Totnes Guildhall

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Totnes Guildhall
Totnes Guild Hall.jpg
LocationTotnes, Devon
Coordinates50°25′56″N 3°41′16″W / 50.4321°N 3.6879°W / 50.4321; -3.6879Coordinates: 50°25′56″N 3°41′16″W / 50.4321°N 3.6879°W / 50.4321; -3.6879
Listed Building – Grade I
Designated7 January 1952
Reference no.1235949
Totnes Guildhall is located in Devon
Totnes Guildhall
Location of Totnes Guildhall in Devon

Totnes Guildhall is a 16th-century Tudor historic guildhall, magistrate's court, and prison, in the town of Totnes, south Devon, in southwest England. It is a Grade I listed building.[1]


After Totnes was granted a charter by King John enabling the town to makes its own bylaws in 1206,[2] the merchants of the town secured permission to establish a guild and constructed their original guildhall in the High Street.[2] The old guildhall became a place for measuring and stamping cloth in the late 16th century and was then rebuilt as a private residence in 1719.[3]

The current building was originally part of Totnes Priory, which had been established by Juhel de Totnes, feudal baron of Totnes.[4] Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII in the 1540s, his successor, King Edward VI, granted Totnes a charter, in 1553, allowing one of the former priory buildings, which had been used as the monks' refectory, to be converted into a guildhall.[5] Part of the first floor of the building was converted for use as a magistrates' court in 1624.[1] Soldiers were billeted in the building during the English Civil War: the council chamber at the west end of the first floor hosted a meeting between Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax at the oak tables there in 1646.[6]

The lower hall was used as a public meeting room as evidenced by the names of over 600 town mayors, who have served since 1359, listed on its walls.[7] After prison cells had been built in the basement, the building was also used as the town gaol until 1887.[6] The building was extended to the east by the addition of a loggia in front of the original building in 1897: the extension was designed with Doric order columns which had been recovered from the Exchange which had been demolished in 1878.[1][8]

Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, visited the guildhall in July 1962.[9][10] The council chamber continued to be used as the meeting place of the borough of Totnes but ceased to be the local seat of government after the formation of South Hams District Council under the Local Government Act 1972;[11] the magistrates' court continued to be used for court hearings until 1974.[6]

Current use[edit]

The building continues to be used by Totnes Town Council for meetings and other ceremonial events. It is also open to the public during weekdays.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Historic England. "The Guildhall, Totnes (1235949)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Totnes Guildhall". Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  3. ^ "Devon Historic Coastal and Market Towns Survey: Totnes" (PDF). Totnes Town Council. pp. 16, 22. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Hole of Parke". Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  5. ^ Totnes Guildhall Archived 8 March 2012 at, Dartington Village, UK.
  6. ^ a b c Totnes Guildhall Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Whatsonwhen Archived 21 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Totnes Guildhall". Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Totnes Conservation Area Appraisal" (PDF). South Hams Council. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  9. ^ Totnes Guildhall Archived 14 July 2012 at, Visit Britain, UK.
  10. ^ "Royal Trains List" (PDF). Railway Museum. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  11. ^ Local Government Act 1972. 1972 c.70. The Stationery Office Ltd. 1997. ISBN 0-10-547072-4.
  12. ^ Totnes Guildhall Archived 15 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Devon County Council, UK.