and it is the intention of the Guildhall Project to make the building once again central to community life within Bury St Edmunds.