Salisbury Guildhall overlooks the Market Square in the city centre and although the original was medieval the present one is the fourth such building.
The present city of Salisbury developed around the foundation of the ‘new’ Salisbury Cathedral in 1220 following the movement of the clergy from Old Sarum
. The original settlement Old Sarum (open to the public) is about 3 miles to the north at an ancient Iron Age hill fort, occupied by the Romans as Sorviodunum, abandoned by the Saxons and finally re-occupied by the Normans with their own castle and cathedral after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Following a dispute between the military and the clergy and the vicarious political machinations of the time the cathedral was relocated at its present site in 1220 and the Old Sarum townspeople duly followed which is how the present city of Salisbury was established.
The very first medieval Salisbury Guildhall was known as the ‘The Bishop’s Guildhall’ and under control of the Bishop who exercised his feudal rights of criminal and civil justice.
In 1585 the Merchants Guild built a new headquarters called ‘The Council House’ to the north of the Bishops Guildhall, close to the present War Memorial stands.
In 1780 the Council House burnt down after a banquet and an Act of Parliament was passed surrendering the Bishops’ rights with a new Guildhall being built on the site of the old Bishops Guildhall. Alterations were made to the building in 1829 which included the addition of the Grand Jury Room, extensions to the courts and new accommodation for the judges and since that date further internal alterations have been made. In 1835 the building was put under the control of local government and is now managed by Salisbury City Council.
In 1991 there was an extensive refurbishment programme to provide a new roof and decoration of the principal rooms. During 2010-2011 there was further major refurbishment and changes were made to improve public access to the building and further rooms were brought into public use and necessary maintenance and repairs were carried out.
Following this refurbishment and local government re-organisation the building is now the home of the Salisbury City Council with offices in the upper floors and council meetings held in the principal rooms.
Although a working building visitors are welcome to look around the public areas of this fascinating building where functions and exhibitions regularly take place. There are many historic items on display including a Royal Charter of 1672, a Royal Seal and photos chronicling events and royal visits to the city. It is well worth a visit and entry is free. Salisbury Guildhall