History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Superbly ornate Assembly Room
HistoryIn 1227 Henry III granted the citizens of Worcester a royal charter granting them the right to establish a guild of merchants. The guild was responsible for controlling trade in the city, but their meeting place gradually became the main centre of administration for city government, and acted as a courthouse. So, in effect, the Guildhall was the town hall, and though the city guilds have long since vanished, the Guildhall name lives on.
The centre section of the new Guildhall was finished by 1724, and has remained almost unchanged since then. The central facade is a wonderful example of early Georgian style, with three bays flanked by Corinthian pillars. Over the entrance is a huge carving incorporating the Hanoverian royal arms. White's earlier statue of Queen Anne was placed in a niche over the door, and on either side were statues of Charles I, depicted holding a church, and Charles II, with an orb and royal sceptre. On the rooftop are figures of Labour, Peace, Justice, Plenty, and Chastisement.
The 'new' Guildhall had 3 functions; social, judicial, and civic. On the lower Hall were 2 courtrooms, and above these chambers for playing cards and taking tea. On the first floor is the Council Chamber, later called the Assembly Room. In 1788 George III and Queen Charlotte visited the Guildhall. King George drank a toast to the prosperity of the city, and called the Assembly Room a 'handsome gallery'. A portrait of the king was presented to the City after his visit, and still hangs in the assembly Room.
The exquisite chamber we see today is not the one George III saw, for it was remodelled in 1791 by George Byfield, with beautifully decorated apses at each end. Then from 1877 the architect Sir Gilbert Scott and the City Architect Henry Rowe remodelled the building and redesigned the Assembly Rooms with an extraordinary Italianate painted ceiling. The result is an opulent space, with an ornate ceiling that simply defies description.
The court rooms on the ground floor are no longer used for judicial proceedings but are used as a mayor's parlour and a committee room.
Parts of the building are used by the civic administration, but visitors can normally visit the ground floor hall and one courtroom, then climb to the second floor to see the remarkable Assembly Room.
VisitingThe Guildhall should be better promoted as a tourist attraction. In a city with so many interesting historical buildings it is perhaps understandable that it gets left behind. A visit will not take long, but for goodness sake do take the time to climb the stairs to the Assembly Room. I promise your jaw will drop in amazement when you enter the chamber. It truly is an exceptional piece of civic architecture.
Address: High Street, Worcester, Worcestershire, England, WR1 2EY
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: A very short walk from the Cathedral. Well signposted.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Worcester, St Swithun's Church - 0.1 miles (Historic Church)
The Greyfriars - 0.1 miles (Historic Building)
Tudor House - 0.2 miles (Historic Building)
Worcester Cathedral - 0.2 miles (Cathedral)
Commandery - 0.3 miles (Museum)
Museum of Royal Worcester - 0.3 miles (Museum)
Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery - 0.4 miles (Museum)
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