Discover the past at Bury St Edmunds Guildhall – the oldest civic building in Britain
The earliest written mention of the Guildhall is in 1279, when the Bury St Edmunds Chronicle recorded the arrival of two visiting Lords. Recent archaeological discoveries suggest the building is much older, possibly dating to the mid-1100s.
It was built to host the local Guildhall Merchant, a group that oversaw all the business of the town, which was then at the heart of the lucrative wool trade. As a centre of civic power, the Guildhall became a bitter rival of the powerful Abbey of St Edmund and was a focal point for the town’s own peasants’ revolt in the 1300s – when a group of monks were held hostage within its secure walls.
The great and the good who ran the Guildhall used their wealth and influence to fight for the rights of the town’s ordinary citizens. They delivered justice in the Courtroom, turned the Tudor Kitchen into a soup kitchen in times of need, and offered the Banqueting Hall as a meeting space for the most important discussions of the day – including the fight to abolish the slave trade.
The Guildhall was also home to a group of remarkable, but unsung, local heroes, who helped change the course of the Second World War. The Royal Observer Corps (ROC) was a civil defence organisation which tracked aircraft movements above the skies of Britain. Their information was sent to RAF Fighter Command and helped to save thousands of lives. The Guildhall’s ROC Operations Room is the only surviving one of its kind in the world – a small space with an incredible story to tell.
Discover the stories of the remarkable people who worked in the Ops Room on open days throughout the year or book a private tour to explore the history of this unique building and the people of Bury St Edmunds over 800 years. We also offer a range of cultural events including exhibitions, talks, concerts, and workshops.
The Guildhall also offers a choice of unique and beautiful spaces for hire and is perfect for weddings, private functions, corporate and community events of all sizes. The beautiful walled or sensory garden area is perfect for parties or welcome drinks.
Opening times: Office opening hours are Monday to Friday, 10am – 4pm. The venue is open to the public during scheduled events only, which will be advertised on our website.
- Accessible toilets
- Baby changing
- Wheelchair accessible