Much Wenlock Guildhall
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 16th-century carved panelling
The Guildhall is an attractive timber-framed building just off the market place and a very short stroll from the ruins of Wenlock Priory. Though Much Wenlock received a charter from Edward IV in 1468, local order was in the hands of the powerful Abbot of Wenlock Priory. However, when the Priory was dissolved under Henry VIII, the town needed a place to hold legal proceedings.
The Guildhall was built in 1540 to provide a court house, and the court room remained in use until 1985. Four types of courts were held regularly; Quarter and Petty Sessions, a Manorial Court, and a Bailiffs Court. The Quarter Sessions swung into action quickly; within a year after the court room was built they sentenced two criminals to hanging.
A Council Chamber was added to the first floor in 1577, and the council still meets here once a month. The chambers are furnished with marvellous carved oak panels brought here from a local manor house in 1848. Strangely, no one knows which manor house or how the panels became available.
There are superb 16th century furnishing including decoratively carved chairs. In addition there is a small museum area with displays on local history as well as books from the Agricultural Reading Rooms founded by Dr William Penny Brookes, who also established the Wenlock Olympic Games.
We came to visit Wenlock Priory, but were honestly so struck by the wonderful array of period buildings in the town that we stopped to explore. There was a regular market on the ground floor of the Guidhall, and my goodness it was busy! It was fun to see that the market area is still be used regularly four centuries after it was established.
On one side of the ground floor is the town gaol, established in the 14th century.Beside the gates is a wooden post with hand irons. This was used as a whipping post. From there gates you climb a set of stairs to the Council Chambers and museum area, which is open to the timber roof beams.
The first floor only holds two rooms, the council chamber and court room, but in those two rooms are a wealth of gorgeous 16th and 17th century carving. The council chairs and carved panel behind them are simply stunning; if you enjoy historic furniture you'll be in heaven.
There are only a few glass cases of interesting historical objects, such as the Borough of Wenlock official Seal. There are other displays around the outside of the rooms, including a portable stock so that offenders could be wheeled around the town. The stocks were last used in 1852.
The real treasures here are the carved wooden panels and furniture. There is a wonderful carved and painted coat of arms to Elizabeth I, dated 1589, above the carved judge's chair. Look for the amusing way the woodcarver has dealt with a mispelled word by cramming in a missing letter as a superscript.
The Guildhall is open to visitors from April-October. There is a small admission fee.
About Much Wenlock Guildhall
Address: Wilmore Street, Much Wenlock, Shropshire, England, TF13 6HR
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: On the market place in the centre of town. There are several paid parking lots nearby. Our pick is the Priory parking area, less than a five-minute stroll away. Open April-October.
Website: Much Wenlock Guildhall
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Much Wenlock, Holy Trinity Church - 0 miles (Historic Church)
Wenlock Priory - 0.1 miles (Abbey)
Benthall Hall - 2.7 miles (Historic House)
Buildwas Abbey - 3 miles (Abbey)
Iron Bridge - 3.9 miles (Historic Building)
Morville Hall - 4.7 miles (Historic Building)
Upton Cressett, St Michael's Church - 5.1 miles (Historic Church)
Upton Cressett Hall - 5.1 miles (Historic House)
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