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HER Number:MDV842
Name:Guildhall, High Street, Barnstaple


Guildhall dated 1826, probably incorporating earlier fabric in the right side party wall. The bell turret contains a bell dated 1714 from the old butchers' market. The clock face in a blind window facing Butchers' Row is dated circa 1760-1842. The council chamber is fitted out with 17th century oak panelling.


Grid Reference:SS 557 332
Map Sheet:SS53SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBarnstaple
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBARNSTAPLE

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS53SE/67
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II)
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SS53SE54

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • GUILDHALL (XIX - 1826 AD to 1826 AD (Between))

Full description

Gribble, J. B., 1830, Barnstaple (Cartographic). SDV357319.

Guildhall marked (5) with the Market House (6) behind.

Chanter, J. R., 1879, Vestiges of an Early Guild of St Nicholas at Barnstaple, 199 (Article in Serial). SDV342356.

Department of Environment, 1973, Barnstaple, 30 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV89941.

The ancient Town Hall became the Guildhall. The Guildhall on the east side of the High Street, is a rectangular two storey building designed by Lee in 1826. The High Street front has niches and sash windows to the first floor with ionic columns. A pediment with the town arms in relief.

Devon County Council, 1975, Barnstaple Town Trail, 17 (Article in Monograph). SDV352446.

The Pentecose-Dodderidge Parlour has exquisite early 17th century oak pannelling.

Kempe, F., 1990, History of ancient street on display (Article in Serial). SDV361444.

An exhibition which traces the history of Barnstaple High Street from Saxon times to the present day has been mounted by the local library. With photographs, newspaper cuttings, sketches and maps, it outlines the development of the street from South Gate (now more generally known as Youings Corner) to Mermaid Cross, where the old North Gate stood.

A new guildhall, built in Georgian style during the early part of the 19th century, found little favour with the local historian Gribble. His description of it might be compared with the Prince of Wale's recent comments on the National Theatre.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

English Heritage, 2012, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV348729.

Guildhall. 1826. By Thomas Lee; side wall facing Butchers' Row probably 1855 by RD Gould. Solid rendered walls, portions exposed internally in 1991 suggest that front wall is of red brick and right side wall (probably a pre-1826 party wall) is of stone rubble. Slated roof. Rendered chimney with moulded cornice on right gable-end. Open ground storey in centre, originally leading to butchers' market at rear; latter replaced by Market in 1855. To right, mayor's parlour, created in 1922 out of the former charge-room and cell; shop to left. 2nd storey has courtroom to left (rising through 3rd storey) and council chamber to right with jurors' rooms above. Stair projection to rear left, giving access to public seating; main staircase behind mayor's parlour with 1855 entrance from Butchers' Row. There was originally a house abutting this side. 2 storeys, with disguised 3rd storey at right-hand end. 5-bay front to High Street. Ground storey has horizontal channelling. Round-arched openings, the centre one wider than the rest; this and the arch to left of it have iron gates with spearhead uprights; the others have small-paned glazing. Upper-storey bays flanked and separated by fluted Ionic pilasters supporting an entablature which breaks forward over the 3 narrower centre bays and is there finished with a triangular pediment. Middle and end bays have windows with 8-paned sashes (adjusted at right-hand end to accommodate 2 floors); moulded architraves, friezes and cornices. The 2 bays flanking the centre have semicircular, round-headed niches, continued moulded cills; sunk oblong panel beneath each window. Similar 4-bay design to Butchers' Row with triangular pediment overall. No windows, apart from a blind one in centre of upper storey. Round-arched doorway in centre of ground storey. Semicircular window in pediment. On the roof an octagonal bell-turret with round-arched opening in each face; domed leaded roof with ornate weather-vane; contains 1714 bell from the old butchers' market. The bottom quoin on the street corner is a block of polished granite inscribed CENTRE OF BARUM TURNPIKE MILEAGE 1879. In the blind window facing Butchers' Row is an octagonal clock face originally on the Northgate circa 1760-1842; on the Bluecoat School 1842-1971; moved here 1982. To the left of the doorway below is the mayor's iron poor box dated 1895; frame and door with elaborate scrollwork.
Interior: open part of ground storey is divided by an arcade of 3 round arches with plain imposts; 2 similar arches at rear. A further arch opens into the rear stair; this has an iron gate with spearhead uprights. Entrance lobby from Butchers' Row has late 17th century-style panelling of 1922 with single-rib Jacobean plaster ceiling and pendant brought from an unnamed demolished building in The Strand. Stone staircase to upper floor. Courtroom has dado of small rectangular panels with matching justices' bench at south end; similar side-benches and 2 square mobile boxes on rollers for accused and witnesses. Above the side benches are short galleries for ladies and grand jury with access from 3rd storey above council chamber; quatrefoil-section iron columns, rail of turned wood balusters. At north end tiered seating for the public; at the front of it a similar wood railing, but with decorated iron cresting. In front of the bench a large table (probably an enlargement of the original) for clerk and lawyers. Coved ceiling having 3 large rectangular panels with enriched frames; patterned chandelier boss in centre panel, patterned ventilator grilles in the other 2. Council chamber fitted out with Jacobean panelling, enriched pilasters and carved overmantel dated 1617 and with initials of Pentecost and Elizabeth Dodderidge. It was removed to a Marist Convent in Barnstaple on the demolition of Cross Street in 1910 and brought here in 1949. Nineteenth century moulded cornice. Behind the panelling a 19th century papier-mache dado. Date listed: 19th January 1951.

Wapshott, E. + Boyd, N., 2017, The Guildhall, Butchers Row, Barnstaple, Devon: Historic Building Recording. (Report - Survey). SDV360615.

The Guildhall shares similarities with other Town/Guild Halls across North Devon. The south wall and
the buildings with which it forms a group (Butcher’s Row and the Pannier Market) shared the same
architect as Bideford Town Hall. In its classical style, with open ground floor accessed through
rounded arches, it bears great similarities with South Molton Guild Hall and Great Torrington Town
Hall. In its closeness to the historic markets and trading centres of their towns, it is also akin to South
Molton, Great Torrington and, to a lesser extent, Tiverton Town Hall.

The Guildhall retains both the civic and mercantile functions for which it was built. The main chamber
retains much of its original character, although much of the rest of the building has seen numerous
phases of alteration and redecoration. Many of the historic features in the building were originally
housed in other buildings in the town and have gradually been incorporated into the decorative
scheme of the Guildhall.

While there are areas of the building that should be preserved without alteration and historic fabric
that should be retained, there is a lot of capacity for change within the building, especially in the
modern extensions and rooms which have been subject to heavy alteration in the later 20th century.

For more information see library linked document.

Friends of Archaeology ND, Unknown, Historic Barnstaple (Leaflet). SDV356772.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, Unknown, SS53SE54 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV76793.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV342356Article in Serial: Chanter, J. R.. 1879. Vestiges of an Early Guild of St Nicholas at Barnstaple. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 11. A5 Hardback. 199.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #108455 ]
SDV348729National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2012. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV352446Article in Monograph: Devon County Council. 1975. Barnstaple Town Trail. Devon Town Trails: European Architectural Heritage Year. Paperback Volume. 17.
SDV356772Leaflet: Friends of Archaeology ND. Unknown. Historic Barnstaple. Leaflet + Digital.
SDV357319Cartographic: Gribble, J. B.. 1830. Barnstaple. Frontispiece to Memorials of Barnstaple. a4 single Sheet + Digital.
SDV360615Report - Survey: Wapshott, E. + Boyd, N.. 2017. The Guildhall, Butchers Row, Barnstaple, Devon: Historic Building Recording.. Southwest Archaeology. 170830. Digital.
SDV361444Article in Serial: Kempe, F.. 1990. History of ancient street on display. Western Morning News. 20/01/1990. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV76793Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. Unknown. SS53SE54. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV89941List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1973. Barnstaple. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 30.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7458 - Historic Building Recording. The Guildhall, Butchers Row, Barnstaple, Devon. (Ref: 170830)

Date Last Edited:Jun 14 2018 10:59AM