The Guildhall

Leicester`s Guildhall is a very old timber framed building, that once acted as the town hall for the city.

The History of the Guildhall

The building dates from the 15th century (parts are earlier), and is in the old walled city, on a street now known as Guildhall Lane. It was used first as the meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi, and then later for the more formal Corporation of Leicester. The hall was used for many purposes, including council meetings, feasts, as a courtroom, the ultimatum given to the city during English civil war was discussed and for theatrical performances.

During the English civil war the Mayor and corporation received a demand from Prince Rupert a demand for ?2000. The decision was made at the Guildhall to offer a loan of ?500 and made an appeal to King Charles I. In May 1645 the King in attempt to divert attention away from Oxford positioned an army of 6,000 men outside the city walls on 29th May 1645. Again important decisions regarding the fate of the city were to be decided in the Guildhall. On the 30th May 1645 the Royalist Army made demand after demand to the city, who played for time. In the end the Prince Rupert attacked at 3:00 pm. The City walls were breached, and the last stand made by the defenders outside the Guildhall and St Martins. The Royalists then entered the Guildhall looting the towns archives, and mace and seal. The Royalist victory was over turned a couple of weeks latter with the defeat a Nasby.

Records also show that entertainment expenses were paid for such items as wine, beer for Oliver Cromwell. Although this does not prove Oliver Cromwell stayed at the Guildhall, it is highly probable that he visited several times. The coat of arms of King Charles I can be seen today inside the Mayors Parlour.

It is reputed that William Shakespeare appeared here. In recognition of this, the television company, Maya Vision, brought the Royal Shakespeare Company to perform at the Guildhall as part of its 2003 series for the BBC, `In Search of Shakespeare,` written and narrated by the historian, Michael Wood. Part of the Shakespeare legend is that Shakespeare first came across the tale of King Leir whilst appearing at the Guildhall and this inspired him to write his own play King Lear. There is, however, no actual evidence to support this, although the legend of King Leir is often associated with Leicester.

The Guildhall was retained in use until quite late. It was not until 1876 that the Corporation moved to the new Leicester Town Hall. It was later used as a police station and school, before becoming a museum. It is currently also used as a venue for musical performances.

The Ghosts of the Guildhall

The Guildhall is reported to be one of Leicesters most haunted buildings with many ghosts.

Some of the strange things seen are a cavalier in the Great Hall, a monk dressed in grey, a phantom dog and a black cat, footsteps have been heard in the old Constables office and in the library a bible is kept on the table and staff make sure it is closed at night but have returned to find it opened and always on the same page.

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