The Guildhall

The Guildhall from across the river - 2008

The Guildhall has been around for a large part of York's history.  The current hall dates from the 15th century but  it is built on the site of an earlier "common hall" which was referred to in a charter in 1256.

The hall was built in 1445 for the 'Guild of St Christopher and St George' and the Corporation, the cost being divided equally between them.  The accounts still exist and include a record of 3 pence given to the workmen to celebrate the laying of the foundations.  A council meeting is recorded there in May of 1459.

The whole site was taken over by the city corporation in 1549.  Council meetings are still held on the site, now in the rather grand Victorian Council Chamber that was completed in 1891.

When meetings weren't taking place, the hall was put to all sorts of uses.  It was sometimes a Court of Justice, including for the infamous trial of Margaret Clitherow for practising Catholicism in 1586.  She was put to death for refusing to accept the jurisdiction of the Court.

In 1647, at the height of the Civil War, the Parliamentarians agreed to pay a ransom of £200,000 to the Scots in exchange for handing over Charles I.  This huge sum is thought to have been counted out in the security of the Guildhall.

The Second World War had a more direct impact on the hall, it was it and badly damaged by German bombs during the so-called Baedeker Raid of 1942.  Ironically the Guildhall had been in the process of restoration at the time.  It was 18 years before the stone shell of the building was restored, complete with a modern stained glass window, and re-opened by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother on 21 June 1960.