Postcard from home: The Guildhall, Plympton St Maurice, Devon

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Now a suburb of Plymouth, the area's changing fortunes are reflected in the dignified civic buildings. Rachel Broomfield, our casework officer, writes from Devon.

The Guildhall is just around the corner from me. There has been a Guildhall here since at least 1242 when Plympton St Maurice received its first Borough Charter. Today’s Grade II* listed building is the result of a major rebuild in 1688, refurbishments 1692-1696, and extensive Victorian alterations. Over the years the building has declined and prospered following the fortunes of the local area. In 1688 the building consisted of an upper Council chamber (open to the roof), projecting over the pavement with an arcade beneath where markets could be held. Behind this was a large courtroom, also open to the roof with a raised platform for the Mayor, Bailiff and Aldermen. Below this was an enclosure for the Clerk, and a table and chairs for those attending. There was a separate open space for the public who did not have seats.

In 1692 Plympton was granted a new Charter allowing the Mayor to hold a civil court every Monday. The inner court was improved and the Council chamber given a proper ceiling. The building also played an important part in local life - balls and feasts were held regularly. A map of 1793 shows a large building attached to the west – this was Mayoralty House owned by the Treby family (significant local landowners). A doorway between provided a shortcut from the Guildhall to the Treby’s property.

By 1860 times were hard and the Borough decided not to elect a new Mayor. The Guildhall passed to Trustees who extensively refurbished it. The court and cells were removed and replaced by the current large hall with musicians gallery, a new wide staircase leading up to the unaltered Council chamber, a retiring room and caretaker’s rooms were added. The Guildhall is still owned by the city council but a local trust now manage it and hire it out for community uses.     

Archve image credit: Plympton St Maurice Civic Association


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