Heritage centre plan for site

AN historic Guildhall that once oversaw life in a bustling medieval city could be given a new lease of life as a heritage centre.

The Guildhall, in Bury St Edmunds, dates back to 1279 when it was built as a civic centre in a fight for independence from the vast abbey which ruled the region.

The largest surviving building of its kind in the country, the fine building now stands mostly empty.

But a new �1million project has been proposed to bring the Grade I listed building back to its former glory as an exhibition area and public space.

Matthew Champion, manager of The Guildhall Project, said: “The Guildhall was constructed by the townspeople as a focus for their own civic pride and ambitions.

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“We want to give it back to the people of Bury.”

The ambitious scheme would transform the medieval building into three exhibition spaces, some of which could house collections formerly displayed in the Manor House Museum before it was closed in 2006.

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As well as a courtyard caf�, the project would have an education centre, a garden, and displays showing the history of the important building.

Owned by the Guildhall Feoffees, the building has served as a library, a theatre and a courtroom over the course of its long history.

A joint project between the Bury St Edmunds Heritage Trust and the feoffees, the project is also supported by St Edmundsbury Borough Council and English Heritage.

Supporters are currently applying for funding but hope, if approved, the centre could be open in the next five years.

Robert Lamb, Bury Heritage Trust chairman, said: “The Guildhall was built by the townsfolk of Bury and was central to life within the town for over five centuries. Our project aims to bring the Guildhall back into the mainstream of the town’s life.

“We want it to become, once again, a centre for all that is best about Bury, both past and present.”

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