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The Guildhall re-opened its doors on 3 May 2011 following a £1.2million year-long refurbishment.
This Grade II listed building now offers a suit of refurbished and well-equipped rooms for weddings and other functions as well as housing the city council offices. The finished project is an asset for the people of Salisbury and to mark its launch a series of exhibitions were held in the very splendid new rooms. The old cells - in use until 2000, will be open as part of a heritage trail.
The Guildhall as we know it today is the fourth such building within the city of Salisbury.
The first Guildhall dates back to Medieval times, when it was known as “The Bishop’s Guildhall”. Then, the building was under the Bishop's control, from where he exercised his feudal rights of criminal and civil justice.
The Merchants Guild which helped to represent early self-government, was instead housed in The Semple-house, which was situated near St. Thomas’ Church. However, in 1585 the guild built a new headquarters called “The Council House”, to the north of The Bishop’s Guildhall, near to where the present War Memorial stands.
In 1780, The Council House was burnt down after a banquet. The second Earl of Radnor, the City Recorder, then made the generous offer of providing a new building at his own expense. At the same time, the opportunity was taken to clear up the situation regarding The Bishop’s Guildhall. This building had fallen into a ruinous condition, with the Bishop unable to afford its upkeep. In 1795 an Act of Parliament was passed providing for the surrender of the Bishop’s rights to the Guildhall, on condition of there being provided a new City Gaol.
The new Guildhall was built practically on the site of the old one. Alterations were made to the building in 1829 which led to the addition of the Grand Jury Room, extensions to the size of the courts and new accommodation for the judges. Since that date, other alterations have been made, including extensive internal alterations. Since the Municipal Corporations’ Act, 1835, the whole building has been under control of the then City Council, now Salisbury District Council.
In 1991 over £1 million was spent on restoring the Guildhall. The main contractors, Thos. King and Sons (Builders) Ltd, of Abbotts Ann, Andover, employed a number of skilled craftsmen during the project. Work was undertaken to provide a new lead roof, as well as the refurbishment of the Banqueting Room, the Grand Jury Room and Oak and Crown Courts.