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St Mary's Guildhall




St Mary's Guildhall, Lincoln is a domestic complex, which is believed to have been constructed as a townhouse for Henry II’s crown-wearing ceremonies of Christmas 1157. Its’ Great Hall measuring 20m (65.6 ft) by 6.5m (21 ft), makes it amongst the largest Great Hall in a surviving building from the 12th century.

St Mary's Guildhall is a domestic complex, dating back to the 12th century which is believed to have been owned by Henry II (1133 –1189). It is thought that it was constructed as a townhouse for Henry II’s crown-wearing ceremonies of Christmas 1157.  It is believed that this is the only surviving king’s townhouse which was owned by him in a number of major cities. 

Facing Lincoln High Street, the building complex was built over a section of the Roman Fosse Way road, which is visible below a glazed covering enabling the road to be seen, complete with the ruts created by the wheels of carts during Roman times. 


The excavations carried out during its restoration also found evidence for Late Saxon structures and rubbish pits dating from the 10-12th century.

After 1228 it was used for royal wine storage until 1251/2 when it was acquired by St Mary’s Guild, the most powerful guild in Lincoln. It used the property as its Guildhall until 1547, although it is thought that they may have let out the north wing for commercial use.


The building has been known as John of Gaunt's Stables, although there is no evidence to confirm that they were owned or used by John of Gaunt (1340-1399).

In 1614-23 the lease was taken by The Bluecoat School who undertook some major alterations.  This included alterations to the west wing which fronts onto the High Street, with its reduction of the height of the upper storey walls by 3 metres (9.8 ft) and the creation of a new roof, which includes the Great Hall. 


It also included the construction of what was to be known as the Norman House at the rear. 


This was constructed in 1618 reusing earlier materials. This was to be used as a maltings and in the 18th century, the present north wing was rebuilt which was also used as a malting by the Brewing firm Warwicks and Richardsons, which ceased their operations around 1913.

Between 1884 and 1895, the paddock behind the buildings was used as the first home of Lincoln City Football Club 

In 1896 the south wing was constructed for C C Sibthorp, the joiner, and undertakers.  The stone for this building was taken from a row of 18th-century cottages south of the west wing, which were demolished to make way for the construction of Sibthorp Street. This lies between the Guildhall and the late Saxon church of St Peter at Gowts: The south wing was to become the church’s Parish Hall in 1984.

In 1930 the building became an Ancient Monument, and in 1938 it was purchased by the City of Lincoln Council, although it was to continue to be used commercially by Lucas’s builders’ as their depot until 1981 when it was leased by the Lincoln Civic Trust. The Trust undertook the excavation and restoration of the Guildhall from 1981 to 1986 and use the west wing as their HQ. 

The facade of the west wing consists of five bays, with shallow buttresses, chamfered plinth, and a band of Romanesque decoration of masks depicting birds and animals. In the centre is an arch to allow carriages to enter the courtyard via a segmental-pointed inner arch, flanked by single buttresses. 

The interior of the west wing contains a fireplace with joggled lintel, with a blocked window and a doorway on either side. On the first floor is the Great Hall measuring 20 metres (65.6 ft) by 6.5 metres (21 ft), which makes it amongst the largest in a surviving building from the 12th century.


              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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