Exeter Guildhall is located in the High Street, Exeter, Devon, England. It has been the centre of civic government for the City of Exeter for at least 600 years. Much of the fabric of the building is medieval, though the elaborate frontage was added in the 1590s and the interior was extensively restored in the 19th century. It is now a Grade I listed building and is still used for a range of civic functions.
The building appears to have been on its current site since the 12th Century and therefore it has been claimed to be the oldest municipal building in England still in use.
The elaborately carved oak door, dated 1593, was made by Nicholas Baggett, a local carpenter. It leads via an anteroom to the council chamber which apparently dates to 1468-70, though it was much restored in Victorian times. The arch-braced roof with seven bays is original; its main trusses rest on carved corbels representing grotesque animals.
A large chandelier hangs from the centre of the roof. It was made by Thomas Pyke of Bridgwater and installed in 1789. Apart from this and the roof, all the internal fittings are Victorian, including the stained glass, the gallery, the furniture and the stone floor, all 1863, and the heavily restored Tudor panelling (year 1887). Above the fireplace is a bust of Queen Victoria by Henry Hugh Armstead.
Under the council chamber there is an early 14th-century cellar. This was once a prison that was known as the “pytt of the Guyldhall”. In the 16th century another prison, for women, was built on the ground floor at the back of the building. It remained in use until 1887. In 1858 a room was built above this to store the city’s records; it was later used as a jury room.
Exeter Guildhall has been a Grade I listed building since 1953 and is also a scheduled ancient monument. Exeter City Council still use the Guildhall for civil purposes such as official receptions, mayoral banquets, some City Council meetings, other meetings and exhibitions and occasionally as a magistrates’ court.
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